Klinsmann’s not alone: Porter concerned with refs, player safety

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American soccer is a physical game. There’s little doubt about that statement, which makes it incumbent that officials are preparing to have control of a game and player safety.

We read in March the worries from US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann on the beating taken by Clint Dempsey in Major League Soccer, and now Portland manager Caleb Porter has joined the fray.

Discussing an injury to Timbers star Darlington Nagbe, Porter was critical of MLS officials and their protection of players.

“When you’re the most fouled player in the game and you’re getting kicked up and down the field in every single game and the referee doesn’t do anything about it to protect one of the better players in the league eventually you’re going to get a knock and you’re going to get hurt,” Porter said. “And that’s what happened. And it’s a real shame.”

He had some valid points, though in somewhat expected form he proceeded to take it over the line with an outlandish claim that Nagbe would be protected if he was American.

“Why is a quality young player like Darlington Nagbe not being protected?” Porter said. “The good thing is in a couple of years he’ll get his citizenship and now he’ll wear the national team badge and probably then he’ll for sure get protected. But for right now, the refs aren’t doing anything about it. And if they’re not going to do anything about it, people are going to keep obviously adopting that tactic.”

Right, cause USMNT players are being looked after like precious doves. Here’s what Klinsmann had to say last month when asked about Dempsey’s treatment:

“This was one of the main issues already when he came back to MLS last fall,” Klinsmann said. “They really kind of banged him in every game. I mean fouled over the edge. I hope that MLS is having an eye on that.

“What I saw there on the weekend (vs. Toronto FC), there were certain things not within the rules in any more. So I hope our players get protection because they need to be healthy going into this World Cup.”

It may be early to be super critical, especially considering that officials may be out of the swing following the brief labor dispute that kept them from calling the first couple weeks of the season. The early MLS season has been extremely exciting, but there have certainly been an eye-opening number of hard fouls. Many have gone uncalled, and you have to wonder whether MLS will continue to remain extremely attractive to stars if the beatings continue.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Croatia’s Kalinic sent home from World Cup

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It’s only been five days, and we have our first World Cup dismissal.

According to a bombshell report out of Croatia, Croatia National Team head coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic from the team’s camp, after the AC Milan player reportedly refused to be a substitute during Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

[Update: The Croatia FA confirmed the decision, releasing this statement from Dalic. “During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinić was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half. However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday. I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.”]

The report states that Kalinic refused to come on due to an injury, but Dalic had said recently that his team had no injuries that would keep players out, potentially meaning that Kalinic used the injury claim as an excuse.

Croatia’s FA is expected to confirm the news on Monday.

After a rough season at AC Milan, with just six league goals in 31 Serie A appearances, Kalinic, at 30, is likely finished with the Vatreni. He scored three goals in World Cup qualifying but hasn’t started for Croatia since a 2-0 win over Peru in March. Kalinic did score against Spain in Croatia’s shock 2-1 win exactly two years prior to Saturday’s match.

He was deemed second choice to Mario Mandzukic as the center forward up top, but was reportedly asked to spell Mandzukic during Croatia’s match against Nigeria, and Kalinic reportedly refused.

If true, Croatia will continue with 22 players for the remainder of the tournament.