Major League Soccer

Video review is coming to MLS and here's what you need to know

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Major League Soccer

Video review is coming to MLS and here's what you need to know

Major League Soccer fans should prepare themselves to try to sound like rules experts because video review is coming to the league this weekend.

While goal line technology has been used in international FIFA tournaments and some of the top leagues in Europe, video review beyond determining if a ball went over the line or not has begun seeping into the game around the world as well. For MLS, the video assistant referee (VAR) starts now that the All-Star Game in Chicago has come and gone.

The system has been tested in the USL for the psat year and was in use the Homegrown Game at Toyota Park on Tuesday. In that game, VAR was used to determine if a collision involving Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez should have resulted in a red card. The call stood as originally called with no foul being given.

“We’ve always been a proponent of using technology to make our game better,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said is a press conference Wednesday before the All-Star Game. “If it was up to us, as opposed to the governing bodies of the sport, we’d have way more technology in our game than we even have today.”

Howard Webb, a retired English referee who reffed in two World Cups including the final in 2010, is managing the VAR program. His succinct catchphrase for the desired goal of VAR is “maximum benefit for minimum interference.”

Webb wants the flow of games to remain while having the ability to correct clear and important errors. The video assistant referee is watching each match and is able to signal the head official on the field that a play should be reviewed. The ref would then head to a monitor just outside the field ot play to look at the play in question. Even after review, the final decision remains with the head referee.

“This is about trying to correct errors that are made,” Garber said. “It’s not about trying to correct judgment.”

There are four types of calls that the new system allows to go under the scrutiny of video review: goals, penalty kicks, red cards and mistaken identity.

Goals

When there are “clear and obvious” errors in the goal itself or in the buildup to the goal, the play can be reviewed. This includes goal line decisions, a handball or a foul that aided the goal scoring team or an offside call that was missed. This goes both for goals that should have counted and weren’t and goals that were counted and shouldn’t have been.

Penalty kicks

This is similar to goals except for penalty kicks. Penalties that should have been awarded can be reviewed and given. Same goes for penalties that were given and shouldn’t have been.

Red cards

Direct red cards are also something that can be reviewed under video review. It has to be a straight red card for it to be reviewed. A second yellow card that results in a red card is not reviewable. One additional note is that if no card is given and video review is called to look at a potential red card, the ref may give a yellow card instead. Yellow cards or potential yellows are not reviewable.

Mistaken identity

This is the most straightforward of the four categories. If one player commits a foul that results in a card and the ref gives the card to the wrong player, video review can help to fix such situations.

Real Madrid announced as opponent for MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field

Real Madrid announced as opponent for MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field

It has been more than two months since Major League Soccer announced that the 2017 MLS All-Star Game would be coming to Soldier Field in Chicago, but now the opponent is finally known.

Real Madrid was announced as the team that will take on the MLS All-Star team on Wednesday, Aug. 2, with an 8 p.m. kickoff. Madrid becomes the first Spanish club to be included in the MLS All-Star Game.

Madrid has won the UEFA Champions League a record 11 times, including winning the competition last season. The team features a collection of some of the best talent in the world, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Sergio Ramos.

With the Chicago Fire serving as host for the All-Star Game, coach Veljko Paunovic will lead the MLS All-Stars in the game.

"It is an honor to represent Major League Soccer and to work with our league's great players in a match against one of the top clubs in the world," Paunovic said in a statement released by the Fire. "I know how special it is to compete against Real Madrid and I think our players and fans will enjoy the experience."

During his playing career, Paunovic played for one of Real Madrid's chief rivals, Atletico Madrid.

"That's a fantastic and very important event for the city, for the club and we are very grateful that we have this honor to play the MLS game against Real Madrid, one of the best teams in the world," Paunovic said after the Fire's 3-0 win against New England. "For everyone in the city I think it's a great opportunity to show how well we are prepared, how we can organize and how we can welcome everyone who is coming to watch the game. Also, we want to give all the fans around the world the opportunity to see a fantastic spectacle. I think that's our objective. We want to play well, we want to build a team and we want to give the fans the opportunity to enjoy in the United States, but broader, too. All around the world I think it's going to be a soccer holiday and we are very excited about it."

