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The Canadian Premier League is building buzz

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Maybe he’s just new on the job, but a conversation with Canadian Premier League commissioner David Clanachan is like an imperial stout from one of Ontario’s many breweries: It gets you buzzing really quickly.

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Sure, the man who knows how to politick, crediting NBC and EA Sports for the uptick in soccer popularity in North America, but it’s more than salesmanship for the former Tim Horton’s chief operating officer (Tim’s is an inescapable Canadian coffee chain).

But in discussing the construction of Canada’s new league, there’s an unavoidable energy that tracks from the ground up (and there’s little doubt their publicity and communications crew has won its mission). From the league’s very open trials in seven cities — announcing cut lists after Day One of each — to several other notable announcements, there’s an optimism in a new North American soccer league that hasn’t been felt in some time.

“You’d think in sports mad North American it should be easy to do, and many have tried but it hasn’t worked in Canada,” Clanachan says of trying to build a new league. “The bottom line is we took a very different approach. We’re building from the community level in everything we’ve done. You surround yourself with a group of storytellers who really know the game and how it shows that great passion. That’s driven by the movement and passion of the spectators. Soccer supporters are there whether their team is in third-last or first. They are all in.”

And so when the CPL started with teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Halifax, Langford, Winnipeg, and York, it made sure those fan bases got a different taste of pro sports.

Who had the hardest shot or best agility at the Winnipeg trials? It’s all right there. Who made it to the second day of trials in Quebec? Just look at the list. Why did the league choose one uniform designer for all the teams? They’ll tell you, plainly.

Transparency is a big claim, but one the CPL has so far embraced in a big way.

“I talk about that incessantly with our people,” Clanachan said. “From everything when we announced the league and the league identity, people were blown away with us being very transparent. We believe that to really build it is to take people with you on the journey. It helps people understand who we are and what we want to do. Then it just became about continuing the momentum.”

Clanachan has said he dreams of a 2-3 division league with promotion and relegation one day, but is focused very much on keeping his seven teams strong at the start.

Clanachan (canpl.ca)

He credits club owners’ ownership of the league with helping idea sharing, saying the NBA is a good model for intra-league support.

And he thinks the relative lack of jobs for Canadians, especially in MLS, is only going to help his league start stronger.

“When you look at the entire MLS, there are only four Canadians that are playing meaningful minutes and only 28 total, and that’s the largest pro league close to this country,” Clanachan said.

Four, really?!?

“That’s what our guys are telling me.”

I expected him to be wrong, but there are only four Canadians in the Top 200 for minutes in MLS despite three teams playing North of the U.S. border. The number expands to eight over 300, but point well-taken.

And the open trials reflect that. NCAA college stars, MLS draft picks, and players from smaller European clubs dot the open tryout list, and these are just the names hungry to get on the radar of coaches who clearly have their own lists of players.

“Players from Singapore, Japan, South Korea are all getting attention, and they’ve paid their own way,” Clanachan raves. “Two nights ago Canada played Dominica. Our whole staff went. One of the starting forwards for Dominica was at our York trials last week. Dominica’s a very small country, let’s be honest, but a lot of people want to live in these countries, Canada and the U.S.”

And so, it follows that Canada is going to have fan enthusiasm and a decent level when it begins its way into the North American soccer landscape.

“What I took from Tim Horton’s is we built it community by community,” he said. “When you do it that way, you make a lot of deposits, and they’re with you when the withdrawal comes when you want support. And they are there in spades. Because they see you with them every day.
“When these owners came looking for me, I heard two words ‘legacy’ and ‘Canadians.’ And that to me was not the typical, ‘Well we gotta make money at this.’ Because people who go into sport to make money are going into it for the wrong reasons. They’ve gotta be into it for development of the sport. It rang a true bell. You look at why we’re having success: We’ve haven’t kicked a ball yet and people are over the moon. We’ve sold thousands of season tickets without announcing a roster. And it’s all calculated.”
The league kicks off in April. The league web site is canpl.ca.

Zlatan, Blessing tally braces in cathartic ‘El Trafico’ draw (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  “El Trafico” lives up to all of its hype, whether it’d be in Carson or in the heart of Los Angeles. Loaded with goals, subplots, heated fan bases, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela, it’s tough to find another rivalry in MLS as fierce and as provocative as Los Angeles’. Because just when one thought spectators uncovered the climax of the story, a plot twist from nearby Hollywood’s archives is screened. Whether it’d be Ibrahimovic’s fastest goal in derby history, Latif Blessing’s unexpected brace, or Vela’s goal and subsequent benching, it’s evident that there was no shortage of storylines. Both side’s 3-3 draw, as well, had no shortage of goals. It was a spectacle on Sunday.

Three moments that mattered

2′ – 15′ — Zlatan records brace in 13 minutes — Zlatan’s record-setting goal, followed by a routine finish to record his second of the night.

45′ — Blessing’s vital, first-half goal for LAFC    — Along with Zlatan, Latif Blessing was the night’s other bright spot.

