Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

MLS at Week 2: Timbers in LA, Expansion sides meet

Leave a comment

Brutal Northeast weather has already caused the postponement of one MLS match, as New England and Orlando City will have to wait until September to make up Saturday’s match at Gillette Stadium.

[ MORE: FA Cup preview | PL picks ]

Both New York sides and Philadelphia are also at home in a weekend that could provide some incredible visuals for fans around MLS, and the new boys will meet in snowy Minnesota in a fourth tricky encounter.

Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake — 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday

The weekend starts with Dax McCarty and upstart Chicago looking to prove many prognosticators right; The Fire have been the billed as the potential surprise squad of 2017. In their way is an RSL side which may be guilty of their time zone and market; The Rio Tinto set is pretty solid.

New York Red Bulls vs. Colorado Rapids — 4 p.m. EDT on Saturday

After winning on Opening Weekend, both hosts and visitors will aim to keep up momentum from big 2016 campaigns. The Red Bulls opening win was especially impressive, coming from behind despite playing days earlier in Vancouver for CONCACAF Champions League action.

Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC — 4:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday

Each team will be happy enough with road draws to open the season. Now new-look Philly will hope to show its a contender by knocking off the reigning Eastern Conference champs in a home opener in Pennsylvania.

Montreal Impact vs. Seattle Sounders — 7 p.m. EDT on Saturday

Two teams who wouldn’t have expected to start 0-1 will be pinning their ears back to avoid 0-2.

Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew — 8:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday

Watching the Dynamo’s front three of Erick Torres, Romell Quioto, and Alberth Elis was head-spinning as Houston beat Seattle, while the Crew drew Chicago. Wilmer Cabrera could be 2-0 after Saturday night’s match.

Sporting KC vs. FC Dallas — 9 p.m. EDT on Saturday

An early litmus test for both sides, with Dallas already 1-0 on the road in a bid to follow up its Supporters’ Shield win and KC looking as an intriguing contender in the West.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 p.m. EDT on Saturday

The Quakes scooped up a home win to start their campaign and remain there for a visit from Fredy Montero and the ‘Caps, who snared a lone point in their home opener.

New York City FC vs. DC United — 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday

DC was held in a sleepy affair to open the season, while NYC is licking its wounds after falling at Orlando City. The postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium is going to be bitter cold.

Minnesota United vs. Atlanta United — 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday

Both sides got a taste of MLS that left them sour on Opening Weekend, as Minnesota was waxed 5-1 in Portland and Atlanta lost its cool and the match against New York Red Bulls. Now meeting in Minnesota, the newest MLS clubs will be hopeful of breaking into the win column at the other’s expense.

LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers — 7 p.m. EDT on Sunday

The Galaxy’s tough start to the season continues with a visit from Portland, which throttled Minnesota to start the season. At the least the Galaxy will be home again, and ready to break down a Portland side which is being hyped as having the best front six in the league (others words, not ours).

USMNT roster announced for pair of World Cup qualifiers

Leave a comment

The regulars are all aboard as Bruce Arena has announced a mostly full-strength roster for the World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago.

The only true regular missing from the 27-man list is midfielder Jermaine Jones, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered back in early May.

Leading the line are Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey up front, with Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood alongside. Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley, and Christian Pulisic headline the midfield, along with Alejandro Bedoya and Darlington Nagbe. Kellyn Acosta is called up as a like-for-like replacement for Jermaine Jones.

Along the back, Geoff Cameron is available for selection after navigating a few injuries this past season. John Brooks is back as well after his muscle tear suffered in late April. DeAndre Yedlin is back as well after missing the last pair of qualifiers with an injury and winning the Championship with Newcastle. Fulham’s Tim Ream is called in after showing improvement all season at the club level. Jorge Villafana returns at the thin left-back position, as is DaMarcus Beasley, who is listed as a midfielder.

In goal, Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, and Nick Rimando present an experienced trio, also supported by 21-year-old Ethan Horvath.

The US takes on Venezuela in a friendly on June 3rd in a warm-up to the pair of qualifiers. First, they’ll host Trinidad & Tobago in Denver on June 8th. Then, on just a three day turnaround, they head to the Azteca to play Mexico.

After earning four points in the last international break, the United States sits in 4th position in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The top three teams advance automatically to the 2018 World Cup, while the 4th placed team can qualify via a two-legged playoff against a team from the Asian confederation.

