Jeff Larentowicz red card? Hmmm. Let’s talk about it

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Referee Fotis Bazakos was surely doing the best he could, but the man in the middle today in Montreal was wrong about two or three different ways.

Bazakos adjudged that Chicago Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz denied a clear goal scoring opportunity by tripping Andrea Pisanu in the 63rd minute. It was a huge decision because the Fire already trailed by a goal on the road. Forcing the visitors to play the last half hour a man down more or less finished this one off. Montreal hit one more and prevailed, 2-0.

And Chicago, off to such a wobbly start in 2013, cannot afford many calls that put the men of Toyota Park further behind the 8 ball.

Not that Bazakos should have considered any of that as he made the big choice. But it just didn’t look like a good choice.

There were two defenders closing in on Pisanu, plausibly near enough to stick a foot in or at least issue a challenge as the Montreal attacker closed on a through ball near the top of Chicago’s 18. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was also closing in, which looks like another reason to give the defense some benefit of the doubt here.

Finally, Larentowicz appeared to be attempting to avoid the contact. A trip is a trip, and intent may not matter in calling fouls, per se. But past giving a free kick (which was the correct decision) a referee can use some discretion in dealing with certain situations.

NBC Sports Network analyst Kyle Martino said it perfectly when he noted: “It’s safe to give a yellow card there and everybody is happy.”

Here is the moment in question:

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Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.