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.

Report: Man United to target Rose, other full backs this summer

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Jose Mourinho has identified perhaps the most underrated position on the pitch as a place he needs to upgrade his squad this summer.

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According to a report from The Guardian, the Manchester United manager is looking to sign Tottenham wing back Danny Rose and potentially another full back in the summer transfer window. With Luke Shaw likely to leave the club, Mourinho is left with incumbents left back Ashley Young and right back Antonio Valencia, both on the wrong side of 30-years old and both converted wingers playing out-of-position.

Mourinho last December decried crosstown rivals Man City for spending more than $140 million to sign wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker last summer. Though Mendy missed most of the season with a torn ACL, Walker and fellow outside back Danilo helped give Man City’s attack another dimension out wide, as the wing backs in the 3-4-3 or Man City’s 4-1-4-1 with Fernandinho dropping back into the centerback pairing become ever more important.

Rose has had a contentious last 18-months or so at Tottenham and could be looking to leave this summer. But it will likely take a bid north of $75 million, around what it cost Man City to sign Walker last summer, to buy Rose out of his Tottenham contract.

Matteo Darmian meanwhile, another potential outside back for Man United, could also be departing the club this summer, as Man United looks to replenish its side.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

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But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

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MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

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They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.