MLS commissioner Don Garber addresses media and fans

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MLS commissioner Don Garber put a modern flourish Wednesday evening on his annual talk to help kick off the new season. A Google+ Hangout, produced at Google’s New York City office, was the delivery device as Garber fielded questions from journalists and fans.

Among the significant touchstones:

  • A lot of the questions were about New York’s second franchise. Long story short here, MLS continues to plan on the 20th club landing there, and says development plans on the new stadium in Flushing Meadows are moving along, but with “a lot of work to do.”
  • In fact, getting that stadium for a second NYC club represents “the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced,” Garber said.
  • The Cosmos, about to begin play in domestic soccer’s second tier, will not be that team. Not without a meaningful sea change on the relationship between the new-old club and MLS. Garber: “They had a choice to make: Do they want to vie for a New York City MLS team or do they want to go to the second division? They decided to go into the second division and we support that and continue to support the NASL and the USL.”
  • He did identify Orlando, Miami, Minneapolis and Atlanta as the current bunch of secondary expansion candidates. It does not sound like anything is close in any of those markets, although Orlando’s aggressive posture on stadium plans seems to have the Florida city better positioned than others.
  • Garber spoke on the new initiatives aimed at tamping down certain undesirable behaviors along the sidelines and involving the referees. More on that here and here.
  • He said the league does intervene occasionally as MLS clubs negotiate with foreign clubs over player sells, indicating that MLS does have interest in player valuation that may not always align with individual club interests. He said the league was “very involved” with the recent Brek Shea talks, which stalled before the FC Dallas winger was finally sold to Stoke City for a total just below $4 million.
  • Along those lines, Garber indicated that he would prefer the league “never sell a player.” More on this one later at ProSoccerTalk.
  • Garber expressed support for Landon Donovan, who remains away from the Galaxy for another few weeks. “This young guy has been holding the responsibility as the leader of the sport on the field since he was 15, 16 years old. None of us have had to do what Landon has had to do. … Think about it. It’s unprecedented for a single athlete in a professional sport.”
  • The single-table format questions that will always come up at these things? Not. Going. To. Happen. As always, Garber reiterated  that Major League Soccer’s board of governors remain bullish on a playoff structure.

Here’s the video of Garber’s address, and the question-and-answer session:

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Premier League sets start date for 2019-2020 season

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Mark it down.

The Premier League announced that the 2019-2020 season will begin on Saturday, August 10. That’s just 90 days after the 2018-2019 season will finish on May 12.

In addition, the Premier League is continuing with closing their summer transfer window before the start of the season. August 8, at 5 p.m. local is the next transfer deadline day.

Additional news about next season’s schedule is expected to be announced in the coming months.

Manchester United opened the 2018-2019 season on Friday, August 10 with a 2-1 win over Leicester City.

Arsenal, Chelsea cruise into Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal looked right at home back in the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium.

After losing twice on the road this month, including a surprise 1-0 defeat last Thursday to BATE Borisov, Arsenal took care of business at home. The Gunners defeated BATE, 3-0 on the night (3-1 on aggregate), with goals from centerbacks Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulous, while BATE’s Zakhar Volkov scored an own goal early to tie the scoreline between the two legs.

[READ: Premier League Power Rankings]

South of the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea built on their 2-1 aggregate lead over Malmo FF with a resounding 3-0 win. Malmo finished with ten men and the game was highlighted by goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and a Ross Barkley free kick.

With the wins, both Premier League sides advance to the Europa League Round of 16. The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on Friday, with matches taking place March 7 and 14.

Arsenal took an unexpected lead in the fourth minute of the match. A seemingly harmless cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was somehow turned into his own net by BATE centerback Zakhar Volkov. After some shaky moments early, Arsenal settled in and controlled the match, leading to the go-ahead goal. Granit Xhaka played the first of his two assists as Mustafi got on the end of a corner kick to head the ball in for a goal.

In the 60th minute, Sokratis’ header off a corner kick put the game away and allowed Arsenal fans to relax for the final half-hour of play.

Chelsea, meanwhile, didn’t get the early goal like Arsenal but didn’t end up needing it.

Maurizio Sarri sat Jorginho, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso and it led to a better defensive performance, albeit Malmo isn’t a world beater. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tap-in after great work from N’Golo Kante and Willian. It was Giroud’s sixth Europa League goal this season.

Barkley delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd with a terrific free kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute and Hudson-Odoi put the cherry on top with a right-footed strike ten minutes later.

Former Premier League midfielder Diarra leaves PSG, announces retirement

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PARIS (AP) Veteran midfielder Lassana Diarra announced his retirement on Thursday, hours after he terminated his contract with French league leader Paris Saint-Germain by mutual agreement.

The 33-year-old Frenchman joined PSG in January 2018 and his contract was set to expire in June. Diarra’s career ends after 15 years and many high profile stops. He played for Arsenal, Chelsea and even Portsmouth in England, as well as spending three strong seasons with Real Madrid.

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Le moment est venu de « raccrocher les crampons » comme on dit . Pour le football , j’ai beaucoup donné . Grâce au football , j’ai énormément reçu . Le sport de haut niveau est une véritable école de courage , de persévérance et de respect . Il ne s’agit pas de faire l’unanimité mais d’honorer , en professionnel , avec volontarisme et loyauté la confiance que l’on vous accorde . Je ne dis pas que j’ai tout fait parfaitement mais je l’ai fait avec coeur , passion et bienveillance . Merci à tous ceux et toutes celles qui m’ont encouragé tout au long de ma carrière sportive . Une pensée pour les clubs , entraîneurs , éducateurs et coéquipiers qui ont fait partie de mon quotidien pendant toutes ces années . Je n’oublie pas ma première sélection avec la France en 2007 . Porter le maillot de la sélection nationale est le rêve de tous les footballeurs . Je tourne donc la page mais je n’oublie rien . Je vais continuer à œuvrer avec enthousiasme , détermination et sincérité dans mes nouveaux projets . Amitiés LASS

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After Real Madrid, Diarra became a journeyman, playing two seasons in Russia and part of a season in the United Arab Emirates. With PSG, Diarra made 10 league appearances last season under former coach Unai Emery, and has made only three in the league this season in Thomas Tuchel’s team.

Diarra made 34 appearances for France and was a regular starter during the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.

Europa League, LIVE — Chelsea look to close out Malmo at home

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Chelsea did themselves plenty of favors by winning 2-1 away to Swedish side Malmo last week in the Europa League round of 32, leaving themselves a straightforward job to do in Thursday’s second leg.

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With an aggregate lead, plus two away goals in hand, Maurizio Sarri‘s side can perhaps bounce back from a rough run of results in recent weeks. With fans calling for him to be fired, the Italian will take any boost he can get.

Elsewhere, Arsenal have done well to overturn their 1-0 deficit to BATE Borisov and lead 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the day’s early round of games.