MLS roundup: Dempsey scores two more; RSL the last of the unbeatens

Leave a comment

Major League Soccer is down to one unbeaten team, though in a month-and-a-half full of ties, it’s only right that the last undefeated side is riddled with draws. After a 2-2 result today in Philadelphia, Real Salt Lake’s left with only two wins in six, its 2-0-4 record as indicative of its difficult opening schedule as the team’s quality.

Thanks to Seattle’s performance in Frisco, Tex., FC Dallas can no longer count itself among the unbeatens, with another headlining performance from one of the league’s biggest stars finally sinking Óscar Pareja’s upstart side. FCD does, however, maintain its place at the top of the Western Conference, with a surprise win from Colorado at BMO Field leaving a trio of clubs three points behind the leaders.

Here’s what happened on the sixth Saturday of the Major League Soccer season:

Philadelphia Union 2-2 Real Salt Lake

Oh, look what we have here: The good Philadelphia Union. We thought we lost you guys, but the way you played against Real Salt Lake? You obviously just had an off week against Chicago. Maybe that potential you flashed against Portland, New England, and Columbus wasn’t a more than a hot start.

Coming back from two different deficits, the Union got their fourth draw of the season, seeing their new striker (Andrew Wenger) score in the process. Real Salt Lake also so a “4” going into their tie column, though the Western Conference champions are the league’s last unbeaten team.

Toronto FC 0-1 Colorado Rapids

Without Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, Toronto still had a number of chances to claim their second home win of the season, but after a well-built chance that saw Dillons Serna and Powers create a close-range opportunity for Edson Buddle, the Reds were made to rue their inability to find an opening goal. With their second loss of the year, TFC remains tied at the top of the East with Columbus, while Colorado moves to within three points of first place Dallas in the Western Conference.

Montréal Impact 1-1 Chicago Fire

Jack McInerney scored in his first game with Montréal, but much like the rest of his team, the new Impact striker was kept quiet throughout the rest of the afternoon. When Chicago got an early second half equalizer from Quincy Amarikwa, Frank Yallop’s team appeared to be building toward its first win of the season, but unable to find a winner from a match it controlled, the Fire had to settle for its fourth straight draw.

New England Revolution 2-0 Houston Dynamo

Carrying some kind of hangover from their 4-1 loss to Dallas last weekend, Houston failed to put a shot on goal at Gillette Stadium, allowing Kevin Alston’s first MLS goal to carry New England into stoppage time. Jerry Bengston’s goal after a Tally Hall error doubled the Revolution lead as well as Houston’s losing streak, with New England rebounding from its loss at D.C. to hand the Dynamo their second straight loss.

D.C. United 1-0 New York Red Bulls

A fourth minute goal from Davy Arnaud along with another surprisingly poor performance from New York gave Ben Olsen’s team its second straight win, with United now one win short of its 2013 season total. With Thierry Henry back in the team, the Red Bulls were able to take more control than they did last week in Montréal, but an inability to put more than three of their 19 shots on target leaves the Supporters’ Shield holders winless this season.

FC Dallas 2-3 Seattle Sounders

Clint Dempsey made his case for a second straight Player of the Week honor, with a Goal of the Year candidate and a late match-winner giving “Deuce” his second straight multi-goal night. Knocking Dallas from the ranks of the unbeaten, the Sounders claimed their third win of the campaign, with their biggest star taking his spot atop the league’s scoring charts with six goals.

Portland Timbers 1-1 Chivas USA

What New York is to the East, Portland is to the Western Conference. Now six games without a win, the Timbers again saw a defensive failing cost them points, with Erick Torres’s late goal giving the visiting Goats a surprise result. With his fifth goal of the year, “Cubo” joins Dempsey as the only players to net five times though six rounds (though Dempsey has played two fewer games).

LA Galaxy 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Robbie Keane’s third goal in four games keeps LA in the win column, with the Galaxy’s second straight shutout giving fans reason to think Bruce Arena has found a solution for the team’s biggest weakness. After starting the season with a loss and draw against Real Salt Lake, LA’s up to seven points in four games, though Landon Donovan remains in pursuit of goal No. 135.

Report: Man City bid for Mendy rejected

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a report by Sky Sports, Manchester City has seen a bid for Monaco full-back Benjamin Mendy rejected, and will have to significantly increase their offer for the transfer to be completed.

The report states that Manchester City bid $58 million for the 23-year-old French international, but Monaco values Mendy at the $65 million level Man City paid for Kyle Walker, a world record for a defender.

[ MORE: Barcelona president warns PSG over Neymar move ]

Monaco is in an advantageous position in this situation, with Manchester City desperate for full-backs and Monaco not obligated to sell. Mendy’s current contract with the defending Ligue 1 champions runs through the summer of 2021.

