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It's hat trick time again with a side of QOTD

Chicago Fire soccer can't come soon enough
Chicago Fire soccer can't come soon enough

The MLS offseason has certainly been interesting recently. Whether it was the Lee Nguyen lottery, the on again/off again Beckham to PSG debate (rumored to net Beckham 1 million dollars per month on an 18 month loan), or Americans to Europe talk, there hasn't been a shortage of news lately. A recent deluge of stories have come out recently linking Americans with moves to Europe. Follow me after the break for some juicy tidbits, as well as the other 2 parts of the hat trick and a QOTD...

1. Tim Ream, despite a long slump in both international and domestic duties, continues to interest European clubs. Training stints with West Bromwich Albion and Bolton have stirred talk of a European move. Eric Soler says it's not happening, but given the shambles that the Red Bulls are in club-wise right now, I am not so sure anyone should take what he says at his word. The article speculates that Ream will return to the MLS for another year, which I can see happening. I know he's not ready for the quality of the Premier League yet. I haven't seen enough to make me think he would be ready next year either. To me, you have to have more than a half season of success to put your name into the mix in the best soccer league in the world. But, if EPL clubs are interested, they must see something I don't in him.

Although not Earth shattering news, Brek Shea recently finished a training stint with Aresnal. He had a great time, and could see himself living there in the future according to this report. I am much higher on Shea opinion wise than Ream. Although I still think Shea should stay in MLS another 1-2 years (and I think he will), it's inevitable that he goes to Europe. While I want our talent to stay here to help the MLS grow, it's a great opportunity when our players get exposure in Europe and other leagues around the world. As the league grows, it will become more essential to keep our players, but right now the more visibility we can get in other leagues, the better to draw talent to the MLS down the road. Once the MLS becomes a force, if I am a player with a choice of going to America and actually playing or rotting on the bench of a European team, I know what I would choose.

Former LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle is on trial with West Ham because his current club, Ingolstadt, is in a relegation battle and is trying to trim it's payroll if they drop down. Think the Fire had a tough offseason with all the new faces this past season? Imagine if the MLS had relegation and we were forced to trim down the current already thin roster. It's not pretty and it forces you to let go of players you don't want to let go of. And for those wondering the difference between a player going to a club on a trial vs. a training stint, there isn't much really. If the club trialing or allowing the player to train likes that player, they will go get him. To me, it seems that if a club thinks a player has potential but is not sure, they call it a training stint and bring him in to see what the player can do. If they are more sure of the skill, they call it a trial since they would be interested in possibly obtaining the payer in the future. Don't be fooled though- a player can be signed from a training stint just as easily as a trial stint. Or not signed at all.

2. The second part of my hat trick is not so nearly light-hearted as the first. A couple of recent racism cases have popped up in the English Premier League. I don't need to tell anyone how bad racial abuse is, and a couple of world renowned soccer players are now in hot water for it. The first is Chelsea legend John Terry, who is alleged to have racially abused QPR's Anton Ferdinand in an October match. Although Terry maintains his innocence, apparently there is new video evidence of the altercation. Terry faces criminal charges over the incident. I certainly hope Terry is right and that he didn't commit the alleged offense, but if the prosecutors have video evidence, and they obviously feel they have a case to be pressing charges, then Terry needs to be a man about it and be honest. It's definitely a sad and unfortunate situation for those involved.

Another Premier League star, Liverpool's Luis Suarez, is in trouble as well for a similar incident. An October match was again the setting for an incident between Suarez and Manchester United's Patrice Evra. Suarez has been found guilty of a racial abuse charge, and has been served a whopping 8 match ban along with a 40,000 pound fine. In this article, Evra says that he had racial insults directed at him by Suarez at least 10 times. It is a truly unfortunate situation to read about, and I feel bad for Patrice Evra. There is no place for anything like this ever, including the field of battle in sports. I know from playing sports myself emotions can run high. You have to be able to control yourself, and situations like this are NEVER acceptable. Hopefully we won't have to hear of incidents like these again but sadly I don't think this will be the last incident of this type we hear about.

3. The 3rd part of the hat trick is a story in which I have a very strong opinion about. It involves Jozy Altidore in fact. I should say it doesn't involve him directly per se, but it does involve a match that his club, AZ Alkmaar was playing in. The match featured Dutch giants Ajax as an opponent, and the incident in question involves a fan that ran onto the field of play. Now, for anyone who follows international soccer in any capacity at all, this isn't exactly surprising news. It seems that there are a handful of stories every year involving international matches and fan uprising/violence. The story that I saw on this was from Wednesday, so it's still pretty fresh news.

Basically, in the middle of the match, a fan ran onto the pitch around the 36th minute and went after AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado. Alvarado reacted quickly, turned around and throwing out his leg as the fan was trying to jump kick the keeper. This knocked the fan down, and Alvarado then got in a couple of kicks to the fan's midsection before security jumped on the offender. The goalkeeper was rightly incensed, and was held back by teammates and opposing players. The match ended up being suspended due to the incident. However, before the AZ manager pulled his players off the pitch, the referee gave a red card to Alvarado. Yes, you read that correctly, a red card for defending himself. To me, that is a ridiculous decision, one that should see a fine and/or suspension from the referee.

Most of the Youtube videos have already been pulled down, but I found a working one courtesy of MSNBC (hopefully it still works when you read this). I am not sure if the embed will work, so if you want to watch the video you can link to it here. In reading some of the comments left on various sites with this story, some people were defending the decision to show red to the keeper and also felt that the fan should not have been touched. And this is where my strong reaction to the story comes from. Some people actually defended the card. That is flat out wrong in my opinion.

Some of the people defending the decision cited the fact that the goalkeeper would have kept on wailing on the fan had security not gotten there quickly. You can clearly see in the video that he backed off when the first security guard covered the attacking fan. Yes, the keeper needed to be held back by teammates, but this is common with sports incidents such as this. The players are pumped up, and the adrenaline is flowing. If he really wanted to break away and try to attack the fan some more, he would have tried a bit harder. The red card decision is just flat out wrong. I don't believe the keeper should have been penalized in any way. I can see it if the keeper starts an altercation with a fan, but when he is defending himself from attack? Come on. That's like saying if someone attacks you and tries to rob you, and you knock the attacker down, that you shouldn't be allowed to defend yourself and make sure that the person doesn't get up and come at you again. There's a reason why people like this are "subdued". So they can't continue to cause havoc. If someone attacks me, I am going to go down fighting and make sure that the assailant isn't going to come after me again if I let him off the ground.

What does the referee expect the goalkeeper to do here? Lay down in the fetal position and get wailed on? Let himself be attacked and not defend himself? Try to calmly subdue a person attacking you as a security guard would? It's flat out ridiculous to give out a card for this. He couldn't avoid the confrontation. It's not like the Phillies fan that got tazed in 2010. He didn't go after any players. If a fan runs onto the field of play because he thinks it's funny or because he's drunk or because he wants to cause a disruption, then I am all for not touching the fan and letting security do their jobs. But when the fan attacks a player? Then it's on. And again to those defending the decision in the article, what if the fan had been let up by the keeper after he tripped him? What if that fan had a knife? Or some sort of other weapon? He could have come after the keeper again vs. staying on the ground because he was getting kicked until security got there. In today's day and age, nothing should be taken for granted. I have no problem with what the keeper did while waiting for security.

If a fan decides to jump on the field of play, I think they deserve what they get. Especially when they try to attack a player. The keeper tripped him in defense, and kicked him twice. The fan is lucky he didn't get worse or that AZ's teammates didn't join in. I have no sympathy for what happens to someone that decides to stupidly attack a player at a sporting event. If you want to cause an incident, you damned well better be ready for the consequences. Especially when you figure in the fact that you don't know if that person is just being stupid or if they intend to try to kill you (yes, there are some fans that think this way). And don't get me wrong, I am not saying that a player or players should rightly maim an attacking fan. But to trip him, get a couple of kicks in self defense, and then let security do their thing? I don't see a problem with that at all. And to get a red card for it? Not acceptable unless you go over the line in dealing with an opposing fan. End of rant.

**Update: This story was going to be posted yesterday, but since James had a piece ready to go, it got pushed back until today. Since then, the Dutch soccer powers that be have rescinded Alvarado's red card in light of the special situation. So that is good news to me. However, I thought it would still make for a good discussion, so I have left my original thoughts above. I have also left the poll the same for those that think the red card should stand. I still stand behind my view that the fan got what he deserved.

Question of the Day:

I am gonna tie this in to the last point of the hat trick. What say you, the readers? Do you think the keeper was right in what he did? Do you think he should have seen a red card for it? I thought this would make for a pretty good debate from most of the comments I read on various sites. Weigh in below with the poll (and the comments if you would like).