- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Soccer fans certainly have much to ponder in the first days of the new year.

• The goal that wasn’t: English Premier club Tottenham Hotspur was denied a victory at Manchester United on Tuesday when Pedro Mendes’ 55-yard shot was fumbled over the goal line by goalie Roy Carroll, only to have game officials amazingly blow the call.

Video replays showed the ball at least two feet over the line before Carroll punched it out. The incident has reopened the debate whether goal-line technology is needed. And it comes after a recent announcement by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, that some video technology will be tried in future games.

According to one report, FIFA plans to have a microchip inserted in the game ball for the Carling Cup final in Cardiff, Wales, on Feb. 27. In Tuesday’s game, the assistant referee failed to confirm the ball had entered the frame of the goal because he was unable to sprint back quickly enough to see the play.

If the correct call had been made, Tottenham would have had its first win against the Red Devils since 1989; instead the game ended scoreless. Carroll, who made the apparent blunder, replaced American goalie Tim Howard as United’s starting goalie last season. I say bring back Howard.

• Split decision: On Dec. 12, Real Madrid’s game with Real Sociedad was abandoned because of a bomb threat with just three minutes remaining in a 1-1 contest. On Wednesday night, the clubs resumed play — a bizarre and unprecedented development — for just two minutes and 40 seconds of normal time (with four minutes of injury time added).

Brazilian star Ronaldo was fouled in the box, and French star Zinedine Zidane converted the penalty to end the affair 2-1 in favor of Madrid. It was the club’s first game under new coach Wanderley Luxemburgo, and he had to wait 24 days to savor the victory.

• Robinho to Spain: Brazil’s latest exciting player, Robinho, is rumored to be on the verge of joining Real Madrid. The 20-year-old, who helped Santos win the Brazilian championship last month, wants to move to Europe following his mother’s recent kidnapping by bandits. (She was held for 40 days before being released.)

Robinho, a Freddy Adu-type player, has speed and wonderful dribbling skills. Some critics think he is too frail to make it in Europe, but that’s what they said about American DaMarcus Beasley, who is now attracting attention in Holland.

• Spitting image: It’s hard to believe, but Senegalese star El-Hadji Diouf apparently forgot to make not spitting at people one of his New Year’s resolutions.

The Bolton striker has found himself in yet another saliva controversy. Diouf was accused of spitting at Birmingham City fans this week after he scored a goal in his club’s 2-1 win there.

In the past two years Diouf has been accused of spitting at Celtic fans and Middlesbrough fans. And he was fined and suspended in 2004 for spitting in the face of Portsmouth’s Arjan De Zeeuw.

• Family reunion: After once trading his son many years ago, Harry Redknapp, coach of struggling club Southampton, signed him in time for the Saints’ 3-3 tie with Fulham on Wednesday. Former England team star Jamie Redknapp was reunited with his father after leaving Tottenham on a free transfer. The 31-year-old midfielder played under his father at Bournemouth before being sold to Liverpool in 1991.

• Still no solution: The clock is ticking, but the U.S. Soccer Federation and the national team’s players still haven’t resolved their differences over a new contract. Both sides seem to have dug in their feet over the labor dispute, and the players are likely to reject an offer to bring in an arbitrator.

Looming on the horizon is the team’s crucial World Cup qualifying game at Trinidad and Tobago on Feb. 9. The USSF is threatening to use a bunch of “non-tested players” for the game if nothing is resolved by Feb. 1.

Here are a few players coach Bruce Arena might call up: goalies: Marcus Hahnemann, Joe Cannon; defenders: Jonathan Spector, Bryan Namoff, Robin Fraser, Troy Dayak; midfielders: Josh Gross, Danny Szetela, Brian Carroll, Jason Kries, Mark Chung; forwards: Freddy Adu, Jeff Cunningham, Dante Washington.

• Clint returns: Major League Soccer could do with a few more colorful characters, and fitting the bill is the return to MLS of Sports Illustrated cover boy Clint Mathis. Mathis signed with expansion club Real Salt Lake after a year in Germany. We can’t wait to see the former Mohawk lad back in action.

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