Tag Archives: lifts

Biden lifts freeze on green cards enacted by Trump earlier in pandemic

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday lifted a freeze on green cards issued by his predecessor during the pandemic that lawyers said was blocking most legal immigration to the United States.

Former president Donald Trump last spring halted the issuance of green cards until the end of 2020 in the name of protecting the coronavirus-wracked job market — a reason that Trump gave to achieve many of the cuts to legal immigration that had eluded him before the pandemic.

Trump on Dec. 31 extended those orders until the end of March.

Trump had deemed immigrants a “risk to the U.S. labour market” and blocked their entry to the United States in issuing Proclamation 10014 and Proclamation 10052.

‘It harms the United States’

Biden stated in his proclamation Wednesday that shutting the door on legal immigrants “does not advance the interests of the United States.”

“To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world,” Biden stated in his proclamation.

Most immigrant visas were blocked by the orders, according to immigration lawyers.

As many as 120,000 family-based preference visas were lost largely because of the pandemic-related freeze in the 2020 budget year, according to the American Immigrant Lawyers Association. Immigrants could not bring over family members unless they were U.S. citizens applying for visas for their spouses or children under the age of 21.

It also barred entry to immigrants with employment-based visas unless they were considered beneficial to the national interest such as health care professionals.

And it slammed the door on thousands of visa lottery winners who were randomly chosen from a pool of about 14 million applicants to be given green cards that would let them live permanently in the United States.

The blocked visas add to a growing backlog that has reached 437,000 for family-based visas alone, said California immigration lawyer Curtis Morrison, who represented thousands of people blocked by the freeze.

A backlog could remain


Former U.S. president Donald Trump, seen giving a thumbs-up to supporters in West Palm Beach, Fla., earlier this month, halted the issuance of green cards until the end of March, deeming them a ‘risk to the U.S. labour market.’ (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post/The Associated Press)

“I’m thrilled for my clients who are now in a position that they can now enter the U.S.,” he said. “But that backlog will take years if the administration does not take ambitious measures.”

A federal judge last year issued a ruling that all but lifted Proclamation 10052 by allowing temporary foreign workers to enter the United States if their employers are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or several other large organizations that represent much of the U.S. economy.

But Proclamation 10014 continued to block thousands of immigrants.

Immigration lawyers said they were surprised Biden did not immediately lift the freeze like he did with Trump’s travel ban imposed against people from mostly Muslim-majority countries. As a result, some immigrants blocked by the travel ban found they still could not come to the United States because of the freeze.

Biden’s actions come only days after thousands of visa lottery winners at risk of having their visas expire won a court order that put their visas on hold by the judge in the case. Now they will be allowed to use their visas to enter the country.

The United States makes available up to 55,000 visas a year for immigrants whose nationalities are underrepresented in the U.S. population. The visas must be used within six months of being obtained.

Meanwhile, Biden has proposed legislation that would limit presidential authority to issue future bans against immigrants.

The president has not said whether there will be any redress for visa lottery winners who lost out because of the pandemic-era policies. But he is calling for the U.S. to increase the number of diversity visas available via the lottery each year from 55,000 to 80,000.

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Late winner lifts U.S. over Finland, sets up showdown with Canada for world junior gold

The United States will play for gold at the world junior hockey championship after beating Finland 4-3 on Monday in the tournament semifinals.

Arthur Kaliyev broke a 3-3 deadlock with 1:16 to go with a snap shot from the slot to advance the Americans into the gold-medal game against Canada.

Alex Turcotte, John Farinacci and Matthew Boldy also scored for the Americans, who have won gold four previous times including their last one in 2017.

Kasper Simontaival had a pair of goals and Roni Hirvonen also found the back of the net for Finland, which will face Russia for bronze.

WATCH | Kaliyev’s late tally sends U.S. to gold-medal game:

Arthur Kaliyev’s goal with 1:16 to play in the third period gave the United States a 4-3 win over Finland in the world juniors semifinal. 0:26

Spencer Knight, one of eight returning players for a U.S., team that finished sixth last year following a quarterfinal loss against Finland, stopped 33-of-36 shots. Kari Piiroinen made 21 saves for the Finns.

