Frank Klopas out as Chicago Fire head coach

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The Chicago Fire have put an end to Frank Klopas’ time in charge of the Fire, with an announcement revealing Klopas has ‘stepped down’ after he took charge of two full MLS seasons after arriving on an interim basis in 2011.

Following a statement on Wednesday morning from the club, Klopas is out after his side failed to reach the playoffs on Sunday following a second half collapse in a 5-2 defeat to Supporters’ Shield champs New York. Klopas led Chicago to the postseason in his first full season in charge in 2012, but it seems as though his familiar to repeat that feat has now cost him his job.

Klopas is the second MLS coach in as many days to lose his job, following Martin Rennie’s sacking from the Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday.

In related news, Fire team president Javier Leon has also been ousted.

Klopas, 47, is a legend on the Chicago soccer scene after lifting MLS Cup and Open Cup titles with his hometown team during their early success in MLS from 1998 until 2000. The Greek-American, who played professionally in Greece as well as for the USMNT, must be hailed after stepping down from the front office when needed and becoming the Fire’s interim head coach following the disastrous reign of Carlos de los Cobos in 2011. But of course, his role as TD meant that Klopas built that team from scratch, then brought in de los Cobos as coach and fired him after the terrible run of results. So, in essence Klopas’ quick tidy up of a poor managerial appointment lasted over two years. But he still comes out with plenty of credit for the job he’s done in difficult circumstances.

(MORE: Martin Rennie out as Vancouver Whitecaps manager, why he failed)

You see, Klopas’ initial role with Chicago was Technical Director and for someone who wasn’t really brought in to become head coach, he’s done a decent job to steady the ship, bringing the playoffs to the Fire last season and gave them a chance of doing the same heading in to their final game of 2013.

Since he took the reigns, a 35-25-17 record proves he’s done a steady, yet unspectacular, job at Toyota Park.

But with a good mixture of youth, experience and talent, Klopas hasn’t left Chicago in a bad situation. Compared to when he arrived as interim boss during 2011, this Fire squad is much better equipped for the future and Klopas should be applauded for getting the most out of what he was given.

(MORE: Updated list of MLS coaching dismissals)

The club didn’t spend big or bring in massive DPs, and yes some of Klopas’ signings (Sherjil McDonald and Alvaro Fernandez to name a couple) didn’t work out. But whoever comes in will have plenty of top young players to work with and I for one hope Klopas is allowed to go back upstairs as a Technical Director with the Fire or elsewhere in MLS. That’s what he wanted to do from the off and because Chicago was his hometown club and he would do anything for them, he willingly filled the head coach void when they needed him too.

Former Chicago Fire star and Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch is being touted as a possible replacement for Klopas, I just hope the latter is able to stick around in the organization somewhere after doing all he possibly could to take Chicago to the next level. Yet I don’t think that will be the case.

He has come up just short as head coach, but Klopas can still be key to Chicago’s future success.

Ajax reunion at Palace as De Boer signs center back

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Crystal Palace has added much needed depth and youth to its corps of center backs with 20-year-old Ajax man Jairo Riedewald.

The left back in Ajax’s UEFA Europa League loss to Manchester United, Riedewald completed better than 92 percent of his passes in Eredivisie play. He also nabbed 2.2 interceptions per match.

[ MORE: Russia’s straw stadium ]

Fellow Palace center backs James Tompkins, Scott Dann, and Damien Delaney average age is 31.3.

Riedewald played for Palace boss Frank De Boer at Ajax. From Palace’s official site:

“He will be an excellent addition to our squad, Jairo is a young player but already has a lot of experience. I know he is looking forward to playing in the Premier League.”

Riedewald played the majority of his Eredivisie matches at center back, but has 18 appearances as a defensive midfielder and another 12 at left back.

He’s Palace’s second addition of this summer, the other being a loan of Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea.

Russian farmer’s straw stadium pokes fun at World Cup costs

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KRASNOYE, Russia (AP) Russia is desperate to control its spending on the 2018 World Cup, and a farmer might just have the answer – straw.

