Heads-up: a little trouble could be brewing for MLS Cup 2012

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Most of us cheered when Major League Soccer made the most significant of tweaks on title-deciding methodology: the decision to house each year’s MLS Cup final on the grounds of the higher seed.

Splendid idea, guys!

With that, the regular season grew even further in importance; every point earned improves a team’s chances of hosting a final. And hosting a final will be a very special thing each year, adding  drama and a certain edge that a neutral site simply cannot replicate.

It really was a terrific shift, for a number of different reasons.

There was one, itty-bitty little worry about it all: What if the final lands at one of the less-desirable venues?

By “less desirable,” I don’t mean anything disparaging to the clubs or their hard-working personnel. Really, it’s about logistics. That is, a short list of teams existed that had everyone thinking: “This thing could turn in on itself pretty quickly.”

Still, most of the less-liked MLS venues didn’t seem like such a threat, not for 2012, at least. New England and ill-fitting Gillette Stadium, where the MLS final might be played over unsightly football lines? (Update: I’ve been alerted no such thing would happen, that no gridiron lines would be visible in such a scenario.)  Well, the Revs were rebuilding, so that really didn’t seem worth worrying about.

Yes, Jay Heaps’ men could find great late-season form and fight their way to the final; but it seems highly unlikely they could stack up enough wins to be in position to host the final.

Columbus, where nasty winter weather could pose a threat, and where hotels and other ancillary sites might become a real problem? Well, a young Columbus team could make the playoffs, for sure, but they didn’t seem to be a threat for a top finish.

(Truly, only by finishing first or second in the conference would a team have a realistic chance of hosting the final.)

Who else? Well, San Jose would be a problem due to its tiny venue, cozy and quaint little Buck Shaw Stadium (pictured). But San Jose …

Uh-oh!

Frank Yallop’s team is very good this year. A lot better than last year, in fact.

You will currently find the Earthquakes with the league’s best record. So, if they keep chugging along and then crack the playoff code, your first final in the new M.O. will land somewhere in the Bay Area.

They could move it Stanford Stadium, site of last weekend’s big win over Los Angeles. But MLS Cup’s Dec. 2 date falls two days after the Pac-12 Championship Game, which could also land at the historic Palo Alto grounds. That would pose a strenuous complication.

After that? It could go to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but that facility is far less than perfect for a number of reasons.

Or, they could just keep it at Buck Shaw and take the PR hit of having their nationally televised championship marquee contest in the league’s smallest ground – an up-armored college soccer facility.

Of course, it could all work out just fine. A final in Kansas City, New York, Washington, D.C., or Salt Lake City – other reasonable possibilities at the halfway pole of this MLS season – would work just fine.

VIDEO: Coutinho scores brilliant curler; Iniesta walks off

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It’s often funny to read the A. in front of Andres Iniesta’s surname on his match jersey, as if there’s any other.

On Sunday, the 34-year-old midfielder walked off the field for the last time (video at bottom) as a Barcelona player, handing the captain’s arm band to Lionel Messi and beginning a new era for both the club and player.

[ MORE: Bayern salutes Heynckes (again) ]

Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Sunday in the final La Liga match of the season.

While the match will be remembered as Iniesta’s last with Blaugranas, Philippe Coutinho gave a glimpse of the future with his eighth goal of the season and sixth in his last five games.

Barca finishes a 1-loss season with 99 goals and a 14-point lead over La Liga runners-up Atletico Madrid.

Bayern Munich fans pay tribute to Jupp Heynckes, again

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich fans turned up in their thousands to bid farewell to Jupp Heynckes for a second time on Sunday.

The veteran coach is going back into retirement after leading Bayern to another league title. The side was five points adrift when he returned in October, but rebounded to wrap up the title with five rounds to spare.

[ MORE: Pellegrini to WHU inches closer ]

It might have been more for Heynckes, but Eintracht Frankfurt stunned the side to win the German Cup final on Saturday and Real Madrid emerged triumphant from the sides’ Champions League semifinal.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge paid tribute to the 73-year-old Heynckes for bringing “old values” such as “humanity and empathy” back to the side.

“The little downside for us is that we would have liked to give our Jupp, our coach, the nearly perfect finish, but it didn’t quite work out,” Rummenigge said of the shock defeat to Frankfurt.

