If FIFA wants to avoid another Brazil-Colombia, it picked the right man for Tuesday’s semifinal

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After Friday’s game against Colombia, Brazil’s rough tactics have come into focus, but consider their broader record at this year’s World Cup. In five games, they’ve “out-fouled” their opponents three times. Among the times they came up short was the tournament’s opening game, where the Selecao was only whistled for five infractions. Brazil’s yet to commit over eight fouls more than their opponents.

Given what happened in the quarterfinals, however, Germany head coach Joachim Löw’s worried the tend is heading in a more dangerous direction. Brazil drew 31 whistles on Friday (to Colombia’s 23) and committed six offenses against Colombia’s best player, James Rodríguez. Combine the numbers from the 120 minutes they played in the Round of 16 against Chile, and the host nation has committed 59 fouls in their last two games.

[ MORE: Preview: Expectations weigh heavy on tournament favorites as Brazil faces Germany ]

That’s the source of today’s pre-match gamesmanship form Löw, who expressed his hope that Tuesday’s official exercises more control of the match. From Sky Sports:

“I hope the referee, Mr Rodriguez from Mexico, will clamp down on things. That physical energy in the match against Colombia went beyond the limits in Europe. When I saw that match….in Europe, 22 players wouldn’t have ended that match.

“There were brutal fouls. People blocking opponents however they could. It was really exaggerated. That’s what we saw on the pitch, so I hope these really brutal and crude fouls are stopped, …

“The actual playing time was only 38 or 39 minutes, there were so many breaks in play. I don’t think players and fans like the match being constantly stopped.

“Players have been warned what would earn them a yellow or a red card but you saw in the Colombia match many fouls from behind which were really dangerous for the players. You have to protect the players when you’re a referee.”

To Löw’s credit, he didn’t resort to calling Brazil dirty or extending his “brutal” description beyond last Friday’s game. In the wake of Neymar’s injury, there’s been a lot of retrospective danger about the teams’ tactics. Löw stops short of dissociating Brazil’s behavior from that strange, heightened occasion.

There is, however, some reason to believe Brazil’s trending in the wrong direction. As games have become more important, the numbers hint Brazil has been more willing to embrace a more cynical style. Consider the escalation of fouls committed from game one to five: 5, 13, 19, 28, 31. As the stakes increased, so did Brazil’s willingness to test the rules.

That test is likely to fail on Tuesday, though. In Marco Antonio Rodríguez, Brazil and Germany have drawn one of CONCACAF’s strictest referees, somebody who’s more likely to err on the side of a dismissal than let game leave his control.

A 17-year Liga MX league veteran, Rodríguez (nickname “Chiquimarco”) has gained a degree of fame because of his resemblance to a child Count Dracula character from Mexican television, something fans probably wouldn’t care about if his officiating style wasn’t so distinct. When Rodríguez is assigned to a match, players must be careful. You never know when he will decide to crack down, and hard.

After all, this is a man that double-fists yellow cards. See 0:54, below:

In that way, Löw is probably already preaching to the choir, to the extent that Rodríguez is even listening. Still, it’s interesting to consider whether FIFA, after reviewing Brazil’s last match, decided the Mexican official is the man to reverse the Selecao’s tend.

If “who, we won’t want this” was followed by the question “how do we fix this,” Chiquimarco would be the obvious answer.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET