Drilling down on: at New York 1, New England 0

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Man of the Match: Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty responded when his team absolutely needed a couple of men to do so. He was a force in midfield, performing the screening role (in place of Rafa Marquez) about as flawlessly as anyone could. McCarty tackled clinically, interrupted passing lanes, kept the ball moving quickly and guided possession out of the back with clear-headed distribution.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Other weighty performances in the 1-0 win Saturday from a Red Bulls side that definitely needed them: goalkeeper Ryan Meara, who stamped his first career shutout, and right center back Markus Holgersson. This was easily Holgersson’s best match as he, for one, seemed to take last week’s defensive disaster personally.
  • It was a shooting gallery early, in and around Thierry Henry’s 7th minute goal. Kenny Cooper saw his deflected shot not miss narrowly. A few minutes later Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis did well to get one hand on Cooper’s knuckling drive. McCarty hit the post. Holgersson went just wide with a header. Even rookie Conor Lade crushed a long-range volley that had Reis worried momentarily.
  • Henry’s 23rd minute hamstring injury changed the game. And how. The Red Bulls, already up against it defensively, had little interest in attacking from there, beyond the counter attack. More on that later.
  • New York’s patchwork back line had a grand total of 12 MLS starts among the foursome.
  • One debuting professional, left center back Tyler Ruthven, may have been fortunate not to be sent off for his early foul on the breaking Jose Moreno.
  • Besides that controversial sequence, Moreno didn’t do much in his second start at striker for the Revs.
  • Revolution manager Jay Heaps wants to make midfielder Stephen McCarthy a center back; that’s where the second-year man has been playing lately. And McCarthy may indeed be a quality defender one day – but there will surely be growing pains along the way. McCarthy doesn’t yet possess the defender’s instincts, positional awareness or sense of anticipation. He got into trouble a couple of times Saturday, including on Henry’s early goal.
  • Revs striker Saer Sene made things happen when he got his big body turned and went motoring into the box. But the Revolution forward sure spends a lot of time moving back toward the midfield trying to link the play. Long story short, he needs to be closer to goal as much as possible.
  • Knowing that New York was sure to defend and counter after Henry’s injury, Heaps introduced Benny Feilhaber at halftime. The recently injured Revolution midfielder was effective in spurts, but far from his best. His weak, uncontested header late in the contest from 8 yards will be especially hard to watch when the team reviews video.
  • Red Bulls midfielder Victor Palsson clearly is not a wide midfielder. Asked to play out there as part of the personnel scramble, his crossing was atrocious. Again, in fairness, that’s not his spot.
  • Give us a nudge when the old Joel Lindpere finally shows up. (That said, Lindpere did a lot of important, defensive dirty work late Saturday.)

Heath, Smith sidelined with injuries for USWNT

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CHICAGO (AP) Forward Tobin Heath and defender Taylor Smith are sidelined with injuries that will keep them out of the U.S. women’s national team training camp in Louisiana ahead of two upcoming matches against South Korea.

Heath is nursing an ankle injury and Smith her shoulder. Both women were hurt in the NWSL championship match last Saturday, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Monday.

The Americans play Thursday at New Orleans and Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.

Neither player will be replaced on the roster and coach Jill Ellis will have 18 players dressed for each game.

Report: Sam Allardyce, Laurent Blanc want to be next USMNT boss

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Yep, this is true.

Sam Allardyce has thrown his hat into the ring with the U.S. national team searching for a new manager, and so has former Paris Saint-Germain and France boss Laurent Blanc.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

According to ESPN, sources close to Allardyce say he is up for the USMNT challenge which would “enable him to impose a long-term strategy and secure a legacy in a nation regarded as a growing force.”

A report from France Football states that Blanc is also interested in replacing Bruce Arena, who resigned last week following the USA’s shock defeat at Trinidad and Tobago which saw them miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Hmmm. After Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in charge of the USMNT, are the days of big name foreign managers over?

These are two relatively high-profile names with experience of managing national teams (in Allardyce’s case one game with England before The Telegraph sting scandal) but neither have experience of Major League Soccer or the unique challenges of CONCACAF.

Allardyce often talks fondly about his year spent with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL during his playing days and has used many techniques he picked up from the U.S. sporting realm in his lengthy coaching career which has spanned Premier League clubs Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham United, Sunderland and Crystal Palace.

