Sorting out the Seattle Sounders; getting realistic about things

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The Seattle Sounders are in a bad way right now, and not just because they lost to Portland on Sunday. Yes, that one stings like the dickens, a deeper bruise than others along this seven-game beating of a winless streak – but it must be seen in the broader context.

And reclaiming a better place along the continuum of “broader context” starts with getting realistic about things. Ground zero is acknowledging what you are. Right now.

In June of 2012, Seattle is a team perhaps not as deep as everyone thought; the obvious defensive struggles are providing plenty of evidence. The Sounders have allowed almost two goals a game during the seven-game winless spell (13 conceded).

Sounders boss Sigi Schmid laid it out for everyone to hear Sunday evening. If you ask me, this is the only way back, confronting problems, making hard choices … not talking about being unlucky or convincing yourself that you’re a “quality team” that just “made some mistakes” and such. Good teams win games. Period.

Instead, you put it down for everyone, and you hope they start picking it up.

I don’t feel good about these series of games. The team in the locker room has to decide what team is the Seattle Sounders. Are they the Seattle Sounders that played the first seven games of the season or the Sounders that have played the last eight games of the season?

“They are at the crossroads where they have to make a decision which team they are.”

Some of the crossroads effect is finding your place on the map; finding which crossroad, exactly, you’ve arrived upon. For instance, quit looking at what players were. It’s tricky, I know, but what are they right now? We’re past 2009, you know?

source: Getty ImagesSchmid didn’t make the right call in personnel Sunday, going with Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado rather than Patrick Ianni (pictured) at center back, a costly choice.

Either way, the defense needs additional cover right now. Whatever roles injuries, new goalkeepers and offseason personnel choices played in a deteriorating defensive scene – and there are discussion points aplenty there, admittedly – those cows are out of the barn. It’s just time to list your assets and work with what you have.

So Seattle may need a tweaked approach, and that might mean players accepting adjusted roles or even different personnel for an altered system.

And then there’s Fredy Montero, who isn’t producing goals but is producing poor choices, like rushed free kicks at important times and rash moments of petulant behavior. Is there going to be accountability?

There’s plenty of time (the Sounders will reach the halfway pole this week) but frustration is becoming more apparent. Schmid and the team leaders have to get on top of this thing, right now – before that frustration becomes even more toxic.

Sir Alex’s son in trouble for saying he’d “shoot” refs

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LONDON (AP) It clearly runs in the family.

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was known for having an explosive temper during his nearly 27 years at Old Trafford, and it seems he has passed it down to his son.

Darren Ferguson, who is the manager of third-tier English team Doncaster, is in trouble for saying he would “shoot” referees because of what he perceived as their poor standards.

Ferguson was charged by the English Football Association on Wednesday for remarks that “were improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

The 45-year-old coach has already apologized, saying it was a “tongue-in-cheek comment” and that “I do not advocate violence against officials.”

Ferguson was unhappy his team was denied a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth on Saturday.

“The referees are part-time and the standard is appalling, their fitness levels are a disgrace, I’ve had enough of it,” Ferguson said after the match.

“What can I do? Shoot them, it would be a good idea.”

Follow Live: Chelsea, Swans, Cherries in FA Cup replays

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Chelsea, Swansea City, and Bournemouth look to avoid upsets in replays of their third round FA Cup matches.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

All three matches kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET

The Blues tangle with former Premier League peers Norwich City, this time at Stamford Bridge, in a bid to host a fourth round match with Newcastle United.

Antonio Conte‘s not messing around (too much) with the XI.

Swansea City and Wolves, meanwhile, are arguably battling for a bid in the fourth round, as a trip to Notts County is on the docket for the winner of Wednesday’s replay at the Liberty Stadium.

Bournemouth is at Wigan Athletic for a replay with the third-tier Latics, with the victor hosting West Ham United on Jan. 27.

Benevento captain Lucioni banned one year for doping

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ROME (AP) Benevento captain Fabio Lucioni has been banned one year for doping.

[ MORE: Plenty to prove for Big Sam ]

Italy’s national anti-doping organization made the decision Tuesday after the steroid clostebol was found in a sample taken after Benevento’s 1-0 loss to Torino in September.

Benevento team physician Walter Giorgione was banned for four years for administering the steroid to Lucioni in a spray.

Both Lucioni and Giorgione plan to appeal.

The 30-year-old Lucioni joined Benevento in 2014 and the defender helped the team move from the third division up into Serie A this season for the first time.

Benevento is last in Serie A with only two wins in 20 matches.

The ban is back-dated to October, meaning Lucioni can return early next season.

Everton completes move for Walcott: “I’m dead excited” (video)

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Everton continues to supply its managers with top-end talent, adding Theo Walcott to its expensive season of boys which includes Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney, Cenk Tosun, Jordan Pickford, and Michael Keane.

[ MORE: Plenty to prove for Big Sam ]

The deal is reported to be near $28 million for Walcott, who’s made only a half-dozen Premier League appearances this season but did nab three goals in five Europa League matches.

Walcott, 28, scored 108 goals in 397 appearances for the Gunners. His 19-goal campaign last season was his second-best — he scored 21 in 2012-13 — but Walcott dipped down Arsene Wenger‘s depth charge and is leaving to pursue regular football.

And his comments will be lapped up by the #WengerOut brigade at his now former club:

“The Club has won trophies but I want them to win trophies now. The manager is very hungry and it’s just what I need. I’ve had a couple of chats with him and straightaway I felt that hunger and that desire that he wanted from me. I need that and I wanted that

The move is another exciting one for Everton, which has underachieved under Ronald Koeman and now Sam Allardyce. And it’s another sale from Arsenal which gives pause: Are the underperforming Gunners going to regret the move?

In the 2005-06 season, Walcott made his Southampton debut in the Football League Championship at the age of 16, and moved to Arsenal the next season.

Walcott has eight goals in 47 caps for England, and won two FA Cups at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Montreal nabs Algerian DP ]

Here is a useful quote from Sam Allardyce:“His physical output is excellent, he would be one of our top players in that area as well, which will hopefully bring us a lot more excitement and more ability to get forward quicker and create.

And here is an utterly useless one: ““If you analyse his goal record, then we are looking at a player who contributes goals on a regular basis.”

You don’t say. To paraphrase: If you look at all his goals, he regularly scores goals. Here’s more from the player on his move.