concacaf champions league logo

CONCACAF Champions League starts group play on Tuesday

1 Comment

Starting Tuesday in Montréal, five Major League Soccer teams again try to do what none of their counterparts have done before: Win CONCACAF Champions League. Though MLS teams have claimed confederation championships before, none have done so since the competition changed format in 2008. Since then, only one MLS team has even made the final, with Real Salt Lake coming closest to breaking Mexico’s monopoly of CONCACAF’s crowd.

This year, D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, and Sporting Kansas City have U.S. Soccer’s spots. Add in the Impact as Canada’s champions, and Major League Soccer has another five-team allotment.

As is the case each tournament, the biggest challenges will be from Mexico. Cruz Azul, winners of last season’s competition, are back, as is Pachuca, who finished second in the Clausura. León, winners of Mexico’s last two tournaments, are one of the competition’s favorites, as is Club América, whose attacking tandem of Oribe Peralta and Raúl Jiménez may be the best in CONCACAF.

Given the quirks of the format, Major League Socccer’s teams will avoid Mexican opposition until at least the quarterfinals, but with only three MLS entrants making it past group stage last season, “first things first” will be the rule thought the competition’s opening round.

Here’s what the group stage looks like for the five MLS teams:

D.C. United (Group 4)

Aug. 20 – vs. Waterhouse (Jamaica)
Sept. 16 – at Waterhouse
Sept. 24 – vs. Tauro (Panama)
Oct. 21 – at Tauro

Montréal Impact (Group 3)

Aug. 5 – vs. FAS (El Salvador)
Aug. 20 – at FAS
Sept. 17 – vs. New York Red Bulls
Oct. 22 – at New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls (Group 3)

Aug. 26 – vs. FAS
Sept. 17 – at Montréal Impact
Sept. 23 – at FAS
Oct. 22 – vs. Montréal Impact

Portland Timbers (Group 5)

Aug. 19 – at Alpha United (Guyana)
Sept. 16 – vs. Olimpia (Honduras)
Sept. 23 – vs. Alpha United
Oct. 21 – at Olimpia

Sporting Kansas City (Group 2)

Aug. 19 – at Real Estelí (Nicaragua)
Sept. 18 – vs. Saprissa
Sept. 23 – vs. Real Estelí (Nicaragua)
Oct. 23 – at Saprissa

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
1 Comment

Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.