Steve Gans

U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Q&A: Steve Gans

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PST is vetting the candidates to succeed Sunil Gulati as president of the United States Soccer Federation.

This post speaks with Steve Gans — a partner at Prince Lobel Tye LLP in Boston, Mass. with extensive experience in soccer administration and representation, including helping organize Boston’s efforts to be a host city at the 1994 World Cup — about his candidacy. His website is stevegans2018.com.

Pro Soccer Talk: Hello, Steve. It’s been a long campaign for you. How do you think it’s gone so far as we head to the big election on Saturday?

Steve Gans“It’s gone really well for us. It’s been crazy because I was the first one in, I challenged Sunil last May, I announced my intention (to run) and all through the summer and last fall it looked like it would just be me and him, and then the U.S. failure to qualify (for the 2018 World Cup) happened in October, and the fallout from that has been meteoric. Sunil (Gulati is) not running and seven other people jumped in. The last few months have been crazy, messy and chaotic but it’s been good for us. We’re in really good shape and we’re really excited heading into this weekend.”

[READ: Six USSF candidates reportedly join forces against establishment candidates]

PST: Ultimately, if elected, what are the three main objectives you’d like to achieve as U.S. Soccer president?

SG: “First of all, we have to fix the problems that are ailing the game throughout – from youth to adult to national team to pro as well. One of the big themes that I hear, I’ve been on this listening tour since May, is lack of respect and lack of voice, so I want to get voice back and show that respect, because there’s so many great people in the trenches that have great experience and information that should be included and haven’t been.

“I want to solve the fractured youth landscape, put joy back in the game, we’re creating players without joy, stop the infighting between sanctioning organizations which affects both youth and adult soccer but contributes to the 75 percent attrition rate at U-13, and we need to solve that, that’s not in the best interest for the good of the game or the kid or adult players.

And we want to make us respected throughout the world. We want to improve our youth systems and our national team programs. I do a lot of international work in the Premier League and I represent Celtic FC, and what I know is we’re respected for certain reasons, but the wrong reasons.

“We’re respected for things like fan engagement, front office practices, those sorts of things, digital media. We’re not respected as a soccer nation and we need to fix those things so that we’re respected for our youth system, our development program, our national teams. I want to make us a fully and highly respected soccer nation internationally.”

PST: How much have you learned about who makes up U.S. Soccer’s delegates and constituency?

SG: “What I think is great is this is truly a national election. I’ve never run for anything (before) and I think with a national election, the country’s divided right now politically but what I find so uplifting in this regard, people who might otherwise be divided politically, the people I’ve met are all soccer people, so we all have common ground.

“The other part is I’ve been involved in the sport for 40 years, if you go back to the time I was a teenager, and there weren’t that many competent people involved in the sport, because it was kind of an outcast sport in the 1970s and early 1980s. It’s not true anymore. I’ve met so many people throughout the game who volunteer or are in the game otherwise, and they are so highly competent and they care so much for the good of the game. I’ve learned so much about that and that creates for me a tremendous amount of optimism in this regard, that we can solve these problems, because there’s so many good minds out there that want to help.

“I’ve also learned the fed hasn’t been doing things the right way because so many people feel disrespected.”

PST: Finally, what are your expectations for the election?

SG: “We think we’re in really great shape. I don’t have the money, there are four candidates who are indep financed, but what we do have is the best campaign team. I have been fortunate to have highly experienced people volunteering for me since last May. They’re incredible. I have a Harvard statistics expert doing my modeling and we think we’re in very great shape. We start out very solidly but this will be a multi-ballot race, but the (recent ESPN) article quite rightly tests out that I’m the one who doesn’t have any negatives.

“I may not be the celebrity candidate but people don’t look at me having any negative qualities. In a multi-ballot race, that favors a candidate like that every succeeding ballot because that candidate becomes acceptable and a consensus candidate. Our candidate sees us starting strongly and picking up a big amount of steam every round. We feel really good about this. Our numbers are good and the enthusiasm of delegates is good.”

Money from Wembley replay will “support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years”

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.

Mourinho claiming injury crisis ahead of CL showdown

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The next three weeks will go a long way toward defining Jose Mourinho’s second season at Manchester United, with the Red Devils facing not only fellow top-four aspirers Chelsea and Liverpool, but also contesting their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Sevilla.

[ MORE: VAR provider admits incorrect graphic displayed on TV ]

Thus, it’s not exactly the most convenient time for the words “injury crisis” to rear their ugly heads yet again, but that’s the challenge Mourinho claims he faces ahead of Wednesday’s CL clash.

Paul Pogba missed Saturday’s FA Cup victory with a last-minute illness; Marcus Rashford is dealing with a leg injury and remains questionable, as are Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are all but officially out, according to Mourinho — quotes from ESPN.co.uk:

“I didn’t rest one single player so we had today every player available here. I didn’t rest anyone. I brought two kids that played on Friday 90 minutes [for the under-23s] because I don’t have another player, so we arrive at this crucial moment with some problems.”

“Can we recover some of them to Wednesday? I believe so. I think Rashford, Herrera, Valencia — I think they have a chance.

“Paul, I don’t know. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane, Zlatan — I don’t think they have any chance.”

Mourinho dealt with a similar rash of injuries very late on last season, as his side barreled its way into, and eventually won, the Europa League final, securing a place in the CL this season. With a top-four finish all but out of reach at the time, Mourinho opted to rest his bare-bones group of first-team regulars in Premier League action and prioritize Europe’s “other” competition.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

This time around, United sit second in the PL table, just four points clear of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, and the path to winning the CL will prove far more difficult than taking on the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht, Celta Vigo and Ajax.

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone