England soccer fans with painted face smile during Euro 2012 soccer match between France and England at the Euro 2012 fan zone in Donetsk

ProSoccerTalk’s daily soccer re-set

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Soccer birthdays: Well isn’t this precious: two days before his team gets back on the field, facing co-host Ukraine in a Euro 2012 contest, French international Florent Malouda turns 32.

Big Important Story of the Day (North American version): How about that result last night from Guatemala City? You know, we should probably talk about that.

Big Important Story of the Day (Global version): A pre-tourney favorite at Euro 2012 (and a longtime favorite of fans who favor soccer that’s easy on the eyes) may be done by the time you pack up at the office today. We’re looking at you, Netherlands.

Ahead on the blog today*: Plenty of reflection on the U.S.-Guatemala match, plus a crazy-massive match from Euro 2012, where one of the tournament favorites, the Dutch, will go crashing out ingloriously if they lose today to the Germans. And since the Germans are another of the tourney favs, don’t be shocked it if happens. Richard Farley, our point man on all things EUFA European Championship (pictured, you know, fans and all), will be your guide on this one.

Meanwhile, I’m sure we’ll be talking about this, sorry upheaval in Warsaw.

Plus, our man on the crazy Ukrainian streets of Kiev, Noah Davis, will check in with his latest dispatch – assuming he and his buddies have remained in the good graces of the Ukrainian authorities, that is. Ahem. I’m sure everything is fine.

What we should all be watching on TV:

Denmark-Portugal, noon ET, ESPN

Germany-Netherlands, 2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day): Joe-Max Moore

Twitter daps: ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas): Good morning. I sense a disturbance in the force. Must be the return of the Group of Death. #Euro2012

Houston Dynamo and U.S. international center back Geoff Cameron (@GeoffCameron), who returned early this morning to the States, along with the rest of his national teammates: Headed back to H-Town! Looking forward to sleeping in my own bed but not so much the Houston heat! #HOUSTON

We’ll leave you with this: You forget how long ESPN analyst Kasey Keller was around the game as a player until you hear him at one of the Euro 2012 matches – and listen to the man talk about how many of these guys are former teammates. Well done, sir.

*Always subject to change; you know how it is

VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]

Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast

Kroenke: “Very high” on Wenger who is “very hard” to replace

Jeff Fisher
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LONDON — Arsenal remains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” replacing the manager who is in the final year of his contract, owner Stan Kroenke told The Associated Press on Monday.

Wenger this month celebrated 20 years in charge of Arsenal and has offered no indication whether he wants to sign a new deal into next season.

The 67-year-old Frenchman became the Premier League’s longest serving manager when Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in 2013. United is now on its third manager in three years and has not competed for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s departure.

In a rare interview about Arsenal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson succession at United while discussing the challenge of eventually replacing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a comment like that,” Kroenke told the AP after Arsenal’s annual general meeting. “It’s very hard. He’s a great manager.”

Wenger signed his last three-year contract extension in 2014.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time,” Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick told shareholders at a meeting where Wenger didn’t address his contract situation in his speech.

Although Wenger has won the Premier League three times, the last success came in 2004 – a drought which frustrates fans.

“He’s been a wonderful influence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the table right now.”

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated on goal difference at the summit. Despite Wenger only winning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lucrative Champions League for the 19th successive year thanks to its runner-up finish last season. Wenger is yet to win European football’s top prize.

“I know a number of (sports team) owners that are very successful that say the same thing – the hardest thing to do is be consistently competitive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. “Arsene has always done that and Arsenal has always been in that position. We have always been competitive.

“We may not always win the things we want to win. We are very focused on winning for sure the league. Arsene’s been consistently at the top and I will tell you – it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”


2016 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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With Major League Soccer’s Decision Day 2016 in the books, we now know who will battle it out for MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Who will win MLS Cup? ]

Up first on Wednesday and Thursday are the four knockout round games, then the Conference semifinal first legs kick off this weekend.

We get into it thick and fast.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The PST crew already selected their picks for the postseason and filled out their bracket. You can see that by clicking on the link above. FWIW, I have Toronto FC beating the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup…

[ MORE: Ranking MLS playoff teams ]

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full so you can make your picks and let us know who you went for in the comments section below.


MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

MLS Playoff bracket, 2016
Source: MLSSoccer.com