Best of MLS 2013: Top moments of the year

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The past season has certainly been one of the most memorable years in Major League Soccer history, with drama on and off the field, spectacular races for the conference titles, top individual performances and a magnificent MLS Cup to round it all off.

Over the next few days at PST we’re putting a nice bow on an incredible 2013 MLS season, marking the end of a landmark year for soccer in North America.

Even Aurelien Collin enjoyed a hearty laugh about his career-long lack of prowess from the penalty spot. His manager, sitting just to Collin’s left at the post-game press conference on Dec. 7, safe from the bone-chilling temperatures outside, confessed he had never seen the French defender nail a spot shot so sweetly. Not in practice and certainly not in a huge match.

But Collin did place his PK perfectly, turning up the match-winning shot and helping to cap Sporting Kansas City’s win in MLS Cup 2013, a tiebreaker victory over the stubborn visitors, Real Salt Lake.

Now that was a moment, joy for Sporting KC and an instant of suffering for Real Salt Lake. It was most certainly one of the top moments of 2013 in Major League Soccer.

Of course, there’s a champion crowned every year. Perhaps not so dramatically as in 2013, and never ever before in such bitterly cold conditions. (Assisting the memory-making factor: SKC’s title was claimed before home fans, as this was Major League Soccer’s second title decided in the format that sees the top seed play host.)

A couple of the huge moments MLS 2013 happened two time zones to the west of rightly heralded Sporting Park.

One wasn’t just a moment to remember for soccer, but rather for all U.S. sports. When Robbie Rogers came on the field for the LA Galaxy on May 27 he became the first openly gay male athlete to play a major team sport in the United States. The support had been overwhelming for Rogers, who came out publicly (and retired from professional soccer, although he obviously reconsidered) in February.

The Seattle Sounders were involved in other big moments of MLS in 2013, the biggest of which involved Clint Dempsey. Take your pick from among several choices on this one.

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Clint Dempsey didn’t exactly flourish for Seattle, but he certainly made a big splash with his ballyhooed move from the Premier League back into MLS.

Was it the moment some hawkeye fan spotted Dempsey in a U.S. airport in August, when he should have been on the training ground for Tottenham?

Was it Aug. 4 when a raspy-voiced Dempsey was introduced to a roaring crowd as CenturyLink Field? Or Aug. 10 when Dempsey came on in the first half a contest in Toronto, making his “second MLS debut?” Or even Aug. 26 when the U.S. captain made his home debut amid fantastic theater in a packed-house Cascadia Cup derby versus Portland?

Speaking of debuts: Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer might be in a different place today had Landon Donovan decided to move into the next part of his life. Instead, a refreshed and reenergized Donovan returned to the field on March 30 after that three-plus month break. About six months later, Donovan became the league’s co- all-time leading scorer – as if there was ever any doubt that was going to happen once Donovan decided his playing days were not quite used up.

One big moment off the field deserves mention, too: On May 21, Major League Soccer’s dogged, relentlessly determined drive to put a second team in New York finally paid off. That day, the league announced New York City FC as the 20th franchise, set to begin in 2015.

German federation explains review of players who honored George Floyd

George Floyd tributes in soccer
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BERLIN — The German soccer federation has defended its decision to assess whether four young Bundesliga players who made gestures in solidarity with George Floyd over the weekend must face sanctions.

The DFB also said on Monday that Jadon Sancho’s booking for removing his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the demand “Justice for George Floyd” had nothing to do with the message — rather, the yellow card was issued because the 20-year-old England forward broke a rule that says players who celebrate goals by taking off their jerseys or lifting them over their heads must be booked for “unsporting behavior.”

Borussia Dortmund teammate Achraf Hakimi, 21, who displayed the same message after scoring in the same game on Sunday, was not booked because he did not lift his jersey over his head.

The DFB control committee is looking into their gestures and those made by Schalke’s 21-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie and Borussia Monchengladbach’s 22-year-old French forward Marcus Thuram to see if the four players broke laws that prohibit players from displaying “political, religious or personal slogans.”

McKennie was the first to make a statement when he wore an armband with the handwritten message “Justice for George” around his left arm on Saturday.

Thuram on Sunday took a knee after scoring in Borussia Monchengladbach’s win over Union Berlin.

Sancho and Hakimi followed suit later Sunday.

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died on Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck. Three other officers were also at the scene. Chauvin has been charged with murder and all four were fired.

DFB president Fritz Keller on Monday showed his respect and understanding for McKennie, Thuram, Sancho and Hakimi’s gestures.

“If people are discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, it is unbearable. If they die because of their skin color, then I am deeply distraught,” Keller said in a DFB statement. “The victims of racism need all of us to show solidarity.”

Keller referred to meetings with victims of discrimination and representatives of organizations that have faced anti-Semetic, anti-Muslim or racist hostility, and said the DFB and German soccer was showing its clear rejection of all forms of racism, discrimination and violence.

