Confirmed: Ian Holloway leaves Crystal Palace after poor start to Premier League campaign

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Crystal Palace’s Premier League adventure under Ian Holloway lasted just eight games into the Premier League season.

On Wednesday, Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish and Holloway made the announcement that he has left the Eagles by mutual consent at a hastily arranged press conference at the Soho hotel in London.

A disappointing start to Palace’s first PL campaign since the 2004-05 season sees them second from bottom, with just three points from a possible 24. The Eagles’ second half capitulation in a big loss to London rivals Fulham on Monday night turned out to be the final straw.

But despite seven defeats from their opening eight PL games, Holloway is proud of getting Palace to England’s top-flight to start with as against all odds they won the Championship playoffs last season to make it back to the big time.

“I have pride in the job we’ve both done,” Holloway said of him and Parish. “It wasn’t easy. If Steve’s last manager [Dougie Freedman] wasn’t headhunted I wouldn’t have been here. But I have to hold my hand up and say we didn’t keep the spirit that got us up. We changed too much too quickly.”

Holloway took over at Palace in November 2012, as former boss Freedman joined Bolton Wanderers. Known for jokes and laughter, this term has seen Holloway become much more reserved and sinister at times, as his team struggled to adjust after the success of a playoff victory against Watford at Wembley last May.

Parish added his thanks and praised Holloway for the job he’s done in South London to get them where they are today. And along with fellow Co-Chairman Simon Jordan, Parish denied that he and Holloway had fell out and that the club were quite happy to see the season out with Holloway regardless of looming relegation.

“Ian’s contract at Crystal Palace has come to an end by mutual consent,” Parish said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of working with Ian. He leaves our club with his head held very high. I’d like to put the record straight. We’ve never fallen out. We’ve worked together brilliantly. I was more than happy to get relegated and come back up with Ian. The word “sacked” has never been mentioned among the directors.”

Holloway is adored by many soccer enthusiasts for his slapdash approach and comical press conferences, and the manner in which he leaves Palace is somewhat admirable as Parrish confirmed Holloway “felt a new approach might help keep us in the division.” Following the 4-1 pummeling by Fulham on Monday night, Palace looked devoid of ideas and Holloway admitted his half time team-talk had no impact as his side folded in the second half.

That was the final straw in a dismal campaign to date, and when I saw the “Urgent press announcement” email from Palace in my inbox on Monday afternoon… I was hardly surprised Holloway’s time at Selhurst Park was coming to an end.

The former Plymouth Argyle, QPR, Cardiff City and Blackpool manager also revealed the main reason his side continued on a downward spiral. With 14 new players arriving in the summer transfer window, it was difficult for Holloway to foster that same team spirit that had galvanized the Eagles in their promotion campaign last season.

“I’ve lost the spirit of that group. I owe it to the lads to admit that,” Holloway said. “I’m not saying my new signings aren’t good enough. But they need to buy into this football club the same way my other lads did.”

Holloway had kind words to say about his time at Palace, where he won 14, drew 14 and lost 18 of his league games in charge with win ratio of 30.43 percent. The 50-year-old manager believes someone else could prosper at Palace and save them from relegation, but whoever gets the job… Holloway has left them one heck of a mountain to climb.

“It is a privilege to have worked at Palace,” Holloway said. “With me out the way, the new man will have a chance to start again The four owners are unique. They are supporters of the club. Seven defeats out of eight is not good enough. If someone does want a chance in the Premier League with a good group, they should seriously believe in this project.”

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez injured on international duty

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Atlanta United is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings three weeks into its inaugural Major League Soccer season, and the bite appears to be every bit as fearsome as the bark for the newcomers.

Now, the club must contend with its first bit of truly scary news.

In-form striker Josef Martinez was injured on international duty with Venezuela and is heading back to the United States for evaluation. The report says he tweaked his left thigh, and after the match head coach Rafael Dudamel said he would release Martinez back to Atlanta, saying, “I do not think it’s good for Josef to travel. This muscle tightness can take 10 days of recovery.”

Martinez was subbed off of Venezuela’s match with Peru in the 59th minute, replaced by Yangel Herrera and walking off under his own power. Venezuela drew the match 2-2, blowing a 2-goal halftime lead and leaving them bottom of the table, 14 points back of the intercontinental playoff spot.

Obviously that 10-day recovery is more ideal than any other long-term prognosis, but it would still see him miss a road visit to Seattle next Friday. The 23-year-old has a whopping five games in his first three MLS games with Atlanta and has been a force. Brandon Vazquez and Bryan Rochez are the two options currently on Atlanta’s roster to replace the Venezuelan in the lineup.

Martinez was signed on loan from Serie A side Torino, but the move was made permanent last week.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.

Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho scores thunderbolt for Brazil

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Brazil topped Uruguay 4-1 to move on the verge of World Cup qualification, but there was much more to the first half of this match than meets the eye.

Uruguay went ahead 1-0 on a 9th-minute penalty won and scored by Edinson Cavani, and for a moment it seemed like the home side might find its way to pull within a point of Brazil at the top of the CONMEBOL standings. That would not last very long.

[ MORE: Full roundup of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action ]

Just 10 minutes later, a bad giveaway near the midfield stripe saw Neymar casually feed Paulinho a good 50 yards from goal. The former Spurs man took matters into his own hands, charging forward and unleashing a vicious strike that continued to rise until it ripped the chords in the top-right corner.

 

Not only was the goal a sight to behold, it was an important moment in the match. Brazil was back level at 1-1, and Paulinho would be on his way to an eventual hat-trick with a pair in the second half. Neymar scored once as well to complete the 4-1 final scoreline, and the three points for Brazil saw them remain perfect in the World Cup qualifying round as they march seven clear of Uruguay at the top of the standings.

For Paulinho, the hat-trick brings him to four goals in the World Cup qualifying round, adding to his score in the 3-0 win over Argentina. They also mark an important moment for the Chinese Super League, where Paulinho now plays, having moved from Spurs in July of 2015. Some national team coaches have left players on the outside of the squad for moving to leagues such as the Chinese League or Major League Soccer, but Paulinho has clearly been an asset to Brazil despite his club situation. In fact, in China, Paulinho has scored four goals in his four league matches for Guangzhou Evergrande this season plus another in the Asian Champions League, leaving him in top goalscoring form coming into this international break, something which has clearly translated directly to international play.

The 28-year-old had lost his place in the national team squad in 2014, going over two years without a single international appearance, but has been a mainstay in the Brazilian side during this World Cup qualification cycle.