Three thoughts about Aurélien Collin’s now rescinded red card

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Sporting Kansas City’s Aurélien Collin saw straight red on Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew, a decision that was overturned today after the club’s appeal. You can see the play, above.

Collin will now be eligible to play tomorrow against the visiting Galaxy, though Edvin Jurisvic did cost him 35 minutes in Wednesday’s match. Though Sporting still won the game, 2-1, the dismissal still left us with three thoughts about the decision’s causes, implications:

1.)  Collin’s reputation

Coming into the season, Aurélien Collin’s three years in Major League Soccer had featured 31 yellow cards but only one dismissal. This year, that’s changed. Maybe the odds are catching up to the physical rearguard, but after an astounding 2013 with 15 yellows and zero reds, Collin’s been dismissed twice in 2014. Other the last nine games, Collin’s tripled his number of career red cards.

So what’s going on here? Obviously, a mistake. At least, that’s what caused the most recent red card, but seeing why Collin was given his marching orders, you wonder if the Sporting defender is being subjected to some heightened scrutiny. Is that record of yellow cards drawing more attention to Collin’s defending.

In fairness to the officials, “more attention” has been a theme throughout the season. Across the league, we’re seen red cards handed out somewhat liberally, phenomena that’s led to a slew of lopsided and “wow, that changed quick” results (such as when Collin was dismissed at New England earlier this year).

source: Getty Images
Collin accumulated 15 yellows without a red last season. This year, he’s been dismissed twice, though the second red was overturned. (Source: Getty Images)

Perhaps Collin’s aggressive approach doesn’t fit as well in this new, hyper-critical MLS. Or maybe this is just a phase – an anomalous span, after which Collin will go back to his line-walking ways. Regardless, the KC defender’s reputation for testing officials may a part of this equation.

After Wednesday’s decision, I wonder: Was Collin being judged on play or repute? I think it’s the former, but I’m keeping my mind open to the latter.

2.) MLS is still way ahead of the game on this

An official screwed up. Kansas City appealed. The call was reversed. While the team doesn’t get to replay those last 35, it doesn’t matter. Sporting still won, and after the independent review panel upheld their appeal, they’ll get Collin back for tomorrow’s showcase against the visiting Galaxy.

It almost goes without saying, but after a World Cup where the rest of the world marveled at vanishing spray (while at one time questioning the accuracy of goal-line technology), some perspective is nice: Major League Soccer’s willingness to redress these mistakes leaves the league far ahead of most on this issue.

Rather than sit back and wax philosophically about the sanctity of each match, MLS is being proactive, a process that involves confessing the obvious: Officials are fallible. But instead of adopting a quixiotic approach that romanticizes the value of those imperfections, MLS is saying they can address issues, offer a solution, and provide some negative feedback to the process. They’ve implemented a process by which they can evolve.

Unfortunately, that prompts the next question; or, to look at it another way, the next stage of the process:

3.)  How to make it better

This may not be something MLS can snap their fingers and implement, but a solution will happen one day. At some point in the future, people are going to demand a real-time fix to such obvious errors, and while there’s always concern for “flow of the game,” there are two situations were a quick, off-field review can happen, providing a solution that would respect the game’s flow.

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Goal-line technology was used for the first time at this summer’s World Cup.

That’s because on penalty kicks and red cards, the game’s already stopped, usually for 60 or 120 seconds. Given how much matches change in those situations, there’s a huge incentive to get those calls right, even if it means adding a little more time to that stoppage.

In a world where each MLS game is streamed online, where the World Cup showed how easy and elegant you can communicate with the lead official, having a centralized review (a la what the NBA is implementing) just isn’t that hard. When everybody on Twitter is able to review controversial calls within seconds, it makes too much sense to ask the league to do so, too.

This isn’t about making a throw-in last forever. It isn’t about getting endlessly scrutinizing every little midfield infraction. It’s about asking “where would extra review be reasonable?” Given how the importance of dismissals and penalties (and the state of the technology), it’s more unreasonable to give in to an antiquated view about how high-level soccer should be played.

