Montreal Impact sign Hernán Bernardello as DP to plug emergent defensive holes

1 Comment

After the Montreal Impact conceded 12 goals in the last five games, including a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls that dropped it out of first place, the club announced a defensive reinforcement on Tuesday in Hernán Bernardello.

The 26-year-old Argentine defensive midfielder, who made over 100 appearances in both the Primera División and Spain’s La Liga, signed a one-year deal with a club option for two further seasons. Pending receipt of his international transfer certificate, Bernardello should be available on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.

On a conference call with reporters, Impact sporting director Nick De Santis didn’t seem panicked about the defensive situation, but he did seem to place some blame on Montreal’s defense rather than its attack for its recent poor form.

“We’ve always created enough chances to say that we could have probably scored one or two goals or even three goals. We have enough offensive qualities to make plays,” he said. “On the defensive end … it’s now mid-season, and it’s getting hotter, and we have to be aware of that. I strongly believe that another center midfielder at Hernán’s level and his age would bring a lot to the team. It’s going to let the team breathe a lot.”

De Santis said Bernardello would provide the Impact with flexibility to play with either one holding midfielder, in its preferred 4-1-4-1 formation, or two. He highlighted Bernardello’s ability to shield the back four and allow other players, such as his presumed partner at the position, Patrice Bernier, to get forward more often.

(More: Montréal switches back to their spring set-up, stops the flood of goals)

He also expects Bernardello to fit in well with the team, even though he has a somewhat colorful past. When he left Spanish team Almería to return to Argentina to Colón de Santa Fe, the Andalusians sued him for breach of contract.

The club claimed that he signed a contract extension, and because he failed to turn up for preseason training, he owed the club a €30 million termination fee. Almería believed it had him under contract until 2015, not only until 2012.

In the end, he played the 2012-13 season with Colón, and De Santis pleaded ignorance to the charges leveled against his new player:

I don’t even know what you’re talking about, but if there were problems before, I have no idea of them. I know that the player is with us right now, and we’re extremely happy to have him. … Trust me, we did a lot of homework on the player, on his personality, on his attitude, will he fit in within the group. … He’s a good kid. He’s committed. He’s responsible. He has a big motivation to play in MLS and to play for Montreal, and I think he’s going to fit in very well with the group going forward.

The circumstances under which Bernardello signed with the Impact are also unusual, as his contract ran out after his only season at Colón. As a result, there was no transfer fee, and De Santis said the player “basically belongs to an investor’s group.”

No matter the strange context, if Bernardello can shore up a defense that has given up nearly half of its season’s goals in the last handful of matches, the deal will be considered worthwhile.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City FC
Leave a comment

Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms

Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
Leave a comment

Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
1 Comment

PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.