MLS Media Day: Graham Zusi impressed by rise of MLS

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Next up at MLS Media Day was Graham Zusi, who’s engaging responses revealed a man enjoying life in MLS and not looking for a move abroad.

Thoughts on the upcoming season? 

It will be a busy year but busy is good. At Kansas City, we’re going to put the same goals ahead of us as in past years. We’re taking CCL very seriously and we want to be the first MLS side to win it. We took the time to appreciate what we accomplished last season but we’re now focused on what we need to do.

Discuss the preparation for facing Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League.

We’ve put a lot of emphasis on our pre-season games. So we’re using those as tune-up matches and taking them a bit more seriously than normal. We need to come into the CCL ‘mid-season sharp’. It’s unfortaunte that it’s so early in the season but we’re doing our best to ensure success.

KC may have three guys going to the World Cup — any worries? 

I don’t think we’ll focus on the national team when we’re with the club and vice versa. I’m going to consider my time with the club as being as precious as possible because I have the potential of missing several games for the World Cup. I’m going to try and put Sporting in the best place I can before heading to Brazil.

We do have 2-3 guys who might go but I don’t think it’s an issue. We’ve seen so many guys step in like Soony Sad and Dom Dwyer, who not only filled a void but made cases for themselves to be starters.

How do you view the growth of MLS?

I think if you look at the national team at this point there’s a strong contingent of MLS’ers making play for the national team. Then you look at the league in general, guys coming back. The respect for the league is growing throughout the world. In a few years time we’re going to be one of the best leagues’ in the world.

Tim Cahill believes the Supporters Shield is more important than MLS Cup. Where do you stand?

I tend to agree with Cahill. At KC, we put a big emphasis on being the best team throughout the season. I know it’s not always the team that wins MLS Cup but for us we put a lot of emphasis on winning the Supporters Shield. That consistency throughout the season can carry you through the MLS Cup. We’re going to try and be in that mid-season form, early on.

What happened at KC after winning MLS Cup? 

You saw a lot of guys sticking around building themselves up. I think it’s that mentality of being the best, that expectation of excellence, that mentality that goes top to bottom.

How do you view Toronto’s spending?

I think it speaks to the direction this league is headed. The willingness of owners to dish out that kind of money is incredible. I’m excited to see that Toronto team play.

For me it’s just an exciting time in the league. You know, it’s all kind of coming together. Seeing the Bradley’s and Edu’s wanting to come and be a part of it.

As far as Kansas City goes, I can’t speak enough of the transformation. The transition between the Wizards and Sporting is one of the best success stories you can think of. Different MLS markets have to approach it in different ways.

How does what’s gone on in MLS affect your decision to go abroad?  

There wasn’t really a decision because I can’t say there were many offers to go abroad. So it was a fairly easy choice to remain where I am. MLS is where I’m growing my game the most. Training and competition is very high and it’s the best spot for me at the moment.

Everton agree deal to buy land for new stadium

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Everton have moved a step closer to a new home on Liverpool’s waterfront.

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The Guardian is reporting that the Premier League have “agreed a deal to purchase land at Bramley Moore dock” which is where a new stadium is proposed for the Toffees.

Per the report, a deal has been agreed in principle with the landowners Peel Holdings and now Everton, led by new billionaire majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, will try to kick their new stadium project on. It is widely expected that the club will announce more details later on Thursday, with Liverpool City Council set to be heavily involved in the huge regeneration project.

Moshiri now has to acquire funding for the stadium and also get planning permissions from the council but things appear to be moving in the right direction.

Back in November 2016, Moshiri said having a stadium which “rewards the fans” was his “key aim” at Everton.

Everton’s search to find a new home after 125 years at Goodison Park has been exhaustive and frustrating. They’ve had three separate sites turned down since 2000 but with Moshiri’s arrival last February there is renewed optimism that building a new luxurious home in Liverpool’s docks is possible.

