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231 days after First Kick, the 2016 MLS regular season is a mere three hours from its conclusion. Decision Day — 10 games, all kicking off at 4 p.m. ET.
[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS scoreboard for Decision Day updates ]
Back on March 6, 20 teams dreamt of lifting MLS Cup in December. Nearly eight months later, eight playoff places have been clinched, with another four on the line on Sunday — one in the Eastern Conference, three in the Western Conference.
Also still up for grabs: the Supporters’ Shield. FC Dallas have the inside track on the regular-season “title” and home-field advantage for as long as they may compete in the postseason. Bradley Wright-Phillips (23 goals) and David Villa (22) are neck-and-neck for the Golden Boot, with BWP currently holding the tiebreaker (assists — 5 to 3) in the event of a tie.
For a full list of scenarios in the East, the West — to clinch berths and seeding implications — as well as the Shield race, hit this link and this link. Hit the link toward the top of this post, or right here, to keep up with all the action across the league over a frantic two-hour period (for yours truly, mostly). And, of course, check back on PST for full coverage of the afternoon and the setting of the stage for the playoffs, which begin Wednesday night with the knockout round.
Full schedule of games — all kickoffs at 4 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls
New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew SC
Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire
Orlando City SC vs. D.C. United
New England Revolution vs. Montreal Impact
LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas
Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo
Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers
LONDON – At the full time whistle Jose Mourinho pulled Antonio Conte close and didn’t let go.
It was not a loving embrace.
[ MORE: 3 things learned ]
With his team 4-0 up towards the end of the game, Conte turned to Chelsea’s fans and gestured for them to raise the decibel levels. Manchester United’s fans were the only supporters who could be heard inside a very happy, yet quiet, Stamford Bridge.
On his incredibly embarrassing return to the Bridge — first half goals from Pedro (after just 30 seconds) and Gary Cahill, plus clinchers from Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante did the damage — Mourinho apparently took exception to Conte’s actions.
Speaking after the game United’s manager refused to reveal what he said to Conte but with TV cameras all over the world were fixed on him a the final whistle.
It was clear something along the lines of: “You don’t wind up the crowd at 4-0. You do it at 1-0. It’s humiliating” was said.
It was a far from magnanimous end to an utterly humiliating return to Stamford Bridge for Mourinho as he suffered his worst-ever defeat as a Premier League manager and United’s worst away defeat in the PL since 1999.
Asked in his post-game press conference about what was said, both Mourinho and Conte declined to comment.
“You know me. I speak to Conte. I don’t speak to you. You know me that I am not this kind of guy to come here and share with you things I don’t want to share,” Mourinho said. “It was with me and Antonio and stays with me and him. Unless he wants to share with you if he wants. That is Antonio’s problem.”
What is clear is that Mourinho’s problems are much worse than Conte’s.
Only once had a team he’s managed conceded four or more goals in a Premier League game and on his first visit back to west London since he was fired as Chelsea’s boss last December, Mourinho’s defense were all over the place as they couldn’t cope with Chelsea’s wide men set up in a 3-4-3 system. Conte’s side were well balanced and had learned from their early season defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal.
Chelsea’s Italian manager laughed a little when asked about Mourinho’s comments — something which will have likely incensed his opponent — then explained why he turned to Chelsea’s fans and gestured for them to sing loudly towards the end of the game.
“I think that the private conversation must remain private. Then if someone discover something, okay. For me a private conversation remains private,” Conte said, smiling. “I think that today it was right to call our fans in a moment I was listening to only the supporters of Manchester United after 4-0. I called the fans to do a great clap to the players after this type of performance. I think that the players after a 4-0 win, they deserved it. It is very normal.”
Did Conte regret his passion on the sidelines? His constant jumping around? His whipping the home fans at Stamford Bridge into a frenzy for the final moments of the game?
“Me? No. I think we live with emotion,” Conte said. “If we want to cut the emotion we can go home, stay at home and change my job.”
This was all about much more than Conte whipping up the crowd late on. Mourinho’s back was up. He was hurting and he lashed out.
Once upon a time he would be the man whipping up crowds and providing plenty of antics on the sidelines. Now he’s lost a large chunk of his sparkle. The 53-year-old is six years Conte’s senior and it shows.
Chants of “You’re not special anymore!” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning!” greeted him from some sections of Chelsea’s supporters as he returned to the club where he delivered three Premier League titles in five full seasons in charge over two spells. With United having just 14 points after nine PL games (the same record David Moyes had) Mourinho has been reduced to moaning and complaining while he watches on at others such as Jurgen Klopp and Conte succeeding.
His comments last Monday about Klopp’s Liverpool being the “last wonder of the world” in attack were telling. He is starting to look like he feels out of the loop, out of touch and some might even say yesterday’s news.
You could argue that Conte is what Mourinho was.
Sure, the Italian boss has never won the UEFA Champions League title and has only had success in Italy, but he is passionate, driven and lives and dies by his relationship with his players and the fans. Sat behind Chelsea’s bench on Sunday, or any gameday for that matter, it is exhausting to see Conte in action. Whether or not his constant gesticulation and shouting makes a difference remains to be seen but in stark contrast Mourinho stood on the sidelines with his hands in his pockets for most of the second half as he watched his team waved the white flag as Chelsea raced into a 4-0 lead.
Mourinho used to be the one running on the pitch and hugging his players at the final whistle and urging Chelsea’s supporters to create a cauldron of noise in the comfy surroundings of Stamford Bridge. Now, Conte is doing that.
Both managers have only been at their respective clubs since the summer but Conte is much further along in stamping his mark on his team.
And when it comes to Conte’s tactics, he’s been brave enough to change his system in recent weeks to great success.
Since Chelsea switched to a 3-4-3 formation, they’ve won all of their last three games, conceding zero goals. ProSoccerTalk asked Conte if the defensive improvement following the 3-0 shellacking at Arsenal, which made him livid, has been the most pleasing in recent weeks.
“After two defeats and conceding two or three goals in every game, it was important for us to change something and to find a new solution. I think this suit is very good for the team and our squad. Now we must continue,” Conte said. “I always thought that the system is not important. It is more important, the commitment to trust in the work and work very hard and also to follow the principles and my idea of football. That pleased me because when you see this in the game you go in your house and you are happy.”
Conte will go home happy on Sunday in west London. Mourinho often did. But not anymore.
Jose Mourinho, as he has so many times this season after slip-ups by Manchester United, has chosen to stay positive.
A monstrous 4-0 defeat at the hands of his former club Chelsea saw a calamatous number of defensive errors lead to goals for the opposition, but the new Manchester United manager is looking ahead already.
“The team played well,” Mourinho claimed after the match. “If we can delete the defensive mistakes we make…if we can delete that, the team played well. Courtois had more work than De Gea, their central defenders had more work than my central defenders, we were always in control, we played in their half for long periods, we put foot in their box many many times, we have what I call chances and half-chances, but they are very dangerous in counter-attack, we knew that.”
“I told the players that at halftime, that if we scored the 2-1 the game is different, but it was not for us to score the 2-1, it was for them to score the third and fourth in counter-attack.”
Mourinho believed that every time his team was close to scoring, they would concede on the other end, pegging them back even further.
“It’s one of these games where they scored the goal, then we are close to the 1-1, they scored the second goal, we are close to the 2-1, they score the third goal, we are close to the 3-1, they score the fourth goal, and then we are close to the 4-1, and probably a few more minutes they score the fifth goal.”
In the end, Mourinho chalked up his team’s defensive frailty to human error, backing his defenders despite the ugly performance.
“I think that mistake is crucial, it’s a mistake that is difficult to accept, but that’s football and human beings and you have to accept. And then the game was different.”
French midfielder Mathieu Valbuena will miss a month with a dislocated shoulder, but while initially it was feared he would need surgery, that is no longer an option, and four weeks should be an adequate recovery time according to reports in France.
The 32-year-old has struggled with injuries this year, missing a pair of matches with a hip problem, and now will be sidelined much longer after a hard landing in the 75th minute on Saturday in a loss to Guingamp.
After the match, president Jean-Michel Aulas told TV channel Canal+ that Valbuena would likely need surgery, but after further testing they will look to get him back by the start of December.
Lyon is struggling mightily, having lost three of four in Ligue 1 play and falling to 10th in the table.
Valbuena has been a regular for the French national team, missing just two matches since late 2012. With this injury, he will most certainly miss France’s World Cup qualifier against Sweden in early November, plus the following friendly against the Ivory Coast.