Shipped from abroad, France: Olivier Giroud is so over Ligue 1’s scoring title

Leave a comment

There’s a surprise name on top of one of Ligue 1’s tables. Paris Saint-Germain’s Nene, with a Sunday hat-trick at Rennes, sits with 21 goals, tied for the French first division’s lead. It’s a stature few would begrudge PSG’s oft-under-appreciated Brazilian, even if the ranking’s caught some1 by surprise.

We had become accustomed to seeing Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud at the top of that list, but as of Sunday, he has to share the perch. The 25-year-old No. 9, in only his second season in France’s top flight, sprinted to the top of the scoring list, scoring eight times in Montpellier’s first 10 league games. At the same time his club, which most picked to battle relegation, staked a claim in a title race that was supposed to be contested between Lille, Lyon, Marseille, and PSG. As MHSC resolutely set France’s blistering pace, it was difficult to decide which was more shocking: Montpellier’s place atop Ligue 1 or Giroud pacing the league’s scorers.

While we reamin a bit bewildered by MHSC’s title persistence, Giroud’s place as France’s most prolific scorer started to make sense. He broke into the French national team. By season’s end, he was being linked with a high profile moves to England and Bayern Munich, having made a name for himself with a list of pushpin performances:

  • Scoring the only goal in Montpellier’s first statement of the season, a 1-0 August win at Lille.
  • An October hat trick against Dijon.
  • Three at Sochaux in November.
  • The only goal in MHSC’s January win over Lyon.
  • A stoppage time winner in a January 1-0 at Nice.
  • An 89th minute winner against Saint-Etienne in March.

Whatever August ideas we had about Giroud2 have been usurped by this doppelganger leading a no-time champion to its first title.

At least, title-bound is where Montpellier stands after their Manchester Citian defeat of Lille on Sunday.3 The defending champions visited MHSC knowing a win would keep their defense alive. As time built and a scoreless draw seeming inevitable, Lille coach Rudi Garcia drove his team forward, knowing one point for this third-place side was as good as none.

The strategy backfired, with Giroud providing for (instead of scoring) the match’s winning goal:

If Nene wins the scoring title, so be it. Ascending where the likes of Javier Pastore have fallen short, it’s a fair result for the brightest on a team of individual talents – a man who can claim to be the best non-Eden Hazard player in France.

Giroud, on the other hand, has been the man who’s led a title charge. The scoring title in exchange for the league? That only seems right.

Elsewhere in France

Sunday’s results
Ajaccio 1-0 Lyon
Bordeaux 1-0 Lorient
Brest 1-0 Valenciennes
Caen 1-3 Sochaux
Dijon 1-1 Toulouse
Marseille 3-0 Auxerre
Montpellier 1-0 Lille
Nancy 3-2 Saint-Etienne
Nice 1-1 Evian
PSG 3-0 Stade Rennes

Races

Champions League: Montpellier (79 points/37 games played), PSG (76/37), Lille (71/37)

Europa League: Lyon 64, Bordeaux 58 (Marseille has already qualified by virtue of winning the Coupe de la Ligue)

Survival (relegation): Valencciennes (40/37), Nice (39/37), Lorient (39/37), Sochaux (39/37), Brest (38/37), Caen (38/37), Ajaccio (38/37), Dijon (37/36) (Auxerre has already confirmed relegation)

Stuff that stuck out:

  • The year’s other breakout goal scorer, Saint-Etienne’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, scored again on Sunday. The 22-year-old Gabonese attacker is up to 15 goals (fourth in Ligue 1). Like the rest of us, he’s been linked with Arsenal. If he does move, Les Verts will get a quick return on the $2.9 million they gave Milan in December.
  • Unlike most of its European brethren, France has one weekend to go. As you can see by the relegation battle (right),  most teams will have something to play for.
  • Those teams would include Montpellier and PSG. With a point at Auxerre next Sunday, Montpellier confirm their first title. PSG needs a Montpellier loss and a win at Lorient.
  • Wait – so Bordeaux is good again? Apparently. Francis Gillot’s side has won five in a row, taking advantage of France’s mid-table madness to climb into a Europa League spot. On Sunday, it was Yoan Gouffran’s third goal in two games – a stoppage time penalty kick while down a man – that downed Lorient.
  • In Marseille, Didier Deschamps condescended to play Andre Pierre Gignac for 40 minutes, at the end of which the still 26-year-old striker scored his first goal of the Ligue 1 season. Hopefully APG finds a new home this summer.