With Manchester City expanding the Etihad Stadium in recent seasons, Liverpool drastically improving Anfield, West Ham moving into the London Stadium, Chelsea closing in on securing a deal for a $600 million revamp of Stamford Bridge, plus Tottenham Hotspur moving into a new 61,000 home for the 2018-19 season, the rest of the Premier League is kicking on in terms of stadium expansion.

Moshiri has lofty heights for Everton and with Ronald Koeman as manager and plenty of funds promised to improve their exciting squad, the final major hurdle to overcome is the construction of a new home.

VOTE: Select Premier League Goal of the Month – March

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The 2 Robbies have selected their contenders for the Premier League Goal of the Month for March.

[ VOTE: Select your GOTM here ]

Now it’s your job to select the winner by clicking on the link above.

Watch the contenders in the video above and then vote for your favorite.

Enjoy.

At 0-2, Americans understand stakes in World Cup qualifying

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Michael Bradley sees no reason to keep harping on that 4-0 loss at Costa Rica four months ago.

Yes, it’s still fresh in the Americans’ minds, a night every mistake snowballed into another.

“There is zero point in continuing to look back on that at the moment,” Bradley said. “We are where we are. Now it’s about on Friday night beginning this process of moving ourselves back up the table and stepping on the field from the first minute and playing a really aggressive way that ultimately leaves no doubt as to who’s stepping off the field, win or lose.”

Bruce Arena’s U.S. squad gets a fresh start in World Cup qualifying Friday against Honduras, and the pressure is on following the home country’s first 0-2 start in the North and Central American and Caribbean region’s final round.

“We understand the position we’re in,” Bradley said. “There’s no need for anybody on the outside to put any more pressure on us than we’ve already put on ourselves, because we didn’t start the hex in the right way. We put ourselves behind the eight ball. We’re honest and real enough with ourselves to understand that. Friday night is the beginning of our chance to put things right and get ourselves back in a good position. … We need guys to step on the field and understand the moment, not be fazed by it, go for it in a fearless way and have a big group of guys play really well.”

Forward Jordan Morris’ status for Friday appears in question after he missed a third straight day of practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury sustained Sunday with the Seattle Sounders. Morris rehabbed in the gym, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.

“Have you followed our team at all the last month? You think that’s going to be something that’s going to bother me?” Arena said at the start of the week when asked about health concerns. “We’re fine. We’re going to have 11 good players on the field on Friday.”

For those who do play, Bradley said it is paramount everybody brings his best game. Same goes for the Americans’ next match in Panama on Tuesday.

While the man in charge has changed – Arena replaced the fired Jurgen Klinsmann in November for a second stint as U.S. coach – and more Major League Soccer players were called upon this time than in November, Bradley insists the approach remains simple: Find a way to win.

“We stepped on the field in Costa Rica wanting to win. That desire to win is obviously still there, so in terms of the basic idea of stepping on the field and trying to play well and go for it in the right way and come away with a positive result, that part’s still the same obviously,” the longtime captain said. “There’s no two ways about it, we let ourselves down in Costa Rica. We didn’t play well enough. Mistakes turned into bigger mistakes, which turned into bigger mistakes, and so it all comes together in a way that you can lose a game in a bad way.”

And, there are many faces who have been on the big stage – Bradley, included.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard started the past two World Cups. Howard, four-time World Cup participant defender DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey played for Arena leading into the coach’s last World Cup qualifying, in 2005. Jozy Altidore brings experience up front.

“It’s a huge game for us,” Howard said. “It’s helpful that we have guys who have been through the hex before, who understand what that takes and the pressures that are on us. Yeah, it’s a big game.”

Bradley isn’t getting fancy when it comes to what the U.S. group must do.

“Winning. Three points,” Bradley said. “That’s it.”

“For us the reality is simple: We let ourselves down in the first two games,” he said. “It means that our margin for error is very, very small, but nothing’s changed in that we still feel good about the team that we have, the group that we are. I think that Bruce has come in and done an excellent job in terms of re-establishing certain things, getting at a few things. The mentality, the spirit in training and around the group both in January and now this week has been excellent, so we’re getting a little excited about the chance to step on the field in a big-time qualifier.”

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

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As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.