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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.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.