Sami Hyypiä will try to rebound with Brighton & Hove Albion

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Former Liverpool great Sami Hyypia will try to comeback from his disappointment at Bayer Leverkusen with an English return. Two months after being fired from his first managerial appointment, the former Finland international has been hired by Premier League aspirants Brighton & Hove Albion, giving the 40-year-old a quick return to the sidelines.

Hyypiä lost his place at the BayArena after the Champions League participant nose-dived in the Bundesliga’s second half – a slump that nearly cost the team a shot at returning to Europe’s premier club tournament. On April 5, just over one-year after being named one of Leverkusen’s caretakers, Hyypiä was dismissed from his first full managerial job. Taking 16 of 18 points after Hyypiä’s departure, Leverkusen would go on to salvage its Champions League hopes, finishing one point ahead of fifth place Wolfsburg.

With Brighton, however, Hyppiä will have a chance to restore his managerial momentum. In three seasons in England’s second division, the Seagulls have posted 10th, fourth, and sixth place finishes, losing in the Championship’s promotion playoffs each of the last two seasons. Should the nine-time Finnish Footballer of the Year get Brighton over the top, he’ll not only earn a Premier League return but the first major accomplishment of his nascent managerial career.

From the Seagulls’ web site:

“I am absolutely thrilled by this appointment; Brighton & Hove Albion are an ambitious club and I am very pleased to have been given this opportunity.

“I’ve held extensive talks with the chairman Tony Bloom and chief executive Paul Barber. I have looked at the club from top to bottom and I am very impressed by what I’ve seen at all levels.

“I’ve seen the Amex Stadium and the club’s new training ground and they are amongst the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world. I’ve also already met some of the key staff including Nathan Jones, the club’s head of football David Burke, and Dr Helge Riepenhoff, head of medical and sports science, and I am very much looking forward to working with all of them.

“The chairman is ambitious and for me that is absolutely key. I am now looking forward to the challenge ahead and our aim is to take the club forward to the next level.”

After one year on the job in Leverkusen, Hyypiä still a relatively unproven managerial commodity. At times, he seemed to get the most out of his enviable attacking trio: Stefan Kießling, Son Heung-Min, and Sidney Sam. In big games, however, Hyypiä was unable to replicate that danger.

After a strong start to the 2013-14 campaign hinted Leverkusen might keep up with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, a lack of effective ideas, particularly during the absence of Sam, left Hyypiä looking over his head. At the beginning of his managerial career, the top of the Bundesliga proved too high for the recently retired star.

In England, in the second tier, Hyypiä may have more time to learn on the job. The question is how much time he’ll get. After coming so close to promotion the last two years, Brighton’s management may see the Premier League as a defining goal. The talent on the team, however, hints Brighton may need more heroics like this season’s late surge to return to the playoff.

If Hyypiä doesn’t keep Brighton in the top six, will he get time to finish the job? Given his three-year deal, Hyypiä should get time to frame his team. Eventually, he’ll be expected to make another Premier League push.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday