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FIFA pres. Infantino defends video replays at Club World Cup

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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino has defended the use of video replays despite a shaky debut for the new system at the Club World Cup.

The replay system allows referees to halt play to review footage of “game-changing decisions”, but its introduction has had a mixed reaction from players and coaches at the tournament, including Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea go 9 points clear; Man Utd streaking ]

“The results are extremely positive,” Infantino said. “Of course there are learnings, of course there are a few topics that we have to look into and discuss in more detail, but the result is extremely positive. Why? Because the referee has been able to take the right decision and justice and transparency have been brought to the game.”

Following Thursday’s match between Real Madrid and Club America, several players were skeptical about the system.

The system was used for the first time on Wednesday when Kashima Antlers were awarded a penalty kick that led to the first goal in a 3-0 win over Atletico Nacional.

Kashima midfielder Gaku Shibasaki sent in a free kick in the 31st minute, and teammate Daigo Nishi was then fouled inside the box by Atletico Nacional forward Orlando Berrio.

After receiving information about a missed incident from video assistant referee Danny Makkelie, Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai drew an imaginary square with his hands to indicate that he would conduct a review of the footage via a monitor on the sidelines. Kassai then pointed to the penalty spot, ruling from the replay that Nishi was tripped inside the penalty area by Berrio.

[ MORE: La Liga — Atleti end poor run of results; Sevilla go 2nd (for now) ]

Shoma Doi took the penalty and scored Kashima’s first goal but there was some confusion as Nishi appeared to be offside.

“In the first game with Kashima, the referee didn’t see the situation and the video assistant referee saw a clear tackle so he interfered,” said Marco van Basten, the former Dutch international who is FIFA’s chief officer of technical development. “The referee watched the television and said `OK, you are right and I give a penalty.’ So in the end it took a few seconds too much but it was the right decision.”

In Thursday’s semifinal, Ronaldo scored an injury-time goal to help Madrid beat Club America 2-0 and earn a spot in the final.

But after Ronaldo scored, referee Enrique Caceres appeared to ask for confirmation from his video assistant referee that there was no offside. The Paraguayan official then decided that the goal stood without appearing to view a video himself.

“The television doesn’t work, huh?” Ronaldo was overheard saying with a laugh as he left the field.

[ MORE: Serie A — Juventus beat 2nd-place Roma, go 7 points clear ]

FIFA officials attributed the confusion on the Ronaldo goal to a problem of communication between the officials.

“When Ronaldo scored the second goal it was a clear situation and there was no offside,” Van Basten said. “So in the end it was good and the right decision was made. Only the communication between the video assistant referee and the referee was not optimum.”

FIFA says the aim is to achieve `minimum interference, maximum benefit’, with the technology only being used for defined match-changing situations and any serious missed incidents. In these cases, the question a VAR will consider is not `was the decision correct?’ but `was the decision clearly wrong?’

Referees still retain the authority to make the final judgment. Managers and players will not be allowed to appeal to referees to review an incident.

France veteran Malouda loses appeal in Gold Cup case

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former France winger Florent Malouda has lost his appeal against being ruled ineligible to play for French Guiana at the 2017 Gold Cup.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport says its judges dismissed Malouda’s appeal against North American soccer body CONCACAF.

French Guiana fielded Malouda in a 0-0 draw against Honduras last July despite being told he was not eligible. CONCACAF awarded a 3-0 win to Honduras and suspended Malouda.

The Gold Cup uses FIFA eligibility rules which bar players from transferring allegiance after playing a competitive game for one country.

Malouda played 80 times for France including a 2006 World Cup final loss against Italy.

The French Guiana soccer federation hoped Malouda, now aged 37, could play in the Gold Cup because it is not a FIFA member.

Report: Bobby Wood unlikely to come to MLS this summer

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A U.S. Men’s National Team forward will probably have to wait a bit longer to come to Major League Soccer if that is the path that he chooses.

Reports have recently surfaced linking Bobby Wood to MLS at the conclusion of the Bundesliga season, however, MLSSoccer.com is reporting that a move for the American likely won’t come in 2018.

Wood, who remains under contract for three more seasons at Hamburg, is currently fighting relegation in Germany with his club side.

Hamburg currently sits 17th in the German top flight, eight points buried in the relegation zone with four matches remaining.

The MLSSoccer.com report suggests that MLS clubs aren’t willing to compensate Wood at the current rate of his contract in Germany.

Currently, Wood is making “several million dollars” per season, and even if Hamburg is relegated in 2017/18 Wood’s contract wouldn’t decrease to a number that clubs are comfortable paying.

If Wood was to join MLS, he would be considered a Discovery signing as he is not currently on the MLS player allocation list. The Washington Post previously reported that an MLS club has Wood included on their Discovery list, although the team’s identity isn’t known.

Report: Fellaini eyes MLS, China after shooting down Man United terms

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Marouane Fellaini‘s time in Manchester looks to be numbered, and a move abroad could have the Belgian in line for one last payday during his career.

The Manchester United midfielder has rejected multiple offers to stay on at Old Trafford ahead of his contract expiring this summer, which would allow Fellaini to pursue other opportunities come June.

Fellaini is being linked to moves to Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, as the veteran aims to secure a sizable contract upon leaving the Red Devils after over five-and-a-half years with the club.

The Daily Mail is also reporting that Fellaini would be open to hearing options that could keep him in the Premier League, although it is unclear if there is any serious interest from English sides at this time.

Since the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, Fellaini has struggled to find playing time under manager Jose Mourinho.

This season, the Belgium international has appeared in just 14 PL matches and 19 in all competitions. Fellaini has scored four goals in that span.

Chicago Fire venue to be renamed SeatGeek Stadium

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The Chicago Fire won’t be moving into a new stadium 2019, however, their venue will have a new name donned on the side of it.

For years, the Eastern Conference side has played its home matches at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, but starting next season the Fire’s home turf will be called SeatGeek Stadium as part of a rebrand.

SeatGeek is one of the largest online after-market ticket distributors, and was created back in 2009.

Toyota Park will undergo its transformation at the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season.

The venue is also home to the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.