Up next: While Montpellier is at Auxerre, PSG will need to win at Lorient on Sunday, with the league’s 10 matches all scheduled for 3 p.m. ET kickoffs. The day’s biggest game? Probably Bordeaux’s visit to Saint-Etienne, where the league’s last Europa League spot will be at stake. Among the league’s remaining games, only Nancy’s visit to Lille is meaningless. The rest have some influence on the relegation battle.

Your takeaway video:

The second of Nene’s three against Rennes. And to think, this is the club that almost signed Becks:


1 – I often refer to myself as ‘some’.
2 – We had no ideas about Olivier Giroud in August.
3 – Montpellier’s Sunday win bared very little resemblance to City’s, but for a little while, I’m going to feel obligated to label any stoppage time-snagged win as Citian.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”

MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker: Rounds 3 & 4

Twitter/@MLS
Leave a comment

Newcomers Los Angeles FC made some serious waves during the opening rounds of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and other clubs will be looking to follow in their footsteps on Day 2.

Bob Bradley‘s side came up with a pair of defensive picks inside the top 3 on Friday, nabbing Joao Moutinho and Tristan Blackmon to help solidify a growing roster for the Western Conference side.

[ SOURCES: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison likely to join PL side Stoke City ]

Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire were active early and often, which benefitted Veljko Paunovic’s club in a big way. The playoff side from a season ago managed to get two of the draft’s most talented attacking players in Wake Forest forward Jon Bakero and Syracuse product Mo Adams.

Which players slipped through the cracks on Day 1 and will help provide relief to MLS rosters on Day 2?

Follow along on PST as we track the day’s transactions, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Third round

47. Los Angeles FC — Jordan Jones — Forward (Oregon State)
48. LA Galaxy — Nate Schultz — Defender (Akron)
49. D.C. United (traded to Fire) — Elliot Collier — Forward (Loyola)
50. Colorado Rapids — Thomas Olsen — Goalkeeper (San Diego)
51. Real Salt Lake — Pass
52. New York City FC — Alex Bumpus — Defender (Kentucky)
53. Montreal Impact — Ken Krolicki — Midfielder (Michigan State)
54. Philadelphia Union — Mike Catalano — Midfielder (Wisconsin)
55. Philadelphia Union — Aidan Apodaca — (Cal Baptist)
56. Real Salt Lake — Pass
57. FC Dallas — Amer Sasivarevic — Midfielder (Grand Canyon)
58. San Jose Earthquakes — Kevin Partida — (UNLV)
59. Houston Dynamo — Pablo Aguilar — Midfielder (Virginia)
60. Montreal Impact — Pass
61. Portland Timbers — Caleb Duvernay — Defender (NC State)
62. Vancouver Whitecaps — Cory Brown — Defender (Xavier)
63. Portland Timbers — Timmy Mueller — Forward (Oregon State)
64. Portland Timbers  — Stuart Holthusen — Forward (Akron)
65. New York City FC — Pass
66. Houston Dynamo —  Sheldon Sullivan — Defender (Virginia)
67. Columbus Crew — Luis Argudo — Midfielder (Wake Forest)
68. Seattle Sounders — Chris Bared — Defender (Villanova)
69. Toronto FC — Andre Morrison — Defender (Hartford)

——

Fourth round

70. Atlanta United — Paul Christensen — Goalkeeper (Portland)
71. D.C. United — Afonso Pinheiro — Forward (Albany)
72. Colorado Rapids –Brian Iloski — (UCLA)
73. Colorado Rapids — Niki Jackson — Forward (Grand Canyon)
74. D.C. United — Rafael Andrade Santos — Midfielder (VCU)
75. Sporting KC — Will Bagrou — Forward (Mercer)
76. Montreal Impact — Pass
77. Philadelphia Union –Matt Danilack — Midfielder (Dartmouth)
78. New England Revolution — Nicolas Samayoa — Defender (Florida Gulf Coast)
79. Real Salt Lake — Pass
80. FC Dallas — Noah Franke — Defender (Creighton)
81. San Jose Earthquakes — Pass
82. Sporting KC –Wilfred Williams — Defender (Oakland)
83. New York Red Bulls — Jared Stroud — (Colgate)
84. Chicago Fire — Josh Morton — Defender (California)
85. New York Red Bulls — Jose Aguinaga — (Rider)
86. Vancouver Whitecaps — Pass
87. Portland Timbers — Mamadou Guirassy — Forward (NJIT)
88. New York City FC — Pass
89. Houston Dynamo — Manny Padilla — Defender (San Francisco)
90. LA Galaxy — Pass
91. D.C. United — Pass
92. Toronto FC — Ben White — Defender (Gonzaga)

Below is a recap of the action from Day 1, which featured the first two rounds of the draft on Friday.


