Challenges of CONCACAF Champions League on display in Houston

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HOUSTON, Tex. – The announced attendance was 19,462, but there were nowhere near that many people at BBVA Compass Stadium. Empty orange seats were scattered throughout both bowls of the Houston Dynamo’s home arena, though the crowd was larger than we’ve become accustomed to for mid-week, CONCACAF action. Just like the tournament’s on-field quality, the excitement in the stands remains a work in progress.

It’s difficult to disconnect the excitement from the quality – the tournament’s overall product. On Tuesday, the product produced by Houston and Honduras’s CD Olimpia was notably worse than what fans saw three days earlier when the Dynamo hosted the struggling Philadelphia Union. How can a match between two confederations’ best fail to meet the standard of a game between a contender and an also ran? It’s a disconnect makes is hard to reconcile calls for making CONCACAF Champions League a higher priority.

Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear’s preferences were clear. Only one player among Saturday’s starting lineup was featured in Tuesday’s first XI. Part of that was due to fitness, some older players not able to recover on two days’ rest. A potential stretch of four games in 11 days was another concern. With Saturday’s game in Colorado a possible chance to avoid the Eastern Conference knockout round, domestic concerns prevailed.

The Dynamo still had enough quality to present a decent product, if one squad’s rotation was the only issue. It wasn’t. Olimpia was also playing on two day’s rest, except they had to travel 1900 miles in the interim. They also had to play without one of their prominent players, Honduran international Johnny Palacios suspended for accumulating too many yellow cards.

Those type of contraints aren’t unique to CONCACAF. Other regions deal with identical issues but have seen their confederation tournaments blossom. Fixture congestion is a bigger issue in Europe, where domestic cup competitions play a more prominent role. Still, UEFA Champions League is the biggest club competition in the world. Travel is a much greater concern in Asia, yet the AFC continues to make small strides with its regional championship.

There is, however, one constraint unique to CONCACAF, an obstacle that took center stage Tuesday night. As referee Juan Carlos Guerra kept his cards pocketed through most of the first half, players started questioning (and testing) how far the rules would be stretched. Fuses blew near halftime and players started confronting each other, with Kinnear eventually earning an ejection. After streaming into the ear of assistant referee Hermenerito Leal as he left the field, Kinnear watched the final 50 minutes from the locker room.

Predictably, the second half descended into chaos. Starting with Brian Ching’s booking in the 56th minute, Guerra showed seven yellow cards in a 28-minute window. Houston’s Giles Barnes delivered a two-footed, studs-up tackle, Ching was shoved into a goalpost, Calen Carr pushed goalkeeper Donis Escobar to the ground, and Olimpia defender Brayan Beckeles “cleaned out” Carr with sliding tackle. Only two of those incidents were booked.

Multiple times in the second half, players went face-to-face, letting their frustrations reach the edge of transgression. Yet nobody saw straight red, and it wasn’t until Beckeles picked up a second yellow in the 79th minute that an out-of-hand match lost a player.

Did the referee lose control of the match? That cliché’s used so often it’s difficult to remember what it means. Tuesday, however, may have provided an illustration. After only one yellow card was shown during first half aggressions, players started acting with disregard for punishment, knowing it was unlikely Guerra would escalate from reticence to dismissals. That initial reticence led to the game’s seven-card second half.

None of the day’s eight UEFA Champions League games approached this level of disorder. It was chaos you’d rarely see in Asia or South America’s championships. When you do, it’s usually fan behavior that causes the confusion, not mayhem between the lines.

In CONCACAF, the scene happens too often. Even if Tuesday’s reached a rare depth, confusion is something coaches have come to account for in their preparation. You don’t know if the breaks will go for or against you, but when a referee gives a performance like Guerra’s, you know there will be more random, unpredictable breaks than usual. Your team has to be mentally prepared to play through them.

It’s unlikely this is a problem of fairness – one team being helped more than the other. It is, however, a problem or quality. It’s a problem of perception. It’s an issue for a product that’s struggling to gain traction across the confederation.

Though Major League Soccer fans often complain about the league’s officiating, the problem almost never approaches depths that are commonplace in CCL. It never holds back the competition.

On Tuesday, Andre Hainault’s second half header secured a 1-1 draw, moving Houston into quarterfinals. With the challenges of Champions League on full display, the result became an afterthought.

FA Cup fourth round live! Scores, how to watch live, predictions

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The FA Cup always delivers shocks and plenty of Premier League clubs had tricky tasks facing them in the fourth round. One still has one, in fact.

After Aston Villa, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest, and Bournemouth were all knocked out by lower league opponents in round three, plus Everton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and Brentford knocked out by fellow Premier League sides, there were only 10 top-flight teams left in the competition.

