San Jose Earthquakes v Seattle Sounders

ProSoccerTalk’s Award conversations: Major League Soccer Coach of the Year

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Three soccer brains are clearly better than one. So Richard Farley, Noah Davis and I huddled up virtually to sort out our ProSoccerTalk picks for Major League Soccer awards.

We started with Coach of the Year:

Steve Davis: All right guys, the other day on a radio show I just kind of prattled something off the top of my head about D.C. United’s Ben Olsen being the obvious choice. But I find life without a backspace key brings out the stupid in me. Not that Olsen is a bad choice; first playoff berth for United since 2007? No Dwayne De Rosario at the end? And he’s the league’s youngest coach?

But I talked about it like there was no choice to be made. Which really is quite stupid. (It was too early; no more radio interviews without morning coffee for me!)

So, who wants to make the case for … can I get a Frank Yallop? …

Richard Farley: I’ll gladly do so, since I was the PST guy that fell in love with San Jose at the beginning of the season. If Frank’s still driving, I’m still riding.

For Coach of the Year, I look for what a guy did with the talent he had, but I want to be able to point to specific examples (just in case a Steve Davis of the world asked me to go on record). By this standard, Yallop’s got the best case.

At the beginning of the season, few were picking San Jose to make the playoffs. The West was tough, and their talent just didn’t look up to snuff. Early on, though, it was apparent that he had fused the parts together to create a greater sum. In a year in which they were supposed to be gone by November, San Jose cruised to the Supporters’

Shield, Yallop’s setup getting career years out of almost all of his regular starting XI. You could say all the stars aligned for him, but that’s a lot of stars and a very straight line. It’s far more plausible that Yallop’s done an incredible job.

If he needs more support, look at San Jose’s late match effectively.

Not only does that speak to the changes Yallop makes in-game (San Jose is regularly a completely different team come full time), but it also tells of the mentality he’s helped instill in the team.

Noah Davis: I’ll see your Yallop — the Goonies can’t win all the post-season awards — and raise you my midseason pick, Mr. Martin Rennie. Getting that Whitecaps team to the promised land of the playoffs, even if it is simply to lose to the Galaxy, ain’t no thang. That roster, being kind here, is not that good. Sure, Jay DeMerit is the best on-field leader in MLS but someone has to put the pieces on the field. While I didn’t love all the moves they made up in the Great White North, they made enough to eek into the post-season. Now it’s time for the real test.

Steve Davis: Hmmm. I think Noah has already run out of provisions in his NY bunker. Somebody rush the man over some Slim Jims and a mineral water. Stat!

Rennie helped erect that crane and wrecking ball they took to a team that was doing pretty well. They “rebuilt” the roster to within an inch of its life.  I like the guy personally, but I just don’t think the final product in 2012 speaks well of him.

source: Getty Images

Richard Farley: Crane and wrecking ball? Is that an allusion to Merritt Paulson and John Spencer? Very clever, Mr. Davis.

Steve Davis: So, you are advocating John Spencer then?  I kid, I kid! Anybody else we need to consider before moving on to Rookie of the Year?

Richard Farley: I’d be curious to hear your guys’ thoughts on Chicago’s Frank Klopas [pictured].

Steve Davis: Meh.

Noah Davis: I’m with Steve. Too late to throw my lot in with Yallop?

Steve Davis: Got you down, Noah. So I’m out-voted. Democracy rules. Thomas freakin’ Jefferson got nothing on us.

Our Pick: San Jose’s FRANK YALLOP

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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