Random notes from Monday’s FIFA ceremony in Zurich

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Leave it to FIFA to create an hour of needless content around two revelations that could have been zipped up in about four minutes – and that’s with both acceptance speeches!

But never mind that. Abby Wambach won her first FIFA Women’s player of the Year honor (congrats!) and Leo Messi claimed his unprecedented fourth Ballon d’Or.

Yup … dancers, weird mascots, bad speeches (along with a few worthy moments, if should be said) all to find out that Messi had outdistanced Cristiano Ronaldo (the only real competition, it should be said) for the 2012 world honor.

(MORE: No suprises, as Leo Messi wins at unprecedented fourth)

Here are some other memorable moments and facts to consider (of the completely random nature):

Messi was not listed on 52 of the 508 official ballots. Fools. Just fools.

For the record, Ruud Gullit is the only former MLS manager to ever host a FIFA Ballon D’Or ceremony.

Sepp Blatter’s speech to open the ceremony would have raised indignant cries of “hypocrisy” or even “ignorance” … if it wasn’t just so comically bad.

If you’re interested, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann voted Messi first, Andrea Pirlo second and Cristiano Ronaldo third. All the ballots are here.

If I find the man or woman who said, “Dancing! We need more dancing at the ceremony! … Maybe even some shirtless men throwing fake kung-fu!” … we are going to have words.

So as not to sound like a total FIFA basher, the video mash-up of former player of the year winners, which included some wonderful, old footage, was pretty sweet.

In case you were wondering, the man conducting interviews for FIFA’s official feed on the red carpet before Monday’s announcement thought U.S. women’s national team players Alex Morgan and Hope Solo were beautiful and were wearing beautiful dresses. He didn’t feel the need to say something similar about the handsome, fit and well-dressed men he interviewed. It seems that the sexist attitudes around world soccer’s governing body trickle down from the top.

I’m not quite sure what to say about Messi’s seriously fancy outfit. Polka dots, yo!

Speaking of wardrobe, here’s what blogger-funny man-good dude Shawn Francis said about Brazil’s Marta, who was up for Female Player of the Year: “Marta wearing Tina Turner’s dress from the Private Dancer tour, I see.” Good one, Shawn!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stunning goal against England wasn’t even among the nominees for FIFA Goal of the Year … which delegitimizes the award in my mind. No reason to even talk about it.

Spain’s Vicente Del Bosque was named Men’s Coach of the Year.

Former U.S. manager Pia Sundhage was named Women’s Coach of the Year.

Singing! Of course, there had to be singing!  At least one tune was of the unscripted variety, as Sundhage sang out a nice, quick little tribute to Alex Morgan and Wambach in the audience, essentially saying she was there because of players like them. A very nice touch. And very, uh, “Sundage.”

source:  Someone said the song was Olivia Newton John’s “If Not For You.” I cannot confirm this. And if I could, I certainly would not admit it.

Two-time Ballon D’Or winner and former Brazilian great Ronaldo (pictured) is only 36, but he has added so much weight, he is nearly unrecognizable.

Gullit, 49 minutes into the ridiculously, overly long ceremony: “The tension is mounting!” Uh, no … it really wasn’t. Whatever tension might have been linked into this one (truly, not so much) leaked about around the time the Brazil 2104 mascot went bouncing around on the stage. Or when Gullit put on a Gullit wig. (He really did that.) Or when some lady nobody knew sang a song nobody knew. Or when … oh, you get the message.

Baroni fired by Serie A basement club Benevento

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) Benevento fired Marco Baroni and named Roberto De Zerbi its new coach after becoming the first squad in Serie A history to lose its first nine matches of the season.

The southern Italian club is the only team in Europe’s five major leagues without a point.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Benevento also announced it fired sporting director Salvatore Di Somma.

The moves on Monday came a day after a 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Benevento will have to pay Baroni 800,000 euros (nearly $1 million) as part of an anti-firing clause in his contract.

Baroni guided Benevento up from Serie B last season.

De Zerbi last coached Palermo nearly a year ago before being fired by the Sicilian club.

It’s the second coaching change in Serie A this season, after Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli at Cagliari last week.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

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34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

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All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in dual nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.