Perfect through two: Columbus answers opening day questions with win over Philadelphia

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It’s going to be easy for some dismiss the significance of this result. After all, neither Columbus nor Philadelphia made the playoffs last season. When most see the Crew got a 2-1 win over the Union on Saturday, they’ll think “par for the course.”

The important details are in the Crew’s bigger picture – the 2-0-0 record they’ve put up under Gregg Berhalter. Over 180 minutes with its new coach, Columbus has never trailed, outscoring its opponents 5-1 during a perfect start.

More impressive: The Crew outscored their opponents 4-0 in their two first halves. Where Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuaín got the season off to a strong start two weeks ago in D.C., a part of Bernardo Anor goals have Columbus cruising into halftime on Saturday. By the time the Union got back to their game in Saturday’s second half, Columbus was playing out of the more conservative posture we say last week at RFK, Berhalter’s plans having produced another decisive halftime lead.

That they didn’t start in that same, compact pose against Philadelphia makes Saturday’s performance that much more impressive. Against D.C., Berhalter seemed to set up to play off the counter, relying on his back eight to find Higuaín, who could then turn and push the Crew forward. Against the Union, Columbus dominated first half possession, winning balls in its opponents’ half as Anor staked them to a 2-0 lead. Snaring two wins with two different plans, Berhalter’s team has joined Houston and Toronto as the only clubs to get six points from their first two results.

And consider this week’s opposition. Through two weeks, Philadelphia looked like one of the best teams in the league, taking a point out of Portland before starving New England of the ball in 1-0 win last week. A revamped midfield built around Maurice Edu had John Hackworth’s team playing a completely different style, one that gave the Union an appearance of playoff contenders.

Columbus painted Philadelphia in a completely different light. Philadelphia came out and played their worst half of the season, with the return of Brian Carroll doing nothing to maintain the midfield dominance the Union had against New England. While they ultimately outshot their hosts (19-9, 4-2 on target), most of their quality was concentrated in a 15-minute span of the second half. That period may have produced Leonardo Fernandes’s goal, but it wasn’t enough to cancel out a full half Columbus control.

Two weeks ago, the Crew left RFK Stadium with three points but a series of unanswered questions after it routed a poor D.C. United. After its second game of the season, however, some of those questions are closer to answers.

Whether Columbus are for real or not, we’ll need more than 180 minutes to know, but given what we’ve seen from Gregg Berhalter through two rounds, there’s reason to believe the 2014 Crew have something the 2013 team did not. They have a man capable of capable of, week-to-week, developing a new plan, preparing his team, and implementing it on match day.

It sounds simple enough, but with only two other teams off to 2-0-0 starts, the standings show how valuable that is. Berhalter’s off to a perfect start.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images
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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.

Report: USMNT’s Arriola drawing transfer interest abroad, in MLS

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Paul Arriola’s motor was constantly running as the United States men’s national team claimed its sixth Gold Cup title, and it could drive him all the way from Club Tijuana to Europe or a prime spot on an MLS roster.

There’s a snag, though.

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Arriola is reportedly wanted by Real Salt Lake and clubs in both the Netherlands and Portugal, but the LA Galaxy has what Goal.com describes a “dubious homegrown player” claim on Arriola, who participated in a minimal of practices with the Galaxy when he was younger.

As you’ll see below, there isn’t much “homegrown” about it and, to its critics, it is peak MLS monopolized tomfoolery. Here’s how Goal describes it:

“He was already a U.S. youth national team player when he traveled the 120 miles from Chula Vista to take part in a handful of training sessions with the LA Galaxy academy and eventually the Galaxy first team.

“The Galaxy are believed to hold a homegrown player claim on Arriola, and would have the right of first refusal on making Arriola an offer if he comes to MLS. The Galaxy’s current salary-cap situation might not allow them to make a serious bid for Arriola.”

But… here’s how the Galaxy described his choosing to sign for TJ instead of a pro deal from LA in 2013:

“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”

Arriola’s response in the same article? “I thank the Galaxy for giving me a wonderful opportunity to train with their first team and be a part of their first team which really taught me a lot.” That doesn’t read as much like he “went through their system.” He played in at least one U-18 game, debuting in October 2012, did more training with TJ in December 2012, and signed for the Mexican side in May 2013.

Should that qualify him as Homegrown?

https://www.transfermarkt.com/paul-arriola/leistungsdaten/spieler/189876

Did Arriola spent significant time with LA, or is it possible the Galaxy might reap rewards from having an already established youth national teamer to practice when he was a kid? Whether you’re okay with that or not, consider that it encourages clubs to pilfer rights without actually registering or training the player.

Not to mention there is no guarantee that playing in the Netherlands or Portugal will be better for his development than MLS. Benfica or Ajax and potential action in European tournaments? Maybe. NAC Breda or Tondela? Maybe not.

Nevermind the quagmire that is American youth soccer clubs’ not earning money from transfer fees, the Arriola drama seems baseless. We don’t know the Galaxy will hold the player hostage, but they would actually be depriving MLS of a talent, as LA would theoretically get nothing should TJ sell him to a European club.

In any event, check out Arriola’s use chart from Tijuana and you’ll see why he’s valued by Bruce Arena as well as his suitors. He’s a Swiss Army Knife. Here’s hoping Tinseltown doesn’t stop him from a proper next step (assuming he’s ready to leave Liga MX).