What the important Sigi Schmid decision says about Seattle Sounders FC

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Only time will tell whether retaining Sigi Schmidt for a sixth season in Seattle was the correct call or not.

The pressure is certainly now dialed to the ‘on’ position for the organization. (Ironically, if you think about it, the pressure on Schmid diminishes now. In a sense, he’s playing with ‘house money’ at this point. He knows the deal, with pretty much zero ambiguity about it: get the job done in 2014 by advancing into MLS Cup or at very least into the conference finals, or prepare for the next career move.)

But we know a little more about the Sounders organization now, about the larger club mindset and sense of itself. And it looks pretty good.

Seattle is a bit of an outlier in MLS as we all know – and for all the right reasons. Its success in attendance and regional market impact created a specialness about Seattle from even before its first kick of an MLS ball in 2009.

But there was always an inherent danger, a peril connected to the attached expectations.

It’s great to be ambitious. It’s fantastic to want good things for your fans, especially when there are so blessed many of them.

But none of that means any club ‘deserves’ an MLS Cup or a U.S. Open Cup or a Champions League spot or whatever. Those are competitive pursuits, and they are earned … nothing more, nothing less. That’s why I always wince when I hear that these fans or that organization or this owner deserves a championship.

No, they don’t. They deserve a fair chance … everything else you earn.

With Seattle there was always a danger of some creeping sense of entitlement due to the club’s tremendous fan support, because of what the Sounders do for the league. (And the Sounders certainly do a lot, it should be said.) But the moment any air of entitlement gains a harmful hold, there becomes a chance that organizational decisions might reflect such a false feeling of privilege. And that is when things can really go sideways.

I always thought that’s what happened in D.C. United, where a club that pulled ahead early in MLS days (when it was easier to do so, in all honesty) began ‘reading its own press clients,’ so to speak. When things went slightly askew, this drive to get things done quickly – you know, because of those contaminating feelings that this “is what we do … we win championships!” – impacts and corrupts the process. Before you know it, you miss the playoffs five of the last six years, and have the worst season ever in MLS.

At the highest organizational levels, the deciders at D.C. United apparently believed themselves to be the smartest people in the room. And that is fine, I suppose … until it begins to influence the way you make important decisions. Then you’re in trouble.

Back to Seattle, that club of tremendous ambition.

Every club must carefully balance the righteous drive for glory with a grounded sense of what is realistically possible. It has to be balanced with a reasonable level of expectation. Because what you badly want and what you can reasonably expect to achieve might be two very different animals.

Seattle in Sigi Schmid’s time? Not all candy corn and lollipops … but not that bad, either.

Today, it looks like upper management knows that.

Again, we won’t know if this was the best call for a few months or maybe even longer. But we do know today that the deciders around CenturyLink Field have a firm grounding on reality. That’s a pretty solid place to start.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”