Top matches on MLS Saturday: Philadelphia at New York

Leave a comment

Major League Soccer’s fifth round is an all-Saturday affair, with eight matches set for kickoff over about nine hours later today. Among the top matches … :

Philadelphia Union at New York Red Bulls (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC SN):

By Week 5 in MLS, we should have some reasonable hold on all 19 league sides, on what they are all about.

But, truly, does anyone know what to make of Philadelphia and New York at this point?

The Red Bulls and that pancake-stacked roster have certainly looked like a strong team during points of this young season. Like when they took it to D.C. United over 90 minutes earlier this month at Red Bull Arena. Gave the visitors from down the coast a proper dressing down, the Red Bulls did – in every way possible except in the final result, which finished as a scoreless draw.

Very strange, that one.

Bottom line, it’s getting harder to see New York as a strong team, as an Eastern Conference contender, when they sit winless after four matches. Mike Petke seems to be doing things right, but geez, fellows, win a game already!

Not having Thierry Henry or Fabian Espindola for this one isn’t going to help the team’s efforts to climb out of ninth place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings.

On the other hand, this match has “get right” stamped all over it for Petke’s club, which has dominated the I-95 series since Philly clambered aboard the Good Ship MLS in 2010. The Red Bulls won all three matches over the Union in 2012 and stand 5-2-0 all time in the series.

Philadelphia is equally as mysterious in 2012, a young club on the rise, one that has checked off some nice results despite being obviously flawed in some spots.

John Hackworth’s team stunk up the joint for about 60 minutes in a season opening loss at home to Sporting Kansas City. They didn’t look very good a week later in Colorado – but earned a great result in a 2-1 road win. Very strange, that one

Jack McInerney scored in the victory at Colorado, and that kid has got something. Still fairly raw at 20 years old but blessed with tremendous strikers’ instincts, McInerney (pictured above) already has 14 MLS strikes.

Hackworth will have new signing Jose Kleberson available – but the Brazilian veteran will not start in this one.

Of course, there’s also Sebastien Le Toux, who would love nothing more than to stick it in the Red Bulls ears; he’s happy to be back in Philly, site of Le Toux’s best years, but cannot have been thrilled to have been jettisoned from Red Bull Arena in the off-season.

(MORE: Other top MLS matches – Galaxy at Toronto)

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

AP Photo/Paul White
1 Comment

The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

Peter Byrne/PA via AP
Leave a comment
  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.