Houston Dynamo hoping to lift Newtown spirits

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The MLS Cup runner-ups Houston Dynamo and general manager Chris Canetti, a Connecticut native, are organizing a Soccer Night Out for grief stricken Newtown.

Canetti told FOX 26 Sports that he and several prominent players will visit Newtown on Jan. 7 to stage an event similar to one they have held in and around Houston.

He said the players involved will include Brad Davis, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark, Corey Ashe and Tally Hall – four starters and one key, veteran backup in the Dynamo’s recent MLS Cup runner-up dash.

What Canetti told FOX 26:

The title for the event is called Soccer Night in Newtown. We have a similar event that we put on here in Houston called Soccer Night Out where we bring a lot of our resources out to the community and have a little bit of fun with  our players. We’ve kind of duplicated the idea in a smaller fashion several thousand miles of way.

“I think we all try to find ways to help and lend a hand. We’ve figured out a small way to help this community which happens to be a very, very rich youth soccer community.

“It’ll be fan-festival type of event, taking photos, signing autographs. The idea is to give kids a chance to come out, have some fun, have some memories and take a diversion from the difficult realities that they’re facing right now.”

Canetti, who also attended college in Connecticut, said via Twitter that he has had lots of offers to help in the endeavor: “Thanks to everyone who has offered to help at Soccer Night in Newtown. I’ve had dozens of tweets. Will keep you in mind if a need comes up.”

VIDEO: Pochettino addresses fans during 1st game at new stadium

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Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino must’ve felt some kind of way on Sunday considering the teams on the pitch and the occasion.

Tottenham Hotspur’s U-18 side met Southampton’s U-18s in one of two “test matches” at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, necessary to get inspected for safety, and Pochettino was on hand to give a speech at halftime of the first soccer match played at the ground.

[ MORE: Man City seeks Bayern apology ]

But for Pochettino, it probably felt even wilder; Here was a visiting side from the club he left in order to seek bigger things at Spurs, the club he’s stayed with despite alluring (alleged) offers from giants of the European game. From SkySports.com:

“We all feel the same, so excited. I got the same feeling when we left White Hart Lane on the last day, we were crying and now in the first day in the new stadium we feel the same emotion,” Pochettino said, on the pitch at half-time. “We need to cry because our dream became true.”

There was a hint of the future beyond the natural tie-ins of a U18 side and building, as 18-year-old Oliver Skipp started the match. He has six appearances for the senior side. Pochettino’s 17-year-old son Maurizio, who has played with the club’s U-23s, started the match on the bench.

There will be another warm-up match, with Spurs alumni meeting Inter Milan alumni, before Tottenham opens its official march with a visit from Crystal Palace in the Premier League on April 3.

The world’s most political game? Venezuela v. Catalonia

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MADRID (AP) There will be lots of politics to talk about when Venezuela takes on a Catalonia squad in a friendly soccer game in Spain on Monday.

Venezuela has a coach who offered his resignation over the alleged political use of his national team, while Catalonia — the region in the middle of an independence dispute with — will be missing players because some non-Catalan teams didn’t release them.

Venezuela is coming off a convincing 3-1 win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Friday, but what attracted most of the attention after the friendly was an announcement by Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel. He offered his resignation because he was not happy with the politicization of a pre-game visit by a representative of Juan Guaido, the man challenging Nicolas Maduro’s claim to the presidency in Venezuela.

Dudamel and the rest of the squad had welcomed the visit but the coach apparently did not like that images were later released to the public.

“Regrettably, they politicized the visit,” Dudamel said. “The agreement was that if there was any image or video, it would have been used internally only. But they politicized the visit, and we can’t allow that to happen. It was regrettable how they used it.”

Venezuela is in the middle of a power struggle since Maduro’s re-election last year was deemed illegitimate by several governments.

Dudamel said he will remain in charge of the squad on Monday, but his future will depend on talks with Venezuelan soccer federation officials in the coming days.