In a project straight out of the “Three Little Pigs” fairytale, Roman Ponomaryov has built a straw replica of the 43 billion ruble ($700 million) stadium in St. Petersburg which will host World Cup semifinals.

His arena made of 4,500 straw bales comes with tiered seating for 300 and flagpoles. It hosted its first tournament – for local teams only – last weekend using modified soccer rules.

[ VIDEO: Man United beat Real Madrid ] 

“It’s good to get people excited and create a sports atmosphere ahead of the World Cup,” Ponomaryov said in a recent interview.

The real St. Petersburg Stadium has drawn ire for its cost, corruption scandals, delays, and workers’ deaths.

Ponomaryov is a fan of the Zenit St. Petersburg club and says he modeled his straw stadium on Zenit’s new home in a gentle dig at the problems around the construction.

“It seemed pretty strange … how the cost of the stadium and its construction timeframe were increasing,” he said. Russia’s total World Cup budget is around $10.7 billion.

Zenit has accepted the straw stadium with good humor, offering Ponomaryov a ticket to a game at the real thing.

The harvest will keep him on the farm for the next few weeks, though, and he has in mind another project – organizing a Straw World Cup.

Spain’s sports court opens disciplinary procedure vs. Villar

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Spain’s administrative court for sport has initiated disciplinary procedures against Spanish Football Federation president Angel Maria Villar after he was arrested and jailed in a corruption probe.

The opening of the disciplinary procedure on Monday clears the way for Spain’s sports authority, the Higher Council of Sport, to rule whether it will temporarily suspend Villar when they meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT).

The court’s decision had been expected since Thursday, when the Higher Council of Sport asked the court to act against Villar following his arrest.

Villar, his son Gorka, federation vice president Juan Padron, and Ramon Hernandez, the secretary of the regional football federation of Tenerife, were arrested last Tuesday when police raided the national federation’s headquarters and other properties.

The four were arrested on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

National Court judge Santiago Pedraz ordered last week that the Villars and Padron remain in jail without bail after questioning them. Hernandez’s bail was set at 100,000 euros ($116,000).

The elder Villar is FIFA’s senior vice president and also a vice president of UEFA. He’s been president of the Spanish federation since 1988.

Judge Pedraz said the 67-year-old Villar is suspected of misappropriating private and public funds received by the federation “at least since 2009.”

MLS rejected $4 billion deal which wanted promotion/relegation

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Major League Soccer has confirmed it brushed aside a $4 billion TV deal which insisted on promotion and relegation coming into place in North America’s top-flight.

A report from the Sports Business Journal stated that the owner of NASL side Miami FC Riccardo Silva gave a presentation to the league and owners on June 26, offering a 10-year deal for the domestic and international TV rights from 2023 with one clause: promotion and relegation had to become commonplace in MLS.

Of course, Silva, who founded the media company MP & Silva who put in the bid, would love for there to be promotion and relegation in MLS as his team cannot currently rise above the second-tier NASL.

Jeff Carlisle from ESPN has the following statement from Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications.

“As was stated to Mr. Silva both in person and in a subsequent letter, Major League Soccer is prohibited contractually from engaging in discussions about our media rights with other distributors. We are not in a position, nor are we interested, in engaging with Mr. Silva on his proposal.”

“It is also important to note that since its inception, MLS, like the other North American leagues, has dealt directly with its domestic broadcast partners, rather than through agents and brokers. This ensures that the league and its partners can structure an agreement that addresses all elements, such as scheduling, marketing and digital distribution, that are required for a successful partnership.”

This deal would quadruple the current annual TV deal MLS has with Fox, ESPN and Univision, but it has been stated that no new deal can be discussed until at least 2021.

With cities across the U.S. and Canada lining up to pay the $150 million MLS expansion fee, league commission Don Garber has stated multiple times that promotion and relegation is not needed in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

With USL and NASL now both second-tier, the only way they can become a top-tier franchise is by buying into MLS with two markets set to be selected later this year from 12 current expansion bids, plus David Beckham’s franchise in Miami still pushing ahead with plans to join the league.