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MLS Week 1: LA-Dallas showdown; New boys debut

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Major League Soccer begins its 22nd season on Friday when Portland hosts one of the league’s two new squads: Minnesota United.

United as expansion teams and in nickname, Minnesota and Atlanta United are the shiny new toys for MLS fans (even if the former has a strong history in another league, the NASL).

[ MORE: Atlanta United architect Eales talks club ]

The focus will definitely be on the new boys this weekend, though the bevy of new players in the league will put a glimmer on most of the matches.

Also on tap? A crazy early litmus test for two of the top teams in the West. Here’s one line for each of the 10 matches on Opening Weekend.

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United — 9:30 p.m. EDT Friday

Minnesota’s welcome to MLS happens in one of the rowdiest joints in all the land, as Caleb Porter and the Timbers attempt to get some of the egg of their playoff-less face.

Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire — 2 p.m. EDT Saturday

The league’s other major disappointment last season, Columbus, hopes that the widely-expected resurrection of Chicago under striker Nemanja Nikolic and midfielder Dax McCarty needs a few weeks to take shape.

LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas — 4 p.m. EDT Saturday

Romain Alessandrini and the new-look Galaxy hope the home crowd helps LA to a win over last season’s powerful Supporters’ Shield winners.

Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC — 4:30 p.m. EDT Saturday

The MLS Cup finalists begin on the road at Rio Tinto, where Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, and Michael Bradley lead TFC against a renewed RSL.

Colorado Rapids vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. EDT Saturday

The Rapids posted one of the best defensive performances in MLS history last season, and will aim to prove it no fluke against a New England side which could be a beast or a bust under Jay Heaps.

DC United vs. Sporting KC — 7 p.m. EDT Saturday

Perhaps no club finished the regular season as hot as Patrick Nyarko and DC, and they’ll be the first to test Gelso Fernandes and deep SKC.

September 24 2016: Orlando City FC defender Kevin Alston (12) defends against D.C. United forward Patrick Nyarko (12) during a MLS match at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. DC United defeated Orlando City SC. 4-1. (Photo by Tony Quinn/IconSportswire)
Nyarko (Photo by Tony Quinn/IconSportswire)

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders — 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday

Wilmer Cabrera has a flashy Honduran pair in Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis, and they’ll attempt to break down the champs’ defense.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Montreal Impact — 10 p.m. EDT Saturday

One of the longest road trips in MLS pits the steady Impact against a Quakes side with more questions than answers in its XI.

Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC — 5 p.m. EDT Sunday

Now with two each seasons under their belts, Orlando and New York City hope to get their seasons started the right way as OCSC manager Jason Kreis faces his former side.

Atlanta United FC vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. EDT Sunday

ATL UTD makes its much-anticipated debut against an RBNY side which will have played a late CONCACAF Champions League match in Vancouver on Thursday night.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union — 9:30 p.m. EDT Sunday

The ‘Caps will hope their depth and home field is enough to deal with two matches in four days, as Philadelphia continues the Earnie Stewart revolution.

Marco Silva leaves Hull; Premier League clubs lining up

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Marco Silva came to the Premier League, he saw the PL, but he didn’t conquer the PL — at least, not yet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

It was announced on Thursday that the 39-year-old Portuguese manager, who took over last-place Hull City in January, has left the club after succumbing to relegation from the PL. Silva, whose stock rose quickly during his brief stay in England, signed a contract that ran only through the end of the season should they be relegated, thus he’s not sure on options these days. Hull would have undoubtedly welcomed him back for a run at promotion from the Championship next season.

As recently as Wednesday, Silva was expected to be named the new boss at Porto, though various reports stated that talks between the manager and club had broken down.

[ MORE: Terry “couldn’t care less” about criticism of his farewell ]

Watford and Crystal Palace, both of whom are manager-less after Walter Mazzarri was fired and Sam Allardyce resigned, respectively, are said to be extremely interested in Silva’s services.

David Luiz “took a risk” to return to Chelsea, PL — and it paid off

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You should always bet on yourself, and that’s exactly what David Luiz did last summer in returning to Chelsea and the Premier League.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Whether or not you succeed is secondary to believing in and backing yourself to to do well in an situation, no matter how difficult. When Luiz left Chelsea in the summer of 2014, he did so as something of a joke in PL circles — his eccentric playing style had caused him to commit a number of memorable sometimes-hilarious gaffes which eventually branded him a liability as a “defender.”

