D.C. United and the Seattle Sounders find themselves down two goals and three goals, respectively, in their quests to get to MLS Cup on December 1. That’s not good. Not good at all.
Their opponents, the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy, are massive favorites to advance. As MLSSoccer.com’s Simon Borg notes, only two teams — the 2003 San Jose Earthquakes and the 2004 Kansas City Wizards — have ever come back from a two-goal deficit. That’s a 25 percent success rate, which is not encouraging. (But also maybe better than expected?)
The 2011 Sounders are the only team in league history to start the second leg down three goals. They lost 3-2 on aggregate to Real Salt Lake.
So it doesn’t look very good. But if a team is going to make a run, which one will it be?
D.C. United would be the sensible pick, seeing as they have less of a hill to climb. And Ben Olsen squad appeared destined to reach the league’s final game after their insane run of late-season form. That said, a variety of circumstances conspired to stop them. First, injuries, injuries, injuries. They did okay without DeRo — you know, for a team losing its best player and all — but Chris Pontius reaggrevated a groin injury in the first leg. And Andy Najar is out, suspended after throwing the ball at a ref. They will struggle to score without those two.
So, I’m taking Seattle. (Note: I don’t think either underdog will make it to MLS Cup.) The Sounders have a massive home-field advantage and plenty of weapons. The Galaxy look unbeatable, but maybe second-choice centerback Tommy Meyer chokes. Get one goal early, get the crowd (even more involved), and this thing gets interesting.
Don’t forget: Weird things happen when the Galaxy go to Seattle in big matches.
When Claudio Ranieri was brought into Leicester City this summer, he set a goal for the club: Get 40 points and stay up in the Premier League.
A third of the way through the season, Ranieri has far exceeded expectations, sitting top of the table with 28 points through 13 matches.
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Originally thought of as a favorite for relegation, the perception of Leicester has changed very quickly, as both Arsene Wenger and Louis Van Gaal said you could not rule them out as title contenders.
Responding to Wenger’s comments, Ranieri played down the Foxes’ title chances, saying their goal is still to get 40 points and stay above the drop.
Thank you to Arsene but he’s a joker. He knows the truth very well. The league is very strange and open but our goal is 40 points.
Our goal at the moment is this but let me see the next two months and then maybe I change the goal.
Like everybody else I am also curious in these days to watch my team, and to see how we respond in these big matches.
At this point last season, Leicester sat bottom of the table with a record of 2-4-7 and ten points. Today, Leicester is top of the table with a record of 8-4-1 and 28 points. Under Nigel Pearson, the Foxes won just 11 games all of last season, with seven of those coming from the final nine matches in a legendary run to stave off relegation.
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With a tough run of matches coming up against the likes of Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City, Ranieri is trying to keep his side in check, knowing you can never take anything for granted in the Premier League. However, if Leicester was to pull out a win over United on Saturday, Foxes’ fans will certainly have much higher hopes than 40 points.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Manchester City desperately want to lure Pep Guardiola away from Bayern Munich and pay the Spaniard tactician lots and lots of money to come manage in the Premier League.
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Of course we’ve all heard it before — a number of times, in fact. So, what’s different about the latest report, hitting the headlines very late Thursday night in Europe, linking the 44-year-old to Man City?
Well, apparently, we’ve moved past “Man City will offer Guardiola whatever he wants to come to the Etihad Stadium,” and arrived at “Guardiola has agreed terms to become manager at Man City.”
However, the respected Spanish radio station Cadena COPE is reporting that Guardiola has already decided he would like “a change of scenery” and will succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium.
“Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season and will train Manchester City next season,” read the report.
“Guardiola has decided on a change of scenery. He considers his time in Germany will end on 30 June after three seasons and, therefore, fulfil one of his wishes: to coach in England.”
With all due respect to every player Man City have signed in the last decade, the acquisition of Guardiola would be, by far, their greatest coup to date — a manager with a clear ethos, a clear plan of action and a track record of having succeeded and won in the UEFA Champions League, which remains the most elusive trophy to City’s cabinet.
Perhaps no man in the footballing world has been embroiled in more controversy this season than Jose Mourinho, who remains in charge of Chelsea despite a horrid start to the club’s 2015-16 Premier League campaign.
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The Portuguese mastermind has fallen out with a number of his own players and staff this season, so why not add another name to the growing list? Come on down, Diego Costa, you’re Mourinho’s next combatant.
The two reportedly got into a heated locker-room exchange following Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Given Costa’s increasingly poor form all the way back to the final weeks and months of the 2014-15 season — just seven goals scored in the last 10 months — Mourinho is reportedly less and less sure the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard is the right man to lead the line for the reigning PL champions.
The details of Mourinho and Costa’s halftime spat, from the Guardian:
Mourinho, just as he did after a similar situation against Norwich on Saturday, made his frustrations clear at the forward’s lack of anticipation over an Eden Hazard pass, which would have provided the striker with a tap-in had he been on the move. Costa returned his manager’s remonstrations in kind. Oscar and John Terry tried to calm him down only to be pushed aside. The manager subsequently suggested there had been “a few kisses, a few cuddles” in the dressing room at the interval, and “no problem,” though the public show of dissent was notable.
The club’s hierarchy is reportedly considering dipping into the transfer market in January — something they’re extremely loath to do — to replace the misfiring Costa. The names of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie and Saido Berahino are the biggest currently linked with the Blues, given the lack of elite players typically available — as well as not being cup-tied in the Champions League — during the January window.
Chelsea, who currently sit 15th in the PL, return to league action on Sunday when they visit Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Watch live at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).
Alexis Sanchez is, by regular human standards, questionable for Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on Live Extra), thanks to a tweak to his hamstring during Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.
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There’s just one problem with the above premise: Sanchez, according to manager Arsene Wenger, isn’t exactly human; he’s more like a lion, says Wenger — a hunting lion chasing after and feasting on its prey.
Wenger, on Sanchez’s ability to recover quickly and star for the Gunners — quotes from the Guardian:
“When he does something, he does it 100%. He finishes and you think: ‘He’s dead now.’ But then he recovers and gives 100% again. You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not [that], because two days later, he’s fine.
“His style is very explosive, it’s a very committed style. Jamie Vardy is a bit similar. When they go, they go. They are like the lion. He has to catch the animal in the first 200 metres. If he doesn’t get there, he’s dead [on his feet] afterwards. They are these kind of killers. When they go, it is to kill and after, they have to stop.”
“I take information, especially from the medical people who know him and treat him everyday and after, we look at his overall recovery as well. When there are alarming signs, we want to make the right decision at the right moment but as long as the guys are confident, they score goals – it is always difficult to rest them.”
Sanchez’s production this season — 9 goals, 4 assists in 17 appearances – all competitions — is right on par with his spectacular debut in the PL last season. “What is also remarkable is that he goes to South America to play,” Wenger went on to say. “He comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”
Expect Sanchez to feature on Sunday, and probably to score a goal or two, as well.