Perry Kitchen; Michael Bradley

Toronto FC 1-0 DC United: Jermain Defoe strikes again in home-opening win

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Jermain Defoe’s third goal in two MLS matches broke a scoreless deadlock and brought the BMO Field crowd to life as Toronto FC improved to 2-0 on the season with a 1-0 win over DC United.

The match was played on a sloppy pitch not quite ready for the season, and the play largely matched the surface. Defoe was one of several players to impress in creation but not finish before his goal, which came in combination with fellow TFC DPs Gilberto and Michael Bradley.

Bradley found his form in the final half-hour, perhaps further-awakened by having to play with a bandage on the back of his head after a tete-a-tete with Davy Arnaud that sent the latter player to the bench for a substitution.

The game’s beginning was met by much applause from an enthusiastic sell-out crowd of 22,591. DC United won a corner kick as the clock struck 1:00 after both teams took turns with a rough pitch, even for this part in the season. The short corner led to nothing and Defoe met an MLS-style rough foul as he attempted to break up the right side with the ball.

TFC then controlled the flow, finding danger through Alvaro Rey. A neat move by Doneil Henry sprung a chance inside the 18, but Defoe’s header failed wide (due in large part to the outside-shoulder rub he was receiving in the box).

Unfortunately, the field was the story for much of the early goings-on. Fabian Espindola’s long free kick even met trouble with footing, as he flashed the high drive into Cesar’s hands. Another chance was muddled, this time for TFC, when a bit of individual magic from Rey ended up slogging between Bradley’s feet before Gilberto shot wild from outside the 18.

Bit of humor in the 18th minute, as a Bradley’s path with the ball went through head referee Silviu Petrescu and Bradley chose to plow through the man in yellow, knocking him into the slop. The collision allowed a defender to catch up to and foul Bradley, but the free kick went to DCU keeper Bill Hamid.

Defoe looked set to find goal No. 3 on the season 20 minutes in, but his right-footed shot was blocked by Hamid before Bradley put the rebound wide. Henry darted forward to feed Defoe three minutes later, but Hamid was able to thwart the Englishman.

As the half passed 30 minutes, DC United began to find possession and offense, with Espindola and Nick DeLeon carrying the threat.

TFC found a great chance in the 35th minute, but Rey’s open, curling effort from the right of Hamid sailed wide and over.

Defoe didn’t find much more luck in the 42nd minute as his left-footed flick from just outside the six beat Hamid but not the goal post. Defoe followed the ball to the post but couldn’t stop it from going out for a goal kick.

Halftime had the eggs on the scoreboard, but the chances were firmly in Toronto’s favor. It made it all the more maddening for the home crowd, who could’ve easily been up a pair of goals were it not for missed chances and Hamid.

And Defoe nearly broke the deadlock (again) in the 48th minute when he found a loose ball in the box but his low shot bounded wide.

Bradley really struggled with his restarts, which were scattershot and, at times, head-scratching, until Defoe’s relentless effort led to a free kick in the 57th minute. This time, Bradley’s laser forced Hamid to punch clear, but the rebound found no Reds in the area.

That was the appetizer, as Bradley found a piece of brilliant passing in the 60th minute, looping the ball into the box where Gilberto fought for the ball, which was cleared into the path of Defoe. He found his third of the year with a no-doubted from just left of the spot and it was 1-0 Toronto FC.

Gilberto came off moments later for TFC hero Dwayne De Rosario.

The heads of Bradley and Davy Arnaud when the TFC midfielder missed the ball and found Arnaud’s face, delaying the match in the 65th minute.

Defoe turned playmaker with a tidy little-look turn for De Rosario in the 76th minute, who fought some rough bounces before forcing Hamid to push the ball out for a corner. It was cleared by DeLeon.

A young pitch invader nearly invalidated a late Defoe breakaway (put over the bar anyway).

Match ball: Captain Steven Caldwell was quite steady in the back for the home side.

Match fall: Eddie Johnson was mostly invisible, but that comes chicken-and-egg with very little effective service from his DC United midfield.

Keep it here for reaction from the locker rooms after the match.

