Sporting KC midfielder suspended for betting on MLS games


Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez has been suspended for the remainder of the 2021 season for betting on a pair of MLS games, the league announced on Friday.

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The 23-year-old disclosed to Sporting Kansas City members of staff earlier this year that he feared for his own safety due to the status of his gambling debts. An investigation into Hernandez’s activity later revealed that he had previously placed online bets on a pair of MLS games, neither of which involved his team.

Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said on Friday that “the majority of [Hernandez’s] betting was done on other sporting events” — in other words, outside of MLS.

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In a statement of his own, Hernandez revealed that he began receiving treatment for a gambling addiction shortly after his disclosure.

Up until his disclosure on July 5, Hernandez was in the middle of a breakout season for an MLS Cup-contending team, as he appeared to have secured a starting spot in central midfield. Hernandez turned in four straight 90-minute shifts (three wins and a loss for Sporting Kansas City), tallying a goal and two assists during the summer run, from June 19 to July 4. The next morning, he came forward to ask for help. Hernandez hasn’t played or trained with his teammates in the three months since.

“He knows that he wasn’t supposed to be gambling,” Vermes said in a press conference on Friday. “But, he still came forward, and that’s not an easy thing to do. He could easily let his mind race and say, ‘Hey, maybe I’d never play soccer again in Major League Soccer,’ so it took a lot of courage for him to do that.”

From MLS’s news release:

Major League Soccer initiated an investigation on July 5, 2021, after Hernandez disclosed to Sporting Kansas City that he was concerned about his personal safety due to his gambling debts.  MLS and Sporting Kansas City immediately took steps to refer the matter to law enforcement and ensure that Hernandez received necessary support and counseling.  MLS engaged the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (Paul, Weiss) to conduct an independent investigation.  Hernandez has been suspended since July 2021 pending completion of the MLS and law enforcement investigations, both of which have now concluded.  Paul, Weiss, in cooperation with law enforcement, undertook an extensive review, including conducting witness interviews, examining data from online gambling accounts and reviewing analyses of betting activity on certain MLS matches.  Based on that review, Paul, Weiss has made the following findings:

  • Hernandez engaged in extensive and unlawful sports gambling while a member of Sporting Kansas City.
  • Hernandez placed online bets on two MLS matches while a member of Sporting Kansas City.  Sporting Kansas City was not a participant in either of those matches.
  • No evidence was found that Hernandez possessed confidential or otherwise non-public information concerning those two MLS matches.
  • No evidence was found that Hernandez ever bet on an MLS match involving his own team.
  • No evidence was found that the integrity of any MLS match was impacted by the sports gambling activities under investigation.
  • No evidence was found of any other gambling by MLS players on MLS matches.

Hernandez cooperated fully with the league’s investigation and will be eligible for reinstatement on January 1, 2022 on application to the Commissioner, who will consider Hernandez’s compliance based on certain directives, including ongoing counseling.

10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 5


What did we learn during matchweek 5 of the 2021-22 Premier League?

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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.

VIDEO: PL highlights ]

Let’s get to it.

1. Patience pays off for Liverpool (Liverpool 3-0 Crystal Palace): Through 25 minutes of the first half, Liverpool were out-shot 5-3 by Crystal Palace. It was at that point that Liverpool began to press higher up the field to win the ball back in more advantageous areas. As a result, the Reds out-shot Crystal Palace by a margin of 20-7 the rest of the game. Mane’s goal came as a result of the increased possession and goal threat as Crystal Palace drifted deeper and deeper into their own half. (AE)

2. Guardiola puts pressure on himself (Manchester City 0-0 Southampton): After his midweek comments asking for Manchester City’s fans to turn up for the game against Southampton, Pep Guardiola put himself under a lot of pressure. His team played like they were feeling the pressure. City never got going and although Saints defended well, this was more about City lacking urgency. Perhaps the expectation levels of the crowd piled a little extra pressure on them? Whatever you think about their attendance figures, it was just such a bizarre thing for Guardiola to say, and then not back down on. It is all so unnecessary with a four-horse Premier League title race already heating up. (JPW)

