Guillermo Barros Schelotto

The MLS coaching carousel is about to get cray-cray-crazy!

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This will be the most fascinating MLS off-season yet in terms of managerial shakeup and shake-out. Some positions are already open – although it is difficult to tell exactly how many, which is part of the ongoing fun.

Either way, others will almost certainly come open.

Let’s get this managerial wheel a’spinnin’ and see where it lands:

It’s hard to know how many coaching seats are open already because Columbus and San Jose are under interim direction. (Well, as San Jose manager Mark Watson cleverly observed about his profession, they are pretty much all “interim” managers, aren’t they?)

Watson took a struggling team at Buck Shaw Stadium, 3-6-6 at the time, and took it right to the edge of the playoffs. The side was 10-5-3 under Watson, some of that surely about getting some important players healthy. So, get a new manager now? Or does Watson get a year before the Earthquakes 3.0 (my words, not the club’s) move into their spanking new ground in 2015?

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Earthquakes wait a year. It seems less likely that Columbus will retain interim manager Brian Bliss, not in his current role, at least. New ownership is sure to look for a signature hire, as this is Anthony Precourt’s first big opportunity to make a decisive, aggressive move, to show where he wants to take the club.

Besides, it looks like the club has already interviewed Guillermo Barros Schelotto (pictured above). That’s according to a story in The Columbus Dispatch, and when it comes to Crew Stadium legends, Schelotto’s name is at the top of every Columbus fan’s list. It certainly should be.

FC Dallas, looking to replace Schellas Hyndman, seems intent on taking its time. But with important roster choices ahead (most MLS contracts expire Dec. 1, and the club has options on which to decide for several players), and with other player personnel elements to work through, wouldn’t it makes sense to get it done sooner rather than later?

source: Getty ImagesBy the way, I spoke to FC Dallas departing manager over the weekend. I always believed that he could manage as long as he liked in Dallas, owing to his special relationship with the Hunt Family. Not only did Hyndman know, love and respect domestic soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt for years, he coached Clark Hunt in college. Hyndman didn’t tell me that he was forced out … but listening to him discuss the situation, he sure didn’t sound like a man who was resigning on his own or retiring.

In Chicago, it seems fair to wonder if Frank Klopas’ job depends on him making the playoffs. You have to squint really hard to find much to like about his time as a technical director or a manager (having put himself in that position mid-stream in 2011, after ownership dismissed a man that Klopas (pictured, right) presumably helped to hire, Carlos de los Cobos).

The team, frankly, didn’t respond well to Arne Friedrich’s season-long injury. Questionable personnel decisions (Sherjill MacDondald, anyone?) and the inability to get more out of Chris Rolfe won’t help Klopas make a case.

John Hackworth at Philadelphia? Yeah, he’s still got a pretty young team, but the team’s grinding style cannot be called a selling point for the PPL Park faithful who continue to show up in a dodgy neighborhood for soccer that can get pretty hard on the eyes. Plus, playoff soccer has drifted steadily from view since early summer.

The Washington Post’s Steven Goff recently reported that Ben Olsen would keep his job at RFK Stadium, although it’s still fair to wonder how fans of the Black and Red feel about such a thing? It seems dreadfully hard to sell it to the supporters considering a season that will go down, statistically speaking at very least, as one of the worst campaigns every witnessed in Major League Soccer. (It’s even harder to fathom how roster architect Dave Kasper will remain in employment, but there it is.)

source: Getty ImagesWho knows what will happen with Ryan Nelsen at Toronto? It seems unfair to fire the guy, who put an early end to his playing career to take over at BMO Field upon Kevin Payne’s request. Well, Payne is no longer in charge, so …

Rumors have persisted that perhaps former Earthquakes boss Frank Yallop (pictured, left) could be in position for this one (at TFC). Remember, the man in charge at BMO Field, Tim Leiweke, once helped hired Yallop at Los Angeles. Of course, Yallop has long been mentioned as Rennie’s possible successor at Vancouver if the Whitecaps make that anticipated change.

Speaking of a potential Cascadia Comeupance, the Sounders have made the playoffs, having sneaked in with the back-up lights on. But Sigi Schmid surely has to advance through one series, at very, very least, to keep the Washington wolves at safe distance.

Chivas USA is always a wildcard. Jose Luis Real could stick around. Or they could hire, I dunno, Diego Maradona! Or that character from the kid’s cartoon Go, Diego, Go for all we know. Or Guus Hiddink! Seriously, who knows what wackiness or pleasant surprises could fall from the Chivas tree of unpredictability?

And we’ll finish this odd (and yet fascinating) trot around the league here: the coaching carousel will spin that much faster if Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis takes the NYCFC position. That would open up a great position at Real Salt Lake, a team blessed with young talent and an owner who doesn’t mind spending prudently.

Report: Atlanta United to sign Jamaican attacker Romario Williams

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 28:  Romario Williams #17 of the Montreal Impact walks towards the play during the MLS game against the Orlando City SC at the Olympic Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The game between Orlando City SC and the Montreal Impact ended in a 2-2 draw.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Atlanta has already made some big splashes this offseason as the club prepares to join MLS in 2017, but the Eastern Conference side could be adding another attacker to its already deep bunch.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to Metro New York, Atlanta is poised to sign Jamaican international Romario Williams, who was originally drafted to MLS in 2015 by the Montreal Impact.

Williams will reportedly be exchanged for allocation money after having made just two senior appearances for the Impact since joining the club two seasons ago. The 22-year-old has spent two separate loan spells in USL with FC Montreal and more recently with the Charleston Battery.

In 2016, Williams netted 10 goals in 27 appearances for the Battery.

In addition to his club duties, Williams has represented Jamaica at the Under-17 and U-23 teams before reaching senior team in 2016.

3 key battles to watch in MLS Cup final

(Photo credit: Left: Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP | Right: AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Left: Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP | Right: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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One club will make history on Saturday night north of the border as Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders vie for their first MLS Cup title.

[ MORE: PST roundtable discusses key topics ahead of MLS Cup ]

While both teams enter the final in fine form, PST takes a look at which players and matchups will influence the game’s outcome the most.

Osvaldo Alonso vs. Michael Bradley

It may not be the sexiest matchup in terms of watching but these two midfielders have a lot in common other than their lack of hair. In addition to his three goals and four assists during the regular season, Alonso has been the heart and soul of the Sounders midfield for several years, but particularly in 2016. Meanwhile, Bradley has had a similarly strong season for TFC as he anchors the midfield.

Both teams feature strong backlines and some of the league’s top attackers, but these two players certainly provide stability in the midfield, which will be vital in the frigid conditions at BMO Field on Saturday night.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Jordan Morris vs. TFC backline

The story of the Sounders in 2016 is that of a fairytale, but the one of Jordan Morris might be even more intriguing if he and his side goes on to win MLS Cup. All in one calendar year, Morris can potentially be an NCAA champion, MLS Rookie of the Year and MLS Cup champion, a feat that seems pretty incredible when considering what the Sounders have endured in 2016.

Morris will likely have his chances against the TFC, which gave away several clear-cut opportunities to the Impact in the East final, but he’ll have to capitalize for the Sounders in order for them to win it all.

Sebastian Giovinco vs. Sounders backline

It’s easier said than done to try and contain the Italian striker but that’s what the Sounders will have to do in order to hoist the title. Although the emergence of Jozy Altidore has greatly helped the TFC attack and Giovinco, in particular, so that opposition can’t solely zone in on him, Giovinco remains the top threat for the hosts. Giovinco notched 17 goals and added 15 assists in 2016, meaning he’s not only a danger in front of goal but also a worry for the Sounders when it comes to playing the role of provider.

With Altidore’s emergence as of late it makes the challenge of stopping Giovinco all the more difficult, but the Sounders will likely have to keep at least two bodies around the Italian at times in order to throw him off of his game. Otherwise it could be a very long night for the Cascadia side, who likely watched as TFC put up five goals at home against the Montreal Impact in their Eastern Conference final second leg.

Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Stoke City

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02:  Stephen Ireland of Stoke City shoots a volley during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on February 2, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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  • Arsenal has won last 14 matches against Stoke
  • Gunners are currently unbeaten in last 13 PL fixtures
  • Stoke has gone unbeaten in eight of last nine matches

Arsenal looks to remain hot on Saturday as the Gunners host Stoke City (10 a.m. ET, NBCSN and streaming via NBC Sports Live) from the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners remain in contention at the summit of the Premier League as Arsene Wenger‘s side sits second behind league leaders Chelsea on 31 points. In addition to Arsenal’s recent success in the PL, the Gunners have progressed to the final 16 in the UEFA Champions League as well, making 2016/17 a potentially strong year for the London side.

Alexis Sanchez continues to lead the way for the Gunners attack, with the Chilean international notching 11 goals so far this season. In his last 25 PL matches for the club, Sanchez has either scored or assisted on as many goals for the Gunners.

[ MORE: Everton heads to Vicarage Road to face Watford ]

Stoke remains without several top pieces in its lineup, including U.S. Men’s National Team defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron and Ryan Shawcross, however, Bruno Martins Indi and Marko Arnautovic are expected to play for the Potters.

The Emirates has not been friendly to Stoke though in recent years, with the Potters only scoring three goals in their last eight visits while conceding on 19 occasions.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger on Arsenal’s progression throughout the season: “We have a good team dynamic, we have a very strong team spirit and we have more maturity, definitely. Unfortunately, the teams around us have more as well. You can assess the Premier League as very open and very interesting… December is a very important month and for us even more because we have some big games. Stoke is another challenge for us [to show] that we can reset, refocus and continue our development and take the points.”

Mark Hughes on Stoke’s solid play against PL’s top sides“In the past as a club we’ve struggled to get results at places like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge but we’ve been able to do that in recent times. This is the only one left standing so it would be great to get it out of the way. Our recent form is good and we’re in good heart so confidence is high, that is huge in football, so we’ll be able to benefit from that. It’s up to us to restrict them to minimal chances and make sure we’re creating chances when going the other way.”

Prediction

The Gunners can make it 14 straight matches unbeaten on Saturday, and while Stoke has done well to start the season, it’s highly likely that Arsenal will continue its winning ways. Alexis Sanchez is a Golden Boot contender in England, while the backline has improved every match for the Gunners. While the club has received its deserved criticisms in the past for faltering at critical junctures of the season, 2016/17 could be the year that Arsene Wenger and co. break through in the PL. Arsenal 3-1 Stoke

Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Everton

WATFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 09:  Jose Holebas (1st R) of Watford scores his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on April 9, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
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  • Everton are unbeaten in 11 straight matches vs. Watford (all comps)
  • Troy Deeney is one goal shy of 100 in Hornets kit
  • Toffees have won just one of last nine in PL

Watford hosts Everton on Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and streaming via NBC Sports Live) from Vicarage Road as the two clubs look to keep pace in the running with the Premier League’s top six.

The Hornets have lost three of four in the PL and currently sit 11th in the table on 18 points. In that span, Watford has been outscored 11-4, including the team’s brutal 6-1 defeat at Liverpool in early November.

Etienne Capoue leads the way for Watford in the goals department, with five on the season, while Troy Deeney has three of his own and sits just one away from notching his 100th for the club. Defending his been a bit of an issue though for the Hornets — who have conceded 24 in 14 matches — with only four teams allowing more goals this season.

[ MORE: Swansea remain committed to Bob Bradley despite struggles ]

Everton could potentially have to deal without Yannick Bolasie for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury, while Seamus Coleman is expected to play after sustaining a head injury a week ago.

The Toffees enter Saturday with just one win out of their last nine, and while one point separates Ronald Koeman‘s side from sixth place Manchester United, a victory is very much needed for the Merseyside club. While Romelu Lukaku continues to carry the load up front for Everton with seven goals thus far, the Toffees rank mid table in terms of goals scored this season (17).

What they’re saying

Walter Mazzarri on importance of upcoming fixtures for Watford: “It’s very important. The next six games will probably decide our future and decide if we are going to be in the Premier League. It will decide in a certain way, if we are going to be up or playing in a different way and struggling more. These games will decide this. We have been unlucky on injuries and have been in a bit of an emergency for a couple of months.”

Ronald Koeman on Everton striker Romelu Lukaku’s form: “You can have a good run of scoring goals and then have a bit of time where you don’t really get big chances to score. The players around him need to create more and he can improve in his movements – it’s a team question to create more chances. But if he gets the chances, we always know he will score goals.”

Prediction

Both sides enter Saturday’s encounter in desperate need of a victory, but Everton’s last time out against Manchester United was a bit more encouraging. It won’t be an easy task to take points at Vicarage, however, I expect the Toffees to come away with something against the struggling Hornets. Watford 2-2 Everton