Sporting KC v DC United

MLS at mid-season: Staff discussion on Coach, Newcomer of Year


Richard, Noah and I continue our MLS at mid-season discussion.

We covered MVP and Rookie of the Year earlier.

Fortified with snacks, on we go …

Steve Davis: I have to say, Coach of the Year is turning out be the hardest choice since I had to pick between the nerdy-adorable girl and the drill teamer as my U2 concert date in high school.

I’d say Ben Olsen deserves some Coach o’ Year thought. So does Frank Yallop, clearly. But Martin Rennie is killing it at BC Place. And good heavens, Miss Sakamoto, Hans Backe’s team is almost beautiful, never mind that his locker room doubles as a triage staging area.

Richard Farley: I think Robert Warzycha deserves some consideration, too. His team’s tied for the best GAA, though the pace they play at probably has something to do with that (as does some awesome play from his goalkeeper). Still, it’s not like he has a ton to work with there.

That said, I like Olsen. He’s making us forget all the questions that surrounded D.C. coming into the season. He’s got the defense under control, he’s dealt with the lack of production from some big ticket items, and look at what he’s gotten out of Pontius and Santos?

That said, I feel like I’m underselling Rennie a bit. And aren’t I supposed to be the West Coast guy?

Noah Davis: I’ll take up the Rennie torch. The Whitecaps were terrible last year, finishing 18th out of, you know, 18, giving up 55 goals while scoring a league-low 35. Fast forward, and they are third in the Western Conference, sixth overall, and well-positioned for the playoffs. BC Place (5-1-3) is a fortress. There’s some turnover in the roster, but not that much. Rennie deserves credit for building a band of castoffs, misfits, goofballs, and, yes, genuine talents into a formidable squad. (As does director of soccer operations, Tom Soehn, for the changes he’s made and the picks he’s selected. Darren Mattocks is looking more and more like a superstar in the making.) If Rennie can successfully incorporate DP Barry Robson into the mix, he has my vote.

Steve Davis: Ok, Bruce Arena it is. Let’s move on.

I can’t remember, is Breakout Player an award? Well, we’re no slave to The Man … by gosh, let’s make it one. Power to the ProSoccerTalk people! I’ll take Michael Farfan from Philly.

Noah Davis: I’ll take Andy Gruenebaum. Guy deserves a trip to Philly.

Steve Davis: Maybe All-Stars coach Ben Olsen will make him a “coach’s choice” and bring him in a couple of weeks.

Hmmm. I’m getting weird looks from Richard, which either means I’m getting too much orange Cheeto substance on our official ballots or he wants to move on to Newcomer of the Year. Or that he is super PO’ed about my Bruce Arena funny.

source: Getty Images

Steve Davis: So … Newcomer of the Year: I suppose we have to leave some room for consideration over Alessandro Nesta, Barry Robson, Oscar Boniek Garcia and other summer signings. But I’m measuring up Victor Bernardez for a ProSoccerTalk Newcomer of the Year t-shirt. San Jose “D” is a such a lesser beast without him.

This is where Merritt Paulson stalks us on Twitter with talk of Kris Boyd’s huge second-half ahead, but we’ll see.

Richard Farley: Kris Boyd’s got to be a whole different discussion, but Bernardez? My notes from Tuesday game were crazy. I have this shorthand I use for effective headers: H+. Within 30 minutes, Bernardez had 6-7 H+’s by his name (going up against Boyd, incidentally). I said to my running mate, “Troy Perkins needs to start avoiding Bernardez.” I wish I’d been more clever.

Alright, Steve. As long as you put a bunch of “H+” stickers down those sleeves like they’re Ohio State buckeyes, I’m on board with Bernardez being back on top come game 34 …

Either him or Frank Lampard. I mean, why would a guy want to stay with a team he just helped lead to a Champions League?

Steve Davis: Well, Noah just said something about rehearsal for his Pearl Jam cover band starting early and went running out of the room.  …

So, I’ll see if I can get Hans Backe on the phone to fill out the rest of Noah’s ballot. Or, maybe we’ll just put down New England’s Saer Sene (8 goals, 15 games … not bad) for him and table the last discussions until tomorrow.

Richard, please text Noah and ask him to think up some choices for Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and maybe some wild cards, like biggest disappointment or favorite Honduran or something.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City FC
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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms
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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.