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Garber hopes next FIFA president institutes sweeping change

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber hopes the winner of Friday’s election for FIFA president institutes sweeping change.

“I feel very strongly that this is a moment of truth for our sport,” he said Monday. “I hope – really, truly hope, that the leaders of the sport can come together and pick a president that could represent a new FIFA for all of us and not somebody that will just be a new name, but represent some of the old ways of doing business.”

Garber is among the U.S. delegates attending the FIFA Congress in Zurich on Friday. Sheik Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain and Gianni Infantino of Switzerland – the No. 2 official of Europe’s governing body – are viewed as the leading candidates. Prince Ali Al Hussein of Jordan, Jerome Champagne of France and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa also are running.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

Sepp Blatter announced in June, just four days after he was elected to a fifth term as president, that he planned to resign, a decision that followed the first round of indictments against soccer officials by American prosecutors.

Blatter was suspended by FIFA in October and given an eight-year ban in December for conflicts of interest, loyalty and general rules of conduct violations, a penalty he is appealing.

Salman, president of the Bahrain Football Association from 2002-13, has been accused of helping identify players to be detained if they attended protests. Some players said they were tortured; Salman called the allegations “nasty lies.”

Garber said he didn’t know enough about the charges to comment, but added: “I hope the members could elect somebody that we all can be proud of and that we all can feel empowered by what he might represent for a new direction for the sport.”

Garber spoke at an event to announce TAG Heuer’s partnership with MLS and the U.S. Soccer Federation. As part of the deal, the watchmaker’s ads will appear on the sleeves of on-field MLS officials and on substitution signboards.

[ MORE: Three key battles in Arsenal vs. Barcelona ]

On other topics:

EXPANSION

With Atlanta set to become MLS’s 21st team in 2017 and Los Angeles FC joining in 2018, Garber said the league likely will decide in March whether Minnesota United starts play in `17 or `18. He hopes David Beckham’s Miami team can start in 2018, but that deal is dependent on an agreement to build a new stadium.

“In Miami, a city where we failed once before, we’re going into it with a bit more trepidation, and we have very specific requirements of what we’ll accept from the Beckham group before we go forward,” Garber said.

MLS announced in December it intends to expand to 28 teams, but did not set a timetable.

“There’s a lot of activity in St. Louis. There’s a lot of activity in Detroit. There’s a lot of activity in Sacramento,” Garber said. “We got to get the whole round right, because that will likely be the last round of expansion in Major League Soccer.”

OLDER STARS

MLS rosters this year include Steven Gerrard (35) and Ashley Cole (35) of the LA Galaxy; and Frank Lampard (37) and Andrea Pirlo (36) of New York City FC.

“People pay attention to the guys that are signed that are 34, 35, but they don’t pay attention to the dozens that are signed in their 20s,” Garber said, adding surveys conducted for the league show fans want “increased quality of play … but they also want stars.”

[ BREAKDOWN: Does Arsenal have a chance against Barcelona? ]

CHINA

On competition from Chinese teams following the departure of Obafemi Martins from Seattle for Shanghai: “It’s a big player for one window. … We’ll see what it looks like years from now.”

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

MLS teams play this week in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, even before their league openers. “I’d love to see CONCACAF to understand the importance for the competition for MLS to be in stride when the most important games matter,” Garber said.

Barkley sails late penalty as Chelsea falls at home

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Ross Barkley missed a late penalty as Chelsea lost its UEFA Champions League opener 1-0 to Valencia on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rodrigo scored the lone goal, and Valencia will be thrilled to collect all three points in London.

Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.


Three things we learned

1. Pulisic down the pecking order: The American star didn’t start, and wasn’t the first name called when Mason Mount was injured. Granted Pedro played a little deeper, but not a good week for the Hershey-born Pulisic

2. Wide men the danger men: Willian was the likely Man of the Match for Chelsea despite the lack of goals, and full backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta were also key to the resutl.

3. Penalty drama: VAR gave Chelsea a chance to level from the spot, but Ross Barkley stepped ahead of Willian and missed the chance. The Brazilian looked aggrieved before and after the miss, and Barkley looked mighty confident right until the moment he missed his shot. Sort yourself out!

Man of the Match: Willian — No wonder he was angry to see Barkley demand the penalty, as a Willian goal would’ve been a fitting result for his clever and industrious day at the office.


Valencia keeper Jasper Cillesen made two stops early, denying Tammy Abraham to concede a corner before collecting a Marcos Alonso header on the ensuing set piece.

Would it be Christian Pulisic time when Mason Mount left the match with injury following a challenge from former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin? Nope. Pedro was called upon to fill the void.

It was a sleepy second half, with Pedro conceding a free kick to Valencia that didn’t amount to anything exciting.

Those who stuck around were rewarded with late drama, as Valencia took the lead through a Rodrigo flick off a free kick.

However, Valencia then had to watch through its fingers as Chelsea was gifted a chance at the spot through VAR when Fikayo Tomori headed a ball off the arm of Daniel Wass.

Willian was upset to see Ross Barkley take the penalty, and the English midfielder probably wishes he let someone else take it after missing over the bar.

Napoli scores on late penalty, rare Van Dijk error in 2-0 win

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The good news is that Liverpool lost to Napoli last season in the UEFA Champions League, then went on to win the whole darn thing.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Jose Callejon won a late penalty that Dries Mertens converted, and Fernando Llorente took advantage of a Virgil Van Dijk error to pad the lead as Napoli held serve at home with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeepers immense: No, he’s not Alisson Becker, but Adrian is probably the biggest reason Liverpool didn’t open its UCL defense with a loss. He made a pair of early stops on Dries Mertens before a show-stopping effort in the second half. Napoli got two fine saves from Alex Meret, including a terrific denial of Mohamed Salah in the 65th.

2. Salah, Mane can’t deliver in key moments: Take away Salah’s penalty in the UCL Final, and Liverpool’s two top threats have not accounted for a goal in four matches inside the competition. Mane was mostly good on the day, but misled Salah on an early second half pass which would have almost certainly been a goal. Salah simply had an off day

3. Callejon sells the drama: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson lost a 50/50 with Jose Callejon, who ran into the fulback and hit the deck to win a penalty. That was the difference here, as Mertens beat Adrian.

Man of the Match: Meret was especially good, the 22-year-old Italian goalkeeper big in several key moments to edge Mertens for the honor.


Napoli thought it had gone ahead through El Tri star Hirving Lozano, who nodded over the line following two Alisson Becker saves on Dries Mertens, but the Mexican was offside.

Sadio Mane had a 20th minute chance at the other end, but pumped a point blank low shot to Napoli keeper Alex Meret which led to a corner kick.

Fabinho intervened in the 53rd minute as Napoli emerged from the locker room with energy, but the best chance of the early second half was flubbed in uncharacteristic fashion: Sadio Mane was through 2v1 with Mohamed Salah but made a miserable pass to his teammate.

The first goal arrived when Callejon tapped the ball past Robertson and leapt into the defender to earn a penalty from referee Felix Brych.

It was 2-0 in stoppage time when Fernando Llorente ran onto a Virgil van Dijk error and passed beyond Adrian.

UCL AT HALF: Marsch’s Salzburg rolling; Champions holding firm; Chelsea’s Mount hurt

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We’ve got news after 45 minutes of six more UCL matches, including a big injury at Stamford Bridge and a monumental start for an American in Austria.

[ UCL: Scores, lineups, stats, box scores ]

Chelsea 0-0 Valencia

No goals to report here, but early season hero Mason Mount has left the match with an injury for the Blues. He was not replaced by Christian Pulisic, rather Pedro.

Liverpool 0-0 Napoli

It’s been a pretty even affair, though Liverpool can thank Adrian for a pair of great saves on Dries Mertens before Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s goal was ruled offside.

Red Bull Salzburg 5-1 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team in a UEFA Champions League game.

The Red Bull Salzburg boss is also the first to hold a second minute lead, as red hot striker Erling Braut Haland scored his 15th, 16th, and 17th goals in nine matches under Marsch.

Haland also five assists on the season, having entered Tuesday’s match with 658 minutes across all competitions.

Haland is the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Hwang-Hee Chan has Salzburg’s other goal, and two assists.

Elsewhere

Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Ajax 1-0 Lille
Benfica 0-0 RB Leipzig

Yedlin nears return, hoping for October USMNT call-up

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Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to see that DeAndre Yedlin didn’t look right last season.

The Newcastle United and USMNT right back was not up to his standards during the 2018-19 season, and Yedlin says the injury that’s cost him the start of this season has been the culprit for a long time.

[ MORE: Neymar ban reduced ]

Yedlin, 26, went through surgery this May for a sports hernia which he says bothered him on game days for almost a year and a half.

From NUFC.co.uk:

 “It was tough, and it was a bit confusing because it would come and go. There would be months that I’d be playing with it and I’d take pain killers before the game and try to get through it, then there’d be times when it didn’t bother me at all,” he said.

“Even in warm ups, I’d be thinking ‘it’s going to be tough to make it through this game.’ Once the pain killers hit in, you can’t really feel anything anymore and then adrenalin hits in but, yeah, it’s tough. As a player you don’t want to stop and then lose your place, but you’ve also got to do what’s best for you and for the longevity of your career.

That’s not good, and both USMNT and Newcastle supporters will hope the injury was the reason behind his decline in form.

Yedlin’s stats dropped in each of his last two PL seasons. For a player whose blessed with blazing speed, a sports hernia is only going to dramatically affect performance.

He says he has been in touch with USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter.

“That’s been tough. I’ve had contact with the manager and they’re keeping updated on how I’m doing. This last international break was just a bit too soon but hopefully the next one, I’ll be ready for and hopefully I’ll have some minutes under my belt by that time, then really crack on from there.”