MLS newcomers Orlando ban fans after violence erupts in derby clash

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Orlando City Soccer Club have cracked down hard on their so-called supporters who ran riot in a USL Pro vs. NASL clash with Florida neighbors the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Sunday.

Four men were arrested, two for disorderly intoxication and two for battery on a law enforcement officers, as Orlando’s fans repeatedly tried to intimidate and entice members of the Rowdies supporters group, Ralph’s Mob, into starting fights during the I-4 Championship game which Orlando won 3-2. The fans in questions jumped barriers to get at Tampa Bay fans at Al Lang Field, while small fires were also started as flares and fireworks were let off. See pictures of some of the fighting, here.

Police have since released the names of those involved as Stephen Marva, 24, shoved a police officer as he tried to start a fight, then Charles Tolman, 30, hit a police officer with a flag. Jimmy Galvez, 28, and Jared Ambrose, 24 were charged with disorderly intoxication. Marva, Tolman, Galvez and Ambrose have been banned from all future Orlando City games pending the outcome of their court cases.

In an open letter to fans, which you can read in its entirety below, Orlando City’s joint-owner and Chairman Phil Rawlins spoke of how the “incidents reflected very poorly on the club” and then banned all current Supporters Groups (The Ruckus & Iron Lion Firm) until they sign a new “Code of Conduct” agreement with the club that adheres MLS fan rules.

Acts of hooliganism likes this should not be popping up anywhere in the world, let alone a soccer match in a civilized nation such as the USA. In other countries violence in the stands at soccer games, plus in and around the stadiums, is still a huge issue. Let’s hope this doesn’t spread to the U.S. as we all love the passion MLS and the lower leagues are creating, but there’s no place for scenes like this to play out.

Kudos to Orlando for nipping these despicable actions in the bud and not tolerating any of this nonsense. They have proved once again that even if a few of their fans let them down, Orlando will be a great addition to the MLS family from the next March onwards.

At last Sunday’s game in St. Petersburg a small portion of our fans were involved in a number of incidents that reflected very poorly on our Club and entire fanbase. The Club wants to make it abundantly clear that it will not tolerate any such behavior, will not be associated with fans who think this type of behavior is acceptable, and takes the situation extremely seriously.

Orlando City is proud of the reputation it has built in the community and will not allow a small number of fans involved in unsavory behavior to tarnish our organization. For these reasons the Club, following consultation with local law enforcement and Major League Soccer, has taken immediate action which includes (but is not limited to) the following steps:

  • The four fans arrested have been suspended from all future Orlando City games pending the outcome of legal proceedings;
  • Both current Supporter Groups – The Ruckus & Iron Lion Firm – have been indefinitely suspended pending their agreement to a new Fan Code of Conduct which follows MLS Supporter Group guidelines;
  • All privileges associated with being a Supporter Group (e.g., use of drums, flags, large banners, etc.) are temporarily suspended. The Club is in the process of implementing new guidelines to become a “Recognized Supporter Group” which will involve privileges (such as use of drums, flags, large banners, etc.) for those groups that comply in the future;
  • A copy of the new Fan Code of Conduct is being distributed to all fans.

We extend our apologies on behalf of our fans to the Rowdies organization for the events of last Sunday. The Club has also written a letter to the Tampa Bay Rowdies expressing the same.

In closing, as a Club, we have worked tirelessly over the last four seasons to be a model organization on and off the field. We are very proud of what we have accomplished with the support of our fans, partners, players and staff. We know that the vast majority of our supporters already fully comply with the Fan Code of Conduct, love the game of soccer, and are passionate fans of Orlando City. We will not allow our good name to be sullied by the actions of a few. We will, without hesitation, do everything we can to continue upholding the Club’s core values as we transition into Major League Soccer.

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.