MLS coaches in trouble? Toronto’s Aron Winter tops the list

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A preseason roster of MLS coaches on the edge of the hot seat would have included New York’s Hans Backe and San Jose’s Frank Yallop. Maybe a couple of others if you stretched things a little, but relative circumstances said Yallop and Backe were heading up that band of bedeviled brothers.

Toronto’s Aron Winter? Nah. The former Dutch international told everyone he had a three-year plan as he took over before 2011. And things finished on the upswing last year, so Winter seemed safe and snug in his position.

Only if the team regressed pitifully, only if the side looked hopelessly inept early in the 2012 season would fans, media and the collective court of public opinion began to toss patience overboard, right out into Lake Ontario.

Well …

Backe and Yallop are handling things nicely at the moment, while TFC has turned up in a terrible state. Actually, the side is looking historically awful. After yet another loss at home Saturday, Winter’s team has zero points from five matches – Major League Soccer’s only side without a single, measly point. Three of the five losses were home, at BMO Field, where the once-festive crowd is has apparently turned ambivalent.

It’s hard to declare Toronto “out” in the playoff race in April. On the other hand, the team looks so messy right now, so utterly lost on defense, so rudderless on the attack outside of striker Danny Koevermans and winger Joao Plata, that it’s hard to see a way out of the woods.

Yes, Torsten Frings remains injured, and he’s an important figure at BMO.

On the other hand, New England, Seattle, Dallas, Real Salt Lake and Colorado are missing players who would arguably wear the “Most Important Man” sash – and they are all doing OK, relatively speaking. Not that the overall talent at all these MLS outposts is equal. The point is, these clubs might be weaker for their losses, but they didn’t fall apart. They aren’t stuck in a ditch without a clue of how to put some gas in the tank, re-attach the wheels and get that bucket of bolts back on pavement.

Right now, Toronto is a punching bag, guided by a manager (Winter) who has yet to prove he can identify talent with a skill set fit for MLS.

So, if I made a list of coaches in trouble today, he’d top that forlorn totem pole.

Against that backdrop, here are highlights from the latest grenade tossed into BMO Field, as Chivas USA came and went Saturday with all the points.

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Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

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Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.