ProSoccerTalk’s daily soccer re-set

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Soccer birthdays:

Huge, huge day in birthdays ….

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea turns 22.

United States international Jonathan Bornstein, who took his spins on the revolving wheel of U.S. left backs, turns 28.

England international and Manchester United defensive staple Rio Ferdinand turns 34.

Dutch international Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (whose name is actually even longer than that, because his proper name is Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink) also turns 34

Scottish international and Vancouver Whitecaps chatty midfielder Barry Robson turns 34. (Come to think of it, perhaps the fact that one of their central midfielders is 34 helps explain the Whitecaps demise over the second half of the season, which is when Robson joined up.)

Former England international and Liverpool legend left winger John Barnes turns 49.

Finally, while guys like Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia absorbed most of the headlines, guys like the fabulously talented Vladislav Bogicevic were just as important to those illustrious Cosmos teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The former Yugoslavian international, who is a member of the American National Soccer Hall of Fame, turns 62

Big Important Stories of the Day:

The United States learns its World Cup final round qualifying schedule today as FIFA and CONCACAF conduct the draw for six teams that have made it to the remaining stage, the so-called “Hexagonal.”  The draw from Miami takes place tonight at 8 p.m. ET

It’s MLS playoff day – three of the four conference semifinal series will be settled today. By late into the evening, five Major League Soccer clubs will remain in contention for the 17th MLS Cup.

Plus, it’s another Champions League Day, with the other half of group play rolling out today from Europe.

RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day:  Jennifer Grubb

*Ahead on the blog today:

More on the three MLS matches today, including the one in San Jose, where Major League Soccer’s reigning champs, the star-packed L.A. Galaxy, have some heavy lifting ahead just to remain in contention.

Later, we’ll have analysis and highlights from the trio of eliminators.

We’ll also tell you what happened in the UEFA Champions League, where the big matches include Scottish giant Celtic against inimitable Barcelona and title holder Chelsea against Shaktar Donetsk.

Twitter daps:


What you should watch on TV today:

  • Braga host Manchester United live from Portugal at 2:35 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer Channel. (The photo above is from Braga’s beautiful grounds.)
  • Celtic hosts Barcelona on delay at 5 p.m. ET on FSC.
  • In MLS, the New York Red Bulls host D.C. United at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
  • And San Jose hosts Los Angeles at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Background noise while blogging today:  All the fallout from another historic night in American will be fascinating. And if that gets tiresome, last night’s speech from the President of the United States is worth replaying a time or two. That was powerful stuff.

We’ll leave you with this:  As someone who appreciates what Dutch soccer offered the game back in the day, it’s nice to see Ajax become a bigger player in European competition once again.

“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.