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Soccer Capsules: Relaunched Cosmos to start play Aug 3

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Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013 9:00 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — The relaunched New York Cosmos will start play in the second-tier North American Soccer League during its fall season.

The Cosmos announced Monday that their first home game will be against Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 3 at Hempstead, N.Y.

The Cosmos, featuring stars such as Pele, Frank Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia, played in the old NASL from 1971-84, but folded in 1985.

A group that included former Tottenham official Paul Kemsley bought the name and relaunched the team in 2010 with Pele as honorary president. The Cosmos played an exhibition at Manchester United the following year. Kemsley left the ownership group and the team announced last July it was joining the NASL.

Now run by CEO Seamus O'Brien, the Cosmos hope to construct a 25,000-seat stadium at Belmont Park racetrack.

International

Commentary: Europe will show champions' true worth

Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are devaluing their own success by making it look too easy.

Although it is still winter in Europe, they are already 99 percent certain of winning their leagues in Spain, England and Germany. Their leads are so large — 15 points for Bayern, 12 for both United and Barcelona — that it would be truly stunning if they collapsed in the months ahead and failed to lift their domestic trophies.

Impressive, but not very illuminating.

The downside of such dominance is that it hasn't told us as much as we would like about how good Barcelona, United and Bayern actually are this season. Truly exceptional? Or made to look that way by domestic rivals performing less well than expected?

Which is why their progress in the knockout stages of the Champions League, starting with United's match Wednesday at Real Madrid, will be particularly interesting this year. Flunk this European test and it might be said that United, Barcelona and Bayern's 2013 teams didn't rank among their greatest, even if they win their domestic leagues by a country mile.

That said, Barcelona this season looks as awesome as its team that won the Champions League in 2011, when it gave a football lesson to United in the Wembley final. Lionel Messi is even more impressive than he was then, proving that he can perfect perfection. With two additional years in their 30-plus-year-old legs, you would give United defenders Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra even less chance now of thwarting Messi should their paths cross again in Europe in months ahead.

The effort of wresting away the Spanish league from Barcelona in 2012 seems to have exhausted Madrid. Two months ago, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho was already conceding that his team had fallen too far behind its historic rival to defend the Spanish title in 2013. That lack of sustained pressure from Madrid has made Barcelona's near-flawless season — 20 wins in 23 league games; 62 points from a possible 69 — seem a little less astounding than it is.

If Messi and friends want to be described again as the best club team in football history, as they were by some in 2011, they need to win this year in Europe, because running away with a lopsided Spanish league title won't, by itself, be enough. Anything less than a place in the Wembley final on May 25 would be a failure for a team that, in Messi, has arguably the best footballer ever. Barcelona's round-of-16 opponent in the Champions League is AC Milan.

In Germany, Bayern's defensive statistics in the Bundesliga almost defy belief. In 21 games, it has conceded just seven goals, better than any team in Europe's top leagues and considerably better than Barcelona or United. The only team to beat Bayern in league play, Bayer Leverkusen, is also the only team to have scored more than one goal against its miserly defense, getting two in Munich in October.

But, again, because Bayern has so monopolized its league, European competition could be a truer test of Franck Ribery and his teammates. Certainly, it's the only way to measure their determination to avenge 2012, when Chelsea pickpocketed them in the final in their own backyard in Munich. Bayern plays Arsenal in the round of 16.

Of the three, the current United team most needs a European stamp of approval to prove its worth. Buying Robin van Persie from Arsenal last summer was great business for United. He and Wayne Rooney look like they have played together for years, not months. Madrid has to stick a spanner in their attacking partnership to reach the Champions League quarterfinals. United manager Alex Ferguson must blunt the goal-scoring menace from Cristiano Ronaldo, his former protege. Those and other plot-lines make this a cerebral match-up.

At the end of the season, it will almost certainly be United parading through Manchester with the Premier League trophy. If United's winning margin is as big or bigger than now, its achievement almost certainly won't seem as impressive as it actually is. That will be because of the sneaking suspicion that Manchester City made it too easy for United and surrendered the title it won last year without enough of a fight.

Ferguson's teams, sometimes unfairly, also suffer in comparison with each other. The list of illustrious names at United who made history with Ferguson and before is so long that newer players need to do something special to make their own big mark.

Something like being the team that stopped Madrid from winning a 10th European crown. Or that won United its fourth. There'd be no better proof of quality.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester@ap.org.

Henry: Deduct points from teams with abusive fans

HARRISON, New Jersey (AP) — Thierry Henry wants football officials to deduct points in the standings from teams whose fans racially abuse players.

Several players have been targets of abuse from supporters in recent weeks, including American forward Jozy Altidore of Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, Barcelona defender Daniel Alves and AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who led his teammates off the field during a friendly in protest.

FIFA ordered Hungary and Bulgaria to play home World Cup qualifiers in empty stadiums next month for anti-Semitic and racist behavior by fans.

