D.C. United trash talk Toronto FC’s pitch at BMO Field: “It was a disaster”

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It’s pretty cold up in Ontario in March, perhaps someone should have told D.C. United that?

Following D.C. 1-0 defeat to Toronto FC last Saturday, courtesy of Jermain Defoe’s predatory strike, the Black and Red are complaining about the field conditions at a frigid BMO Field.

MLSsoccer.com’s Pablo Maurer posted the following story on the league’s site on Tuesday, after speaking with D.C. United’s players after training. Designated Player Eddie Johnson led the cries of disbelief towards Toronto’s field, as the U.S. national team star was, well, displeased with the playing conditions.

“The field was crap,” Johnson said. “Absolute crap. As much as that team is ambitious, with the acquisitions they’ve made, you feel like the field would be in much better shape than that.”

D.C.’s newly acquired forward Fabian Espindola wasn’t too impressed either.

“It was a disaster,” Espindola said. “An absolute disaster. There were holes, chunks of grass missing. It was as bad as any field I’ve ever played on.”

Is that an over exaggeration?

Many would argue that playing outdoors in March in temperatures hovering around freezing is risky, especially given the remarkably cold winter they’ve had in the Northern states of the U.S. and over the border in Ontario. Winters as harsh as the one we’ve hopefully just seen the end of in North America will obviously damage the grass. We saw that on Saturday, as large chunks were lifting and patches of dead grass were obviously being ripped and affecting the play, as both teams couldn’t knock the ball around on the floor.

In previous seasons Toronto have ditched BMO Field and played indoors at the Rogers Centre, as they did when facing off against LA in earlier march during the quarterfinal of the CONCACAF Champions League clash back in 2012. Last season Toronto were handed a March 9 fixture against Sporting KC, and once again they played indoors at the Rogers Centre, but they then returned to play outside on March 20 against LA Galaxy in a 2-2 draw. So, does that one week make a difference when it comes to temperatures in Ontario?

Last Saturday against D.C. the high was a balmy 38 degrees, while the mercury dropped to 18 later that night. Next week the temperatures are set to rise to the high 40’s and then continue to climb into the 50’s. With MLS scheduling a mid-March game outside in Toronto, one of the only factors I can think of for letting the game get the go-ahead, is that they wanted to welcome Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Julio Cesar in style to a sell-out crowd at the franchises home stadium, rather than some indoor venue not affiliated to the club.

Yes, the pitch conditions weren’t great, but that’s the price you pay for having a franchise based in a region prone to extreme winter weather. D.C. and all the other teams know that when they agree to play in MLS. That said, I’d expect to see Toronto’s field undergo some serious work in the next few weeks and months as the thermometers soar in Toronto and the deep freeze thaws.

STREAM LIVE: Palace v. Spurs; Arsenal v. Leicester, relegation scrap

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Three Premier League games are coming your way on Wednesday as things continue to get very, very serious at both ends of the table.

Tottenham Hotspur head to in-form London rivals Crystal Palace looking to cut Chelsea’s lead atop the table to four points, while Arsenal host Leicester City as Arsene Wenger‘s side try to stay in the top four race.

At the opposite end of the table Middlesbrough host Sunderland in a battle between north east clubs and the bottom two teams. If either team manages a win then they’ll give themselves a slither of hope of avoiding relegation.

Stream all three games by clicking on the links below, while you can see every goal as it goes in on Premier League Goal Rush by clicking on the link below.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being very similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.

The feature game this Wednesday on “Goal Rush” will be Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur and as goals and incidents occur around the league, you will be transported to the action as it happens.

More info is available here, plus the schedule for all three games is below. You can stream each game live by clicking on the links below or above.


3 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Leicester City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Middlesbrough vs. Sudnerland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]

Neil Taylor banned two games for Coleman tackle

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ZURICH (AP) Wales defender Neil Taylor has been banned for two World Cup qualifying games for a red-card tackle that broke the leg of an Ireland opponent.

The Welsh soccer federation said Wednesday that the FIFA disciplinary panel imposed the ban. Taylor, who plays for Swansea, will miss matches at Serbia on June 11 and against Austria on Sept. 2.

FIFA rules require a ban of at least one match for serious foul play.

Ireland captain Seamus Coleman‘s right leg was broken by Taylor’s challenge during the teams’ 0-0 draw in Dublin on March 24. The Everton defender’s leg was visibly damaged before he was carried off on a stretcher.

Ireland is second in Group D, level with Serbia. Third-place Wales trails by four points with five games left.

Video refs to be used at 2018 World Cup in Russia

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has confirmed that video referees will be used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Video assistant referees (VARs) were trialed in recent international games and the FIFA Club World Cup and have proved hugely successful with decisions made quickly and correctly.

VARs can only interfere in big decisions such as goals, red cards, mistaken identities and penalties.

Via the BBC, here’s what Infantino had to say.

“We will use video refereeing at the 2018 World Cup because we’ve had nothing but positive feedback so far. If the referee made a mistake, we can’t have a situation where the only one who can’t see it is the referee.”

Infantino has long called for the introduction of video technology in soccer and now it is set to come to the biggest stage of all, with the International Football Association Board (IFAB) expected to formally vote it in.

The hope is that big decisions in huge games will no longer be called incorrectly due to human error and surely it is only a matter of time before VARs are used in the top leagues across the world. Australia’s A-League is the first top-flight league to trial the system.

Three key battles in Man City vs. Man United

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Ahead of the massive Manchester derby on Thursday at the Etihad Stadium (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) both Manchester City and Manchester United have some massive absentees through injury with Paul Pogba and Zlaan

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

That being said, there are still plenty of stars who will be out on the pitch and both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will be sure to surprise many with their team selections. With City in fourth place but just one point and one place ahead of United, this game will be crucial in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification.

[ MORE: Manchester derby, team news ]

Below is a look at three key battles on the pitch which will determine the outcome of the game.


Vincent Kompany vs. Marcus Rashford

This will perhaps be the most pivotal individual battle on the pitch. With Vincent Kompany back fit, Man City’s defense has looked incredibly solid. The Belgian star will have his hands full with a fired up Marcus Rashford though. The local lad scored the winner at the Eithad last season and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured the 19-year-old has stepped up big in recent weeks. Kompany will look to step high and intercept balls into Rashford early but we all now have deceptively strong Rashford is and if he can turn Kompany early then there’s no way City’s skipper will catch him in a straight race.

Kevin De Bruyne vs. Ander Herrera

In the 2-1 win for City at United back in September (man, that seems like a long time ago) Kevin de Bruyne tore United’s midfield apart. In the first half of that game he scored the opener and his shot off the post fell to Kelechi Iheanacho for City’s second as Guardiola deployed KDB in a slightly unfamiliar central role. He was much more attacking at Old Trafford and kept winning the ball back in key area in front of United’s defense. Ander Herrera started that game on the bench that day and Mourinho brought him on at half time to quell the threat of KDB, which he did. Guardiola may play De Bruyne deeper, as he did against Arsenal recently, but the Belgian will have to get by Herrera. The Spaniard has been a terrier in Mourinho’s midfield and is having a fine season. Herrera did a wonderful man-marking job on Eden Hazard last weekend and after shaking off an injury, don’t be surprised if Mourinho puts him up against De Bruyne.

Sergio Aguero vs. Eric Bailly

Guardiola had an injury concern about Aguero but the Argentine is fit and ready and that’s bad news for United. He took his goal superbly well in the FA Cup semifinal to Arsenal at the weekend and Aguero is now second all-time in City’s goalscorers, scoring in his last five PL games on the troy. Eric Bailly has been been forced to play a lot of games this season and he went the full 120 minutes against Anderlecht last Thursday and then the full 90 against Burnley on Sunday. With Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo out through injury, Bailly will have to play again (Daley Blind will likely partner him) and his battle with Aguero will be crucial. Not to mention Aguero has eight goals in 10 appearances against United