Canada, last year’s gold-medal winner, blanked the 2020 silver medallists from Russia 5-0 in Monday’s other semifinal. Both medal games go Tuesday at Rogers Place.

Turcotte held off a Finnish defender to swipe home a bouncing puck from the top of the crease to open the scoring at 12:39 of the first period.

The Finns responded quickly on a power play, with Simontaival finishing off a one-touch pass from Kasper Puutio on a set play at 14:06 to even the score.

Knight stopped 18-of-19 shots through 40 minutes, and was rewarded by his teammates when the U.S. struck twice in a 1:07 span of the second period to take a two-goal lead into the third frame.

Jackson LaCombe caught Finland making a change and sprung Farinacci on a breakaway with a slick pass up the middle from his own zone, with the American forward snapping the puck past Piiroinen at 15:53 of the second.

Then while on a man advantage, Boldy tipped in a perfect snap pass from Trevor Zegras at the side of the net to make it 3-1 with three minutes to go in the period.

Zegras’ assist gives him 16 points in six games and ties him with Jeremy Roenick (1989) for the second highest single tournament point total in American history. Doug Weight set the record with 19 points in 1991.

Simontaival brought Finland back within one midway through the third when he took a pass on his forehand in the slot and snapped it glove side on Knight, and Hirvonen supplied the game-tying goal off a rebound in front on a power play with 3:43 remaining.

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Pozuelo’s late penalty lifts Toronto FC to comeback win over Inter Miami

Thanks to second-half goals Sunday by Ayo Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC goes into the final week of the MLS regular season with a shot at the Supporters’ Shield.

Toronto’s 2-1 comeback win over Inter Miami coupled with Philadelphia’s 2-1 defeat at Columbus earlier in the day left TFC and the Union with identical 13-4-5 records.

But Toronto will have to win at the New York Red Bulls next Sunday and hope Philadelphia drops points against visiting New England given the Union have the tiebreaker edge.

“With everything that transpired today…(it) means it goes down to the last game, which is what we were hoping for today” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney.

That is assuming COVID-19 doesn’t complicate matters with cancellations on the final day of the regular season.

The Supporters’ Shield goes to the team with the best-regular season record — and the playoff home-field advantage and US$ 150,00 prize that goes with it. Toronto won it in 2017 when it also claimed the MLS Cup and Canadian Championship.

Due to pandemic-related game cancellations, MLS has decided that 2020 playoff qualification will be decided by points per game rather than total points. The next relevant tiebreaker in this case is goal difference, where Philadelphia holds a 22-8 edge over Toronto, so the Union will get the trophy if both win Sunday.

Pozuelo delivered the winner in the 84th minute from the penalty spot Sunday and Toronto staved off a late Miami charge for the victory. Not for the first time, Richie Laryea created the penalty — going down at contact with defender Ben Sweat after slashing into the penalty box.

WATCH | Pozuelo nets game-winner from the penalty spot:

Alejandro Pozuelo delivers the winner on a penalty in the 84th minute as Toronto FC defeats Inter Miami 2-1. 0:47

“When you’re getting tired in the latter part of the game, for any team, dealing with Richie is a nightmare,” said Vanney.

Pozuelo left goalkeeper John McCarthy rooted to the spot as he converted his 11th penalty in MLS regular-season and playoff action. It was his ninth goal of the season and his seventh straight penalty kick success — and fifth this season.

“We already knew it was a goal before he even took it,” said Akinola.

It was Toronto’s first-ever meeting with expansion Miami (6-13-3). And it marked Toronto’s 13th straight game away from BMO Field. A limited number of spectators was allowed for the first time during Toronto’s time in East Hartford with attendance announced at 1,394 on a rainy, windy night at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.

Toronto chartered home after the game, for a few days under quarantine with loved ones before returning south for the regular-season finale.

