CONCACAF Champions League Roundup: Champions fall in Panama; Sporting slips at Estelí

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Portland’s 2,500-mile trek from Boston to Guyana did not go unrewarded. On a discolored ground in Providence, Guyana, the Timbers made a resounding CONCACAF Champions League debut, defeating Alpha United, 4-1.

The game played to the expectations that have grown from MLS’s meetings with the regions’ minnows. While trips to Costa Rica, Honduras, and, of course, Mexico can still haunt U.S. and Canadian teams, visits to the regions’ less-established leagues tend to be more forgiving.

Coming off a loss last week to Olimpia, United proved just as accommodating to their MLS guests. Steve Zakuani scored his first of the season in the 18th minute, while Maxmiliano Urruti doubled the advantage in the 34th. Through a wonderful free kick from Barbosa Murilo pulled the home side within one moments before the break, second half goals from Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell gave Portland the lopsided result.

Despite the convincing performance, the Timbers merely stayed on par. The real challenge in Group 5 will be Olimpia, who also have three points after one match. Where the winner of the teams’ head-to-head battles will likely reach the quarterfinals, it’s imperative to get three points from Alpha United.

Club América 6-1 Bayamón FC

Even without Raul Jiménez in tow, Club América remain one of the tournament favorites, a fact they hammered home at a largely empty Estadio Azteca. With goals in the sixth (Moisés Velasco), 12th (Michael Arroyo), 14th (Ventura Alvarado), and 20th (Martín Zuñiga) minutes, Antonio Mohammed’s teamtook advantage of a shaky Adrian Krul, putting the match away before the Puerto Ricans had a chance to settle.

Gil Burón’s goal just before halftime sent América into intermission up 5-0, though Nicholas Walker would pull Bayamón within four on the hour. In stoppage time, Zuñiga’s second of the game make it 6-1 – Bayamón’s second straight five-goal loss.

Real Estelí 1-1 Sporting Kansas City

A potential setback saw MLS’s champions drop points in Nicaragua, failing to take advantage of the same slip from Saprissa a week ago. Now Sporting may need to take four points from the Costa Ricans to guarantee a knockout round return.

Estelí broke through early, with a sixth minute save from Jon Kempin deflecting off midfielder Jorge Claros and in for an own goal. Ten minutes later, Peter Vermes’ side responded, with a free kick buried by Toni making it 1-1.

Estelí would go on to outshoot Sporting 11-5 on the night, prompting Vermes to eventually call on Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer to spark the attack. Ultimately, neither team was able to break through, leaving both sides reason to rue the final score at the Estadio Independencia.

Chorrillo 1-0 Cruz Azul

The upset of the night saw the tournament’s defending champions give Panama’s Chorrillo its first points in Champions League, simultaneously ruining La Maquina’s perfect record (6-0-0) against Panamanian sides. Putting home the rebound of a 70th minute penalty kick, Justin Arboleda authored Chorrillo’s little piece of history, leaving the holders bottom of their group through two matches.

Luis Fernando Tena’s team also slipped up last week, drawing at home to Costa Rica’s Alajuelense. Tuesday’s performance offered more of the same, with the Cementeros allowing the hosts to have the better of play early on.

Though the holders slowly started exerting more control, attempts by Marco Fabián, Fausto Pinto, and Gerrado Torrado failed to come good, leaving Chorrillo within a whistle of their history-making upset.

In the 69th minute, that whistle finally came, putting the pressure on goalkeeper José de Jesús Corona to keep his team even. After saving the initial try, however, Corona couldn’t prevent Arboleda from converting the rebound, leaving Cruz Azul with one point through two matches.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.