We’ll be back next week with another exciting version of “Overlooked and Underloved,” but there’s only one MLS game this weekend, so it’s rather pointless. Watch New England-D.C. United. And done.
Now, let’s talk the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and those losses by MLS teams. Personally, I think it’s super fun. Scrappy underdogs battling the pros of Major League Soccer. It’s the Super Bowl for the little guys and not particularly important for MLS clubs. So when eight teams lose, I get excited. There’s nothing more dull than favorites winning all the time.
But I’m already an MLS convert. The problem here is that the upsets leads to posts like this one on Awful Announcing that includes the following sentence: “It’s one of those things in sports when there’s no explanation for what you’re watching. Imagine a D-III or NAIA team go on the road and win a college basketball game at Arizona or Florida or Louisville. It’s insane.”
You and I know that, for a variety of reasons, that’s not entirely true. It’s not flat-out wrong, either, but comparing Bates College defeating Louisville to the Michigan Bucks besting the Chicago Fire or the San Antonio Scorpions beating the Houston Dynamo is not accurate. NASL and PDL squads are much closer in talent — especially when MLS teams rest their best players — than any D-1 basketball team is to a D-III outfit or a NAIA team.
Those are facts, but ones that will be lost on the Awful Announcing audience who will see the comparison and think, “Wow, that’s embarrassing for MLS. It must be a terrible league.” And I don’t mean to pick on the guys at AA, who do a great job. It’s simply a matter of reality. The American sporting public — unfamiliar with MLS’ rules, salary cap structure, etc. and the relative importance of the Open Cup — sees half of the teams in the best division lose to squads in lower tiers and immediately thinks of a college basketball comparison, an MLB comparsion (the Yankees falling to the Staten Island Yankees), an NBA comparison (the Boston Celtics losing to the D-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants), or something else that is both unfavorable and not entirely true. It’s all about perception, folks.
As a soccer fan, I love what’s happening in the USOC. As someone who wants to see MLS gain respect around the country, however, it’s concerning.
The papers are having a field day with the Jose Mourinho to Manchester United whispers.
[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired” ]
Several different outlets are reporting numerous pieces of gossip about Mourinho, 53, taking over at United this summer and now seems like a good time to round it all up and have a look at what is out there.
[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview ]
Here it goes…
[ REPORT: Mourinho tells friends he’s going to United ]
First up, the wages.
Okay, Louis Van Gaal, 64, still has a contract with the Red Devils through the 2016-17 season but many believe that barring a miraculous finish to the current campaign the Dutchman will be let go this summer. If that’s the case — and with United six points off the top four it certainly seems like another season of disappointment will play out — then El Confidencial is reporting that Mourinho will be handed a contract worth $20 million a year. That may seem like a lot, but actually it would be $9 million less a year than Manchester City is paying Pep Guardiola to be their boss. Interesting.
Juicy nugget number two: The Daily Mail states that Mourinho has already instructed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to sell Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. The midfield duo aren’t in Mourinho’s plans with the Portuguese coach selling Mata to United during his time in charge of Chelsea, while he doesn’t appear to be a fan of Belgian midfielder Fellaini either.
No. 3: The Daily Star reports that Mourinho will be handed $420 million to spend on new players and totally rebuild the under-performing squad. The same report claims Mourinho has his eye on Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Thomas Muller, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane to help restore United to past glories and add to his tally of three Premier League titles during five full seasons with Chelsea.
And finally, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, the Sun reports that United’s locker room is split over whether Mourinho arriving would be a good thing. Well, yeah, with a massive cull on the horizon if he does arrive, it’s not too difficult to understand that the general feeling among the players will be one of trepidation. However, the main issue seems to be where No. 2 Ryan Giggs will fit into Mourinho’s plans if he does get the job.
Again, take these reports with a pinch of salt but it’s certainly interesting to keep your ear to the ground and listen to all of the tidbits circling about Mourinho’s potential arrival at Old Trafford.
On Sunday Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) with the Foxes on top of the Premier League as the most romantic story in recent PL history continues to play out.
After all, they will clash on Valentine’s Day.
[ MORE: Foxes title biggest shock ever? ]
Claudio Ranieri‘s team — lead by the goals and general brilliance of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez — will extend their lead over Arsenal for the title to eight points with a win and all the pressure is on the Gunners.
