Silence, success marks the end of The Great Jurgen Klinsmann Debate

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As successful as Bob Bradley was during his time coaching the U.S. Men’s National Team — winning a World Cup group; finishing second in a Confederations Cups; claiming a CONCACAF title — his successor was bound to be subject to some difficult comparisons. That his successor was Jurgen Klinsmann, a man who had previously been courted for the job, only heightened the debate. What was so wrong with Bradley? What’s so special about Klinsmann? Why is the U.S. essentially importing a coach, and why are we being told our soccer is needs to change?

A long-time resident of California, Klinsmann is not your typical foreign coach, but the fact he was brought into to enact a stylistic and organizational change only fed insecurities. Add in the transitioning of Carlos Bocanegra out of the team, Landon Donovan’s long hiatus from the international landscape, and a scathing, anonymously-fueled media examination by those in and around the team, and the Great Jurgen Klinsmann Debate briefly defined U.S. soccer.

Now, after 11 consecutive wins, a confederation title, and first place standing in The Hex, that debate’s been redefined. Instead of an anti-Klinsmann contingent carrying Philipp Lahm’s quotes to the steps of Soccer House, the opposition’s gone silent. Klinsmann’s shut them up. Concerns about tactical acumen have been answered by solid game plans and an increased ability to make the right in-game adjustments. Critiques that his success with Germany was dependent on an emerging talent base have been addressed by his drastic expansion of the player pool. And the complaint that Klinsmann was unduly imposing an ill-fitting style ring hollow as the team controls matches like they’ve never before.

As a result, the debate has died. Even if the U.S. were to fall on their face from here forward, the conversation would begin a new. The question wouldn’t be why Klinsmann didn’t work. Instead, it would turn into a Chepo-esque discussion. What went wrong, would be the question, one that would acknowledge the reality of Klinsmann’s current assent.

But without a doubt, that assent has reached a point where a few mea culpas are in order. Not that the original criticisms were so outlandish or unfounded. They just didn’t play out. In the mean time Klinsmann’s original visions of a different, more versatile and stylistically imposing U.S. squad have begun to take hold. You can see it in the results. You can see it in the players’ confidence. You can see it in the reverence teams are showing for the way the U.S. is playing. It’s striking how much Klinsmann’s plan’s fallen into place, contradicting so many other’s predictions.

With a major title in the bag and with the United States sitting on top of CONCACAF, Klinsmann has silenced his first set of detractors – those who predicted immediately failure, who were grabbing pitchforks ahead of the team’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. Others with more nuanced concerns about the long-term fit may still be proven right, but for now, The Great Jurgen Klinsmann Debate that enthralled U.S. soccer in March has been settled in the coach’s favor.

MLS at Week 8: Galaxy host Atlanta, NYCFC aims to stay unbeaten out west

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A full weekend of MLS action kicks off on Friday night with two of the Western Conference’s elite, while Saturday and Sunday feature a number of quality matchups.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy have been quite the attraction since the Swede made his move to MLS a few weeks ago, but Sigi Schmid’s side will be in for another early-season test on Saturday when they take on a red-hot Atlanta United.

[ MORE: Sweden not keen on Zlatan’s World Cup return ]

Both sides currently sit in second place in their respective conferences, while Atlanta boasts the second-highest goalscoring total in the league to this point, with 15 goals in six games.

Western Conference leaders Sporting KC have gone unbeaten in their last six matches since their opening day defeat to New York City FC, and Matt Besler and Co. will have another opportunity to put their stamp on the conference with a crucial match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, who sit third in the West.

NYCFC and FC Dallas remain on the only two unbeaten clubs left in 2018, although the latter has been far less convincing in its first five matches.

Patrick Vieira and NYCFC are coming off of a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Atlanta last weekend, and now head west to take on the Portland Timbers.

Meanwhile, Dallas plays host to the Philadelphia Union, who have taken just one win out of their first five games.

Here’s a look at the full slate of matches around MLS in Week 8.