Catalonia has also undergone political turmoil, peaking recently in 2017 with an independence referendum not recognized by Madrid. The issue divided Spain at the time and remains a hot topic politically.

Although the region is not independent, Catalonia has often put together squads to play in friendly matches against other nations.

Among the Catalan players expected to play on Monday are veterans Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez. Both have retired from the Spanish national team and are off-duty with their clubs because of the international break.

Hernandez, a 39-year-old midfielder, currently plays in Qatar. The 32-year-old Pique, still a starter with Barcelona, decided to stop playing with Spain’s national team after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But other players initially selected for the squad were not released by their clubs, who said their decisions were not related to politics.

Valladolid, which is fighting relegation from the top tier of the Spanish league, was the first team to keep its players from taking part in Monday’s match, and Rayo Vallecano and Huesca — also threatened by relegation — later followed suit.

“We understand the reasons why these clubs are not going to let their players play,” Catalonia coach Gerard Lopez said.

The match will be played in Girona, a Catalan city about 60 miles from Barcelona.

Redknapp claims innocence for Birmingham’s overspending, deduction

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Harry Redknapp claims that he is not at all responsible for the nine-point recently handed to Birmingham City as punishment for “breaching profitability and sustainability rules” in the EFL Championship.

[ MORE: Mourinho “preparing” for next job; expects to start “in June” ]

Despite managing the club for five months, from April to September 2017 — a period in which the Blues signed nine new players (six for transfer fees, three on free transfers) and saw the overall wage bill continue to rise — Redknapp has washed his hands of the entire situation and believes “I don’t think any of the signings were mine” — quotes from the Guardian:

“There were three lads from Brentford that came in [Jota, Harlee Dean and Maxime Colin]. They were all good players but they weren’t on my shopping list. I’d never even see any of them play, they were brought in by other people above my head.

“We brought in Isaac Vassell for $1.3 million [from Luton] and he will be worth massive money in my opinion. He was an absolute bargain, but I can’t even take credit for that because he was nothing to do with me, to be truthful. I don’t think any of the signings were mine. I was taking [John] Ruddy on a free transfer from Norwich and instead they brought in David Stockdale from Brighton. The director of football [Jeff Vetere] wasn’t brought in by me either.”

Only, with regard to the signing of Spanish midfielder Jota, Redknapp had the following to say hours before his signing was made official, per Guardian columnist Daniel Taylor:

“I’m hoping it will be done. It’s not done yet. I just identify them, then it’s up to other people to get them in.”

[thinking-face emoji slash upside down smiling emoji]

While Redknapp is hugely disingenuous in accepting zero responsibility, those in charge of the various clubs at which he has run up massive debts managed could try something entirely new: tell the man, “No.”

Juventus sets record for attendance at women’s club game

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TURIN, Italy (AP) A week after the world record for the highest attendance at a women’s soccer club match was set, a league record in Italy was also broken.

[ MORE: Mourinho “preparing” for next job; expects to start “in June” ]

Juventus’ women’s team played for the first time at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday and a total of 39,027 people turned out to see the league leaders beat second-place Fiorentina 1-0.

That annihilated the previous record attendance for a women’s club match in Italy of 14,000 spectators.

All tickets were free.

Defending champion Juventus, which normally plays its matches at the club’s training center in Vinovo, extended its advantage at the top of the Serie A table to four points ahead of Fiorentina and seven ahead of third-place AC Milan.

[ MORE: Messi injured in Argentina return; likely to recover for Man Utd clash ]

A total of 60,739 people were present at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium last Sunday as the hosts lost 2-0 to Barcelona.

In January, Athletic Bilbao said it set a European record when 48,121 spectators attended a Spanish Cup match against Atletico Madrid at San Mames Stadium in Bilbao.

The record for any women’s match was set in 1999 when 90,185 people watched the World Cup final between the United States and China at the Rose Bowl, which the U.S. won. At the 2012 Olympic final in London, 80,203 saw the U.S. beat Japan.