[ LIVE: Follow FA Cup scores, updates ]

Arsenal lost narrowly at Manchester City in a heavyweight clash, while Brighton won late on against Liverpool, and Manchester United beat Reading easily. West Ham will be on upset alert as they face a tough trip to third-tier Derby County.

And then there’s Wrexham AFC, who nearly sprung a big upset of Sheffield United but will have to settle for a replay.

Read on for FA Cup stream info, fixtures, and predictions.


FA Cup live scores, schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Fourth round (January 27-30)
Times: Below
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: ESPN+


FA Cup fourth round schedule

All games 10am ET unless otherwise stated

Monday
Derby County vs West Ham – 2:45pm ET

Results

Friday
Man City 1-0 Arsenal – Recap/video highlights

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 0-1 Leicester City
Fulham 1-1 Sunderland
Bristol City 3-0 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Birmingham City
Luton Town 2-2 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 0-0 Burnley
Southampton 2-1 Blackpool
Preston North End 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 3-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-1 Liverpool
Stoke City 3-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 3-3 Sheffield United


FA Cup fourth round predictions – By Joe Prince-Wright

Friday
Man City 2-1 Arsenal

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 1-2 Leicester City
Fulham 1-2 Sunderland
Bristol City 1-2 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City
Luton Town 3-1 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 1-3 Burnley
Southampton 2-0 Blackpool
Preston North End 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 2-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-2 Liverpool
Stoke City 2-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 1-2 Sheffield United

Monday
Derby County 1-1 West Ham


FA Cup third round replays

Tuesday 

Swansea City 1-2 (AET) Bristol City
Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Birmingham City (original tie postponed due to waterlogged pitch)
Wigan 1-2 Luton
Wolves 0-1 Liverpool
West Brom 4-0 Chesterfield

Wednesday

Leeds United 5-2 Cardiff City

Tuesday, January 24

Accrington Stanley vs Boreham Wood


FA Cup third round results

Friday

Manchester United 3-1 Everton

Saturday

Preston North End 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Reading 2-0 Watford
Tottenham 1-0 Portsmouth
Gillingham 0-1 Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers vs Birmingham City — PPD
Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton
Hull City 0-2 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-5 Brighton
Fleetwood Town 2-1 QPR
Ipswich Town 4-1 Rotherham
Bournemouth 2-4 Burnley
Blackpool 4-1 Nottingham Forest
Chesterfield 3-3 West Brom
Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United
Boreham Wood 1-1 Accrington Stanley
Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Sunderland
Brentford 0-1 West Ham
Coventry City 3-4 Wrexham
Luton Town 1-1 Wigan
Grimsby Town 1-0 Burton Albion
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle
Liverpool 2-2 Wolves

Sunday

Bristol City 1-1 Swansea City
Derby County 3-0 Barnsley
Cardiff City 2-2 Leeds
Stockport 1-2 Walsall
Hartlepool 0-3 Stoke City
Norwich 0-1 Blackpool
Aston Villa 1-2 Stevenage
Man City 4-0 Chelsea

Monday

Oxford United 0-3 Arsenal


Anthony Gordon sold to Newcastle by Everton for $49.5 million

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NEWCASTLE, England (AP) Newcastle signed Anthony Gordon from Everton reportedly for an initial 40 million pounds ($49.5 million) on Sunday after the 21-year-old winger submitted a formal transfer request.

Newcastle said Gordon has signed a long-term deal as the team bolsters its squad for its tilt at qualifying for the Champions League. It is currently in third place in the Premier League.

“I think the fan base and the city really suits me as a person, the way the team are playing under the (manager Eddie Howe) at the minute really suits me, and the club just look like they’re heading in the right direction,” Gordon said.

[ MORE: Complete list of Premier League transfers ]

“I feel like it’s a really big step. People haven’t seen what I’m capable of yet.”

Gordon joined Everton’s academy at the age of 11 and made his senior debut as a 16-year-old in a Europa League match in December 2017.

Everton announced the departure of Gordon in a brief statement.

Howe described Gordon as a “top, top talent.”

“I’m really excited to work with him, to develop him, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in a Newcastle shirt,” Howe added.

Premier League transfer news, live! Complete list of January transfers so far

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The January transfer window is again seeing big-name imports into the Premier League, and the final hours of the window are seeing a flurry of deals take place.

Chelsea’s signed Benoit Badiashile and Andrey Santos, Newcastle’s formally welcomed Garang Kuol, and Liverpool’s reinforced its forward ranks with Cody Gakpo joining the Anfield set.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United | Arsenal ]

There’s plenty of discussion about Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur making additions to deepen their squads’ top-four pushes, but nothing complete yet for either big name side.

