Columbus Crew name Gregg Berhalter new head coach, sporting director

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Ladies and gents, please welcome the new Head Coach and Sporting Director of the Columbus Crew…. Mr. Gregg Berhalter.

Following the departure of Crew legend Robert Warzycha towards the end of the 2013 season, Columbus have cast their net far and wide to find a suitable replacement.

Former U.S. national team defender Berhalter fits the bill, with bags of experience playing and coaching in Europe, as well as a stint with the LA Galaxy in MLS to end his career.

A conference call, which can be listened to live online at 12pm ET right here, has been arranged to unveil 40-year-old Berhalter.

So, Columbus’ search for a new man to lead them into the future is finally over and it seems as though Crew Chairman and Investor-Operator Anthony Precourt is delighted to have Berhalter on board.

“We are thrilled to conclude this expansive and thorough search for our next leader, a process that spanned three continents. Gregg’s strong vision, passion, work ethic, intelligence, data-driven decision making, broad soccer network and playing credentials separated him throughout this search. His unique skill-set gives us great confidence in boldly changing the structure of our soccer operations, with Gregg leading as our first-ever Sporting Director. I believe this structure will allow us to achieve a consistent winning culture and best practices that will lead to repeatable success, year-in and year-out. Gregg has been a winner and a leader at every level, and will fit in well with the Crew as a team of firsts.”

It’s a bold move from the Crew, but it will be lauded by many across the North American soccer community as a young US coach is handed the reigns of an MLS original. This is a big deal.

And so is Berhalter.

After starting his playing career in Europe as an 18-year-old with FC Zwolle in Holland, he then captained both Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich in the Bundesliga. The towering central defender was also on the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup squads and won an MLS Cup following his three seasons with LA from 2009-11.

(MORE Columbus Crew fire Robert Warzycha, Brian Bliss named interim boss)

However above all of those accolades as a player, it’s his relatively short managerial career so far that’s won Berhalter plenty of plaudits. In 2011 he became the first American coach to manage a pro soccer team in Europe, as he impressively led Swedish side Hammerby IF from 12th place to fourth place during his time in charge.

Can Berhalter turn the Crew’s fortunes around as they aim to make a splash in MLS once again?

Crew Chairman Anthony Precourt certainly has big plans since arriving in Columbus, and the appointment of Berhalter is a big step in the right direction. People like Brad Friedel and many others were connected with the job, but the former Hammerby coach is a solid choice as the Crew need a fresh impetus. Making this decision so soon after their 2013 season ended also helps get the wheels turning early, now the new man can implement his ideas from now up until the 2014 season kicks off.

His experience in the European market and working with modest budgets in the Swedish league will set up Berhalter nicely for dealing with the trials and tribulations of MLS’ salary cap, plus his bountiful connections within the U.S. and the respect he commands from players and managers bodes well. The Crew have got a good one here.

Could Iniesta succeed at Manchester City

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It appears more likely with each passing day that Andres Iniesta will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

The general feeling around Iniesta’s future is that he’ll either follow former teammate Xavi Hernandez to a club in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, or follow Javier Mascherano to a club in China.

But according to reports in Spain, Iniesta has received a request from a manager who is inextricably linked with his career.

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Per Diario AS, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has reached out to Iniesta to try and gauge the 33-year old’s interest in coming to England. It’s a surprising move, considering Iniesta has appeared to have lost a step, and while his skill on the ball is still world class, he hasn’t played as big of a role for Barcelona this season as in years past.

But the big question for Iniesta – as hard as it is to believe we’re asking this – is where he’d fit into the side, and who he’d push out.

If Guardiola sees Iniesta as part of his best XI, and Iniesta played his usual position on the left side of a midfield trio or at left wing, that would see either David Silva or Leroy Sane losing their spot in the team. That’s hard to see, considering how big of an impact those players had.

Sane has scored nine goals and dished out 12 assists in the Premier League while Silva has a nearly-identical stat line, with nine goals and 11 assists in league play.

However, if Guardiola, who played a very small squad this season, wants to have a world-class player to bring off the bench some games or spot start in the UEFA Champions League, he couldn’t do much better than signing Iniesta.

After being given time to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League, there’s no reason why, even at his advanced age, Iniesta can’t make a big impact in 25-30 games for Man City in the future. You can imagine the Spanish maestro setting up 10 to 15 goals and scoring a few himself as he plays for another title-winning side.

Of course, Iniesta likely won’t earn as much money with Man City as he would in the Arab world or in China, so he has a big decision to make coming up.

Iniesta won three La Liga titles, two Copas Del Rey, two UEFA Champions League and two FIFA Club World Cup titles under Guardiola as Barcelona shined as the best club in the world during that era. Iniesta also made UEFA’s Team of the Year all four years.

Perhaps reuniting with Guardiola can bring the best out of Iniesta once again.

Report: Man United to target Rose, other full backs this summer

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Jose Mourinho has identified perhaps the most underrated position on the pitch as a place he needs to upgrade his squad this summer.

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According to a report from The Guardian, the Manchester United manager is looking to sign Tottenham wing back Danny Rose and potentially another full back in the summer transfer window. With Luke Shaw likely to leave the club, Mourinho is left with incumbents left back Ashley Young and right back Antonio Valencia, both on the wrong side of 30-years old and both converted wingers playing out-of-position.

Mourinho last December decried crosstown rivals Man City for spending more than $140 million to sign wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker last summer. Though Mendy missed most of the season with a torn ACL, Walker and fellow outside back Danilo helped give Man City’s attack another dimension out wide, as the wing backs in the 3-4-3 or Man City’s 4-1-4-1 with Fernandinho dropping back into the centerback pairing become ever more important.

Rose has had a contentious last 18-months or so at Tottenham and could be looking to leave this summer. But it will likely take a bid north of $75 million, around what it cost Man City to sign Walker last summer, to buy Rose out of his Tottenham contract.

Matteo Darmian meanwhile, another potential outside back for Man United, could also be departing the club this summer, as Man United looks to replenish its side.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

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But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.