Major League Soccer’s mid-season Coach of the Year: Caleb Porter

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When Ryan Johnson arrived in Portland from Toronto, people questioned the Timbers trading the SuperDraft’s third pick in a deal for what was seen as an average Major League Soccer forward. Will Johnson’s acquisition was applauded, but he wasn’t an All-Star, while Michael Harrington had been sitting on the bench in Kansas City. None of these were franchise-saving players for the Timbers.

Under Caleb Porter, however, those players are enjoying the best years of their careers. So is Diego Chará. And Rodney Wallace. Go ahead and add Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace, Futty Danso and Jack Jewsbury to that list. And in Donovan Ricketts, the first year coach has returned a former top keeper to his best.

The across the board improvement in individual performances was one of the major argument in Frank Yallop’s favor as the former San Jose boss won last year’s Coach of the Year honor. Whatever combinations the Earthquakes head coach had come up with, they were translating into not only wins but also career years for almost his entire squad. While team results and individual stats are often confounding, they’re each places where you can see a coach’s influence.

Caleb Porter’s influence is usually described in terms of style, and with his want to maintain possession, move the ball quickly, press high after turnovers, and accept risk at the back while doing so, Porter has his team play differently than possibly any previous MLS team. But there are no figure skating judges awarding points for artistic merit.  Portland’s progress can be seen in their league-low two losses, their league-best plus-11 goal difference (even with Real Salt Lake), and their seemingly 180-degree turn around from a year ago.

And although it shouldn’t matter when we’re assessing Porter’s awards potential, we shouldn’t forget the skeptics that’d lineup up outside of Nashville, distraught after the then-Akron boss failed to qualify the U.S. U-23s for the 2012 London Olympics. The team’s failure to reach even the final round of qualifying was seen as an indictment of Porter, perhaps appropriately so. Ultimately, Porter’s one loss in nine games as U-23 coach was what people remembered from his first coaching foray outside Ohio.

In Major League Soccer, Porter has found quick redemption, but don’t use this as a reason to overlook Jason Kreis’s notable results in Sandy. Don’t take Schellas Hyndman for granted, and Marco Schällibaum deserves his share of credit at Stade Saputo.

But right now, Porterball is living up to the hype – expectations so lofty that Porter deserves recognition as the first half’s best boss.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.