There will be a presale offering through the Fire, but tickets will go on sale to the public on May 4.

The MLS All-Star Game comes with a number of other events leading into the match, including the league's Homegrown Game which pits homegrown players from around the league against another youth team. Further details around those events have not yet been announced.

Fire finally land the big one in Bastian Schweinsteiger

Fire finally land the big one in Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian Schweinsteiger is going to play for the Chicago Fire.

That sentence being true isn't a big surprise after four months of rumors, but it still may feel odd.

After years of rumors, failed acquisitions and near misses, the Fire finally got a big name. From the Jermaine Jones blind draw to Montreal beating the Fire to Didier Drogba and even the near-signing of Alejandro Bedoya last year, the Fire have been rumored to add notable players on a few occasions in the last few years. This time the Fire finalized the deal and now have a marquee name for the first time since Cuauhtemoc Blanco played for the team from 2007-2009.

The move is an obvious marketing boon for the club. Schweinsteiger is a world famous player who has played for two of the biggest, most well-known and supported teams in the world in Bayern Munich and Manchester United. He has nearly 4 million Twitter followers (which is 35 times what the Fire's official account has).

Scan the internet for reaction to the signing and there is a scattering of 'I have to go to a game now' comments. That's what the Fire are going for.

General manager Nelson Rodriguez said Schweinsteiger may be the biggest name to ever play for the Fire.

"I think that there have been other great players who have worn red," Rodriguez said. "Players such as Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Hristo Stoichkov, Peter Nowak… with respect to all of those people I think Bastian is just another strata. It's a result of his having won with every team with which he played. He captured every major trophy for which he's contested. There's not many people in all of sports that can make similar claims."

Stoichkov won the 1994 Ballon d’Or, a world player of the year award, and scored the most goals in the 1994 World Cup so Rodriguez's claim may be dubious, but the point is Schweinsteiger's resume is in the upper tier of players.

On the other side, there are questions about how effective he will be for this team and how he will fit in. Schweinsteiger hasn't played a single Premier League match for Man U this season. He has played four cup games, but it's fair to wonder about the health and effectiveness of the 32-year-old. That said, just because a player can't get on the field for Manchester United doesn't mean he can't still be good enough to be effective for an MLS team.

"Bastian is bringing his quality as a person, as a human and his experience in the locker room," coach Veljko Paunovic said after training on Tuesday. "He's also very professional and there are many proofs for that. I don't think that I have to tell the people who we are bringing in our environment. It's just that we know for sure that he is going to be successful here. He is going to help our locker room grow, learn and win. With all the qualities that he brings on and off the field, I think it's enough for us to have a man and a leader in the locker room that can take us to have a great experience this year."

There have been plenty of big name players to join Major League Soccer past their prime. Some have succeeded (Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, David Villa) and some have not (Rafa Marquez, Freddie Ljungberg, Torsten Frings).

The comparison being mentioned most is Steven Gerrard. Gerrard played the same position as Schweinsteiger and joined the LA Galaxy from Liverpool in 2015 at age 35, three years older than Schweinsteiger is now. He made 34 appearances in a season and a half in MLS and totaled five goals and 14 assists, but struggled to cover ground defensively. Would the Fire be happy if Schweinsteiger turned out to be another Gerrard in MLS?

The timing of the move adds an extra twist considering the Fire just got thumped at expansion team Atlanta, a club which spent tons of money but did so on young South American talent. Not many soccer fans in America had previously heard of Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez or Hector Villalba, but Saturday's 4-0 win against the Fire showed all three are among the best talents in MLS and make Atlanta both a contender and a fun team to watch, making name recognition moot.

The best example of younger talent paying dividends is Seattle paying up to land midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro in the middle of last season. Lodeiro was 27 when Seattle signed him and he led the Sounders' turnaround from a team on the brink of falling out of playoff contention into MLS Cup champs.

In a time when the league has started to eschew older talent in lieu of younger players that don't have the name recognition attached to them, the Fire bring in a 32-year-old who hasn't played a league match all season and has a recent history of knee injuries.

Schweinsteiger's quality in midfield has been proven throughout his career and if he still has something left in his knees, he will be a good MLS player. How good and how much better does he make the Fire? That's the $4.5 million question.