Chelsea at Wembley without Lampard, Terry? That feels weird

Leave a comment

The FA Cup semifinals kickoff in a little over an hour when one of relegation-embattled Wigan or second-tier Millwall will take another step in their Cinderella run. While those stories are sure to garner tremendous attention once full time’s blown at Wembley, I’ve been focused another piece of news from this weekend’s matches in London – a factoid that both makes me feel old and doesn’t feel quite right, given what these players still have to offer.

Based on London correspondent Dominic Fifield’s reporting for The Guardian, it looks like neither Frank Lampard nor John Terry will play a part for Chelsea against Manchester City on Sunday. I’m not talking being held out of the starting XI. I’m talking about no place on the bench, no need for a kit – you’re not even in the 18, guys. I hope the shrimp’s fresh in your box because you’re watching from the suites.

From Fifield’s piece:

The impact of the changing of the guard at Chelsea will properly hit home in FA Cup semi-final with the interim manager, Rafael Benítez, expected to leave John Terry and Frank Lampard out of his lineup to confront Manchester City.

Both senior England internationals have been regulars for their club at Wembley since it reopened, with Lampard having started all of Chelsea’s 11 visits to the arena and Terry missing only one Community Shield in that time. More strikingly Lampard has played in 32 of the 34 semi-finals or finals of the Roman Abramovich era, missing only the two League Cup semis of 2008 with a thigh injury, with Terry playing in 27.

I’m not saying Benítez should include Terry or Lampard. Chelsea has a very deep team, and there’s justification for each player’s diminishing role.

But people may use this as a log on the fire they”ve been prepping to roast Lampard and Terry’s careers. With the two Blues icons fading, there seems to be a subtle race to be the for person to correctly predict when their Chelsea days are done. A sea of naive explorers guiding their ships into the void, one will luck on the right day, put a flag in it, and triumphantly emerge to celebrate their fortune.

Perhaps it’s continued resentment from Chelsea’s oligarch-fueled rise, because critics seem to be giving Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes more leeway at Manchester United. Ledley King got all the time he wanted at Spurs. Even Jamie Carragher’s obvious and prolonged decline was treated with less predatory fervor than the quest to sign off on Lampard and Terry.

In Terry’s case, there’s likely some misplaced ‘ding-dong, the witch is dead’ reaction ready to burst. Regardless, there seem to be a lot of volunteers ready to hand these legends their coats.

It’s a shame, because they still have more to give. Chelsea’s squad has become so bloated by conflicted planning (hello, Marko Marin) they may not sem themselves having room for Lampard. He’s likely to move the summer. And while Terry seems to be accepting he’s not one of the club’s top two (or maybe three) center halves, it remains to be seen if his transition is as graceful as Lampard’s, a transition that ultimately didn’t secure a place at the club.

Each player has more of give. Perhaps they’re not starters for Champions League-contending teams, but you could see Lampard playing a part at a place like Manchester United. And you can see Terry starting and playing well for most teams in the league.

That doesn’t mean they should be in the 18 tomorrow against City, but it’s good to keep these things in perspective. They’re out of Chelsea’s team on Sunday, but there’s still quality there.

Baroni fired by Serie A basement club Benevento

Dino Panato/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) Benevento fired Marco Baroni and named Roberto De Zerbi its new coach after becoming the first squad in Serie A history to lose its first nine matches of the season.

The southern Italian club is the only team in Europe’s five major leagues without a point.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Benevento also announced it fired sporting director Salvatore Di Somma.

The moves on Monday came a day after a 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Benevento will have to pay Baroni 800,000 euros (nearly $1 million) as part of an anti-firing clause in his contract.

Baroni guided Benevento up from Serie B last season.

De Zerbi last coached Palermo nearly a year ago before being fired by the Sicilian club.

It’s the second coaching change in Serie A this season, after Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli at Cagliari last week.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

Twitter/@MassiveReport
Leave a comment

34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Leave a comment

All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in dual nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.