Toronto was coming off back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and New York City FC that followed a nine-game undefeated run (7-0-2). Miami lost 2-1 at FC Dallas midweek and has won just one of its last five (1-3-1).

While Toronto had almost 65 per cent of possession in the first half, it managed just one shot on target.

Blaise Matuidi broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute after Toronto fullback Tony Gallacher lost the ball to Lewis Morgan on the right flank. Morgan’s first attempt at a cross from the byline hit Chris Mavinga but the ball came back to him.

His second attempt then bounced off Michael Bradley to Matuidi, whose low left-footed shot found the corner on the goal. It was Miami’s first shot on target and a first MLS goal for Matuidi, a World Cup winner with France whose club resume includes Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Akinola ties it up

Toronto tied it up in the 55th minute when Akinola, returning from injury, outmuscled a Miami defender to get to a high ball from substitute Patrick Mullins. He controlled it with his chest twice as he headed towards goal, then poked a shot past McCarthy for his ninth of the season.

Miami star forward Gonzalo Higuain came close to a 79th-minute goal but his swerving shot — after a magnificent touch to control a cross — cracked off the crossbar.

Vanney made six changes to his starting lineup.

Restored to health, Akinola and Mavinga made their first starts since Oct. 14. There was also a first MLS start for 18-year-old midfielder Ralph Priso, who had looked lively in two appearances off the bench since signing a first-team contract Oct. 14.

“I thought he was excellent…For his first start in MLS, that’s a hell of a way to start,” said Vanney.

Brazilian fullback Auro returned from suspensions with defender Eriq Zavaleta and Tsubasa Endoh also inserted into the starting 11.

Crowded injury list

But fullback Justin Morrow joined a crowded injury list that includes goalkeeper Alex Bono, midfielders Marky Delgado and Jonathan Osorio and forwards Jozy Altidore, Piatti and Achara.

“If we put everybody in bubble wrap and we get through the next week, we should get a couple of guys back,” said Vanney.

Altidore and Piatti are the longest-term casualties and may not be ready until the playoffs.

Miami was missing three-quarters of its backline with centre backs Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Andres Reyes suspended and fullback Nico Figal injured.

Entering weekend play, Miami was on the fringe of the playoffs in 11th place in the Eastern Conference going into weekend play, just behind Chicago. The top 10 makes the playoffs in the East with No. 7 facing No. 10 and No. 8 meeting No. 9 in play-in games.

“We have many key players missing but we had players that were able to step up…and we lost a match that we deserved to win,” Miami coach Diego Alonso said through an interpreter.

Whitecaps eliminated with loss to Timbers

The Vancouver Whitecaps have been eliminated from the playoffs after suffering a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

With Major League Soccer’s berths being determined based on points per game this season, the ‘Caps (8-13-0) needed at least a tie against Portland (11-5-5) to keep their post-season dreams hopes alive. This is the third year in a row that the Whitecaps have missed the playoffs.

Yimmi Chara scored the lone goal on Sunday with an assist from Jorge Villafana.

Portland’s Steve Clark stopped two on-target shots for his fifth clean sheet of the season, and Evan Bush made one save for Vancouver.

The two sides battled through a scoreless first half before the Timbers finally broke the stalemate in the 61st minute.

Villafana got the ball to Chara just outside of the six-yard box and the Colombian midfielder’s shot sailed past Bush before he could get down to make the stop.

The first half saw a defensive battle between the two sides, with Portland controlling 57 per cent of the possession. The Timbers outshot the Whitecaps 6-to-5, but only one was one target.

Fredy Montero nearly put Vancouver ahead with a header in the 45th minute. The ball hung in the air before it was swept off the goal line by Diego Chara.

Vancouver amped up the offensive power to close out the game, swapping more defensive minded players like Jake Nerwinski for forward Theo Bair after the Timbers’ goal. Cavallini got a big opportunity directly in front of the Portland net in the 80th minute but Clark scooped up the shot, despite traffic in front of the net.

