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CONCACAF Champions League Draw: Because groups should be inspired by squagels


CONCACAF held its group stage draw for this year’s Champions League, hammering home a harsh truth: This format is really happening.

Four-team groups? Oh, no. Not for you. You liked it? It’s the standard format for this kinda thing? Well, suck it, loyal CCL fan that’s keeping this tournament alive, and get ready for …

Three-team groups! That’s right. Three. Not four. It’s the squagel of groups! (Link features strong language.)

I alluded to this when talking about the horribly written LOST episode that is African World Cup qualifying, but when you cut down on the number of games and only let the top team go through, you’re begging for randomness to happen. And if we’ve learned anything from the U.S. Open Cup, nothing says legitimate, respected championship like inexplicable randomness.

There are fewer travel dates, there more teams are in group stage (all teams are in group stage), and each team is guaranteed a second home game (against at least one prominent team), so there are positives. The negatives? Other than inviting more aberrational results, shortening the principle part of the tournament, and doing so with a sneaking suspicion that reducing cross-hemisphere flights was a concern (and in fairness, things like that are a legitimate concern), there are no negatives.

There’s still going to be a tournament, a winner, and all the bragging rights that go with it. I really shouldn’t be such a curmudgeon.

Five Major League Soccer teams are in group stage. Toronto gets another shot at Santos in Group 1. Real Salt Lake got a relatively sweet draw in Group 2. Houston’s not quite as lucky, but Group 3 could have been worse. Seattle should be fine in Group 4, while who knows with LA Galaxy. Group 5 looks easy, but we shouldn’t overestimate this Galaxy team.

Group 1: Santos Laguna (Mexico), Toronto FC (Canada), Aguila (El Salvador)

Group 2: Herediano (Costa Rica), Real Salt Lake (United States), Tauro (Panama)

Group 3: Olimpia (Honduras), Houston Dynamo (United States), FAS (El Salvador)

Group 4: Seattle Sounders (United States), Marathon (Honduras), [Caribbean qualifier]

Group 5: LA Galaxy (United States), Isidro Metapan (El Salvador), [Caribbean qualifier]

Group 6: Tigres (Mexico), Alajuelense (Costa Rica), Real Esteli (Nicaragua)

Group 7: Chorrillo (Panama), Monterrey (Mexico), Municipal (Guatemala)

Group 8: Xelaju (Guatemala), Guadalajara (Mexico), [Caribbean qualifer]

Jurgen Klopp announced as new Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
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Enough with the speculation and reports already, because it’s finally officially official: Jurgen Klopp has been appointed the newest manager of Liverpool Football Club, the Merseyside club announced on Thursday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Klopp will be unveiled to the world at an introductory press conference at Anfield on Friday.

According to early reports, Klopp’s three-year contract could pay him as much as $10 million per season.

[ QUOTE KING: Top 10 “Klopp-isms” from his time at Dortmund ]

The 48-year-old German has been out of work since stepping down at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund following a seventh-place finish to the 2014-15 season. Klopp’s seven seasons in charge of Dortmund weren’t without success and silverware, though, as he led Der BVB to back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012, a German Cup triumph in 2012 and a UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2013.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright will be at Anfield on Friday for Klopp’s unveiling, so be sure to follow JPW on Twitter and check back to PST for wall-to-wall coverage of Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager.

Mourinho “working like never before” to turn Chelsea around

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC
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Jose Mourinho got the dreaded much-needed vote of confidence from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich last weekend, seemingly giving the Portuguese manager a temporary stay of execution despite the Blues’ worst start to a season in 37 years.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking this week, Mourinho has revealed that while he’s thankful to have been kept on at the club for which he regularly professes his love, he still thinks it was no-brainer for Abramovich. In other words, Mourinho’s not backing down from his incredible, seven-minute rant to one question following Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.

Mourinho, on what he’s doing to turn Chelsea around — quotes from the Guardian:

“It shows the confidence of Abramovich in the manager who has won three Premier League titles with this club. I thank him and I keep working.

“What’s going on? I do not know. The results with Chelsea at the moment have been really bad. I cannot hide that reality, and I don’t want to. And I struggle to find an explanation. But I assure you: I’m working like never before and we will come out of this. And there is also the Champions League that we will not neglect, for certain.”

What did you expect from Mourinho? Well, you know, I should probably be fired, but thanks to Mr. Abramovich for not realizing this and keeping me employed? It’s simultaneously interesting and the least surprising thing ever, though, that Mourinho claims to not know what’s wrong with Chelsea at the moment. Of course he has a theory (or five), and of course he’s “working like never before” to correct it.

[ MORE: Ozil, Coquelin say Arsenal can win the title this season ]

The most fascinating thing about Chelsea’s sluggish start to the season is to see, hear and read Mourinho speaking from a position of powerlessness. Always the clever one, the one dictating where the discussion goes, the one in charge of every press interaction, Saturday’s rant felt like watching a desperate Mourinho grasping for anything by which to pull himself back up.