First round

1. Los Angeles FC — Joao Moutinho — Defender (Akron)*
2.LA Galaxy — Tomas Hilliard-Arce — Defender (Stanford)*
3.DC United (traded to LAFC) — Tristan Blackmon — Defender (Pacific University)
4. Montreal Impact (traded to FC Dallas) — Francis Atuahene — Forward (Michigan)
5. Minnesota United (traded to Fire) — Jon Bakero — Forward (Wake Forest)
6. Orlando City — Chris Mueller — Forward (Wisconsin)
7. Montreal Impact (traded to Minnesota) — Mason Toye — Forward (Indiana)*
8. New England Revolution — Brandon Bye — Defender (Western Michigan)
9. New England Revolution — Mark Segbers — Defender (Wisconsin)
10. Real Salt Lake (traded to Fire) — Mo Adams — Midfielder (Syracuse)*
11. FC Dallas — Ema Twumasi — Midfielder (Wake Forest)*
12. San Jose Earthquakes — Paul Marie — Midfielder/Defender (FIU)
13. Sporting KC — Eric Dick — Goalkeeper (Butler)
14. Atlanta United — Jon Gallagher — Forward (Notre Dame)
15. Chicago Fire (traded to Minnesota) — Wyatt Omsberg — Defender (Dartmouth)
16. New York Red Bulls — Brian White — Forward (Duke)
17. Vancouver Whitecaps — Justin Fiddes — Defender (Washingt0n)
18. Sporting KC — Graham Smith — Defender (Denver)
19. New York City FC — Jeff Caldwell — Goalkeeper (Virginia)
20. Houston Dynamo — Michael Nelson — Goalkeeper (SMU)
21. Columbus Crew — Ben Lungaard — Goalkeeper (Virginia Tech)
22. Seattle Sounders — Alex Roldan — Midfielder (Univ. of Seattle)
23. Toronto FC (traded to Minnesota) — Carter Manley — Defender (Duke)

——

Second round

24. LAFC — Pol Calvet Planellas — Midfielder (Pittsburgh)
25. Colorado Rapids — Alan Winn — Forward (North Carolina)
26. Vancouver Whitecaps — Lucas Stauffer — Defender (Creighton)
27. Colorado Rapids — Frantzdy Pierrot — Forward (Coastal Carolina)
28. Minnesota United (traded to Toronto FC) — Tim Kubel — Defender (Louisville)
29. FC Dallas — Mauro Cichero — Forward (SMU)
30. San Jose Earthquakes — Danny Musovski — Forward (UNLV)
31. New York Red Bulls — Niko De Vera — Defender (Akron)
32. Columbus Crew — Edward Opoku — Forward (Virginia)
33. Real Salt Lake — Ricky Lopez-Espin — Midfielder (Creighton)
34. FC Dallas — Chris Lema — Midfield (Georgetown)
35. San Jose Earthquakes — Mohamed Thiaw — Forward (Louisville)
36. Atlanta United — Oliver Shannon — Midfielder (Clemson)
37. Atlanta United — Gordon Wild — Forward (Maryland)*
38. Chicago Fire — Diego Campos — Midfielder (Clemson)
39. New York Red Bulls — Tom Barlow — Forward (Wisconsin)
40. LA Galaxy — Drew Skundrich — Midfielder (Stanford)
41. Minnesota United — Xavier Gomez — Midfielder (Nebraska-Omaha)
42. New York City FC — AJ Paterson — Defender (Wright St.)
43. Houston Dynamo — Mac Steeves — Forward (Providence)
44. Columbus Crew — Jake Rozhansky — Midfielder (Maryland)
45. Seattle Sounders — Markus Fjortoft — Defender (Duke)
46. Toronto FC — Drew Shepherd — Goalkeeper (Western Michigan)

  • indicates Generation adidas player