Soccer’s Choose Your Own Adventure: Gareth Barry

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You’re Gareth Barry.

For 16 years you’ve played in the Premier League, beginning your career at Aston Villa in 1998. For eleven years you wore the claret & blue, patrolling the Villa Park midfield and rising to prominence with the likes of Dion Dublin, Paul Merson, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor.

Labeled Mr. Consistency, you logged 388 appearances for the Villains (notching 47 goals and 27 assists along the way) before catching the eye of Manchester City in 2009.

The Citizens handed Villa a $20 million (£12m) transfer fee and signed you to a five year deal paying out at $168,000 (£100k) per week. Over that time you became a fixture of the City midfield and notably partnered Yaya Toure in the holding midfield role on the squad hoisted the 2011/12 Premier League title.

Then, prior to your final season under contract at City, an influx of world-class players and a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini rendered you surplus goods. Enter Everton, who offered you a life-line and starting job under new manager Roberto Martinez. Under the Spanish gaffer you thrived, enjoying what was arguably your best professional season on record.

And now here you stand: 33-years old, out of contract and available on a free transfer.

Your options are as follows:

A) Push hard to re-sign a 1-year deal at City where you’ll compete for domestic and European titles and continue enjoying a 6 figure weekly salary. The down side, of course, is that except for the occasional League and FA Cup match, you’ll ride pine like Scott Sinclair (remember him?!).

B) Sign with Everton where you will remain in the Premier League, have a starting position, play in Europe (ok, the Europa League, but still…) and be beloved by fans. The downside is that you’ll need to cut your wages in half to go there, won’t have a shot at winning the Premier League title and will struggle to ever play again in the Champions League.

C) Sign with Arsenal, who are reportedly interested in you. But the same positives and negatives exist in North London as the do at the Etihad – you’ll constantly be wondering why guys like Mikel Arteta (who you are miles better than) continually starts over you. And even though the Gunners can afford to keep you flush, they won’t. You’ll make slightly more than you would at Everton and be half as involved.

D) Sign with QPR or Stoke City. Yep, these clubs want you as well. You like the occasional cracking tackle so in theory Stoke could work but you’re too intelligent to play there — you enjoy the finer things in life, the vast majority of which are found away from the Britannia. QPR may look good on paper (they can certainly keep you well paid) but the idea of lining up alongside Joey Barton is almost as troubling as spending the season with a make-shift, over-touted and under-performing squad destined for a relegation race.

E) Sign with NYCFC. Get paid like you’re still at City, play-make for David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I’m convinced this will happen in 2016), be left Papparazzi-free so you can do things like drink at random East Village bars and, ultimately, become a NYC icon and MLS legend.

Choose wisely, my friend.

 

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

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Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

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Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.