Portland Timbers v FC Dallas

The playoff scene tonight in MLS; Dallas on the brink


The limited schedule of Major League Soccer matches this weekend means limited possibilities where official qualification and elimination are concerned for Round 33. But there is something, at least, that can happen tonight in terms of putting those telling indicator marks next to another club in the official standings.

(The schedule during FIFA dates really should be less than “limited,” it should be eliminated entirely – but we’ve banged that old pot until it’s all dented and barely recognizable as content cookware, so let’s just move on …)

Dallas’ season will be on the brink when Schellas Hydman’s team meets Chicago at Toyota Stadium outside Dallas. Anything but all three points tonight against Frank Klopas’ Fire and its curtains on FCD’s playoff hopes for this year. Hyndman’s team has not won a playoff match since 2010, when it went to the MLS Cup final.

It’s almost certainly academic, anyway; Dallas, currently eighth in the West, would need to win out (three matches remaining) and then have lots of results fall its way to somehow find its way into the 10-team “second season” field.

FCD actually has an OK team right now; not great, but OK. But it took too long to get here.

Management didn’t have it right to begin with, with woefully insufficient midfield depth. They’ve never quite gotten the Fabian Castillo riddle solved (so much raw talent, so little command of how to use it) and they kept an ineffective David Ferreira in the lineup too long. All that led to dropped points. Further, if Blas Perez isn’t around (he’s not this weekend, again) then the forward spot becomes a problem.

The team’s summer additions have helped … but this is Exhibit A of how you need to get it right (or get close, at least) in January and February, not in July and August.

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.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

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.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.