Scandal Strikes El Salvador; Tijuanamerica Prospers
The El Salvador federation suspended 22 players for match-fixing. Meanwhile, the American contingent at Club Tijuana continues to prosper, reports CONCACAF savant Jon Arnold.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
August 22, 2013
August 22, 2013
El Salvador SuspensionsAfter continued allegations of match manipulation, the El Salvador FA (FESFUT) announced Wednesday it is suspending 22 players for 30 days each while it investigates the accusations. Rodolfo "Fito" Zelaya, captain Victor Turcios, Dagoberto Portillo, Dennis Alas, and former D.C. United midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla are among those suspended. The federation's investigation is being conducted alongside the attorney general's office and officers began executing search warrants on players' residences late Wednesday night. Many of the suspended players have admitted to meeting with fixers but insist they never took any money. That includes Zelaya, one of the stars of the 2013 Gold Cup, who told ESPN Deportes he met with manipulators twice in the United States but never took money. "In no moment did I accept a dollar or cent to sell my country," he said before the suspensions were announced. Portillo, the starting goalkeeper during the Gold Cup, was one of eight players who had his house searched Wednesday night. He was less fervent in his defense, telling El Gráfico, "I'm not going to talk about that. I'm not in the mood," when reached after the announcement of the suspensions. One of his backups at the tournament, Alizna keeper Benji Villalobos, said he didn't understand why he was involved in the list just hours after he tweeted he met with people he didn't know but didn't take any money. He does, however, have the plausible deniability of not playing in any of the matches being investigated. The federation is investigating four matches and an attempt at influencing the U-20 team. The matches include a 2010 friendly against the United States in Tampa, Fla. Sacha Kljestan scored a stoppage-time goal after a lazy giveaway by Marvin Gonzalez to give the U.S. a 2-1 win. A friendly with D.C. United the same year that resulted in a 1-0 win for the MLS club is also among the four. El Salvador's Gold Cup opener, a 5-0 loss to Mexico in Cowboys Stadium that has long been reported as a suspicious match and a 3-0 friendly loss in Asuncion, Paraguay this February are the other two games that have caught the federation's attention. "There are more games we're in the process of investigating," FESUT President Carlos Mendez said at the news conference announcing the suspensions. That list could include more matches from the 2011 Gold Cup and matches from the 2011 Copa Centroamericana. Two of the 22 suspended players play overseas, including Turcios. The defender spoke out against match fixing during this year's Gold Cup, telling ESPN Deportes, "Our team is implicated in match-fixing, and we can't hide from it. At this [Gold] Cup, there was the pressure of the match-fixing. FIFA is investigating our federation. They are watching every time a goal is scored because there is match-fixing and we can't hide from it. If FIFA is investigating our federation, it is because something is happening." Through his club team, RoPS of Finland, he issued a statement nearly a week ago when the reports alleging he was involved in meetings were first published. "Recently I stood up against this terrible situation and exposed the problem, seeking attention from outside to the matter which is currently disturbing the development of the sport in my country. I have never taken part of any sort of unethical and illegal activity," it read in part. Suspensions for Turcios and Ramón Sánchez, who plays in Kazakhstan, will be up to FIFA to enforce, Mendez said. Reports in the Salvadoran press earlier this week speculated the number of players involved in match manipulation could be as large as 50. Even so, the federation's suspensions are a provisional first step, Mendez said, and there have been no definitive findings. Jaime Alas, an El Salvador international who joined the club on loan in July, declined an initial interview request to address his brother's suspension through the San Jose Earthquakes media relations department. A Chivas USA spokesperson told ASN that Steve Purdy, a defender who has more than a dozen caps with El Salvador and has not been implicated, would be available to talk to the media only about MLS-related topics. Inquires sent to other players who have spent time with the national team were not immediately returned. ASN will continue to update this story as it develops.
TijuanamericaThe American gang is taking over at Tijuana. OK, maybe not quite, but Paul Arriola (above) scored and Greg Garza, Joe Corona, Edgar Castillo, and Bruno Piceno all played in a 3-2 win against Victoria in the CONCACAF Champions League. They nearly didn't get the chance. The match was delayed by a massive storm and the subsequent loss of power at the stadium. The goal, Tijuana's first in CCL after an opening draw with Firpo, continues a hot streak for the 18-year-old, which we foresaw after his successful preseason. Maybe we didn't think he'd be quite this good. His continental goal comes just days after his Liga MX tally against Monterrey. Arriola, Corona, Castillo, and Garza all played that match, a 2-1 loss. Alonso Hernandez was an unused sub for los Rayados. The matches come fast and furious with Santos visiting Estadio Caliente on Friday. Herculez Gomez still hasn't recovered from his knee injury, so he won't play against his former team, but you can be pretty sure at least a couple other Americans will.
CONCACAF Champions LeagueWe've got our first real upset of the tournament, with the Montreal Impact heading to Guatemala with a reserve squad and coming back without any points after going down 10 men for the entire second half. The Los Angeles Galaxy weren't stunning but did get the job done at home against Cartagines with a 2-0 win behind goals from Robbie Keane—both assisted by Landon Donovan after he came on in the 61st minute. Houston Dynamo came back from Trinidad and Tobago with a scoreless draw that wasn't too notable. Honduran champs Olimpia tasted defeat for the first time in the domestic league but overcame that and beat Nicaraguan club Real Esteli 1-0 in Nicaragua. That all but eliminates Esteli from the group since Sporting Kansas City also got a road win there. Thursday it's the best match-up of the young tournament when Cruz Azul, Liga MX runners-up in the spring, host Costa Rican champions Herediano in Mexico City.
Americans in Liga MX and Copa MX
Video of the Week
As advertised, here's Carlos Vela scoring a great goal.Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.