Jose Mourinho out-coached by Jurgen Klopp – But how good is the German manager?

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After Dortmund’s stunning 4-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final, one thing is clear: Jose Mourinho was thoroughly out-coached by Jurgen Klopp. Let’s take a look at each of the meetings between these two and determine where Klopp fits among the best managers in world football.

Paired together in this season’s Champions League group of death (Group D), Dortmund and Madrid first faced off in October 24th at the now famed Signal Iduna Park. After Robert Lewandowksi broke the deadlock in the 36th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo leveled two minutes later with a sensational lob that cut the Yellow Wall down to a whisper. The leveler changed the complexion of the game and many believed Mourinho would seize the momentum going into the second half. But it didn’t happen. Instead, it was Dortmund who collected itself, neutralized Ronaldo, and were the stronger second-half side, deservedly getting a 64th minute winner through Marcel Schmelzer’s volley.

The win had pundits shocked and most attributed the victory to Dortmund’s fantastic home support. It was predicted to be a different story when the two sides met at Madrid’s Santiago Bernebeu two weeks later, with Los Blancos heavy favorites. But it would take an exquisite 88th minute Mesut Ozil free-kick that bounced off the post and in to provide Madrid with a 2-2 draw.

Klopp’s men had once again contained Ronaldo and outplayed their opponent prompting Mourinho to predict: “If they go through they are candidates to win the tournament.” Consensus was that Dortmund had been unlucky to draw 2-2 at the Bernabéu but they nevertheless had taken four points off Madrid. All across Europe the talk was of Jurgen Klopp.

The Dortmund manager revealed how he took apart Madrid in an interview with El País before Los Merengues met Manchester United in the Round of 16. “We knew where they send their passes, how they look for Cristiano,” Klopp said. “Our plan was to take Xabi Alonso out of the game. Because if Alonso is allowed to play how he wants it’s impossible to defend against Madrid. And Götze covered him. We knew that if our wide players, Piszczek and Schmelzer move a lot, the advantage was ours on Cristiano’s side of the pitch. If you block Xabi, you oblige Pepe to always keep the ball.”

A well reasoned plan, if there ever was one. But why would Klopp show his hand like that? Was it cockiness? Doubtful, as the manager is known to be as down-to-earth as they come. Perhaps he was simply trying to provide a blue-print for other squads to take the reigns in knocking Mourinho’s team out of the competition. Unfortunately for United, it didn’t work.

So when Madrid and Dortmund were paired for the semi-finals one expected that Mourinho would have a re-designed game plan. Certainly the ‘Special One’ would have figured out BVB’s weakness and concocted a means to exploit it. After all, this was exactly what he did when managing Inter Milan in the 2010 Champions League. After losing and drawing to Barcelona in the group stage, Mourinho’s men faced the Blaugrana in the semi-finals and knocked them out.

So naturally, the question going into last night’s match was – What would Mourinho could come up with to put an end to Klopp’s brief dominance? The answer, as the footballing world saw so clearly, was nothing. Despite going into the match as slight favorites to win at Westfalenstadion, Madrid were trounced by the plucky German side. And how did Klopp do it? Pretty much the  exact same way he explained to El País in February, by eliminating Xabi Alonso and denying Madrid the left side (Ronaldo’s side) of the pitch.

Did Ronaldo manage to get on the score sheet? Sure. But besides that moment, which was 99% constructed by Gonzalo Higuain, Ronaldo was completely shut down by Lukasz Piszcek, Marco Reus, Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogen. Klopp’s defense was compact, working in a 35 yard zone between midfield and the top of their 18 yard box. Any possession that Madrid enjoyed was among the back four. Pepe was once again put into focus and couldn’t handle the pressure. Why Mourinho chose to play the fiery center-back – or Luka Modric in an advanced position where he couldn’t find the ball – is anyone’s guess. Anyone except Klopp, of course.

Since arriving at Dortmund in 2008, Klopp was won two Bundesliga titles, a DFB-Pokal title and a DFL-Supercup. Making those feats even more impressive is that Klopp managed to do this at a club that was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2006. With his side’s impressive run of form in this season’s Champions League, it looks the sky is the limit for the German gaffer.

