Conor Casey, Keon Daniel, Brian Carroll

This time of year, New York vs. Philadelphia is more than just a rivalry


“Obviously it is Philly and I think their fans travel, so yeah, it makes it extra special” said Thierry Henry, New York’s legendary striker. “It is a rivalry in any sport in the US; when a team from New York plays against a team from Philly or New England or DC you have that type of rivalry and that’s the way it is.”

The players wouldn’t have it any other way. But that’s not the only way it is.

When Philadelphia travels a short way to Red Bull Arena, the 2nd place and 3rd place teams in the East will be duking it out for a shot at first place and pole position for the season’s stretch run.

Henry acknowledges that. “For us it’s not only the rivalry and winning the game against Philly; it’s getting three points because we need three points right now.”

Ok, maybe a bit of an overstatement.  They don’t need three points, but they sure could use ’em (who couldn’t?).  While the Eastern Conference isn’t nearly as jumbled as the West, overall parity in the league this season means any slip ups could be lethal.

The Red Bulls have been wildly inconsistent this season, but remain in second place.  June and July saw an incredibly weird 4-match stretch where New York either dominated their opponent or got dominated.  Since, their last three matches have given them two crazy, signature wins against each conference’s leader, and one disappointing home loss to the slumping Columbus Crew.

(MORE: MLS Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia Union)

Despite the inconsistency, one thing is for certain: when New York come home, they score goals.  Despite just five away goals since the beginning of May (three in one game), the Red Bulls have smashed home 18 goals in front of their home fans over the same time period.

The player news is great for New York as well – both Henry and Tim Cahill could be returning from injuries.  Coach Mike Petke said he “100 percent” believes Henry will play after missing last week with Achillies inflammation (nothing to scoff at). Cahill has returned to full training, but it’s unclear whether he will take part Saturday.

For Philadelphia, they come in on the heels of a win, but they haven’t won two in a row since June 23 when they beat Columbus and New York a combined 6-0.  It’s been spotty since then, with striker Jack McInerney’s goalless drought now at seven full matches.  However, Conor Casey is beginning to pick up the slack.

Casey’s double last week sank lowly D.C. United, and he now has four goals since McInerney last got his.  In fact, of the seven matches Casey’s scored in this season, Philadelphia has lost just one and won five.

With much to gain from a win at Red Bull Arena, it’s clear the players have a job to do. But there’s still an element of hostility in the air as always present during such a heated rivalry.

But don’t take my word for it.

yeah of course, it’s a rivalry the minute that they came in the league.  The players, and coaches, feel it too.

Petke: “It’s something that I take pleasure in when we get good results and I sulk in when we get bad results against these teams.”

By the way, New York has never lost to Philadelphia at Red Bull Arena. Food for thought.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.