Opener in Vancouver means New York Red Bulls may be without Thierry Henry, Jámison Olave

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Hey, MLS fan: How was your offseason? Sorry, I’m have to cut you off there, because it’s time to talk about turf. Again.

Another season’s here, a handful of teams still play on carpet, but the quality of multiple surfaces still forces visiting coaches to decide if subjecting players to the fake stuff is worth it. Whether that caution is warranted or not, some players even get held out from trips to Portland – thought to be the best rug in the league. CenturyLink’s field draws more mixed reviews, while trips to New England, Vancouver (and the occasional forays to Olympic Stadium and Rogers Center) leave balky hamstrings and aching knees in street clothes.

That’s the issue New York Red Bulls’ head coach Mike Petke is facing on Saturday. The defending Supporters’ Shield winners will open the season on BC Place’s LigaTurf – a surface that would win the league’s honor for “most pool table-esque” (if such an award existed). The field, which was scrutinized after Whitecaps’ captain Jay DeMerit blew out his Achilles last season, is the only one of its kind in the league. Unfortunately, what it offers in consistency for rolls and bounces gets offset but its old school, AstroTurf-like charm. If the injuries don’t get you, the recovery times will.

As far as Petke’s concerned, that means Thierry Henry is unlikely to play. The Red Bulls star has only ventured onto Portland’s fake stuff, and he’s unlikely to make an exception on Saturday. With veteran defender Jámison Olave’s injury history also putting him in the “best be cautious” category, New York is set to lose two of its three best players to a more insidious type of turf monster.

But wait, Red Bull-fan. There’s more. With Tim Cahill and Roy Miller just rejoining the team after Wednesday friendlies (with Australia and Costa Rica), Petke might keep two other starters out of his Saturday XI, according to reporting at the league’s web site. If they join Henry and Olave on the sidelines, New York will open the season without its three best players. And Roy Miller.

Petke’s not making any excuses (from MLSSoccer.com):

“We have two key players who are away with the national team for a Wednesday game, so obviously that comes into factor. There are certain players that perhaps physically, [it] wouldn’t be the best situation to play them this game coming up …

“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter if there’s one or two positions we’re not sure of, if we go a certain way or not. [The players are] all on board and they all understand what we want out of this game coming up Saturday.”

Such is the state of Major League Soccer, where one game on turf during a 34-match slate gives visiting coaches little incentive to risk long-term injuries to their most vulnerable players. Where “most vulnerable” happens to coincide with “best” or “most popular,” the viewer experience suffers, whether that experience be in-person or on television.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a good solution. Do you force Vancouver and others to find grass surfaces when the evidence pointing to increased injury risk is either inconclusive or folklore? Or do you just live with coaches’ decisions, implicitly acknowledging they might actually be hurting their clubs? The NBA occasionally fines San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich teams for resting players without good reason. In the soccer world, however, “rotation” is tolerated as part of a season’s challenges.

So welcome back, fans. The offseason’s over. It’s time for our first turf debate. Go:

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.