Everton in Europa League? I’m not so sure, says Sylvain Distin

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With Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Cardiff City and Manchester United failing to secure a point against Liverpool, Everton leapfrogged the Red Devils into sole occupation of 6th place in the Premier League.

It’s a position that, if Everton is to maintain over the next eight weeks, will put the Toffees into the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League. The achievement is one that divides opinion and following Saturday’s win, Everton defender Sylvain Distin made his thoughts heard.

“It’s mixed feelings because you can’t say no to playing in Europe,” Distin said. “As a player it’s impossible to not want that but it’s completely different from the Champions League in terms of finances for the club. It’s a lot of travel and you need a big squad.”

Finances are a major part of Europa League opposition as rewards from the Champions League are generally five times greater. While a group-stage victory in the Europa League will earn a club $279,000 a comparable victory in the Champions League makes a team $1.4 million. Similarly, a semi-final purse in the Europa League will hand a club $1.4 million while a victory on the big stage earns a team nearly $7 million.

The lengthy travel is another well documented issue. Flying to the likes of Lithuania and Turkey on a Thursday only to turn around and play a Premier League match three days later takes a big toll on players.

Distin continued: “Yes, it would be amazing for the club and for the fans to be back in Europe again but for the team, if we’re not going to have a much bigger squad next season, it could be tough. When you play every Thursday and come back on the Friday before playing again on the Sunday it is hard.”

‘Hard’ is certainly what the Europa League has been on English clubs of late. Since the tournament’s inception in 2009, only four of the 12 teams who have competed in the Europa League qualified for Europe in that same season.

Lately, the tournament has been particularly destructive. In 2012, Alan Pardew was named LMA manager of the year after helping Newcastle finish fifth but yet one year later his job was in peril when the club finished 16th in the Premier League, avoiding relegation by a mere five points. In 2013, Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City side won the League Cup and finished an impressive 9th in the league but one Europa League campaign later and the Dane was out of a job.

The flip side, of course, was the incredible Europa League run that Fulham enjoyed in 2009/10, losing in the finals 2-1 to Atletico Madrid. The stunning campaign was a joy to watch for everyone at Fulham and one that didn’t majorly compromise their Premier League season as they finished in 12th place.

For a relatively small squad like Everton, the Europa League would require a number of summer purchases. This would mean that, assuming owner Bill Kenwright continues with his typical summer budget of $10-15 million, rather than buying one to two players he’ll be forced to spend that amount on four or five new bodies. It’s a scenario with the strong potential to both dilute the level of play while also sacrificing points domestically.

Nevertheless it’s a challenge that, despite Distin’s well-founded fears, Everton should happily take on. It’s been six years since the Toffees last competed in Europe and for a club that hasn’t finished outside the Premier League Top 8 in the last eight years, the possibility of European glory far outweighs the potential for domestic doom.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.