MLS Season Preview: Seattle Sounders

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Despite once again making the playoffs, 2013 was a forgettable campaign for the Seattle Sounders.

Yes, the club did manage to acquire Clint Dempsey but they started poorly and unraveled at the end of the season amidst rumors of infighting. This offseason they brought in a number of fresh faces, strengthened the defense and got rid of some deadwood.

Players In: Stefan Frei (trade from Toronto); Tristan Bowen (trade from Chivas); Chad Marshall (trade from Columbus); Kenny Cooper (trade from FC Dallas); Corey Hertzog (Re-Entry Stage 2); Aaron Kovar (Homegrown); Sean Okoli (Homegrown); Chad Barrett (Re-Entry Stage 2); Jalil Anibaba (trade from Chicago); Damion Lowe (SuperDraft); Marco Pappa (allocation)

Players Out: Michael Gspurning (option declined); Marc Burch (option declined); Blair Gavin (option declined); Steve Zakuani (12/9/13 – out of contract); Mauro Rosales (traded to Chivas USA); Adam Moffat (traded to FC Dallas); Eddie Johnson (traded to D.C. United); Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (traded to Chicago); Patrick Ianni (traded to Chicago); Fredy Montero (transfer to Sporting CP); Will Bates (waived); James Ockford (loaned to New York Cosmos); Eriq Zavaleta (loaned to Chivas USA)

source:  Key Player: Osvaldo Alonso

The midfield destroyer, along with Dempsey and Brad Evans, is one of the key leaders of this Seattle squad.

To ensure collapses like that of last fall don’t happen again, the four time team MVP must produce both in his play and his leadership.

Manager: Sigi Schmid is seemingly never at fault for anything that goes wrong in Seattle but after completely losing the squad at the end of the 2013 season – resulting in only one win in their final 10 matches (playoffs included) – the 60 year-old will be hard pressed to produce consistent quality in 2014 or else face the possibility of moving on.

Outlook: The Sounders front office has done well to right the salary cap and clear out a number of highly paid players who failed to contribute down the line last year. With the revitalized budget the Sounders made a number of smart moves, including making Osvaldo a DP, strengthening the defense by adding Chad Marshall and Jalil Anibaba, and bringing in Kenny Cooper to add power to the front line.

Brad Evans hit the nail on the head earlier this year when he said “I think, in years past, we probably had better players. But I think we filled those shoes with better people. And it’s something that had to happen.” In other words, getting rid of Eddie Johnson was massive.

If Dempsey can work well with Cooper and Obafemi Martins, the Sounders could be a dangerous team down the line. Winning championships isn’t likely but anything less than making the playoffs would be hugely disappointing.

Report: Chelsea line up Tuchel to replace Conte

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Reports in Germany claim Chelsea have met with Thomas Tuchel about replacing Antonio Conte as their manager.

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With relations said to be strained between Conte and Chelsea’s board following a summer of unrest regarding a lack of transfers, the Diego Costa situation and more for the reigning Premier League champions, losing to Arsenal in the Community Shield and then their Premier League opening to Burnley was far from an ideal start.

Still, Conte led Chelsea to the PL title last season, his first in England, with a record 30 wins from 38 games. How is he the bookies favorite to be the next PL manager to leave his job?

Tuchel, 43, has been out of work since leaving Borussia Dortmund at the end of last season and Sport Bild is reporting that Chelsea’s director Marina Granovskaia has approached Tuchel about replacing Conte, while it is also stated that former Barca boss Luis Enrique is a contender.

Could Tuchel succeed at Chelsea and in the Premier League? Of course he could.

At Borussia Dortmund he developed one of the finest attacking teams in Europe with talented youngsters playing in a fluid system. Tuchel didn’t leave Dortmund on good terms and although he was linked with plenty of vacant jobs across Europe, including the Arsenal job if Arsene Wenger stepped down, he remains without a club.

Tuchel is a very good coach but what Conte has done at Chelsea over the past 12 months is a borderline miracle.

The situation regarding Conte and Chelsea does appear to have been blown out of proportion, particularly with the Nemanja Matic situation as Conte was reportedly unwilling to lose his Serbian midfielder but the deal was sanctioned by those above him. Given the fact that Conte signed a new contract this summer but only for improved terms and not for an extended period of time past 2019 also raised alarm bells.

Chelsea fans have, understandably, not reacted too kindly to reports that a successor is being lined up for Conte. The Italian coach is adored by the Blues faithful after leading a rapid rebuild of their squad in his famed 3-4-3 formation last season. His passion on the sidelines is now a hallmark of Chelsea matchdays and if he does leave anytime soon due to issues behind-the-scenes, expect a mutiny from the fans.

Yes, managers have come and gone and frequently and success has remained under Roman Abramovich but hooking Conte may even be a step too far for the notoriously expectant owner.

Barcelona’s Twitter hacked to claim Di Maria signing

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FC Barcelona had eyeballs popping across the Twitterverse for a solid 90 seconds there.

La Liga’s giants Tweeted out a welcome to Angel Di Maria, the current PSG and former Real Madrid star, with the hashtag #DiMariaFCB.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

It was an odd Tweet for 4 a.m. local time, as humourously pointed out by our Andy Edwards, and the hackers were quick to claim credit before any Tweets could be deleted.

So if someone tells you Angel Di Maria is the latest member of Barcelona, be sure to stop the spread of fake news.

On a day where Barca’s reportedly ready to up their bid for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, something tells us someone at the Camp Nou is turning over their keys to the club’s social media.

Rescheduled Yankees game moves NYCFC-Houston to Connecticut

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A rescheduled New York Yankees game is moving New York City FC to Connecticut.

Relax, it’s only for a day.

NYCFC will entertain the Houston Dynamo at Rentschler Field at 3 p.m. on Sept. 23 instead of their regular home of Yankee Stadium.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

The club will offer tickets to another match to current ticket holders, and will also discount tickets to the game in East Hartford for fans who hold tickets to the Yankee Stadium game and want to travel for the Dynamo match (More info here, if you are in either of those camps).

This is the third of three scheduled seasons NYCFC will play at Yankee Stadium, and it doesn’t look like it’ll find a new home any time soon.

Given the everyday nature of Major League Baseball, it’s surprising there have not been more conflicts for NYCFC. We just remain hopeful for the day we can watch NYC’s star-studded roster play on a bigger home field.

“Injustice.” “Incomprehensible.” Ronaldo again protests suspension

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The five-game suspension Cristiano Ronaldo received for making contact with an official is not sitting well with the forward.

Better put: it’s still not sitting well.

Six days ago, Ronaldo took to Instagram to say he was being persecuted after his red card in the Spanish Super Cup.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

Tuesday afternoon, he kept up the strong words by saying the suspension is “incomprehensible” and “an injustice.”

Roughly translated, Ronaldo posted, “One more incomprehensible decision. From injustice to injustive, they will never overcome me. And as always I will come back stronger. Thank you to all who have supported me.”

We’ll say this: He’s a really good soccer player.