The standings show FC Dallas well in control of the Western Conference race at the moment, and last night’s 2-2 draw in Vancouver looks like an adequate result at first glance. The Texans are unbeaten in their last seven, and they have collected 20 of a possible 27 points to begin 2013.
There are exactly 18 other clubs that would take that right now. Believe it.
But there is plenty of reason to fret today for Red Stripe faithful. Yes, you have our permission to fret.
Two players quite key to the operation around FC Dallas Stadium went off injured last night. First went Andrew Jacobson (pictured), who has combined so well with Brazilian midfielder Michel in the dual holding roles. Then went George John, who captains my personal All-Underrated Team of 2013.
If you don’t think George is important to the cause, consider this little bit, stunning and telling all at once: This is the second time that George has gone off at halftime, and the club fumbled away two goal leads each time. (That includes a match in Toronto and last night’s draw at BC Place.) As much as Blas Perez’s scoring and David Ferreira’s playmaking does for FC Dallas, there is a surely case to be made that John is the most important man for Schellas Hyndman’s team.
All of this underscores an important, larger point for the West leaders: this was always their Achilles heel. While Dallas was surely deep at striker and goalkeeper, they were always thin across the midfield and at center back.
I spoke to Ugo Ihemelu two weeks ago, and the veteran center back is nowhere near getting past those unfortunate concussion-related issues, so there’s no veteran cover there. In the midfield, don’t forget that Peter Luccin, signed by the club in the off-season specifically for central mid duties, is out for the year with a knee injury.
The one silver lining: Dallas is idle for the coming weekend before getting Portland in mid-week on May 8.
South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.
[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]
South Korea 2-1 Argentina
Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.
England 1-1 Guinea
Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.
Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu
Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.
Mexico 0-0 Germany
Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.
Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.
While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.
[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]
Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.
Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).
However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.
Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.
United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.
Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.
United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.
[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews ]
Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.
If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.
But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.
Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.
Sam Allardyce is walking away
on top outside the relegation zone.
The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.
The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.
[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews ]
It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.
Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:
I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.
This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”
All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.