3. Moyes’ gamble hands Man United the win (West Ham 1-2 Manchester United): Lukasz Fabianski was spectacular in holding Manchester United down, making eight saves including six from shots inside the box and one spectacular stop on Cristiano Ronaldo (two really, but Ronaldo deposited the rebound). But right when you were ready to salute one keeper, David De Gea stopped cold Mark Noble’s stoppage-time penalty. When has asking a sub to make his first strike of the ball a match-leveling penalty kick been a good idea (even for a veteran and living club legend like Noble)? Wow.

David Moyes answer to that question is worth monitoring after this one. Here’s what he said. (NM)

4. Unflappable, decisive Tuchel gets it right (Tottenham 0-3 Chelsea): Is it possible Chelsea would’ve turned its first-half performance on its ear had Tuchel not yanked Mason Mount at halftime? Of course, but Tuchel’s willingness to remove a reliable starter at the break sure looked like an inspired switch after the Blues struck twice in quick succession early in the second frame. The tactical adjustment worked and the substitute, N’Golo Kante, scored to boot. (NM)

5. Odegaard (and Partey) are special (Burnley 0-1 Arsenal): Gabriel Magalhaes, Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, and Nuno Tavares all deserve praise for their roles at the back (we’ve saluted Kieran Tierney plenty in the past), but with Martin Odegaard pulling the strings and a healthy-for-now Thomas Partey disrupting the midfield, this can be a team that pulls itself into the top-six mix in the Premier League, if Partey’s health is steady, Nicolas Pepe gets help from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mikel Arteta lets Alexandre Lacazette play more often. A lot of ifs, to be sure. (NM)

6. Seagulls finding clinical edge (Brighton 2-1 Leicester): They have found a way to win tight games early in the season, and that was the only thing missing from Brighton last season. Graham Potter’s side look more streetwise this campaign and they have now won three games by a one-goal margin so far this season. They do have tougher fixtures coming up, but this is a superb start to the season for the 2020-21 expected goals kings… (JPW)

7. Bailey is a treat, but can he stay healthy? (Aston Villa 3-0 Everton) Leon Bailey has been mostly limited to sub minutes, but that’ll soon change for the ex-Bayer Leverkusen star and Jamaican international if he can stay healthy. His electric skill set means he’s going to get free often and he buried a chance past Asmir Begovic at the end of Villa’s three-goal second-half outburst. Alas, he was soon on the turf and being tended to by trainers. (NM)

8. Second half even better from Newcastle (Newcastle 1-1 Leeds): Leeds were far more hesitant to risk leaving themselves exposed defensively in the second half, and that paid dividends for Newcastle once they started winning the ball back 10-15 yards higher up the field. Allan Saint-Maximin was must-see every time he touched the ball and reminded everyone just how special he is on his day. It’s a good point for Newcastle because it is a point, but anytime they can realistically say they were the better side (even narrowly so) they really need to be winning instead. (AE)

9. Toney, Mbeumo a great partnership (Wolves 0-2 Brentford): They caused havoc in the first half and their telepathic understanding was the difference. Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo are relentless and the way they run off each other and work in tandem caused Wolves so many problems. Toney had two goals disallowed (one set up by Mbeumo) in the first half, and Mbeumo should have had two others in the second. Toney set up Mbeumo for his goal and they are the reason why a hard-working Brentford side will be clear of relegation trouble this season. (JPW)

10. Sarr, Dennis a dangerous duo on the wings (Norwich 1-3 Watford): Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis took each player’s goal tally to three and two on the season, respectively. The 23-year-olds have now scored five of Watford’s six goals this season. Watford should have better luck battling against relegation than a side — oh, let’s just use Norwich as an example — that relies so heavily upon one player, typically a poaching center forward, to keep them up. Sarr and Dennis affect the game in front of goal, as well as the 30 and 40 yards of the field which immediately precedes scoring chances. (AE)

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Benitez thanks Everton fans for role in comeback win


Rafael Benitez thanked the Everton faithful for a warm welcome at Goodison Park and the role they played in the Toffees surging back to beat Southampton 3-1 in the season opener.