Dike sends Orlando City past Montreal

Daryl Dike scored for the third consecutive game and Orlando City beat the Montreal Impact 1-0 on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena.

Montreal (7-13-2) has lost three in a row and five of six.

Despite the loss, the Impact remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. D.C. United and Inter Miami both had a chance to jump over Montreal in the standings Sunday night had they won, yet both teams lost to New England and Toronto, respectively.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Dike ran on to a perfectly played through ball from Mauricio Pereyra and rolled in a one-touch shot from the centre of the area in the 39th minute. The 20-year-old rookie scored his seventh goal of the season.

WATCH | Dike lifts Orlando City over Impact:

Daryl Dike’s goal in the 39th minute lifts Orlando City SC to a 1-0 victory over Montreal Impact. 1:08

Orlando City (10-3-8) has won back-to-back games after a loss to Inter Miami on Oct. 24 that snapped a 12-game unbeaten streak.

Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese had five saves, including a diving stop in the 92nd minute, for Orlando City. He has three shutouts this season.

Montreal will play for a playoff spot on Decision Day next Sunday afternoon against D.C. United in their final match of the season. Orlando City SC has already clinched a playoff spot and has two more matches to play. They will play Columbus on Wednesday before meeting Nashville Sunday.

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CBC | Soccer News

Piatti’s late winner lifts league leading Toronto FC over Atlanta United

Pablo Piatti scored in the 89th minute to lift Toronto FC to a 1-0 win over Atlanta United on Sunday night, extending its undefeated MLS run to nine games.

Substitute Richie Laryea made the play, teasing a defender before sending in a cross to Piatti, who flicked a header past Brad Guzan and in off the post for his fourth goal of the season.

It marked Toronto’s seventh 1-0 win of the season and 10th victory overall by a one-goal margin.

Scoring chances had been few and far between at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. Despite coming into the game 19 points below Toronto in the standings, Atlanta proved to be a tough nut to crack.

After a quiet first half, Atlanta (5-10-4) showed more teeth in attack when it brought on designated players Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno at halftime. Atlanta’s lone shot on target came in the 68th minute with goalkeeper Quentin Westberg forced to make a smart save off a downward header from substitute Erick Torres.

Atlanta, which ranks 23rd in the league in goal-scoring, is winless in four games (0-1-3) during which it has scored just once.

Toronto (12-2-5) is 6-0-3 in its last nine outings. It has lost just two of 29 regular-season games (15-2-12) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.

TFC had won five straight matches prior to a 1-1 midweek tie with the New York Red Bulls.

WATCH | Piatti’s 89th winner continues TFC’s undefeated MLS run:

Pablo Piatti’s goal in the 89th minute lifts Toronto FC to 1-0 victory over Atlanta. 1:15

Atlanta was coming off a 1-1 midweek tie with Inter Miami and had won just one of its previous five games (1-2-2). The Five Stripes came into the game in 11th place in the East, one place below the playoff line.

Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who missed the last nine games with a knee injury, came on in the 20th minute to replace Jonathan Osorio, who was feeling tightness. It marked only Bradley’s second substitute appearance in 201 career MLS regular-season matches.

The game was the fifth in 16 days for both teams.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney made four changes to the midweek starting 11 that tied the Red Bulls 1-1 with Tony Gallacher, Laurent Ciman, Tsubasa Endoh and Patrick Mullins coming in for Richie Laryea, Chris Mavinga, Nick DeLeon and Ayo Akinola.

Akinola and Mavinga were nursing slight hamstring issues.

Barco had missed the last seven games through injury. Moreno, an Argentine midfielder signed on Sept. 22, played 61 minutes in his Oct. 10 debut — a 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls — but did not figure against Miami.

There were dangers signs early, with an Atlanta giveaway leading to an Alejandro Pozuelo shot that was on target but lacked pace in the third minute. The Spaniard had another chance five minutes later but his shot went straight at Guzan.

