McLeish, Coleman, O’Neill linked with Crystal Palace job

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Ian Holloway hadn’t finished talking about his grandchild before Tony Pulis was linked with the Crystal Palace job, making it a bit surprising the former Stoke City man hasn’t been appointed at Selhurst Park. But as is so often the case, the first hints weren’t the right ones. One week after Holloway’s resignation, “interim” remains attached to the Eagles’ managerial post.

That’s just enough time for a imaginations to start working, which may explain why new candidates for the Palace job are starting to surface. According to the latest reports, those candidates include three well-known coaches looking for Premier League returns.

But have pity for Palace supporters if Alex McLeish gets the job. The 54-year-old Scot is currently out of work after running Birmingham City and Aston Villa into the ground. The Blues remain in the Championship, McLeish having apparently purchased a one-way ticket to the second tier, while Aston Villa’s Premier League lives barely survived the former Rangers boss’s wrath. Since then, McLeish tried his dark arts at Nottingham Forest before leaving the club after 41 days.

It’s a track record of failure that extends back to 2007, when McLeish moved to arrived in the West Midlands after a short stint with the Scottish national team. To his credit, McLeish did lead Birmingham City to a League Cup in 2011 (thanks, Arsenal), but he also orchestrated some of the worst soccer in the Premier League. Pragmatic to the point of being scared, McLeish’s tactics make you hate soccer.

But don’t lose too much sleep yet, Palace fans. According to McLeish, he hasn’t been contacted about the job, even if it sounds like he’s waiting by the phone:

“There hasn’t been any contact yet but I am a free agent,” McLeish said. “Crystal Palace are in a position that’s precarious for them but there’s still a lot of points to play for. I’ve had those kind of challenges before and I’ve had some success and some failures but if you’ve got a fighting spirit and good players playing to their strengths, then why can’t Palace stay up?”

Hiring McLeish would answer that question, though South Norwood should take heart in the fact another man’s name’s being thrown around. Unlike McLeish, Chris Coleman’s Premier League track record’s a mixed one. His first full season in charge of Fulham (2003-04) saw the Cottagers finish ninth, though they were pulled into a relegation battle the following season. After a slow start in 2005-06, Colemen left Craven Cottage.

He went to Real Sociedad and generally succeed but failed with Coventry City on his return to England. In a brief spell in Greece, he also saw success, but financial issues at Larissa led the 43-year-old back home: to coach the Welsh national team. He’s approaching his two-year anniversary on the job.

Unfortunately, Coleman’s tactics aren’t that much more ambitious than McLeish’s. Wondering what he would do in McLeish’s place at Brum or Villa is the type of thought experiment that leads you to wonder why we bother with sports at all. Why, out of all the managers in the world, has Crystal Palace come up with a list of some of the most soul-crushing tacticians in Britain?

Martin O’Neill is also reportedly in the picture, but like McLeish, his last coaching experience was a failed one (not uncommon for managers looking for jobs). Like Pulis’s last years at Stoke, O’Neill’s time at Sunderland featured a lot of spending for few results. And to complete the theme, his Sunderland teams played horrible, horrible football.

Crystal Palace is already in bad enough shape without bringing in a man who will bring their fans to tears. At least find somebody who will try to play good soccer. If that leads them to the Championship, that’s find. The Eagles were always likely to go down. Don’t amplify the agony in the process.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday