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Saudis apologize after minute’s silence snub in Australia

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has apologized for “any offense caused” after its players declined to participate in a minute’s silence in memory of last weekend’s deadly attacks in London before the start of a World Cup qualifying match against Australia.

When the stadium announcer called for a minute’s silence Thursday night to honor the eight victims, including two Australians, the 11 Australian players on the field lined up near the center circle with arms on their teammates’ shoulders.

[ MORE: USMNT-T&T recapย | 3 things ]

Their opponents from Saudi Arabia stayed on the other side, most seemingly ignoring the gesture, which sparked an immediate backlash. Video appeared to show one Saudi player bending down to tie his shoe lace during the minute of silence.

The Saudi federation statement said it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologizes for any offense caused.”

“The players did not intend any disrespect to the memories of the victims or to cause upset to their families, friends or any individual affect by the atrocity,” the statement said. “The Saudi Arabian Football Federation condemns all acts of terrorism and extremism and extends its sincerest condolences to the families of all the victims.”

Australia won the match 3-2 to move level on points with Saudi Arabia and Japan atop the qualifying group with two games remaining.

[ MORE: Iniesta to NYCFC? ]

Football Federation Australia said the Saudi team management knew about the plan to hold a minute’s silence before the match and had indicated that the players wouldn’t participate.

“Both the (Asian Football Confederation) and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held,” the FFA said in a statement. “The FFA was further advised by Saudi team officials that this tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture and they would move to their side of the field and respect our custom whilst taking their own positions on the field.”

Typically, representative of soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, meet with officials from both teams and the referee a day before a World Cup qualifier to discuss game-related protocol, including plans for reflections such as the minute’s silence.

There was no immediate response from FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked early Friday about the incident but said while the matter had been raised with him, he had not seen video.

“The whole world, the whole free world is united in condemnation of that terrorist attack and terrorism generally,” Turnbull said, without directly referencing the match. “Everybody, everyone should be united in condemnation with the terrorists and love, and sympathy and respect for the victims and their families.”

Senior Australian Labor politician Anthony Albanese described it as “a disgraceful lack of respect.”

“There is no excuse here. This isn’t about culture,” he said. “This is about a lack of respect.”

After the match, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Japan all had 16 points in qualifying Group B, although Japan had a game in hand.

Tomi Juric scored two goals and Tom Rogic added the third for Australia in Adelaide.

Salem Al Dawsari and Mohammed Al Sahlawi scored for the Saudis, who are led by former Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk.

Australia plays at Japan on Aug. 31 and hosts Thailand on Sept. 5 in its remaining matches. In between, the Australians will play at the Confederations Cup in Russia.

The top two countries in the six-team group qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia, with the third-place country advancing to a playoff.

Top Free Agents Available for MLS clubs

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We’re three weeks into the season and MLS teams can now take stock in what they have, and what they’re missing.

Thanks to the demise of the North American Soccer League as well as the increased allocation money available to MLS clubs, there are a whole host of MLS-level players who have suddenly found themselves unemployed as we get towards the end of March. Some of these names could very well impact MLS clubs, if not at the very least provide depth.

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Let’s take a look at some of the available players who are waiting for a call, in no particular order:

Jermaine Jones

A lightning rod for his play on the field and comments off it, Jermaine Jones is a former UEFA Champions League player with many years of U.S. Men’s National Team experience.

It’s kind of shocking that he hasn’t landed with a club, though part of that could be because the LA Galaxy were ready to move on, his outspoken nature, and the fact that he’d like to stay with his family in Los Angeles.

However, if LAFC or the Galaxy change their mind, or Jones agrees to move to another market, he could absolutely add value in a team’s midfield, either as a starter or a spot starter.


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Jacob Peterson

After a stellar goal-scoring college career at Indiana, Peterson developed into the kind of hard-working, hard-running forward that is perfect in Peter Vermes’ system in Kansas City. While he didn’t always light up the scoresheet, Peterson was always there to provide defensive pressure to opposing backlines, run the channels to open up space for his teammates, and score a few goals himself.

The 32-year-old scored six goals in 21 appearances for Atlanta United last season and could absolutely be a strong option for a club off the bench.

Chance Myers

Peterson’s former teammate at SKC, Myers has never fully found his pre-injury form since he tore his Achilles’s tendon in 2014. The speedy right back made just one appearance for Portland – playing behind the terrific Alvas Powell in 2017, but if he’s finally overcome some of the injury problems, he provides a really experienced, well-tested defender to any club in need of some back line experience.

Simon Dawkins

Dawkins second spell with the Earthquakes didn’t go as well as his first. After spending a pair of seasons with Derby County in the Championship, Dawkins returned to San Jose in 2016 on a Designated Player contract but managed just five goals and two assists over two seasons, with no goals or assists in 2017. If Dawkins is willing to take a pay cut, he’d be a great speedy asset for a team struggling to create offense.

Gideon Baah

The 26-year-old centerback never worked out in two injury-plagued seasons with the New York Red Bulls. Baah was in preseason training with the LA Galaxy but wasn’t offered a contract. If he’s over his injury troubles, an MLS team can do worse than a player capped for Ghana and still in his prime.

Kevin Alston

A former first overall selection who has been called up to multiple January USMNT camps, Alston has been through a lot during his playing career. He’s suffered plenty of muscle injuries but the toughest was when he was diagnosed withย chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare but treatable form of leukemia. Thankfully, Alston recovered and spent the last two seasons with Orlando City, mainly playing for Orlando City B in 2017. If given a chance, Alston provides a very experienced mind as an outside back, and could provide plenty of guidance to a team filled with young players for a season or two.

Bobby Burling

The veteran centerback had his option declined at the end of the 2017 season with the Colorado Rapids but he was part of the Rapids side that defended its way to second in the table. While injuries have shortened his career, Burling could be a solid depth signing for a club in need of a hulking centerback.

Patrick Nyarko

The speedy winger had a rough 2017 after a strong 2016 in the red and black of D.C. United, and was let go at the end of the season. Though he’s now 32-years old, Nyarko can still provide a spark from the wing and change the game off the bench. His goal record and assist record doesn’t lie, with 24 goals and 49 assists in 236 career regular season matches.

Josh Gatt

It appears that the injuries may have finally caught up to Josh Gatt. The former high school prodigy who signed withย SC Rheindorf Altach (over a commitment to Indiana University) as an 18-year-old, suffered three successive torn ACLs during his time with Molde. Gatt made his way back to the U.S. and featured for both Minnesota United and the Colorado Rapids, failing to make a difference for either club.

Perhaps the expectations were too high, but if his knee is feeling good, Gatt can provide the kind of game-changing speed that teams desire. Hopefully he can get one last shot.

Danny Szetela

Szetela has enjoyed a brilliant last few years with the New York Cosmos, but with the Cosmos not playing professional soccer in 2018, Szetela should have been a candidate for any club looking for a solid central midfielder. The former U.S. international can still raise his game to the MLS level, and his calmness under pressure will help any club should they pick him up.

Adidas reveals away kits for Mexico, Argentina, 7 other World Cup squads

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Fans of El Tri, La Albiceleste, Die Mannschaft and more can now get their hands on another set of 2018 World Cup jerseys.

Adidas unveiled the latest designs for the away kits of nine World Cup squads, including Mexico, Argentina and the defending champions Germany, with some of the team’s star players modeling the kits. Carlos Vela, Lionel Messi and Toni Kroos are all pictured in Adidas’ photo shoots with the new kits, and the uniforms are inspired by the kits worn at previous World Cups.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sweden, Colombia, Japan, Belgium and the host nation Russia are also included.

โ€œFor adidas, the World Cup has always been the stage to showcase some of our most iconic products, innovations and designs,” Juergen Rank, Senior Design Director said in a statement. “Many of these classic designs remain hugely popular with fans, and we want to continue to celebrate them while introducing new innovations, combining authenticity with progression.

โ€œThe new official World Cup away kits feature both the latest product technologies to ensure peak performance on the pitch and easily identifiable classic looks, making them perfectly suited to both the stadium and the street.โ€

Check out the latest kit release from Adidas below.

Ronaldo: “I always believe I am the best”

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You’ve got to appreciate the over-sized ego of Cristiano Ronaldo, even if it is deserved.

The 33-year-old Real Madrid striker was bestowed the 2017 Player of the Year award from the Portugal FA, earning 65 percent of the vote. But more than winning yet another trophy to add to his burgeoning case was what he told the media after accepting the award.

“We have to defend what is ours because there is always a Portuguese in the fight (for the top awards),” Ronaldo said, via AS. “I always believe and say that I am the best, whatever they say, and then I show it in the field. We are in the fight year after year.”

Ronaldo did score 42 goals last year for Real Madrid and has scored 18 goals in 2018 alone already for Los Blancos as the club look to go back-to-back-to-back in the UEFA Champions League.

Miazga: “We’re all ready to make an impression” with USMNT

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Last October, for reasons unknown, Matt Miazga didn’t make the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for its final two World Cup qualifiers.

Five months later, he’s risen to the top of the centerback depth chart.

[MORE: Digging into the USMNT roster]

The hulking centerback spoke on Tuesday as the USMNT started off its training camp in Cary, N.C., noting that the youth-laden squad wanted to make an impression to stay in the picture moving forward. With four years until the next World Cup and still more than a year until competitive matches, there is still plenty of shuffling and expanding of the player pool to do before then.

Have a listen to Miazga and enjoy the sights and sounds of the USMNT training camp ahead of its friendly match against Paraguay.