Top five MLS coaching candidates (plus one apparently already off the “available list”)

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The urge to hire coaches with an accent (foreign dudes, that is) will simply be too irresistible for some Major League Soccer owner or GM. Managers from lands afar with no MLS experience may work in MLS, or they may not; there are examples on either side of that argument.

But there are plenty of good choices from the good ol’ USA, men with ample knowledge of the MLS quirkiness, the measurable tax of summer heat and travel, salary cap restrictions, the personnel acquisition peculiarities, etc.

(MORE: Updated list of MLS coaching dismissals)

(MORE: Why Martin Rennie failed at Vancouver)

Here are the top five North American coaching candidates (in alphabetical order), plus one bonus choice, who may already have been picked off the shelf:

Bob Bradley: It seems pretty unlikely the former U.S. national team boss will remain with Egypt once the Pharaohs are eliminated from World Cup contention (as they almost certainly will be upon the return leg against Ghana). Bradley (pictured) would love to remain at the international level. But he’s a soccer man through and through, and if he doesn’t get an offer quickly, the MLS suitors would be silly not to line up. Columbus is certainly eager to get in line.

Robin Fraser: Pay no attention to that dark spot on his resume, a.k.a. the Chivas USA period; that place is just this side of hopeless. (Although for Chivas USA fans, I certainly do hope things improve.) Everyone respects Fraser; he’ll get another shot at some point. (Probably at Real Salt Lake if Jason Kreis grabs the chance to become New York City FC’s first manager.)

Jesse Marsch: The longtime MLS midfield fixture did good things in 2012 with expansion Montreal. A Bradley protégé, he’s going to be a good manager somewhere – it just looks like Montreal wasn’t the right fit. Maybe he’ll be a better fit at Chicago if the Fire decides that Frank Klopas isn’t the right guy for the bench at Toyota Park.

Tab Ramos: As I wrote about before, he looks to me a lot like the next Caleb Porter. And who wouldn’t want the next MLS Coach of the Year – since Porter seems likely to be handed that honor in December? Ramos isn’t just a student of the game, he’s a student of teaching the game. In working with young players, you could do a whole lot worse than the thoughtful, former U.S. midfield standout.  

Eric Wynalda: I spoke to Wynalda recently in Kansas City, prior to a U.S. national team practice. He likes his TV gig. It works for him now – but I got the feeling he would listen to the right MLS offer. It has to be a good fit; the former American international is outspoken, and it’s going to take a bit of a maverick owner, someone who understands Wynalda isn’t a group-think guy and doesn’t always care about diplomacy. But he is a sharp guy, and he’ll get a lot out of his players.

(Bonus candidate: Frank Yallop. Thing is, he already seems to be off the shelf. Reports are coming out of Canada that he’s already in line to replace Martin Rennie at Vancouver. If not … then add him to this list. Everyone loves playing for him, and he remains well respected.)

(MORE: The MLS coaching carousel is about to get crazy)

(MORE: With coaching vacancies ahead, there should be a race for Tab Ramos)

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Southampton

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Southampton 2-0 in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday, with the Blues setting up an FA Cup final clash with Manchester United on May 19.

Antonio Conte‘s side scored twice in the second half with Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata on the scoresheet against a sorry Saints outfit.

Here’s what we learned as Chelsea will set up a clash with Jose Mourinho.


GIROUD AN ELEGANT ASSASSIN

Olivier Giroud is quickly becoming a cult hero at Chelsea. The Frenchman dribbled delicately around three Southampton defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before prodding home to put his side ahead.

It was a elegant, yet clumsy, goal and summed up Giroud’s penchant for delivering goals of the highest difficulty.

Giroud has now been involved in 22 goals in 26 FA Cup appearances (15 goals, 7 assists) and the Frenchman is proving to be Chelsea’s first-choice central striker ahead of Alvaro Morata, although the Spaniard did grab a goal late on to wrap up the win.

Giroud has scored four goals in 13 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Arsenal in January but the way he holds the ball up and links with Eden Hazard is a huge plus for Conte. Giroud could also start up top with Morata if Chelsea tweak their system and at the age of 31 there is still plenty of life left in him and not just as a late sub.


COULD CONTE STAY…

Antonio Conte will likely still leave Chelsea at the end of the season but the Italian coach seems to badly want his time at Chelsea to end with a trophy.

But here’s a thought: if Chelsea beat Man United and somehow make it into the top four at Tottenham’s expense, will he remain in charge for the final year of his three-year contract?

