Criticize referee decisions if you want; but cut out the lame, cynical accusations

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The disconcerting state of affairs with Major League Soccer referees looks like this: A man with a whistle and set of disciplinary cards entering any MLS ground is controversy and acrimony waiting to happen.

This is what Major League Soccer and the U.S. Soccer federation has created through years of inattention to its lesser refereeing condition; We all know so, and today it is what it is.

But here’s something related that really, seriously needs to stop: This insinuation that referees are making mistakes because they covet the spotlight.

It’s degrading. It’s lame. It reeks of entitlement. And it doesn’t even make sense.

And yet, we keep hearing it. (In part because MLS has refused to deal with it recently, providing tacit approval in that way.)

This is what D.C. United president Kevin Payne said to the Washington Post about referee Mark Geiger after Sunday’s cascade of wackiness at RFK.

He had a very poor night, not just on one call but on multiple calls. . . . The call on the penalty is like a high school call. . . . He is just back from the Olympics. He likes to be on NBC Sports apparently. He was on it a lot today.”

(MORE: recapping the final, absurd 10 minutes Sunday at RFK)

The game was on NBC Sports Network. The decision in question here was Hamdi Salihi’s encroachment on Dwayne De Rosario’s late penalty kick. (By the way, this is not a rare decision. It’s not common, but it has been called in similar situations this year, just about month ago, in fact, when the league’s leading scorer was ordered to take a re-kick.)

And yet, this from United coach Ben Olsen, also from the Washington Post:

It’s the Geiger show. He wants to make a big call to change games. It’s what they do.

“Coming back from the Olympics, it was his show tonight. It’s not about the players.”

That’s just wrong. Period.

If they want to proclaim that a referee got it wrong, fine. If a coach or official insists that MLS refereeing has so very much room for improvement, I won’t argue. Heck, I’ll put their words in the same bold type as the misguided sentiment above. I’ll have their back on that one.

But I never buy any bluster suggesting referees intentionally favor one team over another, and I wince every time I hear about referees wanting to be “stars of the show.”

David Beckham set the precedent on that one, saying similar things about referee Jair Maruffo in May. Major League Soccer provided tacit approval of this sentiment by meekly declining to fine or suspend Beckham, an action that would have incurred AEG wrath.

Honestly, I don’t rate Maruffo very highly as an MLS referee. But I adjudge him a poor official because he doesn’t take proper control of matches and too frequently refuses to call fouls. So I might call him an inferior referee at the professional level – but not an attention-seeking narcissist.

We have athletes and actors for that.

Is there some ego involved with refereeing? Sure.

But mistakes are mistakes. Geiger, by the way, wasn’t all that bad Sunday. I see worse every weekend in MLS.

Benfica boss: Man City’s Otamendi “could be involved in Dias transfer”

Dias to Man City
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Benfica boss Jorge Jesus expects Ruben Dias to skip town, likely to Manchester City, pending a last-minute turn of events.

He’s hoping that Nicolas Otamendi will head back the other way, validating rumors this week that City had been dangling the Argentine in a hope to land Dias or Sevilla back Jules Kounde.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]

Jesus saw academy grad and Portuguese national teamer Dias score in a 2-0 win over Moreirense on Saturday, a goal the defender described as emotional in a nod to a possible departure.

The manager admitted that a Dias sale became likely when Benfica bowed out of the UEFA Champions League and was drawn into a discussion on Otamendi, whose value is being challenged by his lack of import at the Etihad Stadium.

“Otamendi is a Manchester City defender who could be involved in the Ruben [Dias] transfer. He already showed his ability at FC Porto, he plays for Argentina and has been a regular starter most years at Manchester City.

“He has stopped starting now and if it hadn’t been for that, maybe he wouldn’t have been included in this possible transfer.

“Of course, he’s a player we’d like to have. The player who joins us will have to be understand that my ideas are completely different from those at Manchester City.”

So that’s something.

Dias would combine with Aymeric Laporte and/or Nathan Ake to continue City’s center back revolution. John Stones and Eric Garcia are also currently at City with Otamendi and last season’s makeshift center back Fernandinho.

Bamford nods Leeds past Blades in goalkeepers’ duel

Photo by ALEX LIVESEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Sheffield United – Leeds United: Patrick Bamford’s late goal gave Leeds an entertaining 1-0 win over Sheffield United in a day dominated by strong goalkeeping at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Leeds moves to 2W-1L on the season and keeps its first clean sheet after allowing seven goals through two matches.

Blades are now 0-3 and have not scored a goal.


3 things we learned: Sheffield United – Leeds United

1. (Mostly) Stymied! Leeds has been involved in two 7-goal thrillers and Blades were without two longtime starters at center back, so goals were on the menu. What was served? Enticing, small plates. The football was good but the finishing not there for most of the affair.

2. Bamford perseveres: Chance after chance came for Bamford, who looped a header over the goal and saw another good effort saved by Ramsdale before he pounded a header inside the far post with mere minutes to play.

3. Ramsdale shines: Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was just okay last season with Bournemouth so it was a bit surprising to see the price tag attached to him. He looked the part on Sunday, making six saves including two inside of the box and would’ve been Man of the Match had Bamford not won their day-long duel.