"Maybe take some points away," Henry said Monday during an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm not in charge of taking control of all the stuff. Those are only suggestions."

Henry, the former Arsenal and Barcelona star now with Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls, thinks more attention is being focused these days on fans who misbehave.

"It's not that it is happening more, it's more that the players are making people notice it more," he said. "A lot of the time, a player used to go along with it, so you guys wouldn't have known about it. ... Now the players are calling the ref and pointing at the guy and saying that guy is saying something bad."

Red Bulls teammate Tim Cahill says the issue is "not about points" but rather about disciplining the fans involved.

"For me it's a ban," he said. "I don't know if you can punish a whole club for some minority of supporters."

Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane also wants the supporters punished, not the club.

"You can't control everybody," he said. "The certain individual that does that has to be kind of just removed and banned from ever going to any game again."

On the other controversial topic of late in European football, Henry said he had no knowledge of any attempts at match fixing.

"I've never been involved in any of this type of thing," he said. "Surprising is the word."

Preparing for the start of his third full season with Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls, Henry said the league would get a boost if Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, his former Premier League rival, signs with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"I think it would be a perfect fit for this league and that can be something amazing. I don't know where he's going to go or if he comes. He might stay at Chelsea. Who knows?" Henry said. "What a professional and obviously what a player he still is because he's performing with Chelsea and he's performing for England."

Keane smiled when asked whether he had spoken with Lampard and wouldn't give a direct answer.

"Frank is a big-name player," he said. "Hopefully, we get him."

-- Ronald Blum

Keane would like to manage Ireland one day

HARRISON, New Jersey (AP) — Robbie Keane would like to manage Ireland in the future.

The 32-year-old forward, Ireland's captain and career scoring leader with 54 goals, has won two Major League Soccer titles with the Los Angeles Galaxy and last month agreed to a contract through 2014. When he's done playing, he'd like to move into management.

"Of course, that's my next step," he said Monday during an interview with The Associated Press at Red Bull Arena. "I'm going to get my coaching badges. I'd like to be a coach first and kind of learn the ropes and then definitely want to be a manager."

Keane's international goals are more than double the 21 of Niall Quinn, who is second for Ireland. Keane's 122 international appearances are three shy of the Irish record, held by goalkeeper Shay Given.

Ireland has been coached since 2008 by Giovanni Trapattoni. The Italian is only the second non-Irishman to lead the national team, following England's Jack Charlton from 1986-95.

"At the moment, there are no Irish managers," Keane said. "Pat Fenlon has done very well at Hibernian. He just came from the Irish League. He's doing very, very well. Apart from that, there's Mick McCarthy obviously. He's always going to be in the running to get the next job because I think he's well respected by everybody. There's not many former players that are managers, coaches at the moment. We need to do something about that."

Keane praised Trapattoni, whose team lost to Croatia, Spain and Italy at last year's European Championship

"He's doing a fantastic job. As long as he's there and wants to stay there, we're quite happy with that," he said.

Ireland has opened qualifying for next year's World Cup with wins at Kazakhstan and the Faeroe Islands and a 6-1 home loss against Germany. Next month, the Irish are away to Sweden and host Austria.

"The next two games are very important," Keane said. "Germany is going to win the group, I think it's obvious to see that. So it's up to us to try and finish second, which we've always done, always went into the playoff."

-- Ronald Blum

FIFA News

FIFA bans Canada forward Occean for six matches

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA has ordered Canada forward Olivier Occean to serve a six-match ban after being sent off and then insulting the referee during a World Cup qualifier against Cuba.

Occean was sent off after a scuffle during Canada's 3-0 victory in Toronto last Oct. 12. Occean then was involved in "several acts of unsporting behavior and using offensive language toward match officials," FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA also ordered the 31-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt player to pay a total of 8,500 Swiss francs ($9,250) to cover a fine and costs of the proceedings. He can appeal the sanctions.

Occean served the first of his six-match sanction days after the incident, when Canada lost 8-1 against Honduras and was eliminated from the 2014 World Cup.

Occean must serve his ban at competitive matches, starting with the Gold Cup tournament in July.

The Canada-Cuba qualifier previously attracted headlines as three visiting players defected, leaving a squad of just 11 for the match.

FIFA fines, warns Brazilian agent over Gomes deal

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA has fined and warned a second agent over the transfer of Brazil goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to Tottenham from PSV Eindhoven in 2008.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel fined Renato de Moura Ricardo 7,000 Swiss francs ($7,620) plus the costs of the proceedings. The case relates to rule breaches regarding proper contracts and paperwork.

On Friday, FIFA imposed the same sanctions on English agent Leon Angel.

Angel, whose clients include England coach Roy Hodgson, said he planned to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

FIFA says it was alerted to both cases by the English Football Association in 2011.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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