At the other end, Mexican winger Jurgen Damm tested the left side of the Toronto defence.

Omar Gonzalez’s header off a Toronto corner in the 40th minute when straight at Guzan. Seconds later, Bradley found Piatti whose hard shot was parried away by Guzan.

Pozuelo’s swerving shot was off target in the 52nd minute.

The last meeting between the two teams was in the Eastern Conference final in October 2019 when Toronto prevailed 2-1 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium thanks to a 78th-minute winner by DeLeon.

Guzan was the only returnee from that playoff game in Atlanta’s starting 11 Sunday, Toronto had seven of its starters from that game in its opening lineup.

Toronto was slated to charter home after the game to spend two days with family, under quarantine, before returning to East Hartford to prepare for a game next Saturday in Philadelphia. TFC has four regular-season games remaining.

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CBC | Sports News

Short lifts Red Stars past Royals in NWSL’s Challenge Cup

Casey Short scored in the 85th minute and the Chicago Red Stars beat the Utah Royals 1-0 on Sunday night in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup.

Short’s header off Savannah McCaskill’s cross gave the Red Stars their first win of the group stage at Zions Bank Stadium. U.S. national team goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher got three saves in the shutout, and now has 11 saves in four Challenge Cup games.

The Royals rested their usual starters, including Amy Rodriguez and Vero Boquete.

Utah’s Taylor Leach was injured in a collision during the opening half and was replaced by Elizabeth Ball. Kelly O’Hara, who was coming off an injury and hadn’t played in the tournament, came in off the bench for the Royals in the 71st minute.

WATCH | Late goal pushes Red Stars past Royals FC:

Chicago Red Stars defeat Utah Royals FC 1-0 with Casey Short’s winner in the 8th minute. 1:04

The Red Stars subbed out starter Tierna Davidson, who was making her Challenger Cup debut, in the first half. Morgan Gautrat, formerly Morgan Brian, hurt her right knee at the end of the first half.

It was the final match of the group stage of the tournament for both teams.

Earlier in the day, the Washington Spirit beat the Houston Dash 1-0. That moved the Spirit into second in the tournament standings behind the North Carolina Courage.

The standings at the end of the group stage Monday will determine seeding for the quarterfinals. The field was reduced to eight teams when the Orlando Pride had to withdraw after several players tested positive for COVID-19.

WATCH | Naeher makes impressive diving stop:

Chicago Red Stars goalie Alyssa Naeher dives for a great stop on Utah Royals FC forward Arielle Ship.  0:47

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MLS lifts moratorium, allows full team training

A day after announcing a deal with its players’ association to resume the season with a tournament in Florida, Major League Soccer says teams may resume training.

MLS says each player and staff member must complete two tests for the coronavirus 24 hours apart, 72 hours ahead of the start of training. Every player also must have a test for antibodies and a physical.

Once training starts, players, coaches and some staff must be tested for the virus every other day. An individual who tests positive would be isolated, tested again at least 24 hours later, and all close contacts would be tested. High-risk individuals must be cleared to participate by the team’s chief medical officer in consultation with the MLS medical staff.

Testing for antibodies will take place every three months. Testing providers must be authorized by the FDA or Health Canada.

WATCH | MLS players ratify new agreement, return-to-play plan:

MLS players have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that includes a return to play plan. 1:25

Training rooms and gyms will be restricted to a maximum five people, and lockers should be spaced a minimum 10 feet apart. Doors should be left open.

Food is restricted to individual, prepackaged meals and individually wrapped utensils, and 10 feet of distancing is necessary while eating.

Staff is to use appropriate personal protective equipment.

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Hockey Canada lifts ban on sanctioned activities, lets members decide on return

Hockey Canada has lifted its ban on sanctioned activities and is allowing the country’s 13 member organizations to individually determine when it’s safe to return to action.

The move is a first step toward resuming play after Hockey Canada cancelled all activities under its banner March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hockey Canada said in a statement the best approach for a resumption plan was for each member to work with regional public health authorities to determine the appropriate steps to return in areas that fall under their jurisdiction.