The Blues cruised into the FA Cup final and looked fired up from the start as Eden Hazard pulled the strings and Giroud made a nuisance of himself.

Conte’s comments all season long suggest he will depart Chelsea this summer and seek a new project, but if he does so after winning the FA Cup to go along with the PL title he won last season and then finishing fifth, that’s not a bad two years in the PL and the Italian will depart with his pride and reputation intact.


SOUTHAMPTON’S STRUGGLES

Saints are in the Premier League’s relegation zone for a reason and their total lack of confidence was clear for all to see at Wembley.

Mark Hughes‘ men have five games left to save themselves but it almost seems as if Saints’ players have resigned themselves to relegation from the Premier League. One win in their last 21 PL games (that came against West Brom) tells the story of a side crumbling before our eyes.

After they shipped 12 goals in four Premier League, all of them defeats, Hughes has set Saints up in a 5-3-1-1 formation to try and make them tougher to break down.

It is working, at least defensively, with a 0-0 draw at Leicester on Thursday, but going forward they totally lack any cohesion and only created three real chances on Sunday as Shane Long made a hash of a great opportunity, Charlie Austin hit the post and Nathan Redmond tested Willy Caballero.

Saints are in a really bad place as they now have to find a way to stop themselves hurtling towards relegation. Their game at home against Bournemouth next weekend is a must win. Simple.

Chelsea joins Man Utd in FA Cup Final

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Chelsea will meet old pal Jose Mourinho in the FA Cup Final after beating Southampton 2-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata scored the goals for Antonio Conte‘s men, whose date with Manchester United comes at the same venue on May 19.

Southampton will turn its attention back to the relegation battle, four points behind 17th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Willian hit the cross bar with an early effort as Chelsea looked very much up for the semifinal.

Olivier Giroud had a 39th minute chance zip wide of the frame, as Chelsea posted nine of the first half’s 11 shot attempts while holding 60 percent possession.

Saints would have been happy to get to the locker room at nil-nil.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Twenty-eight seconds into the second half: That’s when Giroud scored, with Chelsea’s first long ball knocked down by Eden Hazard on the edge of the 18 and played to the Frenchman.

Giroud cut between two Saints defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with his right foot.

Hazard curled an effort of his own wide in the 48th minute.

Saints snapped to life, and Shane Long touched around Wily Caballero but too strong to equalize at Wembley.

Nathan Redmond forced a wild save out of Caballero in the 72nd minute, and nearly claimed the corner.

McCarthy tipped a Hazard shot over the bar minutes later.

Morata put it to bed on a cross from his in-tune assist man Cesar Azpilicueta.

The finish was thrilling nevertheless, with Charlie Austin hitting the far post and Saints getting a goal line clearance at the other end.

Wenger: Praise after exit announcement “more than I deserve”

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Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem like the type to go on a victory lap, but the Arsenal boss is handling his resignation and the accompanying praise with pure class.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

Wenger announced the end of his long Arsenal tenure earlier this week, and has been met by heaps of praise from ex-players, fans, current Gunners, and even rivals.

The Frenchman addressed the plaudits following a 4-1 win over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. From the BBC:

“I would like to thank everyone who has been very nice and kind and praised me more than I deserved it. I would like to say thank you everyone. It’s been a great period for me and I’m thankful for that.”

Arsenal punished West Ham after the Irons equalized through Marko Arnautovic, getting a lucky goal from Aaron Ramsey and two fine finishes from Alexandre Lacazette in the win.

“I was focused on winning the game. We just tried to be professional and do our job even when the circumstances are different. It was a good team spirit and good preparation for Thursday.

“I think we constructed patiently. We didn’t make big mistakes. First of all before winning a trophy, you need to get through the semi-finals. This is a good way to prepare – scoring goals against a strong West Ham team who have done well recently.”

Next up: A huge test in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, with Atletico Madrid visiting for Thursday’s first leg. Wenger rested several big names, and Atleti has just one win from its last four matches (including a Madrid Derby draw at the Bernabeu).

WATCH: Chelsea’s Giroud scores 27 seconds after halftime

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Southampton held firm against Chelsea’s challenge for 45 minutes of Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium.

Well, 45 minutes and 27 seconds.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

The first long ball of the second half saw Chelsea’s Eden Hazard leap to trap, and the Belgian played a quick ball forward to his striker.

That’s Olivier Giroud, who dribbled between two defenders and Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with the outside of his right foot.