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MLS to start using VAR this weekend. What can we expect?

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Ah, it’s been about a month or so since we’ve complained about Video Assistant Referees (VAR).

Time to start flexing your frowns once again, folks.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic to Liverpool? ]

VARs will come in to Major League Soccer for the round of games on Aug. 5-6, after the All-Star Game on Aug. 2 in Chicago which marks the traditional midway point of the season.

It will be used for all of the remaining MLS games, plus MLS Cup playoffs and MLS Cup itself.

Your first comment is probably something along the lines of: ‘why the heck is this happening halfway through a season?’

Yeah, I’m with you, especially as decisions in the opening half of the MLS season obviously weren’t scrutinized in the same way, leading to plenty of points either falling by the wayside or gained advantageously by teams. But we don’t live in an ideal world and here we are.

Still, it’s happening, so let’s see what we can expect from the biggest set of VAR tests. The video below from the folks at MLSsoccer.com — featuring Howard Webb who is now the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) manager of VAR operations — does a great job at explaining everything and here are the main takeaways to remember.

  • At each MLS game a VAR (fifth official) will be located in a booth and have access to all available broadcast replays
  • VARs can only help on decisions involving goals, direct red cards, penalty kick and mistaken identity
  • VARs will be able to talk with the referee via a communications system and suggest a review of an incident
  • The referee can then either re-watch the incident on a sideline monitor or apply the VARs decision to keep or overturn the decision
  • If there is a stoppage of play following the incident and then lay restarts, the incident cannot be checked and play must go on

MLS will have the eyes of the world on it to see exactly how this system works over an elongated period of time. We all saw the issues at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia which led to many pundits and fans calling for it to be shelved ahead of the 2018 World Cup next summer.

How well it works in MLS could have a huge bearing in how VAR is implemented in Russia next summer, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino insisting it will be used.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) will be reviewing all of the findings in MLS over the next four to five months before then deciding when to update the laws of the game.

MLS has always been available to be the guinea pig of the soccer world with the foam spray used by refs introduced in North America’s top-flight, plus goal-line technology and more. So far, so good.

There are plenty of VAR skeptics out there following the Confed Cup this summer, but maybe MLS can help ease some of that worry for soccer purists.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET