Mastroeni 2

Big shock: Pablo Mastroeni given Colorado Rapids’ permanent head coaching position

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Pablo Mastroeni had been functioning as Colorado’s head coach throughout the preseason, but in the wake of Óscar Pareja’s departure to FC Dallas, the team had been slow to give the former Rapids midfielder the permanent job. On Saturday, one week before the team opens their season in New York, the team announced the 65-time United States international could ditch the interim tag, handing the 16-year Major League Soccer veteran the permanent job.

“We are thrilled to name Pablo Mastroeni our head coach, and everyone at the club is excited for his tenure to begin,” said Rapids President Tim Hinchey. “We underwent a deliberate search, and Pablo’s experience, approach, and the work he did throughout preseason proved to us that he is the right man for this role.”

You think? Mastroeni transitioning into a coaching role will surprise few who covered the Rapids legend, something which made it even more inexplicable why a man who spent 11 years with the club had to wait so long to get the job. Had Pareja just moved to Dallas last week, the timing of today’s announcement would be understandable. But last year’s boss made his move at the beginning of January (and took his first steps to Dallas a month before that). With Mastroeni in charge throughout the preseason, Colorado should have made this move long ago.

In comments released by the team, Mastroeni didn’t seem too upset about the delay:

“It is a great honor to take this new position at the Rapids, a club which means a great deal to me and my family.” said Mastroeni. “I would like to thank the Kroenke family, Tim Hinchey and Paul Bravo for this great opportunity. I have seen this team’s ability and potential up close over the last two months, and I can’t wait for the season to get started.”

As we discussed in our Rapids preview, the MLS season is a long one, with little wobbles in February and March rendered irrelevant by October. Where the biggest danger Colorado could have encountered was a midseason change of coach, the team took a step in the right direction on Saturday. All doubts surrounding Mastroeni are gone.

“For a long time, Pablo Mastroeni has been an icon and a leader at this club, and he has the respect of everyone here, from the players through to the staff,” said Rapids Technical Director Paul Bravo. “He is committed to this club and our project, and I look forward to working closely with him in his new position.”

Mastroeni was always the right man for this job, and it seems like Colorado knew it. It’s hard to be critical of an organization’s due diligence, but Mastroeni should have been the permanent coach before March 8.

Report: Atletico’s Fernando Torres has interest from MLS, NASL

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 16
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
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Spanish outlet Marca claims that a number of North American sides are among the clubs chasing Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker has only scored more than 11 goals once since 2009-10, and is uncapped since 2014. But that doesn’t mean clubs from China to to the U.S. and the UAE to Japan aren’t interested in the 31-year-old.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

The Marca report claims three MLS teams are interested and also name drops the New York Cosmos of the NASL, who’ve recently brought Venezuelan legend Juan Arango on board.

It’s hard to imagine anyone outside the MLS rich sides taking a risk on Torres. Maybe Montreal would look to reunite him with Didier Drogba, and Torres certainly has experience combining with New York City’s David Villa. As for the third… Orlando City? Chicago?

Your guess is as good as ours, though it could be moot if this is solely about money. China continues to spend well.

Difficult fixture run looms as Aston Villa aims for great escape

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa (3L) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal with a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park on January 12, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Gabriel Agbonlahor is riding high, as the Premier League Player of the Week broke his duck this weekend and is thinking “great escape” for his Aston Villa side.

Villa has eight points in its last five matches, doubling its season total to 16. That’s still table bottom, but Remi Garde’s bunch would love to see their way out of the drop zone after a brutal start to the season under Tim Sherwood.

What would it take for Villa to pull that off, and avoid the first Premier League relegation in club history?

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Week ]

Turns out, a lot.

There is no easy match in the next five, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are all on the schedule after that.

Villa next five matches
Feb. 14 – vs. Liverpool
Feb. 27 – at Stoke City
March 1 – vs. Everton
March 5 – at Manchester City
March 12 – vs. Spurs

The Villans do have three relegation six-pointers left, and two of those are at Villa Park with Bournemouth and Newcastle United. Villa also heads to Swansea City.

But Villa has to make up 12 points on the Cherries, 11 on Swans and eight on the Magpies. And while they are within two goals difference of Newcastle, they have eight goals to make up on Bournemouth and 11 to make up on Swansea.

That doesn’t include Sunderland and Norwich, sides four and seven points ahead of the Villans (though both have tricky runs left as well).

If Garde’s club is to make its escape, it will be close to unbelievable. That it will close with a match against Arsenal makes it even trickier, but that would be just the final impressive note in what could only be considered a Garde-conducted masterpiece.

VIDEO: Recapping the top stories from an intense Week 25 in the Premier League

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What a weekend. Let’s relive it.

Round 25 of the Premier League provided plenty more thrills, shocks and excitement as two unlikely title contenders — Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur — are pushing ahead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Our own Joe Prince-Wright recaps all the major headlines from what could turn out to be a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League news

Click play on the video below to join JPW as he battles the elements and checks in from outside Stamford Bridge in London following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

WATCH: USMNT’s Gonzalez nets first for Pachuca, earns exuberant “Gol” call

Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez
AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
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Come for the goal, stay for the “Gol” call.

Or should we say the “Gol. Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Gol” call.

[ MORE: Angry Louis van Gaal rips journalists for “inventing” stories ]

USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez has opened his account for Pachuca with this 88th minute header, and it’s worth it if just for the auditory performance.

Gonzalez also pulls out the high-capacity weapon celebration, though he’s apparently opted to do the version closer to the “Scarface” finale (Spoiler alert).