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Everton fell behind in the first half and trailed at half time but Richarlison inspired a second half comeback as Benitez won on his managerial debut for the Merseyside club.

There has been a mixed reception, at best, for the former Liverpool manager who was appointed as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor this summer but Everton’s fans got behind him, and the team, and made a lot of noise at a packed Goodison.

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Speaking to the the BBC after the game, Benitez thanked the fans for their support and the part they played in the comeback win.

Benitez appreciates support from Goodison faithful

“Thanks to the fans for the support for me and for the team. It’s an important situation this year with the fans behind us – I think it’ll be important for us,” Benitez told the BBC. “We know it’s the beginning and we have to improve, but we’re really pleased with the reaction of the team and the support of the fans.

“At half time we changed the position of the centre backs and the position of Richarlison. But you always have to have a little bit of luck. Playing Richarlison wasn’t a gamble – he was fine. We gave him one day to rest and made sure he was OK. He scored, so everyone’s happy. Obviously I think the performance is the key. It means we’re together. If you do all these things and you lose, it’ll be more difficult.”

More to come from Benitez and the Toffees

This wasn’t a great display from Everton but it was a taster of what is to come under Benitez.

Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin made the difference with a goal each and they were pretty solid defensively (aside from Michael Keane’s error) and they will keep games tight and tense.

That is why Benitez and Everton’s players will need the fans on their side to help push them over the line in games.

Despite some Everton fans not happy with the former Liverpool manager being in charge at Goodison, they can’t argue with an opening day win. Benitez will need plenty more victories to get every single Everton fan on-board but this was a solid start.

Premier League Power Rankings for 2021-22 season


The new Premier League season is almost here and it is time to launch our Power Rankings ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

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That’s right, it’s time to focus on which teams are trending in the right direction and which teams are stuck in neutral, or even worse in reverse, after a summer of preseason preparations and transfer moves all mixed in with international tournaments galore.

Below we rank all of the Premier League teams from 20-1 based on where they’re at right now and we will update these rankings throughout the season.

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It’s a long, wild ride from August to May, so buckle up for a crazy nine-month marathon of Premier League action.

20. Watford – A few decent signings but largely the same squad which got relegated, then promoted back to the PL. Xisco Munoz did a great job to drag them up late in the season last season, but I just can’t see them scoring many goals.

19. Norwich City – See above, really. Daniel Farke has done a great job gaining two promotions to the Premier League in the last three seasons and the Canaries have kept a lot of their squad together too. Adding Billy Gilmour on loan is a massive boost and you get the sense Norwich will be much closer to staying up this time around.

18. Brentford – The new boys have spent smartly, as always, and they have had a good summer of preseason games after winning the playoffs to clinch a first-ever PL season. Thomas Frank’s side will take risks and will be fun to watch but if Ivan Toney can’t deliver in his first season in the PL, who else is going to score the goals? The Bees will be a lot of fun and everyone’s favorite second team. Think Bournemouth and Blackpool when they were first promoted.

17. Burnley – Sean Dyche will probably work wonders to keep the Clarets up but they haven’t added anybody to their squad of note and there are question marks over Dwight McNeil’s future. Having home fans back at Turf Moor is worth 8-10 points a season and that should just keep them up.

16. SouthamptonSelling Danny Ings had to happen and they got a great deal from Aston Villa ($38 million for a player who had 11 months left on his contract) but who is going to score for the Saints? There’s a lot of pressure on Che Adams. Defensively they have to improve and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side were so poor in the second half of last season. Perhaps a full preseason of his rigorous sessions has got the high-pressing side back on track? If not, Ward-Prowse’s set pieces will keep them afloat.

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15. Brighton – Same issue for the Seagulls as a lot of the teams down at the bottom of the rankings: who is going to score? They will cause shocks throughout the season and they play some lovely stuff, but Graham Potter needs more end product from his forwards. Selling Ben White was a blow, but understandable. Now they need to reinvest on better forwards.

14. Wolves – They will be an intriguing team as new boss Bruno Lage tries to keep things similar to the Nuno Espirito Santo era which is over after he left, then took over at Spurs. Having Raul Jimenez back is huge and Wolves will look like a totally different team with the Mexican star leading the line. Can they push for the top 10? Let’s see. On paper they have the players to do that but this could go either way.

13. Crystal Palace – Talking about intriguing, all eyes will be on Patrick Vieira at Palace. The legendary Premier League midfielder has done well as a manager at New York City FC and Nice but this is a big step up. Wilfried Zaha has been flying in preseason and Vieira is putting his trust in lots of new young talents. Palace have tried this before and it didn’t work out. It’s a gamble.

12. Newcastle United – Steve Bruce and the Magpies continue to plod along and they had a very solid preseason. Newcastle have yet to bring in any new players but after so many injuries last season, all they need to do is keep Saint-Maximin, Wilson and Almiron fit and they will be fine.

11. Everton – Weird vibe around Everton right now with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez taking charge. Carlo Ancelotti bounced this summer and went back to Real Madrid and that has left a lot of players with an uncertain future. With Richarlison away at the Olympics they are missing their main man too. There will be a lot of pressure on Benitez and Everton early in the season and Jordan Pickford needs to stand tall to give them a solid base to build from.

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10. Aston Villa – They’ve sold Jack Grealish, which is a big blow, but bringing in Buendia, Ings and Bailey to replace him is very smart. Villa will be just fine and will be in midtable if it doesn’t go well and pushing for the top six if their new signings settle in. Smart and savvy business from Villa.

9. Leeds United – They have gone properly under the radar this summer but Marcelo Bielsa always has a few tricks up his sleeves. Leeds have signed Junior Firpo and Lewis Bate as their main signings this summer and they showed everyone last season how good they can be. Can they avoid the dreaded Sophomore slump and teams knowing their tactics a little better? The answer is likely yes.

8. Arsenal – Hmm. Where do we start here? Singing Ben White for $70 million is a huge statement but also a bit of a risk. Arsenal believe they have their new center back star but they need help elsewhere too. The main issue for Mikel Arteta has been failing to move on players who are surplus to requirements. Still a very stale feel about this Gunners squad.

7. West Ham United – What a preseason they’ve had! David Moyes’ boys are flying with so many impressive wins and displays and they look sharp ahead of their Europa League group stage campaign. Will they make any more signings after bringing in goalkeeper Areola on loan? A new center back is on their list but West Ham seem to have got away from spending money for the sake of it. That’s a good thing. This is now a very settled squad.

6. Tottenham Hotspur – The Harry Kane saga is a huge problem for Spurs but it appears like he will now be staying and after signing Cristian Romero, Bryan Gil, Pierluigi Gollini and potentially a huge deal for Lautaro Martinez (wow), Tottenham are doing all they can to keep their superstar striker happy. Nuno Espirito Santo’s tactics could work well with this squad of players, and a top four finish would be a big achievement. It all hinges on Kane staying.

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5. Leicester City – Brendan Rodgers’ side looked very sharp in their Community Shield win over Manchester City and they have been really good in the transfer market once again. Bertrand, Soumare and Daka have come in and the Foxes are well-stocked to push for a top four finish and go far in the Europa League. Such a well-run club.

4. Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp has added in Ibrahima Konate to help with their defensive woes and Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez coming back is a massive boost. But it will take them a little while to get back up to speed. Liverpool ended last season so well but it has been a busy summer for a lot of their players. Can they plug the Wijnaldum gap in midfield? Will the trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino regain their best form once again? A few big questions, but they will be right on the edge of the title race.

