Judging by his debut, Brendan Rodgers has broken through Mario Balotelli’s mental block

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Mario Balotelli didn’t score, but there’s a lot more that can be taken from his first hour in a Liverpool shirt.

Namely, the fact that he lasted an hour on the pitch.

Balotelli’s demeanor was that of a child who had been put in timeout and only allowed to return should he agree to behave.

There were a few moments that played into the notion that Rodgers is in control, not Balotelli.

In the opening minutes, Balotelli had a brilliant chance to get his Liverpool tenure off to a flying start, but instead struck his header right at Hugo Lloris who saved easily.  In the past, Old Balotelli would have sulked immediately, using early failures as an excuse to slump into a mental prison of overwhelming frustration. Instead, he plodded on like nothing happened, even applauding Sturridge’s pinpoint cross. He was rewarded with another headed chance about 10 minutes later.

The Italian was absolutely rocked by a challenge from Eric Dier that should have produced at least a yellow card, if not more, but Phil Dowd failed to punish the young Englishman. Instead of reacting angrily or even challenging the refereeing decision, Balotelli simply rolled around for a while before accepting the situation and playing on.

When Liverpool were awarded a penalty soon after halftime, the usually fiery Balotelli was nowhere to be seen when Steven Gerrard stepped up to take the spot kick.  In the past, Balotelli has been known to disrespect a team’s set-piece hierarchy, instead insisting he take every chance.

It harkened back to the build-up to the match, when NBC’s broadcast showed a clip of Balotelli speaking with Gerrard before the game. The conversation appeared to not only be conducted in a very respectful manner, but was clearly led by the Liverpool captain, with Balotelli listening and absorbing information about his new club.

Finally, the best moment came after the match. Usually guarded about internal affairs, Rodgers spoke freely in the postmatch press conference on one of his first training interactions with his new striker.

And mark he did, even providing cover down the flanks during Spurs buildup. It wasn’t the best of marking, as he committed a pair of fouls on the wing.  But it’s a start, and a very good one at that.

Roberto Mancini was unable to get control of Balotelli. Clarence Seedorf couldn’t do it. Even Jose Mourinho couldn’t do it.  But it appears early on, Rodgers has figured out the mercurial Italian. It will take time to see if this is truly the case, but if so, this could be the start of something special at Anfield.

After all, Balotelli is a special player. That much is obvious. He just needs someone to reign in his wild and primal emotions. Someone like Brendan Rodgers.

Moyes: Chicharito could miss two weeks with hamstring strain

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David Moyes has given Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez assurances that he’ll have the opportunity to compete for a starting role with the Hammers, but the Mexican international will have to wait a bit for a chance.

[ MORE: North London Derby takes center stage Saturday morning ]

Hernandez, 29, is currently nursing a hamstring strain, leaving his status for this weekend against Watford in doubt.

“I think everyone knows he [Chicharito] has got a hamstring injury,” Moyes said during Friday’s press conference. “It could take a week, it could take two weeks.”

Moyes didn’t mince words recently when speaking about Chicharito and other players within the squad, essentially pointing out that no player will be awarded a starting role simply because of their stardom.

Hernandez has scored four goals in 13 matches this season for West Ham, who currently sits 18th in the Premier League. The Hammers have won just two matches to start the 2017/18 campaign and sit on nine points.

Alessandro Nesta steps down with NASL side Miami FC

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Miami FC quickly put itself on the U.S. soccer map in two short seasons, and much of the club’s success can be attributed to manager Alessandro Nesta.

[ MORE: Chris Coleman steps down with Wales, expected to take Sunderland job ]

The former Serie A defender has managed the club in its first two years of existence, but Nesta’s time in South Beach is coming to an end.

Nesta revealed on Friday that he won’t be returning to the NASL club in 2018, as he prepares to fnd a “new challenge” in his managerial career.

With NASL’s future as a league very much up in the air, Nesta could be seeking a more stable position entering 2018, especially given that his name has been thrown around with several MLS jobs over the last few months.

Orlando City raised over $300,000 in friendly for Puerto Rico hurricane relief

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It isn’t always the score at the end of the match that matters, and Orlando City proved that with its recent friendly to benefit those affected by hurricanes in Puerto Rico.

[ MORE: Whitecaps announce USL affiliation with expansion side Fresno FC ]

Orlando City faced off with the Puerto Rico national team on Nov. 4, which the Lions won 6-1, but it was the club’s humanitarian efforts that proved to be the real story from the event.

The club announced that it raised $327,530 from the match, with all proceeds from the event going directly to the Puerto Rican people.

“I’m very proud of what our Club and our partners were able to accomplish,” Orlando City SC owner Flavio Augusto da Silva said in a team statement. “What we did meant more than just raising funds for Puerto Rico. Once again, we came together as a community to rally behind something bigger than us all.”

Whitecaps announce USL affiliation with expansion side Fresno FC

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The Vancouver Whitecaps will continue their stake in USL next season, but it won’t be with their current affiliate.

[ MORE: Caleb Porter out with the Portland Timbers ]

The Western Conference side announced on Friday that it will bring a new affiliate into USL in 2018 as Fresno FC makes its debut in the Division II league.

In the wake of this decision by the Whitecaps, the club’s current USL side, Vancouver Whitecaps 2, won’t be returning to the league in the near future.

“First of all, we would like to thank every person who has worked tirelessly with Whitecaps FC 2 over the past three seasons,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “With both the USL and Canadian soccer landscapes evolving, now is the right time to make this change for our club. We are delighted to be working with Fresno FC, where the USL will provide the opportunity for high-level competition that will benefit our first team in MLS in the future. We expect that the internal competition for playing time at Fresno FC will provide a tremendous and challenging environment for our top young players.”

The relationship between Vancouver and Fresno will operate similarly to the club’s former status with Whitecaps 2, which allows the senior team to send players down and sign them to MLS contracts when seen fit by the club.

Former MLS manager Frank Yallop serves as general manager for the new USL side, while Adam Smith has been named Fresno’s first head coach.