Friday

Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 9 p.m. ET

Saturday

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles FC — 1 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC — 3 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire — 3:30 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas vs. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids — 9 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Atlanta United — 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday

Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 4 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC — 6 p.m. ET

Atletico defeat leaves Barcelona 1 win from title

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid lost 3-0 at Real Sociedad on Thursday, leaving Barcelona one victory away from clinching the Spanish league title.

Barcelona, which drew 2-2 at Celta Vigo on Tuesday without most of its regular starters, can secure its 25th crown at Deportivo La Coruna on April 29.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Burnley, trails Spurs by five points in UCL race ]

The Catalan club faces Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

Barcelona has a 12-point lead over Atletico, with five matches left, and is 15 in front of third-place Real Madrid, which needed a late goal by Cristiano Ronaldo to draw 1-1 with Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Another loss for Atletico on Sunday against Real Betis would leave Diego Simeone’s team out of contention for the title because Barcelona holds the head-to-head advantage between the clubs.

Willian Jose shot Sociedad ahead in the 27th minute at the Anoeta Stadium. Juanmi Jimenez made it 2-0 in the 80th after a perfect backheel from Jose before Jimenez scored again with an injury-time header.

It was a third straight win for Sociedad, which stayed 11th in the standings. Atletico hadn’t lost in three consecutive league matches.

GIRONA WINS

Girona ended a four-match winless streak with a 2-1 victory at Alaves, staying in contention for a Europa League spot next season.

Aleix Garcia opened the scoring for Girona in the 59th minute and Cristhian Stuani added a penalty in the 86th, moving the team within one point of seventh-place Sevilla.

Tomas Pina struck in the 90th minute for Alaves, which is 15th.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Leicester 0-0 Southampton: Saints lose chance to gain relegation ground

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Leicester City and Southampton finished scoreless at the King Power Stadium on Thursday, as the latter failed to pick up three critical points in a heated Premier League relegation race.

The best opportunity on the day likely came in the second half when Marc Albrighton‘s brilliant volley was deflected over the crossbar by Saints keeper Alex McCarthy.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Burnley with Moses’ second-half strike ]

Southampton boasted many of its regulars as they prepare to stave off being dropped down to the Championship next season, although Mark Hughes‘ side features in a big FA Cup semifinals clash over the weekend against Chelsea.

Chances were at a minimum in the opening stanza, with Leicester the more dominant of the two sides in attack, although it didn’t amount to much on their various counterattacking opportunities.

Kelechi Iheanacho threatened early on for the Foxes, coming close in the 15th minute with a strike that narrowly missed the far corner. This came briefly after he followed up on his own blocked attempt moments prior.

The Saints now sit four points behind 17th place Swansea City, while Leicester remains in eighth place — trailing Arsenal and the top six by 10 points.

Burnley 1-2 Chelsea: Moses rescues Blues all three points

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With four matches remaining in the Premier League season, Antonio Conte‘s side has everything to play for in the final weeks of the campaign.

[ MORE: Leicester, Southampton finish scoreless at King Power Stadium ]

Chelsea picked up a come-from-behind 2-1 win against Burnley on Thursday afternoon at the Turf Moor behind Victor Moses‘ second-half finish.

Moses was active throughout the match for Chelsea, playing a hand in both goals.

Ashley Barnes pulled a goal back for the Clarets in the 64th minute, but it wasn’t enough for the seventh place side to steal points off the Blues for the second time in 2017/18.

Alvaro Morata’s struggles continued on the day, as the Spanish international had a quality breakaway chance to seal the game early in the second half, but put his right-footed attempt wide of the goal.

The Blues went in front in the 20th minute after Burnley defender Kevin Long put the ball into his own net off of a dangerous cross from Victor Moses on the righthand side of the box.

Olivier Giroud made heavy claims for a penalty in the eighth minute, when the striker went to ground after having been contacted by Long.

The Frenchman started the match paired with Alvaro Morata up front as Antonio Conte looked to rest Eden Hazard and Willian ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup semifinal against Southampton.

The victory for the Blues puts Conte and Co. within five points of Spurs with four matches remaining in the PL campaign. Tottenham currently occupies the fourth Champions League position in England’s top flight.