Newcastle United's Ben Arfa celebrates scoring against Fulham during their English Premier League soccer match at St James' Stadium in Newcastle

Alan Pardew on hot seat after sending Hatem Ben Arfa to Hull City


Alan Pardew’s status as the second longest-serving manager in the Premier League may have been put into jeopardy earlier this week after deciding to loan out-of-favor midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa to Hull City.

The skillful Frenchman fell down the pecking order at Newcastle last season after Pardew was left unimpressed with Ben Arfa’s two-way play. On the ball, the 27-year-old is incredibly gifted with brilliant skill and complimentary quickness that can make him a nightmare for opposing teams. Yet, too often Ben Arfa’s confidence would spiral out of control, causing him to loose possession and fail to recover with conviction.

The former was problematic but the latter was a cardinal sin that Pardew couldn’t seem to break Ben Arfa from repeating. So he sat him. After starting eight of ten league matches in the fall, Ben Arfa made only 11 Premier League appearances after January, ten of which came off the bench.

The move didn’t help Pardew – who was fined $150,000 for head-butting Hull midfielder David Meyler during the season – gain popularity among the fans. In fact, relations grew so strained that the 53-year-old couldn’t even stand in his technical area for the final home match at St James’ Park because of the abuse he faced.

This past summer fans grew more upset with Pardew when he decided to omit Ben Arfa from first-team activities. Combine the squad’s anemic attacking performances in their first three matches of this season despite Pardew spending $60 million dollars on new assets and the loan deal sending Ben Arfa to Hull City, and it appears the tide has firmly turned against Pardew. Fans are enraged and the Newcastle board, which has long-supported the manager – most notably be signing him to an eight-year contract extension in September 2012 – is now contemplating whether he’s the right man for the job after all.

Results over the coming weeks will be key if Pardew is to remain on Tyneside. As for Ben Arfa, the loan has left him in a good place. He penned the following open letter to Newcastle fans thanking them for their support:

‘To the Toon Army I want to pass on my thanks to all the fans that supported me during my time at the club and living in a city that will be forever in my heart.

‘Thank you also to everyone at NUFC and to Hull for making this loan happen.

‘I wish Newcastle the best of luck. I hope they have a good season.

‘I can’t wait to launch my career again with Hull and Steve Bruce. I thank him for the trust he has shown in me bringing me to this club.

‘Howay the lads.’

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)