Mexican referee Marco “Chiquimarco” Rodriguez retires

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After officiating the 7-1 German onslaught of the host nation at the 2014 World Cup, referee Marco Rodriguez has finally called it quits.

The Mexican federation officially announced the retirement of the man known as “Chiquidracula” due to his resemblance to an actor that played Count Dracula, but asked instead to be called “Chiquimarco.”

“I dreamed of [working] three World Cups, and I’m satisfied,” Rodriguez, 40, said in a press conference from Mexico. “I am satisfied by the achievements in my 25-year career. Brazil was the place where I showed all that I acquired over my career.”

Including the 7-1 drubbing of Brazil, Rodriguez officiated a total of seven World Cup matches over three different tournaments, with the Brazil vs. Germany semifinal match his first outside of the group stage.

Rodriguez has been a referee in the Mexican Liga MX since 1997 and a FIFA referee since 2000. He quickly picked up a reputation as a strict referee not afraid to pull cards out of his pocket.

Australia’s Tim Cahill learned this the hard way, earning a controversial straight red card in the 2010 World Cup in an eventual 4-0 loss. Rodriguez also handed Chile’s Marco Estrada a second yellow in the same tournament, falling for a clear dive by Fernando Torres.

Other incidents Rodriguez was known for included the famous “double yellow” in the 2012 Mexican Apertura finals between Tigres and Santos, where he produced two yellow cards at once, holding each hand.  Overall, he sent off three players from that match and issued seven yellows, and was suspended for five matches following the incident.

Despite this incident, Liga MX refereeing official Marco Trejo at the time still called him “one of our top referees.”

The 40-year-old also refereed the group stage match between Uruguay and Italy in this year’s World Cup that saw Luis Suarez eventually banned for biting Giorgio Chiellini. Rodriguez missed the incident and did not punish Suarez during play.  In that match he also correctly sent off Italy’s Claudio Marchisio with a straight red for a dangerous tackle.

Rodriguez was most recently at the center of controversy in the United States (not entirely of his own doing) when he was assigned to referee a World Cup qualifier last September between Costa Rica and the United States. The match was just four days before the US took on Mexico in Columbus, and Jurgen Klinsmann spoke publicly about having to deal with a strict referee so close to an important match with eight of his players facing a yellow card suspension.

Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore were all shown yellows during the eventual 3-1 loss to Costa Rica and were forced to miss the next match, but the US beat Mexico 2-0 anyways to secure a berth in the 2014 World Cup.

Outside of refereeing, Rodriguez is a Protestant priest.

Mane undergoes hand surgery

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The “FIFA virus” is hitting Liverpool hard this month.

Sadio Mane, who reportedly broke his left thumb on international duty for Senegal, underwent surgery on Wednesday, Liverpool confirmed. The club did not include a timetable for Mane’s return in its press release, only saying, “Mane’s recovery will be monitored over the next couple of days ahead of the Reds’ return to action at Huddersfield Town on Saturday.”

With the injury, Mane joins Mo Salah, Naby Keita and Virgil Van Dijk as Reds to be injured during the international break.

As an attacker, it’s unlikely Mane really needs the use of his left hand other than to protect himself on aerial challenges on bumps from defenders, but depending on the recovery, it may just be a decision of how much pain Mane could tolerate. With matches against Huddersfield, Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff City to come, maybe this is a good time for Jurgen Klopp to rest some of his starters, including the walking wounded like Mane.

Fulham owner withdraws offer to purchase Wembley Stadium

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Wembley Stadium is set to stay in the FA’s hands.

[READ: USMNT 1-1 Peru: Player Ratings]

The FA announced in a press release Wednesday that Fulham owner Shahid Kahn had withdrawn his offer of $790 million to purchase Wembley Stadium. Kahn first became interested in buying the stadium in February 2017, when he and FA CEO Martin Glenn met at the Superbowl. What followed was an informal offer to the FA Board of Directors before a formal offer was made.

The offer has been valued at anywhere from nearly $800 million to nearly $1.2 billion. In a statement, Kahn said that his goal to purchase the stadium was to provide the FA with a large amount of capital which it could use to improve grassroots soccer around the country.

“The intent of my efforts was, and is, to do right by everyone in a manner that strengthens the English game and brings people together, not divides them,” Khan said. “Unfortunately, given where we are today, I’ve concluded that the outcome of a vote next week would be far from sufficient in expressing the broad support favored by the FA chairman to sell Wembley Stadium.”

The FA council was set to vote on the sale next week.

Although it cost the FA and British government more than $1.4 billion (adjusted for inflation) to renovate and rebuild Wembley Stadium, the arena hosted 33 events between July 2016 and June 2017 and in its latest published financial records, the FA recorded an after-tax profit of $21 million. So it seems that along with the sponsorships and broadcast deals, Wembley Stadium is a money maker, which makes it important for the FA to hold on to.

That being said, it’s hard to turn down a deal worth close to $1 billion, even if that’s a lump sum and they won’t receive further investments from stadium revenues in the future. In the future, maybe Kahn or another owner may make another offer, one that the FA council could accept.

Report: La Liga chief going to court to compel U.S. based games to happen

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The head of La Liga is considering taking extraordinary action to ensure that a planned match this year in the U.S. goes off as expected.

[READ: What did we learn about the USMNT?]

According to Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, La Liga president Javier Tebas is set to bring a lawsuit against the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and its chief, Luis Rubiales to compel the federation to approve Barcelona’s match against Girona on January 26, which has been scheduled to be moved to Miami, Fla.’s Hard Rock Stadium.

In a way, it makes sense that Tebas and the Spanish league is considering every possible avenue to ensure that their 15-year marketing rights agreement with Relevant Sports, including league matches played abroad, can move forward as expected. However, it was clear after the announcement in August that all parties involved – especially La Liga, had not thought this through. FIFA, the RFEF, local fans and the Spanish league’s player’s union have all opposed the news, and on Wednesday Real Madrid formally sent a letter of it’s disapproval in moving La Liga matches abroad.

Tebas and La Liga would prefer for this to be resolved legally sooner rather than later, so they can market the Barcelona match in Miami and begin negotiating with the other federations that need to approve. But there’s a decent chance that the other parties – FIFA, and U.S. Soccer – could fail to rubber stamp what would be a first-of-its-kind event. In any case, watch this space.

What did we learn about USMNT during international break

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The U.S. Men’s National Team finished the October FIFA international slate with a somewhat demoralizing loss and an uplifting draw, if there is such a thing.

The young U.S. core continues to show flashes of great talent, but overall the team still seems to be stuttering along under caretaker manager Dave Sarachan, who just managed his 10th game and could likely finish out the calendar year as USMNT boss.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Below is a look at the key takeaways from the USMNT’s October friendlies:


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