89′ — Vela scores his 27th goal — Vela to the rescue…

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Man of the match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Goalscorers: Ibrahimovic (2′), Blessing (12′) Ibrahimovic (15′), Pavon (16′),  Blessing (45′), Vela (53′)

Serie A: Milan stunned; Roma draw in six-goal thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight.

Roma 3-3 Genoa

There were plenty of promising talking points in Roma’s season opening six-goal thriller against Genoa, but their draw certainly overwrote almost everything with red ink.

Edin Dzeko was one of the few highlights that remained in the clear. The 33-year-old – five seasons into his Roma spell -scored and assisted for I Giallorossi. Recent arrival, Davide Zappacosta, made his debut in the 78th minute.

Genoa, not necessarily impressive throughout the match, figured out a way to crack Roma’s defense. When they conceded, they’d respond. Stadio Olimpico saw six lead changes, with Christian Kouame’s diving header in the 70th minute splitting the points.

For a Roma that missed out on qualifying for the Champions League last season, the result is a low-blow right off the bat. For Genoa, who remained in Serie A by a miraculous goal, a six-goal thriller in Roma is music to their ears.

Udinese 1-0 AC Milan

Another Italian giant had a slow, first day at the office.

AC Milan, boasting a plethora of firepower, were outclassed by a well-prepared and structured Udinese.

Rodrigo Becão’s debut goal was the only difference between both sides. Milan, who are already three points behind favorites such as Juventus and Napoli, have plenty of questions to answer. The reported possible arrival of Angel Correa may certainly help on the attacking side of things, but Marco Giampaolo still has plenty of work laid out in front of him.

Banned from Europa League for overspending by Financial Play Fair Rules, Milan are expected to fully focus on the Serie A campaign, which they have yet to win since the 2010/11 campaign.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 0-3 Lazio 

Cagliari 0-1 Brescia

Verona 1-1 Bologna 

SPAL 2-3 Atalanta 

Torino 2-1 Sassuolo 

WATCH: Zlatan scores fastest-ever ‘El Trafico’ goal

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If someone was going to set a record in “El Trafico,” it was going to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic has become the scorer of the fastest goal in the rivalry’s history, after scoring the opener against LAFC two minutes into Sunday’s bout at Banc of California Stadium.

The 37-year-old’s strike inside the box came two minutes faster than Carlos Vela’s goal from the penalty spot earlier this season. The Swede has scored eight goals against LAFC in six matches, making him the leading goalscorer of the young rivalry.

Mexicans abroad: Weekend roundup

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Scoring goals left and right, Raul Jimenez continues to bring smiles to Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters. Against Burnley,  the forward played hero with his last-second goal, earning Wolves a third straight draw.

In Spain, Diego Lainez registered his first minutes of the season, while Hector Herrera has yet to make his debut.

Diego Reyes is no longer a Fenerbahçe, as a move to Tigres nears. Lozano, now with Italian giants Napoli, awaits for his highly-anticipated Serie A debut.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Late into stoppage time, Jimenez converted from the penalty spot, and earned Wolves a valuable point at home against Burnley. It’s the 28-year-old’s first Premier League goal this season.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, West Ham — Chicharito was inactive this weekend due to a reported knee injury. On Saturday, West Ham edged Watford 3-1.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — For a second consecutive week, Herrera was an unused substitute for Diego Simeone’s side, who won 1-0 against Leganes.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis — Los Verdiblancos’ captain started and played 61 minutes in Betis’ 5-2 loss against Barcelona.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old recorded his first minutes of the season, playing the final 15 minutes in Betis’ loss to Barcelona.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played all 90 minutes in Celta’s 1-0 victory over Valencia.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Recently integrated, Lozano didn’t suit up for Napoli’s entertaining 4-3 win against Fiorentina on Saturday.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — PSV are inactive this week.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Ajax are inactive this weekend.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Despite overlapping when attacking, Porto’s manager, Sergio Conceicao, continues to deploy Tecatito as a right back. The 26-year-old showed no problems throughout 90 minutes in Porto’s 2-0 statement victory over Benfica, though.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Logging in minutes won’t be a problem for Govea at the Belgium club, at least that’s been the case thus far. On Saturday, the midfielder started – for a fourth consecutive game – and registered 66 minutes.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   The Qatari league is underway, and Moreno has made his debut. The center back started and played all 90 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-0 win over Shahania on Thursday.

Diego Reyes, Free Agent  Fenerbahçe released Reyes on Sunday. He is set to make a Liga MX return with Tigres after leaving for Europe back in 2013.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — On Friday, the 21-year-old fullback started and played 66 minutes in Roda’s 2-1 loss against NEC Nijmegen.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – The 25-year-old is slowly but surely finding himself in San Jose. On Saturday, Fierro logged nine minutes in the Quakes’ impressive 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – LAFC take on rivals LA Galaxy on Sunday.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – LA Galaxy take on rivals LAFC on Sunday.