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Video replay gets tested its first week in MLS

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With fans and other leagues watching, Major League Soccer has introduced video replay in dramatic style.

The Video Assistant Referee, or VAR for short, ruled out a goal in FC Dallas’ first-ever loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

The VAR disallowed Maximiliano Urruti’s late goal for Dallas after video evidence showed that forward Cristian Colman fouled Union goalkeeper John McCarthy before the shot and he wasn’t able to get to the ball. Philadelphia won 3-1.

The decision took about two minutes.

The VAR also had an impact on Sunday’s game between the Portland Timbers and the LA Galaxy when Gyasi Zardes’ apparent go-ahead goal in the 11th minute was disallowed because of a handball.

The goal would have given the Galaxy the lead and arguably could have swayed the momentum to Los Angeles. Instead, the Timbers went on to win 3-1.

“I think everyone has their opinion on it,” said Portland defender Liam Ridgewell. “But, obviously, it’s coming into the game and it worked in our favor. Ask me next time when it doesn’t. It was great today. So we’ll wait and see next time.”

The goals in Portland and Philadelphia were the only two that activated video review.

“I saw it after the game and still I have to say that it generates a lot of thoughts, but we respect it,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja told reporters. “I have to be honest and say if the referee had the chance to review it, the (Video Assistant Referee), they made the decision, I have to assume that it is correct.”

There are many eyes on MLS’s rollout of the VAR, who serves as the fifth member of the officiating crew at any given game.

The VAR at each MLS stadium monitors all video feeds of the game that are available, focusing on “potential clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents” involving goals, penalty kicks, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

If a review is required, the VAR will alert the referee on the field, who will make a box gesture with his hands to indicate the VAR is examining a possible error. All final calls will lie with the head referee.

Two other top-tier leagues will add a VAR soon. The German Bundesliga will debut video replay for the season opener between Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen on Aug. 18. The Italian Serie A will also introduce its version after adding goal-line technology last season.

Video replay is currently being tested on the international level, used in the Under-20 World Cup and the Confederations Cup in Russia. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, plans to use it at the 2018 World Cup.

Soccer’s adoption of the technology is not without its detractors, some who worry it will have unintended consequences – like making games longer.

Greg Gordon, a Glasgow-based soccer scout and longtime journalist who writes for the website howtowatchfootball .co.uk, is one of those closely watching how MLS applies video replay after seeing some of the controversy caused by its use on the international level.

“The beauty of football – unlike maybe some American sports, which I also love – is that there’s a constant ebb and flow to the game,” he said. “And actually the use of video refereeing, as we’ve already seen in a few instances, can really lead to the breakup of the speed of the game. But it also can really lead to what you could call catastrophic moments of just mass confusion.”

And indeed, there seemed to be some confusion among those watching MLS games this weekend about when it could be used, or whether it should be used.

In Portland, where supporters are known for their chants and songs throughout matches, fans chanted “V-A-R” after what they saw as a foul on forward Fanendo Adi by Galaxy defender Dave Romney.

Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe said after Sunday’s game that he’s taking a wait-and-see approach .

“I haven’t seen a replay yet (of the disallowed goal). But I think it’s something, VAR getting introduced, it’s something that is going to change the flow of the game a little bit. So it’s something that we’re going to have to get used to as players. You get that energy of, `OK, We got our second goal we, we’re going to go up, OK we’ve gotta defend now.’ Then all of the sudden it’s, `Wait a couple of minutes,’ and it gets called back and you’re in a different kind of mindset and it’s tied again,” Rowe said.

“It just adds an extra layer to it and it’s something that as players, it’s the law now so we’ve just got to get used to it.”

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham