Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: England’s Roy Hodgson not fond of NFL games at Wembley Stadium

Not pretending:  The pitch at Wembley Stadium ‘is not in the best of nick,’ after NFL games are played to the dismay of England coach Roy Hodgson.
Not pretending: The pitch at Wembley Stadium ‘is not in the best of nick,’ after NFL games are played to the dismay of England coach Roy Hodgson. AFP/Getty Images

Not everybody in London is excited about news that more NFL games are scheduled for Wembley Stadium, including the Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets next season.

England national team coach Roy Hodgson is none too amused, and criticized the English Football Association for allowing games to be played shortly before important soccer matches. This Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars play the Dallas Cowboys, and six days later England plays Slovenia in a Euro 2016 qualifier. It is the third NFL game to be played there this fall.

“I can’t pretend that is something that makes me leap for joy,” Hodgson said. “If I was asked if it was a good thing or not, I would have to say not. I don’t really think you could expect me to say ‘excellent, delighted, well done.’ The pitch, unfortunately, is not in the best of nick anyway, which we’re all a bit unhappy with.”

Hodgson said the grounds crew will have to “work their socks off’’ to get the field back in shape for the Slovenia match.

On Thursday, the NFL and Wembley announced there will be three more games there next year, and one of them —the Dolphins vs. Jets on Oct. 4 — will be five days before England plays Estonia in its final home qualifier.

MLS Playoffs

The second legs of the MLS conference semifinals are this weekend, and all of them are compelling. Former Miami Fusion player Jay Heaps, now coach of the New England Revolution, leads his team at home against the Columbus Crew (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN2). The Revs are up 4-2 on aggregate, so it will be tough for the Crew to make up the difference.

The Sunday night game between Real Salt Lake and the L.A. Galaxy (7:30, ESPN2) could be Landon Donovan’s last. Los Angeles is winless over the past four matches and hasn’t scored in 220 minutes. Donovan hasn’t scored in four matches against RSL. Will he break out and extend his career another few weeks? Stay tuned.

Finally, on Monday (10:30 p.m., NBCSN), Dallas heads to Seattle to battle the Sounders and their amazing fans.

Messi Milestone

Lionel Messi scored both goals for Barcelona in a 2-0 win over Ajax in Amsterdam, tying Raul for most Champions League goals in history with 71.

It was an exciting week on the Champions League, but one Manchester City fans would like to forget. The English Premier League champions dropped to dead last in their group after a 2-1 home loss to CSKA Moscow. It was the first time Moscow won a match in England.

Although City beat rival Manchester United last Sunday in a league derby, it lost three matches prior to that, and this Moscow loss was a devastating blow to the star-studded squad.

“It’s very difficult to understand why we played so badly,” manager Manuel Pellegrini told Sky Sports.

“We were nervous. We didn’t play. It’s difficult to know why you have such a low performance from important players. It’s a strange moment. I don’t think it’s just this competition — in the last two weeks we are not playing the way we normally do. I don’t understand but we must find a reason. It’s a crisis of confidence.”

City wasn’t the only Premier League team disappointed with its result. Chelsea tied 1-1 with Slovenian team NK Maribor, an unheralded club it had beaten easily 6-0 in the opening round. Eden Hazard missed a late penalty kick, a rarity for a player who had made 27 of 30.

In other key Champions League matches, Bayern Munich beat AS Roma 2-0, following up on a 7-1 victory in Italy in the first leg. Goals were scored by Mario Gotze and Franck Ribery. PSG beat Apoel Nicosia 1-0, Atletico Madrid beat Malmo 2-0, Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 and Arsenal tied Anderlecht 3-3.

Career hurdle

Finally, on a lighter note, a TV reporter in Serbia almost lost her job as host of Red Star’s show because she was so attractive she was distracting the players during practice and interviews.

Katarina Sreckovic, 25, explains: “I admit it was a problem at the start, but I think they’ve got used to me now. It was tough, though because for a while it seemed as if they might not be able to work with me at all. I was also asked to go away a couple of times because I was a distraction on the pitch and players complained that they couldn’t concentrate.”

Who’s Leading

English Premier League: Chelsea (29), Southampton (25), Manchester City (21), West Ham (18) and Arsenal (17)

French Ligue 1: Marseille (28), PSG and Bordeaux (24), Lyon and Nantes (23), St.Etienne 21

Serie A: Juventus (25), Roma (22), Sampdoria and Lazio (19), Napoli (18)

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (27), Wolfsburg and Monchengladbach (20), Hannover (19), Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen (17)

La Liga: Real Madrid (27), Barcelona (25), Valencia and Atletico Madrid (23), Sevilla (22), Malaga (20)

On the tube

Sunday: Tottenham vs. Stoke City (8:30 a.m., NBCSN), Juventus vs. Parma (9 a.m., BeInSportUSA), Swansea vs. Arsenal (11 a.m., NBCSN), Dortmund vs. Monchengladbach (11:30 a.m., GOL-TV), New England vs. Columbus Crew (5 p.m., ESPN2), LA vs. Real Salt Lake (7:30 p.m., ESPN2)

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