LINEUPS

Toronto FC: Cesar; Caldwell (c), Henry, Morrow, Bloom; Bradley, Osorio, Goncalves, Rey (Orr, 83′); Gilberto (De Rosario, 63′), Defoe

Goals: Defoe (60)

DC United: Hamid; Parke, Fernandez (Doyle, 83′), Franklin, Boswell (c); Arnaud (Porter, 66′), DeLeon, Silva, Kitchen; Johnson, Espindola

VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 6

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This lad is a samba sensation.

Philippe Coutinho is back at the heart of the Liverpool team and he was crowned as the Player of the Week in the Premier League for Matchday 6.

Coutinho, 24, scored a sensational long-range goal, grabbed an assist and created four chances in a dominant performance during Liverpool’s 5-1 win against Hull City on Saturday. 

Watch the video above to relive a Coutinho masterclass as Jurgen Klopp‘s side continue their fine start to the PL season.

No wonder some refer to Coutinho as Liverpool’s Harry Potter.

He’s a wizard.

China aiming for increased influence on FIFA

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - NOVEMBER 26:  CFA General Secretary Zhang Jian poses with the AFC 'Inspiring' Member Association of the Year award during the 2013 AFC Annual Awards at the Mandarin Oriental on November 26, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The influence of China in world soccer could increase on Tuesday if high-ranking Chinese official Zhang Jian is elected onto the FIFA Council in elections to be held in Goa, India.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is holding an Extraordinary Congress to elect three representatives to FIFA’s new decision-making body which has replaced the scandal-hit Executive Committee.

The chances of Zhang, the vice-president and secretary general of the Chinese Football Association, increased on Sunday when one of the favorites, Saoud A. Aziz Al-Mohannadi of Qatar, was barred from running.

In a statement, the AFC said “FIFA has advised the AFC that, based on the report of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, it has decided Mr Saoud A.Aziz Al-Mohannadi (Qatar) is not eligible to stand in the elections for the FIFA Council.”

Al Mohannadi has been charged by the Ethics Committee with refusing to co-operate with an inquiry. While details of specific accusations have yet to be released, FIFA has said it is not related to Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

The ruling leaves Zhang running against Iran’s Ali Kafashian and Zainudin Nordin of Singapore for two of the three seats.

Zhang has played a major role in the development of Chinese soccer and planning extensive reforms that aim to make the country, a traditional underachiever in soccer, a world power by 2050.

This has come at the same time as the recent and massive surge of investment in the Chinese Super League on famous foreign players such as Hulk, Alex Teixeira and Jackson Martinez and coaches Luiz Felipe Scolari and Manuel Pellegrini.

Zhng told South Korean media earlier this month that China also aims to host the World Cup.

“Although it is a case of the sooner the better, we will aim to do so at the right time,” Zhang said. “It seems that around 2030 or 2034 will provide a good opportunity for China.”

The third seat on the FIFA Council has been reserved for female candidates. Moya Dodd, a former Australian international and member of the now-defunct FIFA Executive Committee from 2013 to 2016, is running against Han Un Gyong of North Korea and Bangladesh’s Mafuza Akhter.

“I am doing my best to persuade the 45 voting members of Asia that I can be strong and part of a united AFC team working in FIFA,” Dodd told The Associated Press. “It is important that Asia puts its strongest team forward in FIFA as there will be a lot of issues coming such as discussions about whether to expand to a 40-team World Cup.”

The three successful candidates will take their places on the 37-member FIFA Council alongside existing AFC members from Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia as well as President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

Also ahead of the election, the AFC confirmed that South Korea’s Chung Mong-gyu had succeeded Zhang Jilong of China as the East Zone AFC Vice-President.

Zhang, who stepped down for health reasons, was the acting president of the AFC following the suspension of Mohammad Bin Hammam from football activities by the FIFA Ethics Committee in May 2011 as he ran for the post of FIFA President. Shaikh Salman was elected president in May 2013.

Sam Allardyce’s England future hangs in the balance

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Sam Allardyce manager of England looks thoughtful during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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England manager Sam Allardyce has not only been publicly humiliated but now he could lose his job.

[ MORE: What now for Chelsea? ]

An undercover investigation from the Daily Telegraph, released on Monday, showed Allardyce meating with fictitious businessman and discussing how to get around rules of third-party ownership (TPO) of players and then negotiating a fee of over $518,000 for becoming an ambassador for what he believed to be a company set up in the Far East.