GKs: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFs: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).

MIDs: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

FWDs: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg).

Totti’s loyalty one of the great soccer accomplishments ever

Getty Images
Leave a comment

During the prematch ceremony to celebrate the retirement of Roma legend Francesco Totti, there were fans crying. There were mascots crying. There were family members crying. There were players crying. The man himself was crying.

When 25 years with one club, no celebration can keep back the tears that naturally follow such a glorious career. Instead, an entire stadium paid tribute in one massive outpouring of emotion.

He was never flashy, he was never self-concerned, he never attracted the spotlight. All Francesco Totti did was give and give and give to his club. As the Italian’s career progressed, the game changed around him, with more and more money flowing through a landscape that gave players every reason to change teams as often as possible.

Through it all, Totti stayed put.

Roma’s Francesco Totti enters the field for his final salute to his fans after an Italian Serie A soccer match between Roma and Genoa at the Olympic stadium in Rome (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino).

At the end of it all, 25 years produced 618 league appearances, and 782 appearances overall. He scored 250 Serie A goals on the nose, and another 66 amid all other competitions. Those are just numbers, and Totti gave Roma far more than a laundry list of big numbers.

But for now, we focus on the bookkeeping, because even those are staggering. 250 league goals leaves Totti 2nd all-time in Italy, behind just Silvio Piola, but even the great 1938 World Cup champion never scored more than 143 league goals for a single club. Only three active players have over 100 league goals.

Totti racked up 618 Serie A appearances, his final one a 3-2 win over Genoa that earned Roma a Champions League group stage spot. That total is good for third all-time, one (for now) behind the great Gianluigi Buffon and 29 back of all-time leader Paolo Maldini. Maldini, who retired in 2009, also spent his entire career with one club in AC Milan, an equally commendable accomplishment. But in the modern game, 8 years adrift of Maldini’s playing days, the overwhelming temptations to move clubs make what Totti has done even more remarkable. Plus, he out-lasted Maldini’s career by a year (24 vs. 25 years active).

A note: only two players in the top 30 list in Serie A appearances are still active: Buffon, and 34-year-old Alberto Gilardino, who has played for 11 clubs in his career and is still 104 appearances back of Totti.

Past all the numbers stands a humble man who served one fanbase as loyally as humanly possible. Totti’s accomplishments are not only among the greatest in the history of the game, but it also may never be surpassed by anyone as long as we live.

Mascherano out 6 weeks, will miss Argentina vs. Brazil

Alex Caparros/Getty Image
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano will be out of action for six weeks to recover from a right knee injury.

[ MORE: Luis Enrique leaves Barca with feeling of accomplishment ]

Barcelona’s season is over, but the injury will rule out Mascherano from Argentina’s friendly against Brazil on June 9.

Mascherano injured his leg early in Saturday’s final of the Copa del Rey, when Barcelona beat Alaves 3-1 to defend its title for a third straight season.

He also cut his head during the collision with an Alaves player that produced the leg injury. He returned on crutches to join the team celebration.

Argentina doesn’t play its next World Cup qualifier until it plays Uruguay on Aug. 28.

Courtois aiming at new Chelsea contract after strong season

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s a wide range of players that were integral in Chelsea’s Premier League-winning season in 2016/17, but one of the most underrated was arguably goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

[ MORE: PL clubs may miss on Celtic’s Dembele and more transfer news ]

The Blues shot-stopper started all but two PL matches this past campaign, and now the Belgian international is seeking an extension with the London club.

“Contract talks haven’t opened but I am happy at Chelsea,” Courtois told Sky Sports after Chelsea’s loss to Arsenal at Wembley.

“I hope they reward me with a good contract, then there will be no doubt I will sign it.”

The 25-year-old keeper has been in at Stamford Bridge since arriving from Genk in 2011, but Courtois spent three seasons in Spain on a loan spell.

Courtois likened this PL campaign to his time on loan at Atletico Madrid, stating that while his side’s achievements in the league were everything Chelsea could have hoped for that there was still more the Blues could have done.

“It’s not a good feeling now,” Courtois told Chelsea’s official website. “I had the same thing in Spain when I won the league and then lost the Champions League.

“We wanted to end on a high, now we feel sad. Winning is everything so this is hard to face but we have to try to forget it.”