Yet the scandal which cut his ill-fated time in charge of England short will likely raise eyebrows if he is to be considered for the U.S. job and his direct style of play is not to the taste of many purists out there.

When it comes to Blanc, his ultra-defensive style of play may turn off those in charge of U.S. Soccer too but there’s no doubting his record with a title win at Bordeaux in 2009 before he took France to the last eight of EURO 2012, and then led PSG to three-straight French titles from 2012-13, is impressive.

The fact that these two managers have reportedly thrown their hats into the ring suggests just how highly the job is regarded worldwide, even if U.S. Soccer fans believe the program is currently at an all-time low after the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

In his conference call with reporters last week U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati refused to rule out anybody for the USMNT job, stating that no specific profile (American, non-American coaches etc.) is preferred in their search for a new manager.

Many U.S. fans are hoping for a domestic manager to take charge with Peter Vermes, Ben Olsen and Jesse Marsch all mentioned with their vast knowledge of the U.S. national team and MLS setup.

Let’s wait and see what happens but after the Klinsmann era, one would suggest that USSF would be slightly hesitant to go overseas in their search for a new U.S. national team manager.

Champions League score predictions – Week 3

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We are entering the meaty part of the UEFA Champions League group stage with double headers coming up in the next two matchdays.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The five Premier League teams in the UCL are so far unbeaten with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all winning both of their opening two group games. Liverpool has two draw so far but Jurgen Klopp‘s men are still looking likely to make the knockout stage.

Below is a look at the 16 matches across the UCL on Tuesday and Wednesday as we make our score predictions for each game.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

Don’t be afraid to let us know your score picks in the comments section below.


Tuesday’s UCL games

Group E
Spartak Moscow 1-2 Sevilla
Maribor 1-3 Liverpool

Group F
Man City 2-0 Napoli
Feyenoord 1-3 Shakthar Donetsk

Group G
RB Leipzig 2-0 FC Porto
Monaco 2-1 Besiktas

Group H
APOEL 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday’s UCL games

Group A
Benfica 1-2 Manchester United
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Basel

Group B
Anderlecht 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich 2-2 Celtic

Group C
Chelsea 1-1 Roma
Qarabag 1-3 Atletico Madrid

Group D
Barcelona 3-1 Olympiacos
Juventus 2-1 Sporting Lisbon

Leicester City fire manager Craig Shakespeare

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Leicester City have pulled the trigger much early than many expected.

Official confirmation arrived on Tuesday that Craig Shakespeare, who only took charge permanently of the Foxes over the summer, had been fired after just eight games of the 2017-18 Premier League season.

Claudio Ranieri‘s former assistant coach has been fired by the ruthless Leicester owners with the Foxes winning just one of their opening eight Premier League games of the season.

In an official statement on the club website, here’s what Leicester had to say as Michael Appleton has been placed in interim charge for their trip to Swansea this Saturday.

Leicester City Vice Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said: “Craig has been a great servant to Leicester City – during his spells as an Assistant Manager and since taking over as Manager in challenging circumstances in February. His dedication to the Club and to his work has been absolute and the contribution he made to the most successful period in Leicester City history is considerable.

“However, our early promise under Craig’s management has not been consistently evident in the months since and the Board feels that, regrettably, a change is necessary to keep the Club moving forward – consistent with the long-term expectations of our supporters, Board and owners.

“Craig is and will remain a very popular, respected figure at Leicester City and will be welcome back at King Power Stadium in future, both professionally and as a friend of the Club.”

The Foxes sat third from bottom and only on six points. The last three times Leicester have gained six points or less in their opening eight games of a PL season they have been relegated.

Stats like that would have surely alarmed their Thai owners.

The last time Leicester went six PL games without a win Ranieri was fired but this is still a shock considering  Shakespeare, 53, had been in charge for only four months.

Shakespeare was in interim charge at the end of last season after Ranieri was fired in February and led Leicester to seven wins from their final 13 games which saved the then reigning champs from relegation.

However, he never seemed like the long-term man to lead the shock 2015-16 PL champions back to the upper echelons of the Premier League and he is now on his way out of the King Power Stadium.