Yet while Klopp’s recent achievement and tactical genius should earn him a place as one of the Top 5 managers in the game today, he still ranks well behind Mourinho. The same path that Klopp is currently trying to tread was blazed down by Mourinho 10 years ago when his Porto side surprised everyone to win the 2003-04 Champions League title. Since then the Portuguese manager has gone on to win an additional 14 trophies in nine years including two Premier League titles and an FA Cup with Chelsea, a Champions League title and two Serie A titles with Inter Milan, and a La Liga and Copa del Rey title with Real Madrid.

There’s no question that the Dortmund manager has a long way to go before he reaches the feats of Mourinho. But if anyone looks poised to overtake the title of “The Special One,” it’s Klopp.

Report: Wesley Sneijder close to LAFC move

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Dutch legend Wesley Sneijder is close to signing for Los Angeles FC.

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A report from ESPN states that Sneijder, 33, will sign a two-year deal with LAFC and become a Designated Player for the team who will enter Major League Soccer in 2018.

Per the report, Sneijder has been offered a deal worth $3.5 million a year to join LAFC and he would link up with the squad in January 2018 ahead of their debut season in MLS.

Having a star of Sneijder’s size will certainly attracted plenty more interest in LAFC, plus he’s still a mainstay for the Dutch national team as he has 131 caps with 31 goals for the Oranje and his quality as a deep-lying playmaker is undisputed.

The former UEFA Champions League winner has enjoyed an illustrious career in Europe, winning trophies at Ajax, Real Madrid, Inter and Galatasaray. He won the UCL with Inter in 2010 as he was a pivotal part of Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning team. Sneijder has spent the past five seasons playing in Turkey for giants Galatasaray.

Sneijder would become LAFC’s first DP signing and although the newly-formed club do not yet have a head coach, who wouldn’t want to work with Sneijder in MLS?

With the Banc of California Stadium set to be ready for the start of the 2018 MLS season, excitement is building in LA.

Sneijder’s arrival would help that grow further as one of the premier playmakers of the past decade will get to strut his stuff in MLS. Whether he turns out to be as influential a DP as the likes of David Villa or Kaka remains to be seen, but LAFC are clearly willing to back up their grand plans with grand signings.

Six charged over Hillsborough disaster

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Six individuals, including four former members of the South Yorkshire Police (SYP), have been charged over the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

Former SYP Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was the match commander of the FA Cup semifinal which saw 96 fans crushed to death, will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the victims. For legal reasons Duckenfield has not been charged over the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, who died four years after the tragedy.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) must apply to the High Court to lift an order imposed on Duckenfield after he was prosecuted privately in 1999. That must be removed before he can be charged with 95 cases of manslaughter.

Families of the victims gathered in Warrington, England on Wednesday and were told about the charges by the CPS, who later released the following statement.

Other individuals who will be prosecuted include the former Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire police, Sir Norman Bettison, who is facing four charges misconduct in office following the disaster, while former SYP Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and SYP Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster have both been charged with perverting the course of justice.

Former Sheffield Wednesday chief executive and designated safety officer Graham Mackrell has been charged with breaching the terms of the stadium’s safety certificate and failing to take reasonable care under the the Health and Safety at Work act, plus SYP solicitor, Peter Metcalf, has also been charged.

The families of those who perished at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough over 28 years ago have fought for justice ever since with Liverpool Football Club and the wider soccer community supporting the families in their battle.

From 1991 until 2014 they struggled to cope with the cost of a lengthy legal battle, but that all changed as the UK government have funded the legal costs for all the victims families with the total investigation now spanning four-and-a-half years and costing over $128.2 million.

Last April a verdict of “unlawful killing” was reached for the 96 victims after a new inquest was launched into the deaths following the original verdict from 1991 being quashed by the High Court in 2012 after a report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

The new inquest then prompted a new police criminal investigation as Operation Resolve was set up to determine what led up to the deadly crush, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) then investigated what happened after the tragedy and allegations that SYP had perverted the court of justice and tried to cover up their own responsibility.

The defendants, apart from Duckenfield, will appear in Warrington Magistrates Court on Aug. 9.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.