Have the Toronto FC team we all expected finally arrived?

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It has taken almost five months, but Toronto FC have finally turned up.

They recorded back to back wins for the first-time since July 14, 2012 this weekend with a 1-0 win over New England building on last weekends 2-1 victory over Columbus.

That’s right, it has been almost a year since Toronto had consecutive wins in league play. That’s how bad its been.

You have to respect TFC’s fans for keeping the faith after what has been a mostly torrid 12 months. But now Ryan Nelsen’s new look side may have turned the corner. Just maybe.

Toronto won three on the spin last July, before their terrible slump continued for the rest of the 2012 season. That was a brief mirage in a desert of discontent for Toronto’s fans.

However this time, things are different.

Bringing in Nelsen as a rookie manager so close to the start of the season, Toronto were always going to struggle in the first half of the 2013 campaign. Perhaps they’ve done worse than many thought, but Nelsen’s side are getting their act together. Fast.

Personally I expected them to be a hard team to beat this season. And for the most part that’s been true. Look at how many games they’ve either lost or drawn after giving up last minute goals. They were close to winning plenty of games — I don’t need to remind TFC fans that — because the fighting spirit is there, just not the luck. But Nelsen’s a fighter and his team now mirrors his staunch defensive attitude.

(MORE: Toronto FC’s roster improving, but is it enough?)

In 20 games Toronto has only allowed more than two goals on two occasions, and that was in back-to-back matches in July when a 3-3 tie with Montreal was followed by a 3-0 spanking by Sporting KC. They have the ninth best defense in MLS and have conceded 29 goals so far.

One of the main reasons for the mini revival: that nasty streak is back. Matias Laba, whose first goal since joining TFC was the game-winner on Sunday vs. New England, has made a huge difference in midfield. His bite in the tackle and range of passing is exactly what Nelsen needed. And the old head of Steven Caldwell in central defense has proved a masterful addition, which has brought out the best in the clubs young defenders who lineup next to the 32-year-old Scotsman.

I expected Toronto to be a hard-nosed defensive team, that doesn’t give up many goals and doesn’t thrill the neutral. Ryan Nelsen’s men are delivering that, finally. And now that they seem to have their house in order, can they possibly sneak into the playoff spots in the East? They’re 13 points off fifth-placed Houston. That’s a huge ask. But with this new-found mettle and habit of not losing games or giving up goals, Toronto will certainly be a much different team in the second half of the season.

The Toronto team I expected has finally arrived. Welcome.

Klopp talks politics: “Brexit makes no sense”

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.

Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.

The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.

It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.

Take it away, Jurgen…

“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.

“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”

“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.


Preview: Everton v. Newcastle

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  • Everton have won seven of their last eight games v Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won four PL games in a row
  • Wayne Rooney has more goals (15) against Newcastle than any other PL team

Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both setting pretty in midtable.

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The Toffees sit in ninth, with Newcastle in 10th and just one point behind Everton with a game in hand. Rafael Benitez has been lauded for taking his newly-promoted side into the top 10 with defensive solidity, while Sam Allardyce has been lambasted for a defensive style of play despite getting Everton out of a relegation fight following his appointment back in November.

In team news Everton have Mason Holgate and Gylfi Sigurdsson out injured, while Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu but Islam Slimani could make his first start.


What they’re saying 

Sam Allardyce on the job Rafael Benitez has done at Newcastle: “From a difficult period they have managed to recover and get in the Premier League and they have turned it around. They have put together a run of games and we’ll see a better Newcastle than we saw up there [when Everton won 1-0 in December]. Rafa has progressed very well. He has always expressed his disappointment with not enough funds – we can all say we don’t have enough funds. What he has managed with the funds he has, particularly in the January months, has been excellent.”

Rafael Benitez on his Newcastle future: “I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time. I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.”

Prediction
Two teams who are very similar in terms of their style of play should see a bit of a stalemate take place at Goodison. 1-1 draw, which is a much better result for Newcastle and will pile more pressure on Big Sam.

Paul Pogba: “Transfers are not in my head”

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Paul Pogba has been discussing his future at Manchester United beyond this season.

The Frenchman delivered a stunning assist in United’s 2-1 win against Tottenham in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, with the midfielder now named Man of the Match in each of his last two games after plenty of speculation about his future at United in recent months.

Jose Mourinho left Pogba out of his starting lineup on multiple occasions, while Pep Guardiola claims he was offered to buy Pogba in January and speculation about him joining Paris Saint-Germain, going back to Juventus or heading to Real Madrid continue.

Speaking to French outlet Canal Football Club, Pogba had the following to say about his own future.

“Right now, I am at Manchester United and I am honestly only thinking about the present. Transfers are not in my head. We are in the [FA] Cup final and the World Cup is around the corner,” Pogba said.

Pogba also addressed the rumors regarding his relationship with Mourinho with reports stating that the duo do not get along and United’s manager is fed up with the Frenchman’s attitude off the pitch.

“I don’t have a problem with him, and I don’t think he has a problem with me,” Pogba said. “He’s the coach and he has to make choices. I am a player and I accept them. I have to answer on the pitch.”