“Everyone wants to avoid Manaus.”
Those were the words of Jurgen Klinsmann prior to last December’s World Cup draw. And now, three months after having been selected to play their second Group Stage game – a June 22nd contest against Portugal – in that precise venue, the U.S. coach’s words continue to reverberate.
Thursday reports from The Guardian detail the Amazonian venue in a state of disarray ahead of this summer’s tournament. To prepare the field massive amounts of fertilizer was laid to promote growth in the notoriously steamy region where average highs approach 90 degrees with humidity levels at 80 percent. The move proved excessive and backfired leaving large portions of the surface dried out and two sections of the penalty areas nearly devoid of grass.
The Amazônia Arena now faces a race against time to be ready for the opening match between England and Italy on June 14th. Jerocilio Silva, the state official for the stadium, has recalled the São Paolo-based grass company to restore the damaged areas of the pitch and “green crystal chemicals” are now being used to alleviate the problem.
How, exactly, the “green crystal chemicals” are any different from the previous fertilizer that allegedly triggered the problem is unclear. But Silva appears convinced that he has figured out how to deal with the acidic, sandy local soil claiming that this is “the treatment for it to blossom again.”
For the U.S. Men’s National Team, poor field conditions is just one of a number of things Klinsmann has prepared his side to expect in Brazil. During the USMNT’s training in São Paulo last January, Klinsmann visited Manaus and noted that while it’s “absolutely gorgeous” it’s also “a different face of Brazil.”
“‘Listen guys, it’s not going to be all perfect,'” he told his players. “‘We have to be very tolerant and we have to be patient with things. But if we know that in advance you adjust to it right away mentally, it’s no big deal. It’s no problem at all.'”
In addition to England v. Italy and the United States v. Portugal, Manaus will host two other Group Stage matches: Cameroon v. Croatia on June 18th and Honduras v. Switzerland on June 25th.
The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.
While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.
[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]
The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.
The aesthetics are terrific.
Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.
The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.
Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.
[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]
Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.
Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.
Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).
Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).
Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.
Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.
[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]
While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.
Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:
The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.
“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”
Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.
We may see him on the field in August 2018.
ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.
FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.
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The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.
FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.