The sport’s national body said it expects the timing for a return to the ice will differ among its members. Certain regions of the country are further along with plans to reopen and roll back restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Hockey Canada’s 13 members are: BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association, Hockey Manitoba, Hockey Northwestern Ontario, Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Eastern Ontario, Hockey Quebec, Hockey New Brunswick, Hockey PEI, Hockey Nova Scotia, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, and Hockey North.


Melody Davidson leaves Hockey Canada

Decorated women’s hockey coach Melody Davidson has joined Own The Podium as a summer-sport adviser.

She coached the Canadian women’s hockey team to Olympic gold in both 2006 and 2010.

Davidson switched to a managerial role overseeing Canada to another gold medal in 2014 and a silver in 2018.

She then remained with Hockey Canada as women’s head scout while mentoring former player Gina Kingsbury to take over as director of national women’s teams.

Davidson coached Canada in four world championships and won gold twice.


Melody Davidson took the Canadian women to gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The 57-year-old from Oyen, Alta., also served as the International Ice Hockey Federation’s lead coaching mentor to improve the international women’s game following the 2010 Winter Olympics.

She’s been involved in women’s hockey for a quarter-century starting with the 1995 Canada Games, when she stood behind Alberta’s bench.

Davidson was named to the Canadian Women and Sport’s most influential women’s list five straight years from 2007 to 2011.

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Michelle Obama Lifts Students’ Spirits in ‘MTV Prom-athon’ Speech

Michelle Obama Lifts Students’ Spirits in ‘MTV Prom-athon’ Speech | Entertainment Tonight

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Nigerian rookie Achara’s late goal lifts Toronto FC past New York City FC

Nigerian rookie Ifunanyachi Achara scored late in his MLS debut to give Toronto FC a 1-0 win over New York City FC on Saturday.

A NYCFC giveaway started the counter-attack. Alejandro Pozuelo swept the ball wide to Richie Laryea whose cross deflected off defender Ronald Mataritta to the far corner of the goal where Achara rose high to head it in in the 81st minute.

The goal gave coach Greg Vanney his 100th win for Toronto FC in all competitions.

There was no shortage of talking points as the two Eastern Conference rivals faced off in Toronto’s home opener before an announced crowd of 26,171 at BMO Field.

Toronto (1-0-1) had a goal — by Achara — and potential penalty waved off by video review in the first half. The home side, which turned up the offence as the game wore on, could have had more goals had it not been for NYCFC goalkeeeper Sean Johnson.


No handshake agreement

Because of the new coronavirus, the players dispensed with the normal pre-match handshakes in favour of fist bumps. And prior to kickoff, the video screen at BMO field offered tips on hand-washing to those in attendance.

It was a crisp three degrees Celsius — said to feel like minus-two — at the 5 p.m. ET kickoff.

It was Toronto’s first home game since a 5-1 extra-time playoff win over D.C. United on Oct. 29. And the first meeting between TFC and NYCFC since Toronto ended the New Yorkers’ season with a 2-1 win in the Eastern Conference semifinal on a late Pozuelo penalty.

Pozuelo has been the scourge of NYCFC (0-2-0), which finished atop the East after last year’s regular season. He scored two goals and added an assist in a 4-0 win over New York in his MLS debut last March.

Achara and Venezuelan winger Erickson Gallardo moved into Toronto’s starting lineup with Tsubasa Endoh and Jacob Shaffelburg dropping out. Shaffelburg left last week’s season-opening 2-2 tie in San Jose with a hamstring issue while Endoh took a knock on his knee in training Friday.

Achara took up a position on the left wing while Gallardo was stationed on the right.

Achara looked to have scored in the 11th minute, taking in a nice feed from Jonathan Osorio, who danced past several defenders. But the goal was ruled offside after video review.

Quentin Westberg made a good save to deny Keaton Parks in the 19th minute as NYCFC began to find its feet after a sluggish start.

Video review came into play again in the 28th minute after Toronto fullback Justin Morrow went down in the box after making contact with James Sands, who left his knee out on the play. There was no call on the field and referee Ted Unkel let play go on after watching the replay on the pitchside monitor.

Jozy Altidore had a chance in the 29th minute, swivelling to hit a shot that went straight at Johnson after leaving a couple of defenders in his tracks. Marky Delgado opened up the defence with a fine through ball on the play.

Pozuelo, aiming for the top left corner, hit the crossbar with a left-footed shot in the 41st minute as Toronto started to make inroads. Achara then sent in a high curling shot from distance that Johnson had to move quickly to get a hand to.

Altidore dragged a shot wide in the 53rd minute after a fine setup by Pozuelo. At the other end, Westberg made a fine save to deny Jesus Medina in the 60th minute.

Toronto then started to turn the screw. Johnson made a terrific reflex save in the 68th minute to stop a low Altidore header after Pozuelo floated in a free kick. Johnson stopped Altidore again in stoppage time.

Home field advantage

Toronto came into the match with an unimpressive 2-4-5 all-time record against NYCFC. The two victories were both 4-0 decisions at BMO Field.

But TFC has held the upper hand in the post-season, winning all three playoff meetings.

Toronto was missing the injured Pablo Piatti, Nick DeLeon and Shaffelburg. New York was without suspended defender Maxime Chanot, who was sent off in the third minute of NYCFC’s 1-0 loss in Columbus last week.

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Trump says Turkey ceasefire in northern Syria permanent, lifts sanctions

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he’s lifting sanctions on Turkey after determining a ceasefire in northern Syria is permanent, rejecting criticism of his decision to pull American troops and allow Kurdish allies to come under attack.

Trump’s move, announced in a White House speech, failed to halt attacks from U.S. lawmakers over his abrupt decision earlier this month to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria to clear the way for a Turkish invasion.

Trump described the truce as a “major breakthrough” negotiated by a team led by Vice-President Mike Pence. Trump said he had instructed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to rescind the sanctions imposed on Turkey in response to its moves against the Kurds “unless something happens that we are not happy with.

“Countless lives are now being saved as a result of our negotiation with Turkey, an outcome reached without spilling one drop of American blood: no injuries, nobody shot, nobody killed,” Trump said.

Trump said nearly all U.S. troops will be leaving Syria. Some will remain to safeguard oil fields in Syria.

“Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand,” he told reporters.

The U.S. president said if Turkey breaches the ceasefire the sanctions could be reimposed.

But questions remained about Trump’s policy, and Congress was still working on a sanctions package of its own that would aim to punish Turkey for its cross-border offensive.

Kurdish allies who helped the United States in its war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants felt abandoned by Trump, whose policy created an opening for Russia to move forces into the area. The fate of ISIS militants in Syrian Kurdish prisons also remained up in the air.

Trumps comments followed a warning from Russia on Wednesday that Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces could face further armed conflict with Turkey if they fail to comply with a Russian-Turkish accord calling for their withdrawal from the entire length of Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey.


A YPG fighter stands with his rifle in this Feb. 12 photo. Russia is warning all Kurdish forces to quickly withdraw from the Turkey-Syria border or risk further armed conflict with Turkey. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

Moscow’s warning came shortly before Russian and Syrian security forces were due to start overseeing the removal of YPG fighters and weapons at least 30 kilometres into Syria, under the deal struck by Russian and Turkish presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A complete pullout of the YPG would mark a victory for Erdogan, who launched a cross-border offensive on Oct. 9 to drive the Kurdish militia from the border and create a “safe zone” for the return of Syrian refugees.

The accord, which expands on a U.S.-brokered deal last week, also underlines Putin’s dominant influence in Syria and seals the return of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to northeast Syria for the first time in years. The Kremlin has endorsed the deployment of Syrian border guards from noon local time on Wednesday.

