ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS Panic Quotient (®) takes the temperature of stress and distress in the streets of Major League Soccer.
Philadelphia Union players: Perhaps manager Peter Nowak is some mad scientist-type genius. We see the stark flashes, but he sees the plan – that kind of thing. Maybe. But who could blame Philadelphia players for not feeling great about the ground beneath their feet? Because the quirky personnel choices keep rolling out of Nowak’s office, this trade of popular team captain Danny Califf being the latest sharp crack of the bosses’ erratic whip. Let’s face it: If Nowak will ship Califf away, anybody’s locker is in danger of being suddenly emptied.
Panic quotient: “Hi, sweetie. What’s that? Oh … uh, sure I remember what day it is … ”
Sporting Kansas City: Whoa! What are you guys doing here? Three weeks ago Peter Vermes’ men were preening around like the bell of the MLS ball. Then a loss at Portland blotted that perfect record – but no worries there, really. Then a loss at home to Montreal raised a concerned brow – but it could still be written off as a glitch in the Matrix. But the way SKC came unraveled in last week’s loss at Chicago just cannot be dismissed. You know what they say: One might be a mistake, two is starting to look like a trend, but three is definitely a problem. It’s not that Sporting is bad, it’s just that they had such a big head start on the Supporters Shield and those up-anted playoff stakes that go with it. Well, that’s all blown out of the Midwest water.
Panic quotient: Long night. Head hurts. Now it’s morning and you can’t find your wallet … which might not be so bad if you could just remember where you were the night before.
FC Dallas: These guys do want to play, right? They are getting tossed out of games like trouble makers out of the Double Duece. (Road House!) Previously FC Dallas was hanging in there, negotiating injuries adequately and picking up points here and there. But habitually going down to 10 men (or 9 men with the match two weeks ago) is too much. Now Dallas has collected just two of a possible 15 points in its last five, and connection with the top teams in the West is getting seriously stretched.
Panic quotient: Your beautiful, wonderful, let’s-you-watch-sports girlfriend calls. “We need to talk.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.
Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.
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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).
Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.
The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.
“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”
Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.
Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.
In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.
He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.
But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.
Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.
You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.
Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.
Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.
“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”
Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.