After two seasons at Paris Saint-Germain, where he won everything that French football has to offer, Luiz was given an opportunity to return to England and prove wrong so many who had doubted him. It was a “risk,” according to Luiz, but an opportunity he couldn’t pass up — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was winning everything in Paris. I was there for two years and won all the titles in France. I had a great life, great credibility with the club. … I had everything.

“But then I took a risk to come back to the one country that was not that happy with me. Where they always criticized me a lot even after winning the Champions League, the Europa League or where I’d played all the games. That’s why it was a risk. And I love the risk. If you don’t take risks in your life — in your professional life but also in everyday life — you never feel anything new, so I [chose to] taste something new. I don’t like to stay always with the easy life, but I’m happy now because I took the right decision.”

Antonio Conte, the manager who sought to bring Luiz back to Stamford Bridge, heard what everyone was saying about the 30-year-old Brazilian international, and he couldn’t believe his ears — quotes from the Guardian:

“I heard a lot of bad things when he arrived, that he was ‘not a defender.’ But we were sure we were signing a really good player we could lift up again to be one of the best defenders in Europe and, I hope, in the world. He has good technique, he’s strong, he starts our possession and has the personality to do this.”

[ MORE: Terry “couldn’t care less” about criticism of his farewell ]

Luiz was a standout performer for a title-winning side with the third-best defensive record in the PL this season.

Conte and Luiz – 1, Everyone else – 0.

Cristiano Ronaldo could face tax-fraud charges in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Spanish prosecutors are considering whether Cristiano Ronaldo should face charges over allegations by the country’s tax agency that he defrauded the authorities of 15 million euros ($16.7 million) between 2011 and 2014.

Prosecutors said Thursday they have until the end of June to decide whether to charge the Real Madrid star, based on evidence from an investigation by tax officials.

The alleged irregularities were mostly related to money that Ronaldo had in the Virgin Islands.

Tax officials said Ronaldo adjusted his tax declarations and paid an extra 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in 2014.

Prosecutors said that if they decided to charge him, and if the Portugal captain was subsequently found guilty by a court, he would face a prison sentence of at least 15 months. However, it would be unlikely he would go to jail as a first-time offender.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud last year.

Terry: “I couldn’t care less” about 26th-minute farewell criticism

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John Terry is a man who… well, let’s just say, does things his way.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

For instance, remember the time Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League, by beating Bayern Munich, in penalties? Remember Chelsea’s post-game celebrations, which saw Terry, who was suspended for the final at the Allianz Arena, joyously jumping around with his teammates wearing his full kit, shin guards and all?

Was it over the top and a bit silly? Sure it was, but was anyone hurt or genuinely upset by it? Of course not. On Sunday, as Terry said goodbye to the only club he’s ever known (apart from a six-game loan spell at Nottingham Forest in 2000), he toed the line between what’s acceptable and what’s outlandish. Just like in 2012, Terry caused a minor uproar, and just like in 2012 he “couldn’t care less” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I couldn’t care less, I promise you. All I care about is celebrating with my Chelsea fans. Me and them have a wonderful rapport and have done for 22 years. Nothing that people write or say can ever get in the way of that.

“If that’s the way I want to go out, that’s the way I go out because I’ve been here 22 years, I’ve won so many trophies — so if I wanted to play one minute and come off, I would have done.

“I wanted to play 26 minutes because the shirt number means a lot to me and the supporters so as long as they are happy – and I was over the moon with the reception – I promise you I could not care less.”

“It was an unbelievable send-off from the supporters to help me to celebrate 22 years at the club.

“I’m very grateful to them, and it was something I will never forget. It was so emotional after the game, I was in bits.”

There’s something to be said about the success that Chelsea have had as a club, and the way its recency leads them to feel they are perceived by the outside world. Other clubs, “bigger,” most historic clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, for example — have been winning trophies pretty regularly for decades, while 70 percent of the major trophies (14 of 20) won in the club’s history have come since Roman Abramovich bought the club 14 years ago, in 2003. Chelsea is a 112-year-old football club.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Chelsea’s players and fans are so clearly away of their bought-and-paid-for status, thus everything is celebrated on the grandest scale, almost as if to legitimize their accomplishments (which stand up just fine on their own two feet) and standing within the hierarchy of English football. “Contrived” (and admittedly so) is the word that comes to mind and best describes Terry’s send-off.

No one in this space is saying there’s anything wrong with that, but everyone connected to Chelsea must realize and accept that it looks silly to supporters of the aforementioned long-time giants, and they’re going to be pointed at and laughed at every time they do it.