Considering Ryan Nelsen and new MLS managers: What kind of experience counts?

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(Update: The Nelsen hire is official, but there is some weirdness afoot with the new manager’s starting date. Read about it here.)

If reports out of Toronto are to be believed – and there’s no reason to think them wrong at this point – Ryan Nelsen will be named Toronto FC manager today.

For the worriers and fearful out there, you probably have some reason to fret here.

Start with the lack of success around Toronto FC, where seven managers have come and gone, none having ever guided the Reds to a playoff spot. Chris Cummins, percentage points above .500 with a 12-11-8 mark, was technically the most “successful.”

So, at some point, you have to wonder if the rot is at the top; I am certainly not the first to question the true commitment to winning of a professional sports team operated by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. So, check that box for properly aimed anguish.

Then there’s Payne as the selector; his choices have a mixed record, as I mentioned yesterday toward the bottom of this post.

Then there’s Nelsen’s lack of experience. On this matter, I say “No worries, man!” I just wouldn’t be too concerned, for history says this can be done.

Nelsen is clearly untested as a manager; he’s 35 years old and counted himself as a fully professional (and highly respected) player just a week ago. But in terms of professional managerial experience, he has every bit as much as you or I.

But here is where I point out that “MLS experience,” even if it’s just as a player, outstrips “managerial experience” as an essential element that provides the best chance for success.

Nelsen may not know much about MLS 2.0; he hasn’t been part of the league since 2005. MLS had just grown to 12 teams that year, with just four dedicated soccer stadiums in use and still carrying a lot of questions about long-term potential.  The growth since then (19 teams, with 16 playing in grounds built, rebuilt or refurbished expressly for MLS clubs) has been nothing short of staggering.

So, it’s a different MLS day. Still, Nelsen understands the essential elements. He knows the history. He gets it. All of which is to say, he won’t be paralyzed by challenges unique to MLS. He won’t stubbornly resist when an owner of GM explains why things are why they are here. He won’t be in denial about which types of players work and don’t work here.

I am not saying he’s a going to be a great manager; no one can know this. I’m just saying, his history in MLS gives provides a good shot.

As for Nelsen’s age? That’s a non-factor. Here’s why:

Jason Kreis was 34 when he became manager at RSL, and was 36 when the men of Rio Tinto won an MLS Cup. (Kreis remains the youngest to win one of those.)

Ben Olsen was 33 when he took over at D.C. United, and that’s turning out pretty well.

Jay Heaps was 35 when he took over New England. His first year was inconclusive, although we have to consider the difficulty in Heaps’s situation. This is a tough place to win; the man is doing what he can at an organization that has been lapped by pretty much every club this side of Chivas USA.

Bottom line: I worry a lot less about Nelsen and his lack of time with the coaching whistle, and a lot more about MLS newbies like Paulo Sousa, who may soon be named at New York, or Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, the new man in charge at Chivas USA, or the Montreal Impact’s new manager Marco Schallibaum.

Young coaches can work in this league. Previous grounding in MLS counts for a lot more than previous work with the coaching whistle.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”