The hard truth in Seattle: Sigi Schmid is almost certainly gone without a big series reversal

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Sigi Schmid is one of American soccer’s real success stories, a self-made coaching figure who made his way up from college coaching ranks into MLS, starting a neat little collection of MLS Cups, Supporters Shield trophies and U.S. Open Cup crowns upon arrival into domestic soccer’s top tier.

And he’s about to lose his job.

Maybe, that is. There are two big caveats here, starting with the fact that Seattle is only “mostly dead,” which, as we know, is “slightly alive.” So, the Sigi Sounders are not out of the playoffs just yet. His Sounders are certainly half a chalk outline right now, trailing Portland by a goal and staring at the tough road leg in this home-and-away conference semifinal. But teams can and have come back in these aggregate goals MLS series following a bummer loss at home; teams that lost the opening leg at home are 3-for-11 in manufacturing a memorable rally.

The other caveat is that fans and media won’t make this choice. That’s on owner Joe Roth and on GM and minority owner Adrian Hanauer, along with the Sounders’ big cast of very serious, buttoned up, corporate types.

But is there really any other outcome here? ESPN’s Adrian Healey and I talked about it Sunday, just hours after the tough loss to Portland. He agreed that Schmid was highly unlikely to survive a series loss here.

Indeed, it seems so unlikely that Schmid could survive the weight of the October collapse, one now appearing to bleed into November, if Schmid cannot scare up a massive result in Portland, where the Sounders must overcome a 2-1 deficit when the teams clash at Jeld-Wen on Thursday.

(MORE: What we learned from Portland’s win at Seattle)

Not at a club of such big ambition. Not at a club with more fans in the stands than at two or three other MLS grounds combined on most weekends.

Quick review of the facts:

Seattle Sounders FC remains on the hunt for meaningful post-season success. The Sounders did get past last week’s elimination match against Colorado, which is something. Still, the lack of larger playoff success looks like the really big pole that the sputtering Schmid mobile is likely to smash into.

The history of making hay with big signings is sketchy at very best. The relative success around CenturyLink of DPs Freddie Ljungberg, Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez, Blaise Nkufo and Mauro Rosales (that’s not mentioning Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins out of the current crop) is all up for big debate. At best.

The October fade was a horrible sight for Sounders fans, who had gotten their hopes up thanks to the summer surge, one that was punctuated by Clint Dempsey’s hardy and hopeful arrival.

source:  If this conference semifinal cannot be overturned, it’s a dreaded double whammy. Because it’s against Portland, the rival to top all rivalries in MLS. It’s already a scab to be picked at; Joshua Mayers’ good research reveals that Portland’s weekend win was that organization’s first victory in a competitive match in Seattle since 2005.  Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark.

Finally, there’s this: Seattle soccer made a lot of noise about the Galaxy’s starry alignment of soccer luminaries, the highly recognized likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane. When would the Sounders get their bite off the soccer icon apple?

Well, here’s Dempsey now … and how ‘bout them apples?

His arrival removed the last, uh … what word can we use here other than “excuse?”  Let’s go with “obstacle.”  Either way, stamp it with “removed!”

Not all of this is Schmid’s fault necessarily. But it’s a case where the negative weight of it all will almost certainly reach critical mass. The call for change will create its own momentum, and it just seems so painfully unlikely that Seattle’s only coach (in MLS soccer that is) will survive.

(MORE: Schmid sounded a bit defensive near season’s end)

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”