Adama Diomande

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MLS to get its kicks with 5-week video game tournament

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Sporting Kansas City midfielder Wan Kuzain is more than your average gamer. He’s got street cred.

That’s because when he was 17, Kuzain accepted a challenge from noted video game enthusiast (and former NFL player) Chad Johnson – and beat him.

The former Pro Bowler known as Ochocinco tweeted afterward that the “losing experience was worse than the time I lost my virginity” and added a crying emoji.

So it’s no surprise that Kuzain will be Sporting’s representative in a virtual MLS tournament starting Sunday. A number of the league’s top players, including Chicharito and Nani, will participate in the nationally televised event.

It goes like this: Two players from opposing teams will face off in EA Sports’ FIFA 2020 game. Then the league’s eMLS players will compete in a second leg. The losing team is eliminated. Fox Sports soccer commentators will call the action over the five-week event.

Other sports have also moved to virtual competition during the coronavirus pandemic, notably NASCAR. Like the already established eMLS competition, NASCAR had an iRacing Series for gamers. Drivers joined when COVID-19 suspended real races.

Individual athletes, including Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat and Women’s World Cup winner Allie Long, are also playing regularly on Twitch, a live streaming platform. The Phoenix Suns played out the season after the season was suspended on NBA 2K20 on Twitch.

One of the highlights Sunday will be a virtual ‘El Trafico’ rivalry match, pitting LA Galaxy striker Javier Hernandez, better known as Chicharito, against LAFC forward Adama Diomande.

MLS Works and FOX Sports will make a donation on behalf of the winning team to Feeding America after each episode. Donations will also be made to Food Banks Canada.

“You’ll see in some instances we’ve got some real gamers among our professional players. They’re going to show up to win. So while it is a great cause, we’re also out to entertain. I think you’ll see a real competitive edge come through as well, ” said Camilo Durana, the league’s senior vice president of properties and events.

Now 21, Kuzain said he’s been playing FIFA since the 2012 edition.

Kuzain was part of Sporting’s academy team before he was signed to the team’s USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers.

One day around that time he noticed that Chad Johnson was in the Kansas City area. Johnson was known at the time for dropping in on random gamers to play FIFA, so Kuzain – who had a picture of himself playing soccer on his Twitter profile – tweeted at him. The next thing he knew, Johnson was at his door.

“We played a couple of games. I’d say three or four,” Kuzain said. “He was really good. He was definitely worth all the tweets and commotion that he’s caused within the FIFA community.”

Afterward, Kuzain showed Johnson around a bit, taking him to the local indoor soccer complex.

“Like it’s crazy how nice he is and how he just can fit so many people that he doesn’t know into his schedule like that. So I’m really thankful for that experience,” Kuzain said. “And he did send a nice little tweet, and that was our promise, if I beat him he would shout me out.”

Kuzain signed with Kansas City’s first team as a Homegrown Player in 2018. He appeared in Sporting II’s first game before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus.

Asked if he was the best gamer among his Kansas City teammates, Kuzain didn’t mince words.

“It might hurt some feelings,” he said. “but I would say yeah, for sure.”

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Super sub Diomande gives LAFC late win over 10-man Sporting KC

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Sporting KC fouled LAFC and fouled them some more, and while it appeared they would escape Los Angeles with a point to show for it, the strategy backfired.

After picking up five first-half bookings and six overall, Roger Espinoza was sent off with six minutes to play in regulation, and LAFC took advantage of the man-up opportunity as Adama Diomande delivered the winner three minutes into stoppage time for a 2-1 win in the season opener. Sporting KC went in front before the break, but LAFC came from behind to earn all three points.

The first half was lively on both sides as Carlos Vela was dangerous throughout. Still, it was the visitors who went in front first at Banc of California Stadium as the LAFC defense was soft to allow Krisztian Nemeth to find space near the penalty area and Johnny Russell fed him for the 16th minute opener.

Both teams had plenty of chances in the first half, the biggest of which came in the 36th minute as Lee Nguyen fed a delicious through ball to Mark-Anthony Kaye who was clean on goal. The flag went up for offside, although the decision proved to be contentious upon replay, and the assistant probably should have left his flag down to let VAR provide any necessary decision after the fact. Vela’s constant presence and LAFC’s general attacking mentality forced Sporting KC into constant fouling, racking up 12 fouls and five yellow cards in the first half, the most first-half yellows since at least 2012 in an MLS match.