3. Manchester United – Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane arriving is a big statement from United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is making his squad stronger all of the time. Defensively they are improving (Maguire and Shaw are so important) and now they need Sancho to slot straight in and the likes of Martial and Bruno Fernandes to deliver plenty of goals behind Cavani. In theory they should be title challengers but they just seem to be one or two players away from doing that.

2. Manchester City – Hear me out, the only reason they aren’t number one is they have a lot of players who have yet to return to action after busy summers in the European Championships and Copa America. Signing Jack Grealish for $139 million was incredible but also a little strange given all of their attacking midfield options. If they sign Harry Kane, or any other word class center forward, they will be unstoppable. But until then, you get the sense their sluggish end to last season may carry over, especially the disappointment of losing in the Champions League final to the next team in our rankings…

1. Chelsea – Okay, this may be controversial but I think Chelsea are title favorites. Thomas Tuchel has done an amazing job since day one when he arrived in January 2021. Chelsea were one of the best teams in the PL in the second half of last season, they won the Champions League, reached the FA Cup final and were so tough to beat. Defensively they are well-organized and N’Golo Kante is a machine in this 3-4-2-1 formation. After signing Romelu Lukaku, Tuchel has his clinical finisher. With Havertz, Werner, Pulisic, Ziyech, Mount and many others underneath him creating, Lukaku could score over 30 goals. That is what makes Chelsea my title favorites. For now.

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Hodgson to leave Crystal Palace; Lampard to replace him?


Roy Hodgson has confirmed he will leave Crystal Palace at the end of this season when his contract runs out.

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Hodgson, 73, is the oldest manager currently in the Premier League and it was widely expected he would retire at the end of this season.

However, the former Inter Milan, Blackburn, Fulham, West Brom, Liverpool and England boss said he is leaving his options open over a return to management, or another role in the game, but will take a break after leaving Palace.

During his near four seasons in charge of Palace, Hodgson has kept them away from relegation danger and made the owners a profit in the transfer market. Not bad at all.

With Palace now looking for a new manager and 12 players out of contract this summer, change is coming at Selhurst Park.

The right time for all concerned?

All in all, this was the best choice for everyone.

Hodgson, a boyhood Palace fan, has well and truly done what he was asked to do by the club. He was appointed in 2017 with Palace rock bottom of the table after the Frank de Boer experiment went horribly wrong with seven-straight defeats to start the season.

Since then Palace have had 11th, 12th and 14th place finishes and they sit in 13th heading into the final two games of this season.

Hodgson has got the best out of his resources, with Palace tough to break down, well-drilled and in Wilfried Zaha and now Eberechi Eze, they have two attacking talents who are lethal on the break.

If Hodgson decides to keep managing, you feel like an international job will be next in line for him. Perhaps even a sporting director role?

Whatever he does, he will do it with class, as one of the nicest managers in soccer history has respect from all corners of the game.

Who is next at Palace?

There are some really good candidates for this job, with former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe one of the leading contenders.

Current Swansea City boss Steve Cooper and Burnley manager Sean Dyche are also candidates, while Frank Lampard is the favorite with the bookies. It will be very interesting to see which way Palace go here.

Chairman Steve Parish has always dreamed of bringing players through their academy and into the first team and Zaha, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and now Tyrick Mitchell are all proof that it can be done.

With the likes of Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Emile Smith Rowe, Jadon Sancho, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and many others all growing up in south London, there’s no doubt that this particular area of England’s capital city is full of talented youngsters.

If Palace can bring in a manager who puts faith in youth, the best young local talents will be attracted to join them over Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and others at academy level.

Eddie Howe would surely deliver the most attractive team, but Palace may be wary after the De Boer debacle.

Lampard’s name could perhaps allow Palace to bring in players they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Lampard would be a gamble, but there’s a growing sense that Palace will make the former Chelsea boss their next manager.

Hodgson has done a really important job to stabilize Palace over the last few years, but getting the decision on his successor right is even more important.