It’s been a month since Martin Jol was shown the door and René Meulensteen took sole charge of Fulham. In those six matches, Fulham have managed two wins, but they’ve also recorded four losses. They’ve also conceded 17 goals, with losses of 4-2 against Manchester City, 4-1 at Everton and, on Saturday, 6-0 at Hull City.
The sides went into the change rooms at halftime at the KC Stadium with no goals scored. The teams walked off with Hull buoyed by a dramatic win – and Fulham remain in the relegation zone, with a -22 goal difference.
Meulensteen is bemused. “I’m shocked. I don’t know if there was something in the tea. I did not see that coming and the players did not see that coming.”
Well, Steve Bruce might not be pleased to hear that his players were lifted by a bit of something in their halftime beverage (or maybe it was Fulham that were dampened by altered tea? They certainly looked slow to respond to Hull’s attacks). The Tigers’ manager didn’t take credit for his side’s incredible second half performance, instead bestowing praise on birthday boy Tom Huddlestone, saying, “I’ve seen some great individual performances but I’ve never witnessed something as outstanding as what he produced today. Everyone else fed off that and joined in.”
Meulensteen, however, did shoulder the burden of Fulham’s loss. The manager stated, “The Christmas period is a busy period and we have to make a few forced injuries but that is why you have a squad. It’s my responsibly to make those changes so I take full responsibility.”
It’s just a few days until the January transfer window opens, and the Cottagers have Clint Dempsey returning on loan for a couple months. But, while the American can likely help bolster Fulham’s rather anemic goal-scoring rate, what’s clear from Saturday’s performance is that the club are in desperate need of shoring up at the back. Meulensteen and new technical director Alan Curbishley best get busy at finding the right players to strengthen the Fulham defense.
They might want to keep a close eye on that halftime tea pot as well. Just in case.
Toronto FC’s supporters fell in love with the club almost immediately, but it’s taken to Year 10 for the Reds to get a home playoff match.
The latest batch of TFC stars have embraced the battle for relevance, at times even surpassing expectations the lofty expectations of championship-starved Toronto.
[ MORE: Bradley talks TFC renaissance ]
This is a city which has seen the Blue Jays and Raptors find the precipice of glory in recent seasons, but not reach the apex. The Leafs haven’t been to a Stanley Cup final since the NHL had a whopping six teams.
So winning would be a mighty big accomplishment, right Michael Bradley?
“Being captain or a big player on a team in this city carries an extra weight,” said captain Michael Bradley. “I’ve loved every second of that; playing in this city, for this city, and being captain. It’ll be nights like Wednesday night where the responsibility, privilege and passion that I have for this role will get magnified that much more.”
He has a way with words, doesn’t he? The USMNT captain begins Canada’s quest for a title at 7:30 p.m. ET against visiting Philadelphia.
Vancouver is hanging onto stalwart coach Carl Robinson despite a massively disappointing season.
The Whitecaps were tipped to compete for the Supporters’ Shield, only to miss the playoffs. There were plenty of excuses for the ‘Caps, including an injury to Kekuta Manneh and the transfer of Octavio Rivero.
And Vancouver is alive as the No. 1 seed in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, also claiming the Cascadia Cup.
[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high ]
Robinson has signed an extension through 2020, from WhitecapsFC.com:
“Carl’s body of work over the course of his five years at the club has shown that he is one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in North America. While this past season was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved within the club, we have complete faith in Carl’s continued vision in acquiring the necessary players to build a team that will compete with the best in MLS.”
Robinson turned 40 this month, and has been leading the ‘Caps since December 2013. This is a smart move for both Vancouver and its coach.
Major League Soccer’s playoff run begins tonight with Philadelphia at Toronto and LA hosting Real Salt Lake, and it also gives us a chance to run down the regular season.
We’ve already discussed several items, including Portland and Columbus’ historic flops, DC United’s red-hot form, pre-playoff power rankings, and predictions.
[ MORE: Chalobah’s double nutmeg ]
But what about the season that was, the one that saw Bradley Wright-Phillips snag his second Golden Boot and Colorado nearly grab a shocking Supporters’ Shield?
We rounded up our staff’s opinions to put together combined shortlists for MLS awards.
Rookie of the Year
Jordan Morris (Seattle)
Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia)
Alex Muyl (RBNY)
Jack Harrison (NYCFC)
Jonathan Campbell (Chicago)
Newcomer of the Year
Ronald Matarrita (NYCFC)
Ashley Cole (LA Galaxy)
Tim Howard (Colorado)
Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle)
Jelle van Damme (LA Galaxy)
Luciano Acosta (DC United)
Ola Kamara (Columbus)
Shkelzen Gashi (Colorado)
Goalkeeper of the Year
Brian Rowe (LA Galaxy)
Andre Blake (Philadelphia)
David Bingham (San Jose)
Jake Gleeson (Portland)
Luis Robles (RBNY)
Coach of the Year
Patrick Vieira (NYCFC)
Jesse Marsch (RBNY)
Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado)
Oscar Pareja (Dallas)
Greg Vanney (Toronto)
Most Valuable Player
David Villa (NYCFC)
Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto)
Sacha Kljestan (RBNY)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (RBNY)
Ignacio Piatti (Montreal)
Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle)
Spain’s football federation has fined Valencia about $1600 for the water bottle tossed at celebrating Barcelona players on Saturday.
It’s also criticized Barca’s reaction to Neymar being hit with the water bottle.
[ MORE: Watch the incident here ]
Lionel Messi in particular flipped out at fans, who were furious after Barca scored a match-winning penalty and celebrated near the touch line.
From the BBC:
Spain’s football federation criticised the Barca players for their “exaggerated reaction” and for celebrating in front of home fans, but added “nothing justified” the reaction of the Valencia supporters.
There’s an easy joke to make about playacting/diving here, as Luis Suarez hits the deck despite not appearing to be hit.
But it’s critical to remember that these players at the moment don’t have any idea what’s happened, only that they’ve been hit. And Suarez is covering head, perhaps wondering what’s coming next. Neymar laying on the pitch for a while seems a bit overboard, but I don’t blame Messi nor his teammates for being furious with the supporters.
What do you make of it?