New York Red Bulls name Mike Petke new coach

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I’m feeling a little wishy-washy on today’s MLS news maker that Mike Petke is the new sheriff in town around Red Bull Arena. The team named Petke, who has a long history at the club, its newest manager this morning.

I applaud the choice because it checks an important box, the one labeled “MLS experience.”  I am on the record with my disdain for hiring figures from abroad who couldn’t spell MLS if you spotted them the “M” and the “L.”  The league’s peculiarities and unique challenges can be difficult on even the savviest tactician.

So, good on the Red Bulls new upper management for acquiescing on that one, after once appearing determined to land a manager with an accent.

But Petke’s hiring does have me leaving the table a bit hungry. Some questions keep troubling me.

Foremost, if he was their man, why take so long? Why wander through two important player personnel exercises (the MLS combine and the draft) without a solid hierarchy of leadership? Yes, I am aware that Petke was front-and-center in the combine analysis and the draft selections. But to say that he was provided carte blanche to make those choices within a larger, structural vision would seem to be walking back on the reality of the situation. Frankly, I wouldn’t buy it.

A source I trust told me earlier this week the Red Bulls really wanted Portuguese veteran manager Paulo Sousa, and were attempting to work through the visa process. Something clearly derailed that effort.

Does Petke have the experience? There are young, first-year head coaches just north and south in Ben Olsen at D.C. United and Jay Heaps at New England. Jason Kreis, who was a first-time head coach when he took over at Real Salt Lake back in 2007, is yet another contemporary. Olsen has things moving north at RFK, and Kreis’ successes cannot be questioned. So this approach clearly can work.

Then again, all three of those scenes were of the re-building variety. New York has certainly reconfigured its roster for 2013, but to call a team with Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and several other experienced, proven parts a “re-build” is a massive stretch. Truth is, this is a team that should compete for MLS Cup this year. Those other groups could absorb a learning curve in hiring a first-time head coach; the Red Bulls in 2013 cannot.

Does Petke have the confidence and the gravitas to command  a locker room where King Henry clearly rules? A wise, highly experienced man like former manager Hans Backe had issues in being able to steer the ship where he wished – so Petke’s challenge in this area seems formidable.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga