Jefferson Farfan

Bundesliga Roundup: Easy victories for Germany’s top three

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There were very few surprises in Germany this weekend, with Bayern Munich, Dortmund, and Leverkusen all coming away with routine wins. Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen did their best to spice things up with an eight goal thriller, but it would’ve possibly been a bit more exciting had three of the goals not come from the spot. Then on Sunday, Gladbach will try to create a little breathing room in their fourth place, fourth Champions League spot with a win over relegation-threatened Freiburg.

Friday

Wolfsburg 1-1 Hamburg
After a string of four straight wins , Wolfsburg are slipping once more, which is never good when there’s so much competition for Germany’s four Champions League spots. Hamburg took an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu, but Ricardo Rodriguez evened things up with a penalty around the half-hour mark. Both teams did their best to find a winner, but the defenses were up to the challenge and both had to be content with just a point. That’s two draws in a row now for Wolfsburg, leaving them two points behind fourth-placed Gladbach, but Gladbach don’t play until Sunday afternoon.

Saturday

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Nurnberg
Second placed team meets team second from bottom, and no surprises ensue. Leverkusen took revenge after their 5-0 drubbing at the feet of Manchester United, with Heung-Min Son scoring a brace around a goal from Stefan Kießling. Leverkusen’s third win in a row keeps them three points ahead of Dortmund, but they still remain four back of the mighty Bayern.

Bayern Munich 2-0 Braunschweig 
Yes, it’s Bayern still at the top of the table, although beating bottom-side Braunschweig by a mere two goals doesn’t feel that impressive. Perhaps they were saving themselves for a very important midweek cup date with Augsburg? No matter, Arjen Robben had a brace by the 30th minute, and it was all over for the suffering Lions. They need three points to pull them up to safety, but fortunately, have a less intense schedule prior to the winter break.

Hertha Berlin 0-0 Augsburg
The draw, combined with Schalke’s three points later in the evening, means newly-promoted Hertha have slipped out of Germany’s European spots. Augsburg, meanwhile, have hoisted themselves up to 10th, and have a fairly easy run of Hamburg, Braunschweig and Frankfurt to close out the year.

Hoffenheim 4-4 Werder Bremen
Hoffenheim sure do like high scoring games: they’ve put in 32 this season while conceding 34, which at least makes things fun for neutrals. The visitors got things off to an interesting start by conceding two penalties before fifteen minutes were up, both duly convereted by Hoffenheim captain Sejad Salihović. Then Hoffenheim generously gave one back to Werder Bremen, when Sven Schipplock handled the ball inside the area. Aaron Hunt put in the resulting penalty, with Eljero Elia finally scoring from open play less than a minute later to close out the first half. Hoffenheim came roaring back with goals from Kevin Volland and Kai Herdling early in the second half, but Niels Petersen but the visitors within one before the hour mark. That turned out poorly for Hoffenheim, as substitute Philipp Bargfrede scored in injury time to grab a point for Bremen.

Mainz 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Well, Mainz certainly didn’t make this one easy on themselves. Shortly after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the opener for Dortmund, the hosts earned themselves a penalty, but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s equalizer was canceled out by the 78th minute. That’s when Elkin Soto’s handball got him sent off, and sent Robert Lewandoski to the spot. Of course he converted the penalty, but added another for insurance purposes, a penalty given just before the final whistle.

Schalke 04 3-0 Stuttgart
Schalke might be one of the most inconsistent sides in Germany this season, but they had no trouble overpowering mid-table Stuttgart in Saturday’s closing match. Jefferson Farfán scored a brace on either side of the half and, despite a double switch from Stuttgart boss Thomas Schneider, Jermaine Jones put in a third. That’s four unbeaten for Schalke, lifting them into sixth, although they’re still far from where they’d like to be.

Sunday

Hannover – Eintracht Frankfurt
An interesting fact for you: Eintracht have yet to win at home. Hannover have yet to pick up a point on the road. If only this fixture were reversed, we could be spinning in an endless loop of frozen time. Instead, we’ll likely end up with a low scoring draw.

Borussia Mönchengladbach – Freiburg
Freiburg, another team that have yet to win at home, although they’re alright on the road, considering they’re fighting a relegation battle. It matters little, though, since Borussia-Park remains a fortress, with Gladbach having won all six of their home games thus far.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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