Houston Dynamo v Philadelphia Union - 1st Leg

MLS on NBC Sports Network: Philadelphia Union hosts Colorado


Philadelphia will stand sentinel over that wonderful home record of two seasons at PPL Park in suburban Chester, taking on Colorado this afternoon on NBC Sports Network. (4 p.m., ET).

Here are five quick stories to follow as Arlo White and Kyle Martino provide the sounds from Major League Soccer’s most picturesque stadium setting.

  • Rapids striker Conor Casey remains unavailable, still recovering from last year’s Achilles tear. That means Omar Cummings must work double duty, although the Jamaican international never quite seems the same without Casey’s brute force to balance his speed. On the other hand, Jaime Castrillon had a sharp debut as the offensive focal point of coach Oscar Pareja’s 4-3-3. Keep an eye on him.
  • Union boss Peter Nowak has never been afraid to roll out a young squad. The Union roster’s average age is a shade over 23 years old. That’s also about the average age of his D.C. United roster back in the 2004 MLS Championship season. (That assembly was slightly skewed by Freddy Adu, who was 15 at the time.) Adu is 22 now, practically among the old men on Nowak’s budding squad.
  • Speaking of young: Union first-year starting goalkeeper Zac MacMath is just 20. He was fine in last week’s rainy loss to Portland, that one notorious moment as the exception.  So, we’ll see how he responds after a week to think about it. Left back Porfirio Lopez definitely has something to prove after being turned inside-out Monday by Portland’s Kalif Alhassan. (More on that and other Brotherly matters are here.)
  • I talked to Adu during the preseason. We talked about Nowak’s tough love and about their close relationship – they’ve been together a lot of years now two stints. He also told me he loves the classic No. 10 role, pulling the offensive strings while operating behind a striker. But that position doesn’t really exist in Nowak’s system, so Adu operates from closer to the wings. He says he’s OK with it, and I believe him. Still, not everyone believes that’s Adu’s ideal deployment.
  • The Union’s two-year record at home really is something, having lost just four times in 32 outings – truly excellent for a club just now in its third year of existence. But the Union are coming off a toughie. And Colorado is on the short list of teams having experienced success at PPL, with a draw in 2010 and a win in Chester last year. The Rapids chances improve if captain Pablo Mastroeni can play (it looks good right now) after last week’s concerning head injury. Either way, Rapids midfield rock (and usual Mastroeni partner) Jeff Larentowicz will be on the job.

Klopp to the Kop: Multiple reports say deal agreed at Liverpool

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24:  Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp shouts to his players during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Juventus and Borussia Dortmund at Juventus Arena on February 24, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp is on his way to Liverpool to sign a contract naming him the next coach of the Reds.

The celebrated manager, 48, has been on “hiatus” from football since leaving Borussia Dortmund last season.

[ MORE: Messi to stand trial in Spain ]

Reports starting emerging earlier today that an agreement was imminent, and now the BBC is among those reporting that Klopp will be rolled out Friday morning.

From the BBC:

No contract has yet been signed but that is viewed as a formality when Klopp arrives in Liverpool later on Thursday. He will be officially unveiled by Liverpool on Friday morning at 10:00 BST.

There’s not much to say besides this: Klopp’s addition to the Premier League will give more color and brilliance to the country’s footballing scene. Only a certain class of manager can be instantly expected to find a better system for an inherited group of players.

This could and should be a game changer on Merseyside.

Appeal rejected! Lionel Messi will face court trial in Spain

VIGO, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 23:  Lionel Messi looks dejected after the La Liga match between Celta Vigo and FC Barcelona at Estadio Balaidos on September 23, 2015 in Vigo, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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It was a mere 48 hours ago that Lionel Messi looked close to in the clear when it came to tax evasion charges.

Now the question is whether a Spanish court will lock away the greatest active footballer, as a judge rejected the prosecutors’ (!!!) request to drop the charges.

[ WATCH: Hilarious spoof pegs Messi, Ronaldo as “Friends” ]

Messi and his father have already made a $5.5 million corrective payment, but there’s principle in play here. And the judge wants to know how Messi can claim he had no idea what was being done with his money.

From the BBC:

Lawyers acting on behalf of the tax authorities demanded 22-month jail sentences for both defendants.

“There are rational signs that the criminality was committed by both accused parties,” wrote the judge in a court filing, according to the AFP news agency.

Can you imagine one of the world’s richer men ending up in a Spanish prison? It’s very difficult to consider. In some ways it’s more plausible that he would buy his own island and start the “Messi Isle Premiership”.

Still, we won’t laugh off the idea, especially with FIFA apparently going down. Messi in prison. That’s something. Sepp in Switzerland. Lionel in Spain.