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MLS Preview: Portland Timbers at FC Dallas

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He never wants to talk about it, but so much of Caleb Porter’s first season in Portland has been about putting the Timbers’ short MLS history behind them, whether that be from moving on from two seasons outside of the playoffs or turning around a terrible road record that’d come to define the club. Sitting fourth in the West and having won at Kansas City a week ago, Portland’s already started to match owner Merritt Paulson’s aspirations. Reflections on the past will soon be little more than a literary device for unimaginative authors.

There are, however, small remnants of the past which keep popping up. For example, with the Timbers in Dallas tonight, Portland fans are reminded of two of the worst losses in team history. Two years ago, during the team’s inaugural season, Portland lost 4-0 in their first trip to what was then Pizza Hut Park, and while the Timbers earned a 1-1 draw when they returned next March, their last visit to Dallas ended with an embarrassing 5-0 defeat. In three trips to visit Schellas Hyndman’s team, Portland’s been outscored 10-1.

But with both teams making so many improvements since last season, it’s hard to see those lopsided results as precedence. FC Dallas, who missed last year’s playoffs, have the best record in the league, their 6-1-2 mark leaving them six points ahead of the Western Conference’s three-way tie for second place. Within that cluster are the Portland Timbers, who, along with Dallas, are one of team teams yet to be dealt a second loss.

For Dallas, a couple of key additions and some improved health have fueled their hot start. Kenny Cooper was brought back to Texas this offseason, and while it took a while for Hyndman to feel out his best spot, the big striker has adapted to a wide role in Dallas’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Those two holders – Andrew Jacobson and Michel – have been crucial to bolstering a midfield that spent the preseason looking for an identity. Raul Fernandez has also replaced the departed Kevin Hartman at the back, but with playmaker David Ferreira fit and with the team from the get-go, health has been as vital as upgrades for Hyndman.

(This is also where we should mention Jackson, Dallas’s best player through the season’s first two months. But, since I painted myself into a corner with the change and health angles, consider Jackson done wrong.)

For Portland, it’s been all about the upgrades. Ryan Johnson is giving them production they never got from Cooper or Kris Boyd. Will Johnson’s thriving in his new home. Donovan Ricketts is flashing the form most thought he’d lost in Los Angeles, while Diego Valeri is one of the league’s most exciting additions. They’re bringing the best out of holdovers Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, and Rodney Wallace, though the team’s biggest upgrade – luring Porter from Akron – deserves credit for their improvements.

In a meeting between two teams much improved over last season, we can afford to discard the past and concentrate and a surprisingly intriguing present. Rather than wonder whether a 10-1 margin can transcend two club’s changes, better to ask if Pederson and Michel can contain the new-look Timbers.

Jurgen Klopp coy over links with Liverpool

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25:  Jurgen Klopp manager of Borussia Dortmund speaks during a Borussia Dortmund press conference, ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group D match against Arsenal, at Emirates Stadium on November 25, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Based on all the reports, it seems like a matter of when, not if, Jurgen Klopp will be named the next manager at Liverpool.

The former Borussia Dortmund boss had been heavily linked with the Liverpool job even before Brendan Rodgers was fired, and now that Rodgers is out, Klopp’s name is once again grabbing all the headlines.

While some reports state he could be appointed manager by the end of the week, nothing is official yet as Klopp is still in Germany, unemployed as of today.

[ REPORTS: Nigel Pearson approached by Sunderland ]

Klopp was approached by a reporter from German news outlet Bild in Leverkusen, and was asked about the vacant Liverpool job. While he did not confirm he was in talks with the club, he didn’t deny the links either.

There’s nothing to say. Neither a definite yes nor a definite no. I’m going home now.

It is believed that a deal between the club and the manager is in the works, with a few details still needed to be worked out before anything is made official.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback: Rodgers gone, but not forgotten ]

One of the biggest roadblocks in the deal is Liverpool’s use of a transfer committee when buying new players, while Klopp is supposedly keen on having full control over the team’s signings. The club has said no moves are made without the manager’s approval, although it is reported that Rodgers was limited on what players he could bring in, having multiple moves shot down by the committee.

Former Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is still in the running for the vacant position, but at this time, Klopp is the out-and-out favorite to take over.

Reports: Sunderland reaches out to Nigel Pearson

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  Nigel Pearson, manager of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City at The Hawthorns on April 11, 2015 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Sunderland is without a win and without a manager, as the Black Cats are in desperate need of some help.

After manager Dick Advocaat resigned following Sunderland’s 2-2 draw against West Ham, the club has been searching for a replacement to help lead the club off the bottom of the table.

Reports out of England state the North East club has approached former Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson, who has been out of work after being fired over the summer.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Pearson knows what it takes to win with a team in a relegation battle, as he led Leicester to a 14th place finish last season after sitting bottom of the table at Christmas. Still in last place in March, the Foxes won seven of their final nine matches to stay up in the Premier League.

However, Pearson was sacked over the summer after having a fall-out with the Leicester board, and it was well-documented that he had a tumultuous relationship with the club’s owners.

It is being reported that Sunderland’s technical director Lee Congerton approached Pearson about the job, but that club owner Ellis Short would rather bring former West Ham manager Sam Allardyce on board.

[ REPORTS: Liverpool could appoint Jurgen Klopp manager by end of the week ]

When you look at Nigel Pearson, he is a polar opposite of Dick Advocaat. Advocaat came to Sunderland towards the end of his managerial career, with experience winning titles with major clubs throughout Europe. However, he had never managed in the Premier League, and had no experience with a club fighting for survival.

Pearson, on the other hand, is fresh off a relegation battle and his fiery attitude may be what’s needed to turn Sunderland around. While Pearson may not always see eye-to-eye with the media or the board, he is fiercely loyal to his players and is a no-nonsense type-manager.

With the Premier League on an international break, Sunderland has a bit of time to figure things out, but expect Pearson’s name to continue to be linked with the job.