MLS Season Preview: Philadelphia Union

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Despite two straight years outside of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Union is building something special. No, the squad doesn’t feature world-class DPs but it’s one that fits right in line with the city itself: a young, tenacious, strong side with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.

So go ahead, dare you to take them lightly.

Players In: Vincent Nogueira (transfer from Sochaux), Christian Omar Maidana (free transfer from Argentinos Juniors), Corben Bone (Chicago Fire, Re-Entry Stage 1), Maurice Edu (loan from Stoke City), Ethan White (trade from DC United), Andre Blake (University of Connecticut, SuperDraft), Brian Holt (free transfer from Harrisburg City), Austin Berry (trade from Chicago)

Players Out: Jeff Parke (trade to DC United), Michael Farfan (transfered to Cruz Azul), Chris Albright (retired), Oka Nikolov (waived), Greg Jordan (waived), Kléberson (waived, Bahia), Don Anding (waived)

source: Getty ImagesKey Player: Maurice Edu

Sure, the argument could be made for Connor Casey, Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux, or any number of players to be the key man. But Edu comes into this side as the player with the most to prove.

For the last two years he’s floated from Rangers to Stoke to Bursaspor, battling injuries and struggling to lock down consistent playing time. Those trials and tribulations have hugely frustrated Edu, and rightfully so. He doesn’t just have something to prove to try and make the USMNT World Cup squad, he has something to prove as a player, period.

Returning to MLS was the best move he could make and fortunately he’s still young enough at the age of 27 where he can re-establish himself as a top professional player. Expect him to play as a box-to-box center midfielder with a chip on his shoulder. Assuming he partners well with Brian Carroll in the center of the park, Edu can be the midfield general that brings the Union to the next level.

source:  Manager: Since his confirmation as interim manager in June 2012 and then manager in August 2012, John Hackworth has steadily built a young, cohesive side with impressive chemistry.

Entering the offseason Hackworth needed to strengthen the midfield and backline in the hopes of moving away from last season’s counter-attacking system and into a more possession-oriented game. Mission accomplished.

Hackworth brought in Edu and Christian Omar Maidana as DPs and also added Vincent Nogueira from France, who could prove to be a tricky attacking midfielder. The acquisition of Austin Berry into the defense will further strengthen the spine of the team allowing them to utilize Hackworth’s favored 4-3-3 approach.

Outlook: The Union are a steadily improving squad, one that knows its identity under Hackworth and ultimately could prove to be the team no one wants to face. After falling short the last two seasons the target will be to make the playoffs and assuming the new boys gel with the old guard – and that quintessential Philly chemistry remains in tact – it’s an objective well within reach.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.