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MLS (afternoon) roundup: FCD start Shield defense; Giovinco’s PK saved

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The first MLS Saturday of 2017 is just about about halfway complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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LA Galaxy 1-2 FC Dallas

The LA Galaxy FC Dallas don’t rebuild; they reload. Sure, Fabian Castillo left late last summer, and sure, Mauro Diaz will miss most of the 2017 season as he recovers from a torn achilles. To which Oscar Pareja shrugs, “So what?” Rather than fretting, Pareja opted to further bolster and already loaded squad of dynamic youngsters, to the point he now has two capable starters in every outfield position.

The other thing he’s got at his disposal to start the season? Flexibility, in spades. For Saturday’s opener against LA, Pareja opted for a 4-4-2 featuring Maximiliano Urruti and winter signing Cristian Colman up top, Kellyn Acosta and Carlos Gruezo in the middle. En route to a 2-1 win at StubHub Center, Urruti and Acosta bagged goals — each of the highest quality and pinpoint precision — and FCD’s Supporters’ Shield is off to a flying start.

Columbus Crew SC 1-1 Chicago Fire

Early-season soccer can be mighty tough to watch — especially in MLS, especially for two teams who’ve only just undergone a major transformation during the offseason just gone by. It didn’t help Chicago that one of the crown jewels of their offseason, former LA midfielder Juninho, was unavailable through suspension carried over from Liga MX. Thus, Dax McCarty, who was also acquired this winter, operated on an island, with very little in terms of defensive protection alongside or creative license ahead. Nemanja Nikolic spent the majority of his MLS debut in an offside position. Regardless, David Accam remains one of the most criminally underrated attackers in the league, and rescued a point in the 73rd minute.

On the other side, Crew SC started a pair of brand new signings at center back — Jonathan Mensa and Nicolai Naess — just behind newcomer Mohammed Abu alongside the incumbent Wil Trapp. U.S. youth international Zack Steffen, who’s 21, made his MLS debut in goal. Likewise, it was the established stars — Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay — who linked up for a well-worked opener.

Real Salt Lake 0-0 Toronto FC

Sebastian Giovinco saw his penalty kick saved by the penalty kick-saving magician otherwise known as Nick Rimando, as RSL and TFC played to a scoreless draw at Rio Tinto Stadium. Non-penalty division, the game’s best chance fell to Joao Plata late in the second half, but the diminutive Ecuadorian international blazed his breakaway effort over the crossbar, and the Reds were let off the hook.

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.

Everton announce lifetime ban for fan involved in altercation with Lyon player

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On a night when UEFA unveiled a new campaign for respect, there wasn’t enough of it shown both on and off the field.

Everton has followed up on UEFA opening up disciplinary proceedings against them by banning a fan from Everton matches after the fan was seen to punch at an Olympique Lyon player in the second half of Lyon’s 2-1 win at Goodison Park.

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“Club Officials have reviewed the footage of an incident that occurred in the 64th minute of the game against Olympique Lyonnais where supporters towards the front of the lower Gwladys Street End became involved in a confrontation between players,” Everton said in a statement. “We have identified one individual whom action will now be taken against. This will include a ban from attending future Everton fixtures and the Club registering a formal complaint with Merseyside Police.”

The video below shows a fan – amazingly, holding onto a small boy in one arm – throwing some punches at Lyon players after a fracas on the field.

The punch and ban is yet another dark moment for Everton, which has just one point from its first three Europa League matches and sits in 16th place in the Premier League with eight points from eight games.