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On sending Henry to Barcelona and MLS changes


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GRAHAME L. JONES' SOCCER BEAT / Q&A

On sending Henry to Barcelona and MLS changes

By Grahame L. Jones, Times Staff Writer

June 7, 2007

http://www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/la-spw-soccerqa6jun07,1,5626038.story?coll=la-headlines-sports-soccer&ctrack=3&cset=true

Reader questions for Times soccer beat writer Grahame Jones:

Question: Do you think there is any truth to the rumor that Arsenal is prepared to send Thierry Henry to Barcelona for Samuel Eto'o? Would they really let the "face" of their club leave?

— Darryl T. Street

Answer: Unthinkable as it might sound, a move away from Arsenal might be the best thing for the French striker, who turns 30 in August. Henry, who joined the Gunners in 1999, perhaps needs a change of scenery to restore his enthusiasm. He might well be intrigued by the prospect of playing alongside such equally technically gifted players as Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi.

Then too, Arsenal, which finished fourth in the Premier League this season, is going to have to do something to overtake Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, who are busily revamping their own teams. Swapping Henry for Eto'o would make for a pretty formidable duo at the Emirates Stadium: Eto'o and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Henry is being noncommittal about a possible trade. "Since I started playing football, there has been speculation about me going to a lot of clubs," he said at a promotional appearance in Beijing last week. "That will never, ever stop. But as I said, for now I'm an Arsenal player. There is nothing to add to it. For now I'm an Arsenal player. That's all I can tell you."

Very few clubs in the world could afford the $40 million or more it will take to acquire Henry, but new European champion AC Milan is one of them. Just this week, Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti said that the Frenchman is "among the players we are interested in."

But if Henry makes a move, Barcelona seems a more likely bet.

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Q: If Sevilla and Real Madrid should finish together atop the La Liga standings this season, what tiebreaking rule would determine the champion? They split their two matches and total goals were equal.

— Jeff Tufts

A: For the two teams to finish in a first-place tie, Sevilla would have to win its final two matches and Real Madrid and Barcelona would have to fail to win at least one of their final two. So it's a long shot for Sevilla, but stranger things have happened.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head competition and, as you state, Real and Sevilla are tied on that front. The second tiebreaker is goal differential, and going into the last two games, Sevilla holds a 30-24 advantage over Madrid.

Two wins for Sevilla and a win and a tie each for Real Madrid and Barcelona would cause a three-way tie, and untangling that would be something to behold. Real would top Barcelona on the strength of head-to-head results, but Sevilla might still top Real on goal differential.

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Q: What is the status of stadium-building for New York, D.C. United, Kansas City and Real Salt Lake? Also, do you think MLS is committed to conforming its schedule to Europe's schedule once all the stadiums are built? I believe football is best played in the fall, winter and spring, not in summer.

— Anthony Amoroso

A: There have been significant setbacks for all four proposed stadium projects, but at least three of them appear to be moving forward.

The Red Bulls have had to delay their stadium opening in Harrison, N.J., after the site turned out to be a bigger environmental nightmare than imagined. In a letter to season-ticket holders two weeks ago, the club said the 25,000-seat stadium would not be ready until late in the third quarter of 2008 and possibly not until 2009.

Meanwhile, D.C. United is still on course to have a $40-million, 27,000-seat stadium up and running at Poplar Point, across the Anacostia River from their current home, by 2009. Real Salt Lake apparently has put the political problems behind it and is on track to build a stadium in Sandy.

The Wizards, under new ownership and doing well on the field, open a new training facility this month, but, to quote the club, "the search for a permanent home continues."

As for the move to a winter season, there is no way. The weather in too many MLS cities would prohibit it. The greater likelihood is a split season of March to May and August to October, with a two-month break in the middle for international tournaments such as the World Cup or Gold Cup, and playoffs as usual in November.

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Q: In rugby, when the ball is thrown back into play, the lineout players bodily lift their teammates into the air to intercept the ball. Is there anything in soccer rules that would prevent similar actions during, say, a corner kick?

— Shannon Joseph Cream

A: What would be the point? Soccer is about ball control, and having, for example, Nate Jaqua of the Galaxy lift Landon Donovan four or five feet into the air, a la Nureyev and Fonteyn, is not going to help either player gain possession, much less control and play the ball.

If you mean simply to gain height for heading the ball at goal, there is no specific prohibition written into the rules, but it would be considered unsportsmanlike conduct within the spirit of the game and, as such, disallowed.

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Readers can send their questions about MLS or international soccer to Grahame Jones; please put "Q&A" in the subject field. Write: grahame.jones@latimes.com.

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