The same is true for title-fighters Arsenal and Manchester City, though their top-end footing is a lot more stable.


Latest transfer deals developing – January 29

Weston McKennie to Leeds United is a developing deal as the American midfielder is set to join on loan until the end of the season, with Leeds having an option to buy him for $36 million.

Arsenal are pushing hard to sign Moises Caicedo, with the Ecuadorian midfielder not playing for Brighton in the FA Cup against Liverpool amid a reported new $86 million bid from the Gunners. Anthony Gordon has signed for Newcastle from Everton for a fee believed to be around $60 million.


AFC Bournemouth

In
Dango Ouattara (Lorient)
Darren Randolph (West Ham)
Antoine Semenyo (Bristol City)

Out
Ferdinand Okoh (Dorchester) Loan
James Hill (Hearts) Loan
Will Dennis (Slough) Loan
Noa Boutin (Gosport) Loan


Arsenal

In
Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
Jakub Kiwior (Spezia Calcio)

Out
Brooke Norton-Cuffy (Coventry) Loan
Miguel Azeez (Wigan) Loan
Arthur Okonkwo (Sturm Graz) Loan
Ovie Ejeheri (SJK Seinajoki) Loan
Harry Clarke (Ipswich Town)


Aston Villa

In
Aaron Ramsey (loan recall)
Tyreik Wright (loan recall)
Alex Moreno (Real Betis)
Jhon Duran (Chicago Fire)

Out
Cameron Archer (Middlesbrough) Loan
Tyreik Wright (Plymouth Argyle)
Frederic Guilbert (RC Strasbourg)
Indiana Vassilev (St. Louis City SC)
Danny Ings (West Ham)
Jan Bednarek (loan recall)
Morgan Sanson (Strasbourg) Loan


Brentford

In
Byron Wilson (Coventry)
Conor McManus (Bray Wanderers)
Fin Stevens (loan recall)
Mads Bech (loan recall)
Beaux Booth (Dorking)
Kevin Schade (Freiburg) Loan
Paris Maghoma (loan recall)
Romeo Beckham (Inter Miami) Loan
Nathan Young-Coombes (loan recall)

Out
Myles Peart-Harris (Forest Green Rovers) Loan extension
Aaron Pressley (Accrington) Loan
Lachlan Brook (Crewe) Loan extension
Edon Pruti (Hartlepool)
Mads Bech (Groningen) Loan
Ellery Balcombe (Bristol Rovers) Loan
Tariqe Fosu (Rotherham) Loan
Paris Maghoma (MK Dons) Loan
Charlie Goode (Blackpool) Loan


Brighton & Hove Albion

In
Facundo Buonanotte (Rosario Central)
Jamie Mullins (Bohemians)
Mark O’Mahony (Cork)

Out
Aaron Connolly (Hull) Loan
Reda Khadra (Birmingham)
Ed Turns (Leyton Orient) Loan
James Beadle (Crewe Alexandra) Loan
Leandro Trossard (Arsenal)


Chelsea

In
David Datro Fofana (Molde)
Benoit Badiashile (Monaco)
Andrey Santos (Vasco da Gama)
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid) Loan
Mykhailo Mudryk (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Noni Madueke (PSV Eindhoven)
Malo Gusto (Lyon)

Out
Bashir Humphreys (Paderborn) Loan
Malo Gusto (Lyon) Loan

Chelsea transfer news
Benoit Badiashile (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Crystal Palace

Out
Killian Phillips (Shrewsbury) Loan
Jack Butland (Man Utd) Loan
John-Kymani Gordon (Carlise) Loan
Malcolm Ebiowei (Hull) Loan
Ryan Bartley (Eastbourne Borough) Loan
David Boateng (Dover) Loan


Everton

In
Ellis Simms (loan recall)
Nathan Broadhead (loan recall)
Niels Nkounkou (loan recall)

Out
Salomon Rondon (released)
Nathan Broadhead (Ipswich)
Tom Cannon (Preston) Loan
Niels Nkounkou (Saint-Etienne) Loan
Sebastian Quirk (Accrington Stanley)
Tyler Onyango (Forest Green) Loan
Anthony Gordon (Newcastle)


Fulham

In
Anthony Knockaert (loan recall)

Out
Idris Odutayo (Maidenhead) Loan extension
Anthony Knockaert (Huddersfield) Loan
Ibane Bowat (Den Bosch) Loan


Leeds United

In
Max Wober (RB Salzburg)
Georginio Rutter (Hoffenheim)