Just over a minute after halftime, with the home crowd still loudly behind its squad despite the deficit, Diego Rossi brought LAFC back level as he muscled past a helpless Graham Zusi to create space and rifled a pinpoint shot past a diving Tim Melia who got the faintest of fingertips to the ball but couldn’t keep it out.

LAFC nearly went in front on 57 minutes, but Eddie Segura’s powerful header off a corner was nervously parried by Meila before the rebound was cleared off the line by Seth Sinovic. The game plodded along until the 84th minute when, with a whopping six players on yellow cards, Sporting KC finally, inevitably fell a man down. In a moment of complete idiocy, Roger Espinoza needlessly went through the back of Kaye in midfield, an easy decision to show the Honduran his second yellow and reduce Sporting KC to 10 men. The marching orders are the ninth of Espinoza’s MLS career, tying him for second-most in league history and one behind the leader Jamison Olave.

That paved the way for the winner in the 94th minute. While it appeared Sporting KC was poised to earn a valuable road point amid heavy pressure, Diomande was on hand to deliver the deathblow off the bench. Having come on way back in the 59th minute, he collected a heavy touch from Jordan Harvey, switched to his right foot, and rifled a bullet just past the outstretched hands of Meila.

Diomande, LAFC continue to roar, nearing Western lead

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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Major League Soccer completed what the World Cup started Saturday by putting a lot more goals on the board, and one player continues to roast everything that comes in his Stateside path.

[ MORE: Ranking the World Cup semifinalists ]

Adama Diomande scored for the seventh and eighth times in five starts to give him nine goals and two assists in 473 minutes to begin life on our shores.

The ex-Hull City striker, 28, is making a mockery of defenses, and is averaging a goal or an assist every 43 minutes following LAFC’s 4-1 beatdown of Orlando City on Sunday.

No one is cleaning up goal mouth messes any better than Diomande, who has been in or near the six for the majority of his markers, and he’s been doing it without World Cup participants Carlos Vela and Marcos Urena (the pair returned to LAFC as subs on Saturday night).

How do we make one of those videos of cartoon sunglasses sliding down onto Bob Bradley‘s face?

Elsewhere
Philadelphia Union 0-2 Atlanta United
Montreal Impact 2-1 Colorado Rapids
Real Salt Lake 2-0 FC Dallas
Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2 Chicago Fire
LA Galaxy 4-0 Columbus Crew
Sporting KC 2-2 Toronto FC
New England Revolution 0-0 Seattle Sounders
Houston Dynamo 3-0 Minnesota United
Portland Timbers 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes
New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls — Sunday

MLS at Midweek: LA strikers firing at will

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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Major League Soccer is laying claim to the Fourth of July, with the 2018 World Cup taken two days off before the quarterfinal round.

Beginning with Tuesday’s 9 p.m. ET match-up between red-hot Adama Diomande‘s LAFC and Houston, the league has a half-dozen midweek matches for your entertainment.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Here’s what to watch:

LAFC vs. Houston Dynamo — 9 p.m. ET Tuesday

The first ever match-up between these sides has a lot of firepower, none more than ex-Hull City man Diomande. The 28-year-old Norwegian has an almost absurd seven goals in his first five matches, and LA has three-straight wins. The Dynamo can climb back into the West’s Top Six with a win.

Minnesota United vs. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Both teams have watched their playoff hopes get slimmer and slimmer, and both have been awful on the road. The good news for the Loons is that they are Wednesday’s hosts.

FC Dallas vs. Atlanta United — 8 p.m. ET Wednesday

The home side has lost just once since an April 29 setback, while Atlanta has fallen just three times this season. Dallas is one of just five teams unbeaten at home this season — one of whom, DC United, has played just twice in their home city — but the Five Stripes have bucked the trend of MLS teams struggling on the road, falling just once on eight away days.

Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 p.m. ET Wednesday

Once holders of a season left for dead, Anthony Hudson’s Rapids have taken seven points from their last three matches and can move to within a win of the Top Six with a win and help on the out-of-town scoreboard.

Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET Wednesday

Sporting lost for the first time since April 28 at the weekend, and stays on the road in a bid to bounce back against Mike Petke’s stubborn Rio Tinto bunch.

LA Galaxy vs. DC United — 10 p.m. ET Wednesday

Wayne Rooney won’t face off against former Manchester United teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the later is playing some fine football. Zlatan has six goals in his last four matches, finding form on the other side of the ocean from his Swedish World Cup compatriots.