Heynckes led Bayern to the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles in his previous stint in 2013, before he retired for the first time.

Bayern’s players were clearly still disappointed over Saturday’s cup defeat as they celebrated the league win on the Munich town hall balcony.

“It feels really bad, how the season ended,” said Thomas Mueller, who added that the team would try to “put a brave face on it.”

WORLD CUP: France wins, but what happened to Ronaldo?

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Despite playing a central role in the establishment of the World Cup, France had always fallen short at the tournament. That changed on one glorious night in Paris in 1998.

[ MORE: PST chats with Vincent Kompany after Man City’s title ]

After a strong start to the tournament it was hosting for the second time, France struggled in the knockout stages. It only managed to make the final after defender Lilian Thuram scored the only two goals of his 142-match international career to give France a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Croatia.

The prevailing view was that beating defending champion Brazil would prove to be beyond Les Bleus. After all, Brazil had Ronaldo, the undoubted player of the tournament.

But France strolled to its maiden title , two first-half headers from the great Zinedine Zidane easing the nerves in the Stade de France. A third goal from Emmanuel Petit in injury time was the cue for wild celebrations across the country, with the team hailed for its multi-ethnic heritage.

In scenes reminiscent of Paris’ liberation from Nazi occupation in 1944, more than 1 million people stormed the Champs-Elysees to celebrate.

For Brazil, the final remains a mystery.

The team just never got going, its underperformance blamed on the health of Ronaldo. To the shock of just about everyone, coach Mario Zagallo left his main striker out of his starting line-up, apparently for health reasons. Years later, Ronaldo said he had a seizure earlier in the day.

However, just before the match, another team sheet was submitted, this time with Ronaldo’s name on it. Whatever happened, Ronaldo was a very different player that night and Brazil was a very different team.

Ronaldo would get another chance four years later to put the ghosts of Paris behind him.

He did just that.

For more, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmjFa9LB7Pg

AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Transfer rumor roundup: Vardy to Atleti? Fekir close to Liverpool move

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With the Premier League transfer window set to close early this summer, we’ve already begun moving season for players.

Below, Pro Soccer Talk looks at several of the day’s biggest transfer rumors, including another attacking move for UEFA Champions League finalists Liverpool.

[ MORE: Vincent Kompany talks third PL title, Belgium and more ]

Leicester City has had to fend off significant interest in its players for some time, and the Foxes could be in line to lose several quality pieces this transfer window.

The attention is focused on striker Jamie Vardy at the moment though, as the Leicester front man is being targeted by Spanish side Atletico Madrid.

Atleti manager Diego Simeone is inevitably preparing for Antoine Griezmann’s post-World Cup move to Barcelona, which would leave the Spanish runners’ up in desperate need to find another option up front alongside Diego Costa.

Vardy could be a logical solution for Simeone, after scoring 57 PL goals in the last three seasons at the King Power Stadium.


Jurgen Klopp has built something special at Anfield, and with his side nearing a Champions League final appearance next weekend against giants Real Madrid, it appears the German manager isn’t done adding to his brilliant front line just yet.

French TV station Canal+ is reporting that the Reds are “99 percent done” on a move that would bring Lyon attacker Nabil Fekir to Liverpool next season.

The 24-year-old Frenchman will likely command a significant sum, estimated at over $81 million, after the Ligue 1 star notched 23 goals in all competitions this season for the third-place club.


The Wayne Rooney saga at Everton has brought up great doubt that the veteran Englishman will be playing in the PL next season, and it appears the Toffees don’t want the former Manchester United striker back.

The 32-year-old has been strongly linked with a transfer to MLS side D.C. United over recent weeks, however, when Everton manager Sam Allardyce was sacked, that appeared to leave the door open for a Rooney return.

Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case though.

The Toffees are believed to be willing to part ways with Rooney, who totaled 10 goals in 31 appearances for the club in 2017/18.


Finally, Everton could be looking to add another attacking spark, particularly if Rooney exits Goodison Park this summer.

The Sun is reporting that the Toffees are eyeing up a move for Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace, who has caught the attention of many PL sides over recent years.

Zaha is coming off of his best season as a professional, having scored nine goals in England’s top flight and guides the Eagles to an 11th-place finish.