Heard and overheard at MLS Cup 2012

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Frank Lampard to the Galaxy? Not so much

Word from those who know say any media types still peddling the Frank Lampard to Galaxy story need to tap the brakes.

The Galaxy, says one source, has very little interest.

Kaka? Yes, for sure. AEG president Tim Leiweke is on the record about that one. But the Lampard thing seems to have grown a pair of false legs.

They clubs was, on the other hand, very interested earlier this year in Giovani dos Santos and Didier Drogba, the source said, as MLS held substantive talks with representatives of both.

The Galaxy was willing to go up to $9 million a year for Drogba … which just wasn’t going to trump the ridiculous $15 million he’s earning in China.

Josh Saunders out at Galaxy?

We all saw Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders more or less evaporate on the goal line Saturday as Calen Carr slammed the Houston Dynamo into the lead. It was hardly Saunders’ best moment, and it probably will drive home the final, proverbial nail. Word is that the Galaxy are finished with Saunders, who missed time this year while in the league’s substance abuse treatment program.

Word is that the Galaxy would really like to find a way to grab Dan Kennedy from down the Home Depot Center hall. Chivas USA’s besieged goalkeeper may not fit the new profile for the Goats. Or maybe he will – who really knows with that mess of a club? This much is certain: if the Galaxy could pull off this one, it would be a true coup. (And a pretty doggone good deal for Kennedy, too, who would fall break ties with the league’s wackiest, most unstable team for a spot with the two-time defending champs.)

“One … million … dollars”

We all raised eyebrows at the thought of Chris Wondolowski’s seemingly out-sized demands of $1 million.

Word is that it never happened. Not even close.

Wondolowski made $300,000 last year, certainly underpaid for a league MVP, and a record-setting one at that. But credit the man for more awareness; he may want to be a Designated Player, but he understands that he would be more in line with a Fredy Montero or Eric Hassli, DP forwards earning base salaries of somewhere north of $500,000.

(MORE: Will MLS add a little more Designated Player money?)

Bruce Arena showed up … where?

I have never quite decided if Bruce Arena loves to hate the media … or if he just enjoys poking the media bear, and also enjoys a good joust.

Either way, Arena has never seemed to embrace that part of the American soccer coaching experience. He never seems to relish speaking to the media (which isn’t hard to understand considering all of the silly questions the man has endured through the years, especially a few years back before the media world evolved into a better place for soccer.)

Any-whose, it was downright shocking to see Arena show up Thursday at a media happy hour. He was jovial and seemed quite happy to be there.

The Galaxy will be going somewhere … soon

The Los Angeles Galaxy will not be sitting still. Very soon – by the end of the week, perhaps – they will be off on another check-cashing tour to some far-flung land. Not that this is a shocker; the Galaxy have done the same over the last couple of years. The surprise is why the club seems ever intent on making it a surprise. Look for an announcement in the next couple of days.

Red Bulls looking to “buy domestic”

The Red Bulls are moving and grooving on the personnel front. As I mentioned before, that’s dangerous, because they don’t have a coach. When player personnel strokes flow against the coaching grain, chances of success can fall dramatically.

At least the new sheriffs in town around Red Bull Arena seem to recognize their area of weakness – which is a deeper knowledge of where to find domestic talent, and a solid understanding of the MLS player personnel nitty-gritty. Word is that they truly are determined to hire someone that fits the bill – so previous reports to that effect weren’t just talk or misdirection. That’s encouraging if you’re a Red Bulls fan, that this administration may not face the same long learning curve the last one did.

That could be an American coach, and American assistant or it could be in the creation of position in between the manager and GM Andy Roxburgh.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday