Did Steven Lenhart deserve red for his nasty elbow Sunday?

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It may seem misplaced to pick on MLS officiating on a weekend when the men in the middle got so much right.

Robbie Keane offside on the potential late equalizer in Portland? Well done, sirs.

Controversial handball call in Seattle on Red Bulls defender Markus Holgersson? They nailed it. Good call.

A trio of handball appeals in the penalty area in Philly’s close and surprising (1-0) win over Kansas City? Those all looked correct, too.

Then  calls weren’t all correct, for sure; there will always be a few that are, let’s say, “something less than right.” There were around MLS in Round 31, but the body of work was a better than average weekend for league officials, especially in the potential game-changing-decision department.

Simon Borg, noted rabble-rouser from Major League Soccer’s bulging editorial staff, does his usual thorough job of covering matters of the men in the middle here.

One potential game-changer was a swing and a miss, however, as referee Jose Carlos Rivero needed to deal with Steven Lenhart’s nasty elbow against Chivas USA defender Steve Purdy. And by “deal with,” I mean “red card.”

Lenhart appears to swing his elbow and make solid contact with Purdy’s face. Rivero did caution the Earthquakes’ striker, who was later ejected for a second yellow. (Unlike Borg, I think the second booking was deserved.)

Here’s the deal on Lenhart: he deserves zero benefit of the doubt. Anybody who has watched the guy knows he plays somewhere between “overly aggressive” and “downright dirty.” We’ve written about it again and again. If it seems harsh to toss a player in the first half, there’s a mountain of evidence in the Lenhart file that says otherwise.

In other words, if interim San Jose manager Mark Watson or anyone else wants to roll the dice and put this guy out there, they deserve whatever they get. If that means playing a man down for almost an hour (as a red card in this case would have meant) so be it.

This is one choice that could impact the ongoing, tight-as-can-be playoff races. Just ask Vancouver, Colorado, Los Angeles or possibly even Dallas – the teams still jostling with San Jose for that final playoff spot or two in the West.

The disciplinary committee may well add a game suspension for Lenhart’s elbow – but it doesn’t go back and alter the outcome of Sunday’s contest, where San Jose eventually took all three points.

 

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

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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

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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.