Toronto FC v D.C. United

Winter: Move along. Nothing to see here. No coaching crisis, thank you.

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A very hot seat is still just a hot seat, so I’m at a loss to describe what Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter is sitting on. Maybe his chair’s become so hot that it’s cold? Like white hot, if that’s a real something. Once you reach 400 Kelvin, perhaps your nerves seer and you can’t feel a thing, like the constant boots in the derrière Reds supporters are using to coax their coach to the door.

Those kicks will come more often if Toronto can’t beat Montreal tomorrow. The teams drew 0-0 last week in Montreal and return to BMO Field for the second leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal. The winner will presumably face Vancouver, who won 2-0 at FC Edmonton (NASL) last week.

As Sportsnet’s John Molinaro notes, being asked about your job before every shift has to get old. For Winter, though, the answers remain the same:

Asked directly after Tuesday’s team practice if he felt his job was on the line based on winning Wednesday’s match against Montreal, Winter simply and confidently answered, “No.”

Does he remain confident that [Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment], the club’s owners, will remain patient with him and keep him as coach even if TFC loses to the Impact?

“Yes. Yes. But I don’t think we’ll lose tomorrow,” the Dutchman said.

Reflex one: What else is he supposed to say? Reflex two: Something less obstinate?

For all we know, though, Winter could be responding with complete sincerity. He may have had breakfast with President/CEO Richard Peddie and been assured his job was safe. “We know those defenders are bums, Aron,” my hypothetical Peddie says, assuring his man. “We have to do right by you before you can do right by us.”

Of course, it’s possible MLSE has done enough, hence the speculation about Winter’s job. The money side backs that up.

So does some of the circumstantial evidence. We’re hearing about a lot of behind the scenes fissures, whether it be rumors of eyes not meeting eyes between the various front office factions or the need for clear-the-air meetings between players and staff.

The latter happened on Monday, according to Molinaro’s reporting. Eric Avila – Toronto’s best player thus far, and somebody who’s becoming increasingly outspoken – confessed the team was drifting. They needed a pow wow to refocus:

Midfielder Eric Avila suggested that a clearing-the-air meeting on Monday between the players and coaching staff has the club back on the right track, and that everybody is on the same page.

“Before the season started we had some sort of identity of where we wanted to go and once the season started we lost it a little. The meeting helped us out in a way where we’re back on track (and know) who we are,” Avila stated.

Check out John’s work for more on the alchemy TFC’s turning to for their panacea. Tomorrow’s fun kicks off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Ronaldo shows no sign of injury while hanging with Conor McGregor

instagram.com/cristiano/
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Cristiano Ronaldo may not be ready for the UEFA Super Cup, but he’s no longer limping around.

To explore the Real Madrid superstar’s Instagram is to see Ronaldo, sometimes clothed, hanging out with celebrities.

In the last couple weeks we’ve seen him with Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, and now his “bro” Conor McGregor.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Wait, what?

Yeah, Ronaldo is friends with the MMA star, and showed no ill form (and no brace of any kind) in several posed photos with McGregor.

Although admittedly, McGregor’s IG game is a bit better: The Irish fighter posted a photo of himself sunning in his briefs with the caption, “I’m gonna get him on the Forbes list by next year. But I’m gonna get him on the tan by next week.”

Good luck with both, bro.

Great to see you bro!!💪🏽🔝

A photo posted by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on Jul 24, 2016 at 3:48pm PD

Bruce pens letter to Hull fans: “Desperately wanted to make it work”

YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Steve Bruce manager of  Hull City ahead of the pre-season friendly match between York City and Hull City at Bootham Cresent on July 23, 2014  in York, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
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Many Hull City fans didn’t want Steve Bruce to leave the club, and this open letter shows why.

After leaving the club by “mutual consent” on Friday — it was first widely reported that he quit — fans protested at Hull’s game on Monday.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Bruce may’ve had his problems with Hull’s ownership, but he certainly got his supporters’ feelings right down to the core.

From the Hull Daily Mail:

My biggest regret is having to walk away but it was a decision I had to make for the sake of the club. The last 12 months have been very tough and it felt like the right step for the club to move forward in a different direction and with someone else in charge.

I desperately wanted to make it work this summer and be a Premier League manager again but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, I’ve left Hull City with some fantastic memories that I’ll always cherish, including just eight weeks ago in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Class from the longtime boss, and we imagine he’ll have a job very soon if he wants it.

Report: Everton to activate release clause of Stoke’s Arnautovic

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Marko Arnautovic (1st L) of Stoke City competes for the ball against Seamus Coleman (2nd L) and Gareth Barry (1st Rof Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Stoke City at Goodison Park on December 28, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images
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Everton is going to activate Marko Arnautovic‘s $16 million release clause to bring the Stoke City striker to Goodison Park, according to a report out of Austria.

Stoke had been trying to sign Arnautovic to a contract extension, but the player was reportedly prepared to play out the final year of his deal.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

The huge 27-year-old Austrian has been with Stoke since 2013, and broke through with 11 Premier League goals last season.

Arnautovic would give Everton support behind Romelu Lukaku, and insurance in case the Toffees do wind up selling their Belgian striker. Everton also has Arouna Kone as a potential target forward, but Oumar Niasse is expecting to leave after less than a year at Goodison Park.

Chelsea wins the League… of Hate; Bournemouth, Leicester not hated

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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A family of English newspapers conducted its annual survey of which teams are the most hated in the Premier League, and there’s a new champion.

Manchester United has dropped to second in the table to Chelsea in what the Manchester Evening News called the “League of Hate”.

[ MORE: Rooney’s England position not set ]

According to the MEN, 10,000 fans were quizzed on their love and hate:

A national survey asked fans of each top flight club which sides they hate, and which they love, and the west London club came out as the most disliked club overall.

United, who won the dubious accolade last year, have been revealed to be the next most reviled side.

It’s no surprise that the league’s more successful sides sit atop the table while newer PL clubs like Bournemouth and Burnley are not reviled. That said, Leicester’s dream story has them 19th. How much more success do they need to have before shooting up the hate table?

Here’s the Top Five, and all results:

1) Chelsea
2) Manchester United
3) Liverpool
4) Manchester City
5) Arsenal