Whether this is issue needs to go through FIFA or IFAB, I don’t know. Sometimes, it’s unclear where those lines are drawn (or, are enforced). Regardless, this feels like implementing substitutions, or moving toward goal-line technology – controversies at which history will scoff.

If tradition-steeped sports like baseball, cricket, and tennis have a place for in-game technology, soccer can get there, too.

La Liga: Sevilla win late to move even with Atletico Madrid in 3rd

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MADRID (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder scored three minutes after entering the game to give Sevilla a late 2-1 win over 10-man Celta Vigo in the Spanish league on Thursday.

The victory moved Sevilla even on points with third-place Atletico Madrid with four matches left. Third place guarantees an automatic spot in the Champions League next season, while the fourth-placed team has to go through a playoff.

Ben Yedder netted the winner from close range after a low cross by Samir Nasri in the 79th minute, beating a defender to the ball and hitting the top of the net with a right-footed shot.

“It was a complex game but the team was able to overcome the difficulties,” Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said.

Joaquin Correa put the host ahead after halftime, and Iago Aspas equalized by converting a penalty kick just minutes later. Aspas did not celebrate the goal out of respect to fans of his former club.

Sevilla dominated from the start and was pressuring vigorously in search of the winner, especially after Celta went a man down when midfielder Pablo Hernandez was sent off with a second yellow card in the 56th with the game 1-1.

Sergio Escudero and Nasri each struck the crossbar a few minutes apart late in the second half, and Vicente Iborra also had hit the woodwork earlier in the game played under steady rain in Seville.

It was the third win in four matches for Sevilla after a streak of five games without a win.

Sevilla and Atletico are level on points, but the Madrid club is ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Top PL Storylines: Bye-bye, St. Totteringham’s Day? So long, Sunderland?

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Ahead of Week 34 of the 2016-17 Premier League season, we’re most looking forward to keeping an eye on the following storylines…

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Cancel St. Totteringham’s Day?

8,018 days (otherwise known as 22.9 years) have passed since Tottenham Hotspur last finished above Arsenal in the Premier League. First of all, that’s a lot of days. Secondly, the time to reset that clock is nearly upon us, as Tottenham take a 14-point lead into Sunday’s North London derby (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) — perhaps the final one to be played at White Hart Lane. With Arsenal having only five games left to play after Sunday, a 17-point deficit would be mathematically impossible to overcome, and would guarantee Spurs’ first PL finish above Arsenal since the spring of 1995.

The fact that Spurs could end that embarrassing, heinous streak in a game against Arsenal, in perhaps their next-to-last game at White Hart Lane, and maybe even close to within a single point of Chelsea in the title race… it’s almost all too timely and too perfect to believe it could really happen… to Spurs.


Finish the job

With all due respect to Middlesbrough (home), West Bromwich Albion (away), Watford (home) and Sunderland (home), Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, where they’ve lost on their last two visits (all competitions) and they’ll take on seventh-place Everton (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com), is far and away the toughest remaining fixture on Chelsea’s schedule as they chase a fifth PL-era title (fifth in all eras). Having booked their spot in the FA Cup final by beating Spurs last weekend, Antonio Conte is dreaming of — and a favorite to win — a double in his first season at Stamford.


Someone has to finish top-four

Ahead of the weekend, two points separate Liverpool (third), Manchester City (fourth) and Manchester United (fifth), with Arsenal another four back in sixth (but possessing a game in hand). Given all the points dropped by each of the aforementioned sides in recent weeks, it’s important to remember that someone has to finish third and fourth in the PL this season.

We’ve already discussed Arsenal’s titanic task, so here’s the challenges facing the other three this round: Liverpool, at Watford (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com); Man City, at Middlesbrough (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, on  NBCSports.com); Manchester United, vs. Swansea City (7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com).


So long, Sunderland?

For five seasons now, Sunderland have flirted with relegation from the PL; and every previous season, they’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat and managed to stay up. This season, though, under David Moyes, there appears to be no rabbit. With five games to go, safety is a whopping 12 points away, which means a loss to Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSports.com), coupled with a win or draw by 17th-place Hull City, would officially send Sunderland to the Championship next season. If the Black Cats somehow find their way out of this predicament, a northeastern knighthood awaits Mr. Moyes.

French authorities investigating 2018, 2022 World Cup bids

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PARIS (AP) French financial prosecutors are investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and have heard former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

A person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Thursday that France’s financial prosecutor services (PNF) opened the investigation on grounds of private corruption, criminal association, influence peddling, and benefiting from influence peddling relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Blatter was questioned in Switzerland last week as a witness, the same person told the AP.

The office of the attorney general of Switzerland said in a statement that “at the request of and in the context of proceedings being conducted by French justice authorities, it has questioned Mr. Joseph Blatter in his capacity as a person providing information on the 20th April 2017 in Zurich.”

The PNF opened its investigation last year.

FIFA has also been targeted by investigations led by Swiss and US authorities. Last month, FIFA sent 1,300 pages of internal investigation reports into suspected bribery and corruption to Switzerland’s attorney general. The documents complete a 22-month probe by legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which FIFA retained in the fallout from United States and Swiss federal prosecutors revealing their sprawling investigations of soccer corruption in May 2015.

Blatter said last week that he met with U.S. Department of Justice investigators and insisted he was not a suspect in their bribery and corruption case linked to FIFA.

Blatter was suspended from office in September 2015 and later banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee.

Johannsson expected to leave Bremen this summer — is MLS next?

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Aron Johannsson’s time at Werder Bremen is all but finished, as the 26-year-old American-born, Icelandic-raised striker is expected to leave the club this summer after 22 months with Die Werderaner.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Having failed to make much of an impact during his second season in the Bundesliga, following a few promising days early in the fall of 2015, the German press stated on Thursday, in no uncertain terms, “Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club” — quotes from Kicker (translation courtesy of Google Translate):

In addition, Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club. The US boy was not able to get through the hard competition in the storm, claimed more time, which can hardly be guaranteed in the next season. The fact that Baumann is already talking about finding a meaningful solution with the striker in the summer can be interpreted as follows: Johannsson will leave Werder.

Since various bits and pieces are lost in the above translation, allow us to offer a translation of the translation: the “hard competition in the storm” refers to the three or four strikers presently ahead of him in the pecking order. Johannsson fell down the depth chart due in large part to a hip injury which cost him the final seven months of last season.

Johannsson was recently quoted as saying, “It’s not my desire to leave, but at the end of the day it’s important that I play. I love football, but I need to play to be happy.”

[ MORE: John Brooks hip injury is worrying ahead of World Cup qualifiers ]

So, what’s next for Johannsson?

He can probably forget about a move to a top-division team in any of Europe’s premier leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France). A move back to Holland, where he starred at AZ Alkmaar (39 goals in 81 games) before moving to Bremen, would make sense if his goal is to stay in Europe at all costs. Another strong season (just a half, even) could earn him another shot with a first-division side roughly the size of Bremen.

Then, there’s MLS, which Johannsson’s been linked with before, and has publicly expressed a desire to join one day. As a current U.S. national team player, a move to MLS would mean a trip through the league’s allocation order for Johannsson. As of this posting, the Houston Dynamo hold the no. 1 spot in the allocation order, with Columbus Crew SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Minnesota United and Orlando City SC rounding out the next five.

[ WATCH: If you haven’t Darlington Nagbe’s latest golazo ]

Any team in MLS could land Johannsson by acquiring the top spot in the allocation order, via trade, and agreeing (what would almost certainly be) a Designated Player contract with him.

At the age of 26, Johannsson will likely feel there is still something left for him to accomplish in Europe. A strong showing in this summer’s Gold Cup (he’s a perfect candidate for Bruce Arena’s “B-team”) could open plenty of eyes — and doors. Money talks, though, just as the opportunity to be the face of the franchise and score a boatload of goals in MLS might also do.