MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 2-3 Seattle Sounders

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwsPK6pmykU]

One game, 100 words or less: Obafemi Martins’ early dominance was derailed by his own mistake, with a hands to the face ejection sending him to the locker room after 41 minutes and two goals. By that time, former Sounder Jhon Kennedy Hurtado had seen red, too, leaving the teams to play the second half 10-on-10. A Lamar Neagle ball into the right side of goal in the 78th minute gave the Sounders a two-goal lead, providing insurance against Harry Shipp’s second – a late blast from 17 yards into Stefan Frei’s upper-right hand corner.

Three moments that mattered:

1. 37′ – Hurtado gets sent off – The Fire defender, who had played every minute this season, had to be restrained by partner Bakary Soumaré when Chris Penso show him a second yellow card. Perhaps the Colombian defender was going to argue he didn’t make contact with Martins, but attempting a two-footed tackle in the penalty area (with Martins adroitly avoiding contact), Hurtado left himself no leg to stand on. After Martins converted from the spot, making it 2-0, Chicago seemed beaten.

source: AP
Obafemi Martins scored twice and was issued a red card in Saturday’s first half against Chicago, (Source: AP)

2. 42′ – Martins evens the scales – Shipp’s clinical finish from the left of the box inside Frei’s far post restored some hope for the hosts, but it was the aftermath of the goal that truly brought Chicago back into the game. During a fracas near the center line ahead of the ensuing kickoff, Martins was deemed to have made contact with Benji Joya’s face, earning a straight red card. All of a sudden Chicago had not only halved the lead, they’d even the scales.

3. 78′ – Lamar Neagle, Insurance Agent – A beautiful finish from the right side of Seattle’s penalty area in the 82nd minute gave Shipp his second multi-goal game of the season, further bolstering his place as this season’s Rookie of the Year. By that time, however, the Sounders had put the match away. Four minutes earlier, open in the left of the box as Seattle moved in from the other flank, Neagle calmly put a ball out of Sean Johnson’s reach and into the right side of Chicago’s goal, sealing Seattle’s win.

Three lessons going forward:

1. Neagle, Pappa continue to make wide midfield spots their own – The discussion around the wide midfield spots in Seattle’s 4-4-2 is starting to die down. Both Lamar Neagle, previously a constant source of debate, and Marco Pappa, who had a slow start to his Sounder career, have started to nail down the left and right flanks. Where that would leave Brad Evans when DeAndre Yedlin returns remains to be seen, but between Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda centrally and the strong performances Sigi Schmid’s getting out wide, Seattle’s midfield four is looking less and less like something you’d want to disrupt.

2. Obafemi Martins will go the way of Clint Dempsey – If his violent conduct red card is upheld, Martins will miss the team’s first two games after the World Cup break, matches at D.C. United and Vancouver. As important as the Nigerian has been to the team, it will be difficult playing any games without him. If Clint Dempsey can’t be integrated quickly after the World Cup (or, if the U.S. advances from its group), Seattle may be without both of its key attackers for at least one match.

3. Stop if you’ve heard this before: Chicago’s defense might not be good – Soumaré allowed Martins to turn onto goal one. Hurtado’s penalty conceded goal number two. All defenses seem to have moments like those, but Chicago has collecting them at a disturbing rate. It’s not that the Fire’s allowing such a remarkable number of goals. It’s that the goals they’re allowing are so preventable.

Where that leaves them:

  • Chicago: 2-4-8, ninth place in the East, four points out of fifth place
  • Seattle: 10-3-2, seven points clear of second place Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference

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.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

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.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Walcott strike ]

The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.