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FIFA says still waiting for info on Russian doping cases

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) FIFA is still waiting for details on players implicated in an investigation of doping in Russian soccer, secretary general Fatma Samoura said on Thursday.

WADA investigator Richard McLaren published hundreds of pages of documents in December alleging widespread drug use and cover-ups in Russian sports. Some cases appear to involve the Russia Under-17 and Under-21 soccer teams.

“We are waiting for proof and also names of football players concerned,” Samoura said during a visit to Russia, adding that FIFA wants “WADA or other stakeholders” to send the names.

[ MORE: Top PL story lines — Week 28 ]

Other major sports federations, particularly in winter sports, have started disciplinary proceedings after WADA supplied unredacted files on possible dopers. Athletes’ identities were concealed with code numbers in the public version of McLaren’s report.

However, WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said FIFA received names and summaries of evidence “a couple of days after” the McLaren report was published in December.

“What they might be referring to is that they’re awaiting updated translations” of documents originally written in Russian, Nichols said.

Asked to clarify the issue, FIFA didn’t explain the apparent contradiction in Samoura’s and WADA’s comments, saying only that it was “gathering further information” and the issue was not closed.

Emails released in December alongside McLaren’s report state there were five suspicious samples in the Russia U17 and U21 teams in 2013 and 2014 for which no action was taken, plus two cases in the Russian league.

WADA previously said building disciplinary cases against individual Russians was difficult because the Moscow laboratory destroyed more than 1,000 samples. That means only documentary records – primarily leaked emails between Russian laboratory and sports officials – remain for some cases identified in McLaren’s report.

Samoura dismissed suggestions the Russian doping scandals could tarnish the 2018 World Cup and the 2017 Confederations Cup.

“The doping has nothing to do with the two events,” Samoura said.

“FIFA takes very seriously every aspect that can negatively impact the holding of events worldwide. Whether we are talking about doping, security and safety or discrimination, xenophobia, we make sure that bad behaviors are not affecting our competition.”

Hooliganism is also “something that we are addressing” in the buildup to the World Cup, Samoura said. That follows violent clashes between England and Russia fans in Marseille during last year’s European Championship, and an attack by Russian fans on English supporters in the stadium itself.

World Cup organizing committee CEO Alexei Sorokin said tight security and a database of information on ticket-holders would prevent disturbances and keep troublemakers away from stadiums.

“There may be occasional incidents (of hooliganism) but it’s not a trend, it doesn’t represent a tendency which is characteristic of our society,” Sorokin said. “We are making everything possible for the fans to feel comfortable and safe in our country.”

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.

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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.