After just one game and two months in charge of England, it could all be over for “Big Sam” as Three Lions boss. The FA is reportedly already close to firing him as they don’t want their image and integrity questioned across the globe.

Allardyce, 61, took charge of the English national team this summer but the footage released of him discussing TPO, plus criticizing former England boss Roy Hodgson and assistant manager Gary Neville, and his employers at the FA among others, will cause the former Sunderland manager huge levels of embarrassment and it is tough to see him rebounding from the widespread criticism already flying his way.

When asked about TPO — which was banned by the English FA in 2008 and by FIFA in 2015 — and ways to get around the current system, Allardyce replied to the businessmen that it was “not a problem” and revealed he knew agents who are “doing it all the time.”

The FA have yet to open a formal investigation but multiple news outlets in the UK claim that English soccer’s governing body have spoken to the Telegraph to try and acquire all of the facts before speaking to Allardyce.

Big Sam has been silly and naive. It is not the first time he’s had allegations flung his way either, as a 2006 BBC documentary also alleged he’d been involved in taking bungs over transfers, something he vehemently denied. A subsequent investigation proved no wrongdoing but the fact that Allardyce names individuals in the footage released (censored for legal reasons) tells us that he knows ways of getting around TPO. He even admitted that Enner Valencia‘s move to West Ham, where he was manager, from Mexican side Pachuca in 2014 was via a TPO.

Now, it must be said, during the undercover footage Allardyce states that he would have to check with the FA (“the powers that be”) before agreeing to any deal to be an ambassador for the made up company. Still, it’s not good and many will view this as Allardyce being greedy and putting his own interests ahead of his main job of managing the English national team between now and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. God knows they need some focus and some inkling of being successful after their recent results in tournaments.

Just 67 days after taking charge of England, something Allardyce has described repeatedly as his “dream job” in football, he was discussing how to make extra cash with complete strangers. Allardyce already earns over $3.3 million a year as England boss and the Telegraph also state that a second meeting was held last week in Manchester to discuss plans on when the Englishman would fly over to Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Telegraph has promised more information will be released in the coming days as they say their 10-month investigation into the murkier side of English soccer has also “unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football.”

Whatever comes out in the following days, it is unlikely the English FA will look upon this episode kindly and they have to judge whether this was just poor judgement from Allardyce or something more sinister.

There’s no doubt about it, the next 24 hours is crucial and Allardyce’s future as England boss hangs in the balance.

NWSL Playoffs set: Portland, Washington, Chicago, Western New York

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The National Women’s Soccer League will crown its fourth champion in mid-October, and for the first time in three years the winner will not be FC Kansas City.

FCKC finished sixth after the 20-game regular season concluded this weekend, six points out of the final slot occupied by the Western New York Flash.

[ MORE: Allardyce on England hot seat? ]

The Flash join Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit in attempting to topple NWSL Shield winners Portland, a Thorns side which won the title in 2013 and has only missed the playoffs once.

Washington hosts Chicago on Friday in the first semifinal, while the Flash travel to Oregon for an Oct. 2 semi.

Portland Thorns (1) vs. Western New York Flash (4)

The two best goal differentials in the league meet at Providence Park, where Mark Parsons’ Thorns and their league-best defense will be tasked with stopping the highest-scoring offense in the NWSL. That means stopping Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams and runner-up Jessica McDonald, who’ve accounted for 21 of WNY’s 40 goals.

The Thorns are loaded. Women’s soccer legend Christine Sinclair, who once lifted a trophy for the Flash, is there with a quintet of USWNT mainstays. French star Amandine Henry, too, as well as leading goal scorer and Danish star Nadia Nadim.

USWNT regulars on each side
Portland: Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, Allie Long, Emily Sonnet, Lindsey Horan

WNY: Samantha Mewis

Washington Spirit (2) vs. Chicago Red Stars (3)

The two sides split the season series, with Chicago hosting a 3-1 victory on Saturday. Sofia Huerta had a goal and an assist, as she and Christen Press combined for nine shots. They’ve combined for 15 goals on the season, though the Red Stars have only found nine goals elsewhere.

No Washington player has scored more than five goals this year, and the Spirit haven’t had a multi-goal game in September, but Argentina national teamer Estefanía Banini’s five goals in 13 matches in an impressive haul.

USWNT regulars on each side
Washington: Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn

Chicago: Alyssa Naeher, Julie Johnston, Christen Press