Getty Images

Video replay gets tested its first week in MLS

1 Comment

With fans and other leagues watching, Major League Soccer has introduced video replay in dramatic style.

The Video Assistant Referee, or VAR for short, ruled out a goal in FC Dallas’ first-ever loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

The VAR disallowed Maximiliano Urruti’s late goal for Dallas after video evidence showed that forward Cristian Colman fouled Union goalkeeper John McCarthy before the shot and he wasn’t able to get to the ball. Philadelphia won 3-1.

The decision took about two minutes.

The VAR also had an impact on Sunday’s game between the Portland Timbers and the LA Galaxy when Gyasi Zardes’ apparent go-ahead goal in the 11th minute was disallowed because of a handball.

The goal would have given the Galaxy the lead and arguably could have swayed the momentum to Los Angeles. Instead, the Timbers went on to win 3-1.

“I think everyone has their opinion on it,” said Portland defender Liam Ridgewell. “But, obviously, it’s coming into the game and it worked in our favor. Ask me next time when it doesn’t. It was great today. So we’ll wait and see next time.”

The goals in Portland and Philadelphia were the only two that activated video review.

“I saw it after the game and still I have to say that it generates a lot of thoughts, but we respect it,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja told reporters. “I have to be honest and say if the referee had the chance to review it, the (Video Assistant Referee), they made the decision, I have to assume that it is correct.”

There are many eyes on MLS’s rollout of the VAR, who serves as the fifth member of the officiating crew at any given game.

The VAR at each MLS stadium monitors all video feeds of the game that are available, focusing on “potential clear and obvious errors or serious missed incidents” involving goals, penalty kicks, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

If a review is required, the VAR will alert the referee on the field, who will make a box gesture with his hands to indicate the VAR is examining a possible error. All final calls will lie with the head referee.

Two other top-tier leagues will add a VAR soon. The German Bundesliga will debut video replay for the season opener between Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen on Aug. 18. The Italian Serie A will also introduce its version after adding goal-line technology last season.

Video replay is currently being tested on the international level, used in the Under-20 World Cup and the Confederations Cup in Russia. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, plans to use it at the 2018 World Cup.

Soccer’s adoption of the technology is not without its detractors, some who worry it will have unintended consequences – like making games longer.

Greg Gordon, a Glasgow-based soccer scout and longtime journalist who writes for the website howtowatchfootball .co.uk, is one of those closely watching how MLS applies video replay after seeing some of the controversy caused by its use on the international level.

“The beauty of football – unlike maybe some American sports, which I also love – is that there’s a constant ebb and flow to the game,” he said. “And actually the use of video refereeing, as we’ve already seen in a few instances, can really lead to the breakup of the speed of the game. But it also can really lead to what you could call catastrophic moments of just mass confusion.”

And indeed, there seemed to be some confusion among those watching MLS games this weekend about when it could be used, or whether it should be used.

In Portland, where supporters are known for their chants and songs throughout matches, fans chanted “V-A-R” after what they saw as a foul on forward Fanendo Adi by Galaxy defender Dave Romney.

Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe said after Sunday’s game that he’s taking a wait-and-see approach .

“I haven’t seen a replay yet (of the disallowed goal). But I think it’s something, VAR getting introduced, it’s something that is going to change the flow of the game a little bit. So it’s something that we’re going to have to get used to as players. You get that energy of, `OK, We got our second goal we, we’re going to go up, OK we’ve gotta defend now.’ Then all of the sudden it’s, `Wait a couple of minutes,’ and it gets called back and you’re in a different kind of mindset and it’s tied again,” Rowe said.

“It just adds an extra layer to it and it’s something that as players, it’s the law now so we’ve just got to get used to it.”

Germany: Below-par Bayern Munich still too good for the rest

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Even a below-par Bayern Munich side was just too good for the rest.

Bayern’s record-extending seventh consecutive Bundesliga title confirmed the distance between the Bavarian powerhouse and its rivals after a season in which it failed to impress as before.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

For the first time in ten years the title race went to the last day of the season, with Niko Kovac’s side missing the chance to wrap it up a week earlier after being held to a goalless draw in Leipzig. His team wasn’t going to miss another chance as it routed Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 to clinch a 29th German championship on Saturday.

In the end, Bayern’s 5-0 win at home over Borussia Dortmund, its closest and only challenger, on April 4 illustrated the gulf in class between the sides and effectively decided the league outcome. Bayern should have won by more after racing into a 4-0 half-time lead, but Kovac’s team eased off in the second half with Dortmund in damage-control mode.

It proved to be the title that Dortmund gave away. Lucien Favre’s side had a nine-point lead over Bayern at one stage, but buckled under the pressure of a title challenge and gave away points in games it should have won.

Dortmund developed an unfortunate tendency to concede late goals, and was frustrated in successive draws against Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim and lowly Nuremberg, which was relegated at the end of the season.

Bayern President Uli Hoeness had suggested in February that Bayern could “sacrifice the championship for one year” to give veteran players like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Rafinha a worthy farewell.

“I have won more than 50 titles in my lifetime, so one or another doesn’t matter,” Hoeness said at the time.

Hoeness needn’t have worried. On Saturday, he was able to give the players a perfect sendoff, with Robben and Ribery both coming on as substitutes to score in their final Bundesliga appearances.

Beer flowed among the tears and confetti and the Bayern veterans bade their farewells and celebrated another championship – for Ribery it was a record ninth league title in 12 years at the club.

It was a happy end to a difficult season. The 36-year-old Ribery made no secret of his wish to stay at Bayern and will have heard how the 40-year-old Claudio Pizarro, who also scored Saturday, agreed a one-year extension to his contract at Werder Bremen the same day.

Kovac has had to endure ongoing speculation over his future after ambiguous comments from his superiors.

“We’ll see,” sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said to repeated questions over Kovac’s future recently, while chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge could only say he has “no problem” with Kovac.

Kovac himself said on Saturday that he was sure he would remain after receiving first-hand information from those responsible, but the lack of public endorsement from the club has done little to stop the speculation.

Even a win over Leipzig in the German Cup final next Saturday might not be enough for Kovac, who has fans’ backing but has struggled for authority at the club since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October.

The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for “derogatory, slanderous reporting” of its poor form, while Hoeness was booed and whistled at the club’s AGM in November for the first time over sponsorship deals with Qatar, his railing against the media, and personal tirades against former players and coaches.

Amid the squabbling, Bayern has lost its aura of invincibility. The side’s meek Champions League exit to Liverpool after a 3-1 defeat at home highlighted the need to refresh the squad.

The process is already underway with World Cup winners Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard arriving from Atletico Madrid and Stuttgart, respectively, to shore up the defense. The 23-year-old Hernandez is costing a Bundesliga-record 80 million euros ($90 million) while Pavard is joining from Stuttgart for a reported 35 million ($40 million).

Bayern is also reportedly interested in Germany striker Timo Werner, while Hoeness has hinted at a host of other signings.

After strengthening in the summer, Bayern is likely to be even harder to catch for Dortmund and the rest next season.

“I know the chance was huge this season,” Dortmund captain Marco Reus said.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

Bournemouth snap up $15m defender, look to Burnley GK

Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bournemouth is already busy in the transfer market.

Eddie Howe‘s men have added a $16.5 million defender from Championship outfit Bristol City and may soon swoop to buy a $19 million goalkeeper from a Premier League rival.

The latter target is reported as Nick Pope, part of a deep Burnley goalkeeping corps that includes Tom Heaton and Joe Hart.

[ MORE: Kompany signed, hired by Anderlecht ]

The former would be Lloyd Kelly, who racked up more than 2300 minutes for Bristol and is expected to represent England with the U-21 side this summer.

Primarily a left back but capable of defending centrally, Kelly has 48 first team appearances with two goals and two assists to his name.

From The Bournemouth Echo:

“I’m still young and developing as a player but at the same time I feel like this is probably the best place for me to develop those skills, especially being around a Premier League team and playing Premier League sides,” Kelly said. “I feel like it will speed up that process a bit more.”

No Champions League could lead Lacazette from Arsenal

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alexandre Lacazette could leave Arsenal if the Gunners fail to win a place in the UEFA Champions League.

So says a report out of The London Evening Standard, which notes that Barcelona and Atletico Madrid would be interested in bringing the Frenchman to La Liga.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

Arsenal will participate in next season’s Europa League unless it beats Chelsea in this season UEL Final on May 29 in Baku.

Lacazette, 27, has 19 goals and 13 assists for Arsenal this season and struck up a tremendous partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He has not played in the Champions League since 2016-17.

Arsenal is being linked with a big attacking target, too, and is said to be intrigued with Ajax boss Marc Overmars comments that Hakim Ziyech will be allowed to leave if his $28 million release clause is met. From The Evening Standard:

“He is in focus because of his achievements in the Champions League. Many big clubs are buzzing around him, We promised Hakim that we would agree if there is a good transfer,” Overmars told the Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper.
Ziyech has played his entire career in the Dutch Eredivisie between Heerenveen, Twente, and Ajax. He has 12 goals in 23 caps for Morocco and scored five times for Ajax in the Champions League to go with 16 league goals.

Zidane bristles when asked why he didn’t use Bale

AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
1 Comment

Zinedine Zidane bristled when asked why he did not use Gareth Bale on Sunday in what could’ve been the Welsh forward’s last home match for Real Madrid.

It’s worth noting that Real had just lost 2-0 to Real Betis at the Bernabeu, and Zidane couldn’t have been in a decent mood as the wayward side finished third on the table.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

The 29-year-old Bale did not play in Real’s final three matches of the season, was blanked in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals against Ajax, and has not scored since March. He finished the season with 14 goals and six assists in 42 appearances. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I have counted on other players in more in recent weeks, and if I had a fourth substitute today I would not have brought him on.

“I make these decisions when it is right to do so, and I must act in the best interests of the team at all times.”

Zidane would not commit to Bale being with Madrid for their preseason tour of the United States, saying “anything could happen” while insinuating that the player was part of Real’s past.