Man of the Match

Bamford


Sheffield United – Leeds United recap

Leeds was bright and ready, a dynamic long pass to Jack Harrison undone by a rough touch and Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale making a save on an advanced Luke Ayling.

At the other end, John Lundstram hit a shot wide in the sixth minute to signal intent from the hosts.

Illan Meslier made a terrific save in the 29th when David McGoldrick’s cute flick to Lundstram was saved in the heart of the six.

Ramsdale made a good save on Stuart Dallas eight minutes later, both teams finding openings to shoot.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Bamford popped a header over the goal in the first half and challenged Ramsdale to win a corner in the 56th minute.

Basham cleared a Stuart Dallas chance off the line five minutes later, the opportunities certainly real and dangerous.

Bamford found his winner in the 88th, Leeds grabbing a second win on the season.

Tottenham – Newcastle United: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Tottenham – Newcastle United: Can Newcastle United score an upset against travel-weary Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)?

Spurs have gone from London to Bulgaria to Southampton to Macedonia and are now back in London for Sunday’s match-up with a Newcastle team that surprised them at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a little over a year ago.

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Spurs bent Shkendija in Europa League play on Thursday, with Heung-min Son posting a goal and two assists over 90 minutes. Harry Kane and Giovani Lo Celso came off the bench in what could be a sign of Jose Mourinho’s intent for Sunday.

Newcastle has been off since Wednesday’s 7-0 demolition of 10-man League Two side Morecambe in the League Cup. Steve Bruce did the trick without fitness-question Allan Saint-Maximin as well as rested Jonjo Shelvey and Callum Wilson.

STREAM TOTTENHAM – NEWCASTLE UNITED LIVE

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham – Newcastle United this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Tottenham – Newcastle United (INJURY REPORT)

Sergio Reguilon makes the bench for Tottenham, but the big news is that Dele Alli has been left off the 18 altogether.

Miguel Almiron finally gets his place back in the Newcastle XI, but it’s only because electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin missed out through injury. Jamal Lewis (eye) makes the bench after a scary injury at the foot of Yves Bissouma, while Andy Carroll heads to the bench for Joelinton.


What they’re saying: Tottenham – Newcastle United

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho on Tanguy Ndombele’s 90 minutes versus Shkendija: “He played very well. Of course in a game where I can imagine our percentage of ball possession was very, very high and our percentage is high he feels obviously much more comfortable. However, even without the ball he had recovery, he had duels, he had defensive transition. It was a really positive game from Tanguy, really happy.

Newcastle’s Steve Bruce on meeting Spurs: “We can’t think we can go and play against the top teams and match them just in a game of football. We have to do something different, tactically. We did it well against the top teams last year. Let’s hope we can do the same again this year.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Newcastle United is not expected to get anything out of this, +600 to win and +360 to take a point compared to Tottenham’s -225 to win.

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Prediction: Tottenham – Newcastle United

The Magpies can take some hope from Palace’s consecutive wins away to Manchester United, but Spurs should deliver the goods. Questions about Saint-Maximin’s fitness even if he does play ask even more, as does the fact that Steve Bruce has been keeping Miguel Almiron on the bench to start matches. Throw in Bruce versus Mourinho and it’s safe to expect Spurs to overcome their travel-weary legs and post a 3-1 win.


How to watch Tottenham – Newcastle United stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Former Huddersfield Town boss, USMNT striker Wagner fired by Schalke

Wagner sacked
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Lopsided defeats to Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen have cost former USMNT striker David Wagner his job as Schalke boss.

Wagner, 48, was fired Sunday after his league unbeaten run as Schalke manager reached 18 matches through a 3-1 loss to Bremen.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news ]

Schalke gave Wagner a little more time to right the ship after wobbling without a win over the final 16 matches of the 2019-20 season, going from fifth to 12th.

From a Schalke release:

“We had all hoped that we could improve on the pitch together with David Wagner. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the right performances and results from the first two games of the season for this to happen,” explained Jochen Schneider, Head of Sport. “We have therefore decided to make a fresh start. Despite the disappointing results, this wasn’t an easy decision for us to make. I would like to thank David Wagner, Christoph Bühler and Frank Fröhling, who, up until their departure, have done everything they can to get Schalke back on track.”

The eight-times capped Wagner began his coaching career with good friend Jurgen Klopp and took his first managerial position at Borussia Dortmund II.

He was then hired by Huddersfield Town and led the Terriers to the Premier League, keeping them in the top flight for one season before leaving the club midway through their relegation-bound second season.

Hired in May 2019, Wagner and Schalke was third after 13 weeks last season, having drawn Revierderby rivals Dortmund and beaten RB Leipzig. But they sunk quickly and had a run of eight matches in which they scored just two goals.

It’s worth monitoring what’s next for Wagner. Back to the Terriers or a Championship side to test his promotion prowess? 2.Bundesliga for that matter?

His star might have appeared to dip due to this run but Schalke has had to deal with significant financial upheaval and sent Weston McKennie to Juve on a loan-to-buy and Daniel Cagliari to Augsburg. Young goalkeeper Alexander Nubel was also sold to Bayern and the only incoming moves were for Vedad Ibisevic and Goncalo Pacienca.

Another thing to note will be whether this is a positive or negative for young American midfielder Nick Taitague, who has battled injuries but had received first team training. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder has one goal in 10 appearances for Schalke II.