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Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern Munich come back to score big, Schalke prove a point

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It’s never boring in the Bundesliga, and Saturday’s matches only emphasized that point. 24 goals from seven matches, with a full quarter of them coming in Bayern Munich’s come from behind win at Wolfsburg. The giants remain top, naturally, although Dortmund could reduce their lead to a mere 20 points by the end of the weekend. It’s still Braunschweig, Freiburg, and Hamburg at the bottom, although a surprise win from Freiburg on Sunday could lift them out of danger, while Stuttgart and Nurnberg are making a compelling case to fall down to Bundesliga 2.

Saturday Results

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-2 Augsburg
It was the expected result, although many thought Gladbach would be leading at the break. See, the Foals have had a terrible time of it recently, taking leads only to lose them by the end of the match. Today was no exception. Raffael scored five minutes in, but by the 35th minute, Halil Altintop had canceled out the lead. The hosts had hope until the 81st minute, when an Augsburg counter produced a goal from Tobias Werner. Gladbach, now down to eighth, remain winless in 2014, while Augsburg move into sixth and a European position.

Hamburg 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt
Hamburg, who – exempting a surprising 3-0 victory over Dortmund a couple weeks back – have been in horrible form lately, are likely relieved to have come out of this match with a point. The hosts came undone following a corner, resulting in a goal from Eintracht center back Alexander Madlung. A penalty from Hakan Calhanoglu tied things up, keeping Hamburg in 16th.

Hannover 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen
If Leverkusen don’t watch out, they’re going to lose out on next season’s Champions League, after holding second for much of the season. The draw with Hannover puts Dortmund, who’ve yet to play, in second, while Schalke are now even with Leverkusen on points. It could’ve been worse for the visitors had Szabolcs Huszti scored his penalty in the fifth minute, but they still let the lead slip away when Artjoms Rudnevs canceled out Gonzalo Castro’s goal.

Schalke 4-0 Hoffenheim
After losing 6-1 to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League fixture, then falling 5-1 to Bayern last weekend, it seems Schalke had something of a point to prove. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar opened the scoring in the sixth minute and went on to score a hat-trick, despite missing a penalty. Schalke’s fourth came from Chinedu Obasi, off an assist from Kevin-Prince Boateng. After a dreadful start to the season, it’s looking like Schalke will play in the Champions League again next year.

Stuttgart 2-2 Braunschweig
A draw must seem like a great result for Stuttgart, who’d lost their last seven matches. Then again, a point doesn’t do much, considering the side, which started the season in the Europa League playoffs, are now just barely above the relegation zone. Braunschweig, of course, remain dead last, but they’ll be thrilled that a late goal from Ermin Bicakcic got them at least a point. Oh, and this match featured yet another missed penalty, this one from Christian Gentner of Stuttgart.

Wolfsburg 1-6 Bayern Munich
Teams just never learn their lesson, do they? If you score early on Bayern Munich they will punish you. Naldo put in the opening goal in the 17th minute, but Xherdan Shaqiri had the visitors level by the break. Then Pep Guardiola must have raged in side the FCB dressing room. Bayern scored five goals in seventeen minutes: two from Thomas Müller, one from Franck Ribéry and two more from Mario Mandžukić. Seriously, don’t make Bayern angry.

Nurnberg 0-2 Werder Bremen
Werder Bremen are sitting a bit more comfortably now, extending their unbeaten run to four games with a win over Nurnberg. Franco Di Santo and Philipp Bargfrede scored for the visitors, while Nurberg made some panicked attempts at avoiding sliding closer to the relegation zone.

Sunday Matches

Freiburg vs. Borussia Dortmund
It’s tough to see Freiburg, second from bottom, getting a result against Dortmund, second from top. But Hamburg did just that a couple weeks back, so it is possible. Not probable, but possible.

Mainz vs. Hertha Berlin
Hertha’s European hopes haven’t quite been extinguished – a win at Mainz would put them back into contention. But the visitors have struggled as of late, whereas Mainz, just a point outside the European positions, are unbeaten in their last three, and have kept a clean sheet throughout.

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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