Leicester has won three-straight PL games with a hugely comfortable 3-1 win at Manchester City last-time out showcasing their growing title credentials.
[ MORE: Arsenal sign influential Leicester scout ahead of title tilt ]
As for the Gunners, they beat Bournemouth last weekend to stay well in the title hunt and Wenger’s men know they must win on Sunday to claw back the gap on Leicester to two points with 12 games remaining.
Ill be at the Emirates this weekend to provide live coverage, reaction and analysis, but for now click play on the video above to hear the main storylines heading into this clash between two contenders for the Premier League title.
Following thousands of Liverpool fans walking out in protest in the 77th minute of their 2-2 draw with Sunderland at Anfield last weekend, owners Fenway Sports Group have halted plans to increase ticket prices for next season.
[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired” ]
Owner John W. Henry, Chairman Tom Werner and President Mike Gordon have issued a detailed and apologetic open letter to fans of Liverpool, in which they “apologize for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season” and also confirm prices will be frozen for the next two campaigns.
Henry and FSG stated they felt “troubled by the perception we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense.”
[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United ]
They pointed to the fact that FSG has put up the $170 million needed to build the new Main Stand at Anfield which will be completed for the 2016-17 season, while they also admit they got parts of the ticket pricing wrong.
Admitting to their mistake has left a warm feeling with most Liverpool fans as their numerous protests over the fact that some tickets would cost £77 ($111) next season were heard loud and clear by the owners.
Here is a link to the letter from FSG in full, while below is a detailed outline of the new pricing policy put in place by the owners under the heading “Message Received.”
It certainly has been.
After an intense period of consultation with LFC management we have decided to make major revisions to our ticketing structure for 2016-17:
- Removal of game categorisation – regardless of the opposition fans will pay the same price for matchday tickets.
- The pricing of tickets will be readjusted to result in zero revenue growth from GA ticketing on a like-for-like basis.
- Though individual ticket prices may move marginally from this season, we are freezing our 2016-17 GA ticket revenue at the 2015-16 level exclusive of newly-added seats in the new Main Stand.
- The price of our highest general admission ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £59.
- The price of our highest season ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £869. The lowest price reducing a further £25 from the 2015-16 level to £685, as well as all other tiers being frozen or reduced.
- £9 GA seats will be offered for each and every Premier League match, an allocation of more than 10,000 tickets across the season.
We would hasten to add that the other initiatives announced last week in the 2016-17 plan will remain:
17-21 young adult concession – 20,000 tickets across the Premier League season available at a 50 per cent reduction for young people.
1,000 tickets to Premier League matches across the season will be given away free of charge to Liverpool schoolchildren based on merit, as recommended by their teachers.
Bojan Krkic will be a Potter for plenty of years to come.
On Thursday Stoke City announced that Bojan, 25, has signed a contract extension keeping him at the Britannia Stadium for another four-and-a-half years.
[ MORE: New-look Stoke to progress ]
Since arriving from Spanish giants Barcelona at the start of the 2014-15 season the playmaker has been a revelation in the Premier League.
Despite suffering a serious knee injury midway through his debut season in England, Bojan has battled back this campaign and has scored five times in 23 outings for the Potters.
Speaking to the club website, Bojan revealed his delight in signing the contract extension that will see him stay with Stoke until the summer of 2020.
“I am very happy and motivated. Stoke City gave me the opportunity to play in the most competitive league in the world, the Premier League, and I have only words of gratitude for their trust and for the way they have treated me since the first day I arrived to England,” Bojan said. “Mark Hughes convinced me to come to Stoke, he has helped me and showed his trust in me from the beginning, he followed closely the recovery process from my injury and there is no doubt I have signed an extension of my contract thanks to him.”
With Mark Hughes’ side battling for a top six finish, being knocked out agonizingly on penalty kicks by Liverpool in the League Cup semifinal and still in the FA Cup, it’s been another stellar season for Stoke as their progress continues.
Bojan’s presence has been central to attracting top names to join him at Stoke, with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Mark Arnautovic all part of a new-look attack which in-turn has provided a much more attractive team to watch on the pitch.
Amid interest from plenty of other teams around the Premier League and Europe, Stoke have kept hold of their main creative hub and fans will be delighted to see the Barca academy product progress with the Potters over an extended period of time.