Keller also praised both male and female players for taking a stand and showing their solidarity.

“I’m proud of them. I can completely understand the actions from the weekend. Nobody can be indifferent to what happened in the United States,” Keller said.

Former Mainz forward Anthony Ujah was just given a warning by the DFB in 2014 in regard to the ban on political statements when he displayed a T-shirt with Eric Garner’s name and the words “can’t breathe” and “justice,” in reference to Garner’s death after a police officer placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.

Now playing for Union Berlin, Ujah on Thursday tweeted a picture of his protest from the time, but with Floyd’s name typed above in bold.

Floyd also said “I can’t breathe” before he died.

“If the DFB’s control committee wants to investigate, then I have to ask myself if we all have the same values,” Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert said. “It’s about a global issue here: The no to racism.”

Leipzig doubles up Koln behind Werner’s 25th

Koln v. Leipzig recap and video highlights
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Timo Werner hit 25 goals for the first time in his Bundesliga career and Christopher Nkunku continued his fine season as RB Leipzig overcame hosts Koln 4-2 in a Monday thriller.

Leipzig moves third with the win, moving onto 58, after Patrik Schick scored his ninth goal in 18 league matches to open the contest. Dani Olmo also scored for the victorious visitors.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

Jhon Cordoba and Anthony Modeste scored for Koln, whose top six hopes take a big hit. The Billy Goats remain 11th and are now closer to the drop zone than sixth.

Only Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich has scored more league goals (29) than Werner.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

A great early save from Timo Horn on Timo Werner preceded Koln’s opener.

Elvis Rexhbecaj timed his run well and knifed to the near post, where he shot through the legs of Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

The ball hit the post and skittered into the box and Gulacsi could only get a piece of Cordoba’s left-footed attempt.

Leipzig leveled when Upamecano dribbled up the heart of the pitch before finding Man City loanee Angelino on the left for a perfect cross and Schick header. Angelino had an exceptional day on the left flank.

Leipzig took its lead in the 38th minute with a deft finish from Nkunku, who took Konrad Laimer’s perfect feed and popped it over a charging Horn for 2-1.

Werner finished off a lightning counter as Gulacsi collected a free kick and hit a perfect punt to the league’s second-leading scorer.

That was far from the end of the fun.

Modeste hit an absolute hammer to make it 3-2, but Leipzig restored the two-goal advantage when Olmo hit a seeing-eye shot through the traffic to cap three goals in seven minutes between the two sides.

French striker Modeste won a penalty that was denied by VAR with under 20 minutes to play, he then missed wide after beating the keeping one 1v1 break with four minutes to play.

Americans Abroad: American midfielder Tyler Adams continued his streak of playing in every Leipzig match since the break when he came off the bench just before the hour mark.

Adams hit 94 percent of his 18 passes, drawing three fouls, making an interception, and winning three of four duels.

Reports: Messi to stay at Barcelona as exit clause expires

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Lionel Messi is going to spend at least one more year with Barcelona.

The world’s best player had an exit clause in his contract that allowed him to leave without a transfer fee, but that expired at Midnight according to Marca.com.

Messi has 19 goals and 12 assists in just 22 La Liga appearances this season, one of just four players in Europe’s top five leagues to collect double-digit goals and assists (Jadon Sancho, Serge Gnabry, Alassane Plea).

It had been reported since November that Messi would not exercise his option to leave the club, but there were numerous reasons to think he might rethink things given problems at Barcelona.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

There been chaos in the board room and players including Messi were angry to be thrown under the proverbial bus when Ernesto Valverde was fired early this year.

Notably, he called Barcelona “home” but noted “weird things happening” at the Camp Nou.

And there were, with the club denying accusations it used an outside firm to slander current and former players on social media. The club saw six board members resign in April.

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall for the calls that headed to his reps from clubs across the world?

Major League Soccer releases statement on murder of George Floyd

MLS statement on George Floyd
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Major League Soccer released a statement Monday expressing grief at the death of George Floyd, saying it stands “united with the black community through our country.”

Floyd, an African American man, was killed Monday in Minneapolis, Minn., and there have been widespread protests across the United States.

[ MORE: MLS owners threaten lockout ]

A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested last Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Tributes to Floyd stood out across the soccer world this weekend, where Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi revealed messages of support on their jerseys.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Elsewhere, USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband saying ‘Justice for George’ and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram took a knee after he scored in the Bundesliga. Stars for Liverpool and Manchester United made public statements Monday as well.

Here is the full statement.

The entire Major League Soccer family is deeply saddened and horrified by the senseless murder of George Floyd.

We stand united with the black community throughout our country and share in the pain, anger and frustration.

We hear you.

We see you.

We support you.

We are committed to use our voices and the platform of our League, our Clubs and our players to continue to champion equality and social justice.