New England Revolution v Philadelphia Phillies

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in two parts)

1 Comment

Here are Nos. 11-19 of ProSoccerTalk’s weekly countdown following six rounds of regular season play.

(Nos. 1-10 are on deck …so check back)

19. Seattle Sounders – Sigi Schmid’s Sounders are the lone, winless MLS club. Ain’t that something? They could do a lot to vent pressure and get the cart generally out of a ditch by overturning a 1-0 deficit in CONCACAF Champions League semifinal play tonight in Mexico. Don’t bet on it, though.

18. Chicago Fire – One win was just enough to get Frank Klopas’ team off the bottom of the stack … but there’s still reason to be suspicious about this lot. The Fire needed two late goals from Maicon Santos off the bench in order to grab its first win of 2013 – and New York’s shoddy defending and goalkeeping had something to do with it. Still, a win’s a win. For now.

17. Colorado Rapids – Nice to see Edson Buddle back on the field as the Rapids slowly begin to get some important veterans back on the field. Center back Drew Moor should return this week as well following his two-game suspension. Coming off a win over rival Real Salt Lake (the Rapids’ first “W” of 2013) Oscar Pareja’s team travels to meet Chivas USA this week.

16. Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen’s club is getting closer to where the rookie manager wants it to be. Last year, TFC lost leads. Heck, TFC has pretty much always been the team to lose the leads. Could it be that this year, the club can actually erase them? The Reds did just that on Saturday thanks largely to Darel Russel’s awesome, late strike in a 2-2 draw with Dallas.

15. New England Revolution – One of a bunch of teams that had the weekend off for Round 6. They needed it to steel themselves for telling trips into Seattle (this weekend) and New York over the next two weeks. Of course, the big news – much more important than soccer – is Kevin Alston’s leave of absence for leukemia treatment.

14. D.C. United – United has just two goals in five matches; here’s one reason. Dwayne De Rosario’s health and ability to get back on the field will be a big talker prior to this week’s visit from the rival Red Bulls.

13. New York Red Bulls – Luis Robles, who rescued a wobbly goalkeeping situation around Red Bull Arena last year, just hasn’t been the same in 2013. Of course, he wasn’t getting much help at the end Sunday in Chicago, was he? None of the Red Bulls covered themselves in glory in this one, conceding an early lead and then allowing two near the end in a loss at Toyota Park. Thierry Henry had to come off the bench once again for New York.

12. Portland Timbers – Without question, Saturday’s 2-0 win over Houston was the best front-to-back Timbers’ outing so far under Caleb Porter. Good performances were all over the field, including Jack Jewsbury, who returned once again to right back. Mikael Silvestre seems to have found his feet. The big show-stopper, of course, belonged to PST Player of the Week Diego Chara.

11. Philadelphia Union – It’s not always the loveliest work, but John Hackworth has certainly taught his team how to grind out results. Last week’s 1-1 draw in Columbus is the latest example. By the way, anybody have Jack McInerney (pictured above) in the pool as MLS top scorer? Because the young striker is currently tied for third with three goals this year.

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Sturridge injured again, Rashford set for England debut

England v Norway - International Friendly
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

GATESHEAD, England (AP) England striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury, potentially affecting his chances of being selected for the European Championship.

England manager Roy Hodgson says Sturridge has a calf injury that has prevented him from training and is a doubt to play in the warmup match against Australia on Friday. Hodgson has until Tuesday to finalize his 23-man squad for the tournament in France.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent years.

His latest injury increases the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford‘s fairytale season being extended to include Euro 2016.

Hodgson said Thursday that Rashford will make his debut against Australia in Sunderland – as a starter if Sturridge isn’t fit. Rashford only made his United debut in February.

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.