City has already purchased Walker, but with the departure of aging full-backs Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, and Bacary Sagna, the club is almost completely devoid at the position, with just Walker and Aleksandr Kolarov on the roster.

Mendy has shown blistering pace and great crossing ability, racking up 11 assists last season across all competitions, including four in seven Champions League appearances. His tackling numbers are also surprisingly competent for such a young defender, completing just about 50% of his attempted tackles during league play last season, and sporting a 64% completion rate in Champions League play.

MLS to add VAR replay in early August

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Less than a month from now, Major League Soccer will introduce Video Assistant Replay to its matches, the league confirmed Thursday.

VAR took its biggest jump forward yet when it was introduced at the 2017 Confederations Cup. Referees on the field were alerted by video assistants in a booth about questionable calls, and the on-field ref would then have the opportunity to review a decision themselves on a video screen.

The MLS press release read, “A fifth member of a game’s officiating crew, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), located in a booth at the stadium, will have access to all available broadcast angles and check all plays for potential clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents in four game-changing situations — goals, penalty decisions, direct red cards, and cases of mistaken identity.” The league confirmed August 5th would be the introduction of VAR.Major L

For VAR to be successfully implemented and affect the flow of game as little as possible, the system will have to be tightly monitored as to not be used to challenge 50/50 decisions or those too close to call. In addition, quick decisions will be paramount to the system to keep confusion at a minimum and continue play as quick as possible.

There were examples of both good and bad use of VAR during the Confederations Cup. Early in the tournament, Portugal saw a goal correctly wiped off against Mexico thanks to a blatant offside call, with the decision coming 53 seconds after the ball hit the back of the net. However, later in the tournament, Chile saw a goal by Claudio Vargas controversially erased when the system was used to overturn an incredibly close call.

MLS says its decision to use VAR comes after three years of research and testing. It’s somewhat surprising the system is being implemented in the middle of a campaign, with any possible kinks to work out despite the stretch run of the regular season.

Back in early July, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said there is “nothing standing in the way of VAR” use at the 2018 World Cup.

Africa Cup of Nations moving to summer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has been moved to the summer, neutralizing the effect of the tournament on domestic leagues, the CAF has announced.

In the past, players were forced to choose between club and country with the tournament taking place in January and February. Now, players will not have to choose, and will be able to play for their country without missing any critical club time. Last season, clubs like Liverpool struggled in the absence of key players like Sadio Mane while they left to play for their country.

With the change to playing in June and July, teams will need to manage the heat of a summer tournament in Africa, although it wouldn’t be as bad as one might expect. The 2019 tournament is set to be played in Cameroon, where average temperatures in June start at around 87 degrees and fall throughout the month, reaching closer to 80 degrees by the start of July. Cameroon hosted Morocco in their most recent AFCON qualifier 10 days ago in Yaoundé, and the high temperature for that day (June 10) was 78 degrees.

The CAF also confirmed that the tournament will expand from 16 teams to 24 teams, despite qualification for the tournament having already begun. To fill out the additional slots, the CAF has not announced how it will change qualifying, but it’s likely that 2nd place finishers in all 12 groups would make the field, rather than the top three 2nd place finishers that currently progress. In the current format, the host country automatically qualifies, but still participates in qualification. Cameroon is currently leading Group B after one match.

Eight additional teams could pose problems for Cameroon, who admitted on Wednesday that preparations were behind schedule for the 2019 tournament. “Despite security concerns, social and economic crises, the government and President Paul Biya are totally engaged to do everything for the Nations Cup to go ahead,” said Cameroon Sports Minister Ismael Bidoung.

Finally, the CAF release confirmed that the tournament will, in the future, stay on African soil with only African teams. That means there will be no tournaments held in foreign nations such as China, and non-African teams will not be invited. Both were possibilities the organization was considering.

Barcelona president warns PSG over FFP

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is warning Paris Saint-Germain that even if they try to sign Neymar, they would condemn themselves to UEFA sanctions.

With PSG heavily linked to the Brazilian superstar, rumors suggest the French club is hoping to activate Neymar’s monstrous release clause set at $258 million.

However, that could have serious consequences, warns Bartomeu. “These clauses are impossible to activate if you want to comply with Financial Fair Play,” the Barcelona president told the Associated Press. “If someone doesn’t want to comply, then of course it can be activated.”

The Spaniard assured fans that Neymar is a critical part of Barcelona’s success.

“He has a contract for the coming four years and, of course, we count on him,” Bartomeu said. “He’s part of our team. He’s part of this trident [with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez].”

The 25-year-old signed a five-year contract extension last October that runs through the summer of 2021. Club vice-president Jordi Mestre also said he was “200 per cent” sure Neymar would stay with Barcelona.