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ProSoccerTalk’s daily soccer re-set


Soccer birthdays:

One of the game’s truly mercurial figures, Zlatan Ibrahimović, turns 31 today. He is also the only player to score in Champions League for six different clubs (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain).

Former Canadian international and current University of Texas soccer coach Angela Kelly turns 41.

Big Important Stories of the Day:

This “Match Day” thing is always a bit confusing, isn’t it? Because yesterday was Champions League Match Day 2. Which makes today … uh, Champions League Match Day 2 ½ I suppose. At any rate, the other eight group play matches of UEFA greatness are set for today.

Of course, the big talkers will be the matches out of Group D, where Real Madrid plays at Ajax and Dortmund visits Manchester City.

Closer to our shores, two MLS matches come attached to those playoff implications that we all love so much at this time of year. In both cases, the home team faces a side already eliminated from post-season action, so they will see this as chance to fully exploit. Chicago hosts Philadelphia and Vancouver hosts Chivas USA.

RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day):Tracey Leone (Tracey Bates)

Twitter daps:


What you should watch on TV today:

Featured Champions League matches on Fox Soccer Channel are:

Zenit St. Petersburg-AC Milan at noon ET

Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund at 2 p.m. ET

Arsenal-Olympiacos at 5 p.m. ET (delay)

Ajax-Real Madrid at 7 p.m. ET (delay)

*Ahead on the blog today: We’ll dig into yesterday’s big MLS news: Erik Soler being replaced as sporting director for the New York Red Bulls.

Former AS Monaco president Jérôme de Bontin will serve as New York’s general manager in a position overseen by former France and Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier, who now serves as head of global soccer for Red Bull.

(We’ll scour the earth to find someone for whom this move – and the timing – makes a bit of sense. We are not optimistic.)

If the MLS playoffs started today (following 28 rounds):

Eastern Conference

(Wildcard round)

  • Houston at D.C. United

(Second round)

  • Sporting Kansas City vs. Wildcard winner
  • Chicago vs. New York Red Bulls

Western Conference:

(Wildcard round)

  • Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle

(Second Round)

  • San Jose vs. Wildcard winner
  • Real Salt Lake vs. L.A. Galaxy

PST background noise while blogging today: Scanning for BBC and podcast bits on Champions League.

We’ll leave you with this: Yesterday I watched (live or same-day delayed) high-quality soccer from Russia, Romania, Norway and Portugal. Today we get the top shelf stuff from Russia, England and the Netherlands. TV and technology in the modern age is absolutely, positively awesome.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we all had to wait until the next morning and check out the Champions League scores in the newspaper.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.