Next Tuesday, Russian and Turkish forces will jointly start to patrol a 10 kilometre strip of land in northeast Syria where U.S. troops for years were deployed along with their former Kurdish allies.


Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday. (Sergei Chirikov/Reuters)

Those changes reflect the dizzying pace of changes in Syria since Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria earlier this month, shaking up the military balance across a quarter of the country after eight years of conflict.

Kurdish militia commanders have yet to respond to the deal reached in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, and it was not immediately clear how their withdrawal could be enforced.

Russia’s warning 

A joint Turkish-Russian statement issued after six hours of talks between Putin and Erdogan said they would establish a “joint monitoring and verification mechanism” to oversee implementation of the agreement.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was more blunt. If Kurdish forces did not retreat, Syrian border guards and Russian military police would have to fall back. “And remaining Kurdish formations would then fall under the weight of the Turkish army,” he said.

In a swipe at Washington, which has called into question how the deal will be guaranteed, Peskov said the U.S. had been the closest ally of the Kurdish fighters but had now betrayed them.

“Now they [the Americans] prefer to leave the Kurds at the border and almost force them to fight the Turks,” he said in remarks to Russian news agencies.


Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters near the border town of Tal Abyad in Syria on Tuesday. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were Washington’s main allies in the fight to dismantle ISIS’s self-declared caliphate in Syria. Trump’s decision to pull troops out was criticized by U.S. lawmakers, including fellow Republicans, as a betrayal.

In a further sign of growing ties between Ankara and Moscow, which have alarmed the U.S. administration, the head of Russia’s defence sales agency was quoted on Wednesday as saying Moscow could deliver more S-400 missile defence systems to Turkey.

Overnight, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said the U.S. told Ankara the YPG had completed its withdrawal from the area of Turkey’s military offensive.

There was no need to initiate another operation outside the current area of operation at this stage, the ministry said, effectively ending a military offensive that began two weeks ago and drew global criticism.

Turkey reviews military plans 

While Tuesday’s deal in Sochi addresses Turkey’s call for the YPG to be pushed back from the border, it also means Ankara will have to deepen its security coordination with Damascus after years of hostility between Erdogan and Assad.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that Turkey has no direct contact with Assad’s government, but “there could be contact at the intelligence level, this is natural.”


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visits Syrian army troops in war-torn northwestern Idlib province of Syria on Tuesday. (SANA/Handout via Reuters )

Three Turkish officials said this week Ankara was already holding covert contacts with Damascus to avert direct conflict in northeast Syria.

Ankara may also have to moderate its own military ambitions in the region. Turkish security sources said Ankara was re-evaluating a plan to set up 12 observation posts in northeastern Syria in the wake of the deal.

That change reflects the fact that Turkey, which had aimed to be the dominant force in the “safe zone” area, will now have to share that territory with Assad and Putin, who have both said that Turkish forces cannot remain in Syria in the long term.

“The most significant part of the Russian-Turkish agreement is the arrival of the Syrian border guard to the northeast, something both Damascus and Russia sought for a long time,” said Yury Barmin, a Middle East specialist at Moscow Policy Group.

“This also means de facto recognition of Assad by Erdogan.”

Kurdish man sets self on fire outside UN

In a suspected public display of disapproval over the recent events in Syria, a Kurdish man in his 30s set himself on fire outside the UN refugee agency headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday

The man, who resides in Germany, was flown by helicopter to the specialized burns unit at the university hospital in Lausanne, where he is receiving treatment, said Silvain Guillaume-Gentil, Geneva police spokesperson.

“Given his state, it was impossible to ask him about his motive, but we imagine that it was the political situation.”

“We are saddened and shocked [about] an incident of self-immolation that happened in front of our Geneva headquarters this morning,” said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The man had set himself ablaze and then tried to enter the UNHCR building, but security officers and medical services intervened and the fire was put out, Mahecic said, adding: “We hope he will recover.”

The UNHCR building is across the street from a collective shelter for asylum seekers, including Syrian-Kurds.

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