Out
Mateusz Klich (MLS pending)
Alfie McCalmont (Carlisle) Loan
Leo Hjelde (Rotherham) Loan
Max Dean (MK Dons)
Cody Drameh (Luton) Loan
Joe Gelhardt (Sunderland) Loan


Leicester City

In
George Hirst (loan recall)
Victor Kristiansen (Copenhagen)
Tete (Lyon)

Out
George Hirst (Ipswich) Loan
Ben Nelson (Doncaster) Loan
Jakub Stolarczyk (Hartlepool) Loan


Liverpool

In
Cody Gakpo (PSV)
Billy Koumetio (Austria Vienna) Loan recall
Max Woltman (loan recall)
Jakub Ojrzynski (loan recall)
James Balagizi (loan recall)
Fidel O’Rourke (loan recall)
Rhys Williams (loan recall)

Out
Jake Cain (Swindon Town)
Jarell Quansah (Bristol Rovers) Loan

Liverpool transfer news
Cody Gakpo photo vis twitter.com/LFC

Manchester City

In
Liam Delap (loan recall)
Maximo Perrone (Velez Sarsfield)

Out
Josh Wilson-Esbrand (Coventry) Loan
Liam Delap (Preston) Loan
Kayky (Bahia) Loan


Manchester United

In
Jack Butland (Crystal Palace) Loan
Wout Weghorst (Burnley) Loan

Out
Martin Dubravka (loan recall)
Shola Shoretire Loan (Bolton Wanderers)
Charlie Savage (Forest Green) Loan


Newcastle United

In
Amadou Diallo (free) 
Garang Kuol (Central Coast Mariners)
Martin Dubravka (loan recall)
Anthony Gordon (Everton)

Out
Garang Kuol (Hearts) Loan
Chris Wood (Nott’m Forest) Loan
Dylan Stephenson (Hamilton) Loan


Nottingham Forest

In
Gustavo Scarpa (Palmeiras)
Danilo (Palmeiras)
Alex Mighten (loan recall)
Chris Wood (Newcastle United) Loan

Out
Loic Bade (loan recall)
Dale Taylor (Burton Albion) Loan
Aaron Donnelly (Port Vale) Loan


Southampton

In
Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb)
Carlos Alcaraz (Racing Club)
Jan Bednarek (loan recall)
James Bree (Luton)

Out
Dynel Simeu (Morecambe) Loan
Dan Nlundulu (Bolton) Loan
Nico Lawrence (Torquay) Loan


Tottenham

In
Arnaut Danjuma (Villarreal) Loan


West Ham United

In
Luizao (Sao Paulo)
Armstrong Okoflex (loan recall)
Danny Ings (Aston Villa)

Out
Thierry Nevers (Bradford) Loan
Craig Dawson (Wolves)
Pierre Ekwah (Sunderland)
Darren Randolph (AFC Bournemouth)
Will Greenidge (Colchester) Loan


Wolverhampton Wanderers

In
Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid) Loan
Joe Young (loan recall)
Louie Moulden (loan recall)
Theo Corbeanu (loan recall)
Christian Marques (loan recall)
Lewis Richards (loan recall)
Mario Lemina (Nice)
Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain)
Craig Dawson (West Ham)
Dan Bentley (Bristol City)
Ki-Jana Hoever (loan recall)

Out
Leo Bonatini (released)
Joe Young (Telford) Loan
Goncalo Guedes (Benfica) Loan
Theo Corbeanu (Arminia Bielefeld) Loan
Leonardo Campana (Inter Miami)
Connor Ronan (Colorado Rapids)
Fabio Silva (PSV) Loan
Matija Sarkic (Stoke) Loan
Ki-Jana Hoever (Stoke) Loan
Jackson Smith (Walsall) Loan

Premier League transfers
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Matheus Cunha  (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Transfer Deadline Day, live! Join our show, send questions, analysis

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Transfer deadline day is almost here for January 2023, as the winter window shuts at 6pm ET on Jan. 31 for Premier League clubs.

[ LIVE: Every Premier League transfer deal as it happens ]

The clock is ticking late in the window and we will have all angles covered for you here at Pro Soccer Talk.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United | Arsenal ]

From clicking on the links above to read the latest reports and analysis, having Sky Sports News live on Peacock all day long and to our own Pro Soccer Talk live deadline day show which starts at 5:30pm ET on Jan. 31, you won’t miss a thing.

WATCH: Sky Sports News live on Transfer deadline day on Peacock

Click on the video below to send in your questions for the PST crew for our deadline day chat where we will round up all of the deals happening late in the window, dish out grades to Premier League teams based on their business and give our analysis on the best signings of the January window.