For consistency, not flair, Manchester City deserve the title

Leave a comment

There has been plenty of negativity surrounding Manchester City this season.

They have been blasted for spending oodles of money.  They have been trashed for not employing enough English players. They have been knocked for having a shaky defense at times.

In a season with at least four different significant title contenders throughout different points of the year, there will be ups and downs, there will be adversity. Through the adversity, Manchester City weathered the storm…barely.

MORE: Manchester City are the 2013-14 Premier League champions

A tactical strategy built on the predication of long-term success instilled by Manuel Pellegrini has paid off, and the Citizens have rewarded him with the ultimate prize in the English top flight.

They led the league for the fewest amount of time among the top four teams – and yet they timed their moves perfectly.  Or, maybe they didn’t do it on purpose, it kind of just happened.

Manchester City spent much of the season in second place, not first, and while it may seem like they were waiting for the right moment to pounce, that image doesn’t exactly do their journey justice.

Rather than sitting to “strike” or “make their move,” City simply stayed the course while others used a more engaging but more risky brand of play.

source: Getty Images
Yaya Toure bossed the Manchester City midfield in a performance that kept his club on a season-long charge for the title.

Liverpool relied on a surging counter-attack and predatory offense, but one too many times, when it gets bogged down by a packed box by vehicles such as Chelsea’s double-decker bus, the team grew frustrated and fell apart.

Arsenal played a possession game, and while it overwhelmed many inferiors, injuries took their toll and a shallow squad was hurt by a manager not able to adapt his game to the replacement players in the patchwork roles.

Chelsea worked their opponents to the brink using a game of attrition, and while a number of clubs – including top ones – withered to their knees in front of Jose Mourinho, one too many times they were left hung out to dry without capitalizing on an opposition not fully broken after 90 minutes.

Pellegrini, however, didn’t possess just one describable trait used week-in and week-out.  Sure, City stumbled.  They took a while to figure things out under their new manager away from the Emirates. They succumbed to Chelsea’s strangling effect twice.  They were even shellshocked by Liverpool’s blitzkrieg.

But none of the blows turned out to be fatal, and when Liverpool became the last team to fall behind City’s long-term plan, it was just Pellegrini standing, bruised but not beaten.

Yaya Toure was essential, only falling to the mesmerizing brilliance of Luis Suarez’s record-setting season.

The offense didn’t have one superstar, but a combination of Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, David Silva, Samir Nasri, and Edin Dzeko was quality enough to outlast any significant injuries and swarming enough to keep defenders guessing as to where the next attack would come from.

The defense wasn’t as solid as it could be, but when the going got tough, an experienced cast led by Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta was determined enough to lock down just enough.

But the glue that held the squad together was their manager, the soft-spoken Pellegrini who didn’t let an ego get in the way of his ability to adapt his squad to the needs of the next match.

Oh, and the players really liked him too. That tends to help.

On the surface, it appears that Manchester City may have ended up on top due to the struggles of other “more worthy” contenders, but appearance doesn’t win the Premier League.

Points do. Congratulations to the blue half of Manchester.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

[ MORE: Perisic talking with Man Utd? ]

The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”

MLS roundup: Outrageous dive, posts doom ‘Caps; Ramirez stays red hot

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Six matches are in the books on a busy Saturday in Major League Soccer, and five of them finished 1-0.

How they got there? Much different stories. With the Cali Clasico still to play, let’s dig into the five that followed Seattle 1-0 Portland.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]


Vancouver Whitecaps 0-1 DC United

It’s especially difficult to win on the road in Major League Soccer, unless the hosts fritter away four good chances off the woodwork — including a Cristian Techera PK — and give away a spot kick of their own. Lamar Neagle converted the 61st offering after a sinister dive from Jose Guillermo Ortiz. He was taken off soon after, and is probably going to miss sometime when the DisCo is done with him. Outrageous.

New York Red Bulls 2-1 New England Revolution

Not one, not two, nor three, but four New England players saw a low cross slide by them for Daniel Royer to finish as New York came from behind to take all three points at Red Bull Arena. Cody Cropper committed a gaffe that allowed Bradley Wright-Phillips to equalize after a Lee Nguyen PK had put the Revs ahead early.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 Sporting KC

Homegrown defender and University of Denver product Kortne Ford has his first MLS goal, as the Rapids surprised the Western Conference leaders on Saturday. SKC outshot Colorado by nearly 20 attempts (Shoulder shrug emoji).

Minnesota United 1-0 Orlando City

There were questions as to whether NASL superstar Christian Ramirez could translate his game to Major League Soccer.

Yes. The answer is yes.

Ramirez has eight goals in 13 MLS matches, and should be hearing his name from a certain Bruce Arena around Gold Cup time. Those USMNT dreams of last season should come true.

Bobby Shuttleworth made six saves for his third shutout of the season. All have come at home.

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Philadelphia Union

Joao Plata keeps shooting, and the tiny Ecuadorian menace keeps scoring, too. His 36th minute goal was enough for the hosts at Rio Tinto.

Raiola: Zlatan to “100 percent” stay in Europe for two seasons

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be 35 and coming off major knee surgery, but that isn’t stopping suitors from lining up across Europe.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]

Ibrahimovic’s agent, Mino Raiola, says that MLS is not an option for the Swede over the next two seasons. From Sky Sports:

“Many clubs have asked for Zlatan. He can play two more years and will stay in Europe, 100 per cent.”

It would make sense for Ibrahimovic to stay around Manchester United, where he is admired by Jose Mourinho and coming off a season that showed he’s still capable of contributing at a high level.

But he remains beloved in Italy, and would be effective for most clubs in the Top 5 leagues should he return at even 75 percent of the Zlatan we’ve seen regularly.

Report: Manchester United, Inter Milan keen on Perisic deal

Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United wants Ivan Perisic, and both the player and his current club are all about it.

Perisic, 28, is ready to leave Inter Milan, and the Serie A mainstays are happy to accept $46 million for his services according to Sky Sports.

[ MORE: No China for Costa ]

Primarily a left winger, Perisic moved to Inter from Wolfsburg at the start of the 2015-16 season. He scored 10 goals and added nine assists in Serie A play this season, and has kept up his production pace since moving from the Bundesliga to Italy.

United needs stars and depth for its Champions League campaign, and Perisic would buttress an attack with Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan amongst others. He was a difference maker for Croatia at EURO 2016, and can do the same at Old Trafford.