The Termination Checklist: Spencer’s dismissal all over the map

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source: Getty Images

PORTLAND, Ore. –

John Spencer’s job had been on the line for weeks, if you believed reports. That certainly seemed to be the case on June 24, when a home win over Seattle brought word the then-Timbers’ head coach had thanked his players for saving his job.

If true, the thanks seemed more like a joke than a confession. Why acknowledge the rumors? There was no feeling of besiegement around the Timbers – the kind of environment you see as relationships between ownership, staff, players (and sometimes, media) break apart. Take a man from L.A., drop him at training in Beaverton, he wouldn’t have been able to sense anything was wrong.

The home-road results might have had something to do with that. When Portland were in town, they were a happy team. Putting up a 5-2-2 (W-L-T) record at JELD-WEN Field, the Timbers always had reason to give the locals a happy face. Away from home, the Timbers were 0-6-2. Still, most of that frustration seeped out on the plane. Add in an off day after returning hope, and then next face the Timbers showed was one of determination: We’ve got to stop being Edward Hyde on the road.

The duality meant Spencer’s termination was always going surprise, even if the move had been rumored. With players content and the Timbers Army scarves up on Morrison Avenue, there was sense of Portlandia-irony to the circling vultures circling. They seemed out of place. Maybe vultures are a thing in Portland now?

The checklist, however – the mental list you go through when assessing whether a coach might be in trouble – didn’t single out Spencer. Results, ideas, attitude, relationships – Spencer wasn’t failing on all fronts.

Usually, by the time an organization decides to change coaches (often making the hard admission that they were wrong to hie him in the first place), almost all of these boxes need to be checked. Coaches have to leave their teams no outs, but with Spencer, most things seemed business as usual:

Dipping/flat lining results

The home-road schism had become worrisome. When Portland beat Seattle and immediately squandered the momentum by being routed in Colorado, the issue took center stage. After the mid-week win over San Jose, the reoccurring theme to everything post-game: How do we do this on the road? As evidenced in Sandy, Spencer still hadn’t figured it out. If anything, the Timbers were regressing, giving one of their worst performances of the year Saturday in Utah.

The broader picture was more promising. The Timbers had scraped their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture, even if they sat on the periphery. They were generally trending upward, and having played some of their best soccer of the year against San Jose (particularly in the first half), the silver lining on Spencer’s cloud was thickening.

But in that game, Portland again had troubles closing out the match. They looked shaky and desperate as they tried to hold their one goal lead. Most teams have looked the same against San Jose late in matches, but for Portland, it brought back early season memories of late match gaffs that pushed them to the Western Conference basement.

Verdict: Inconclusive

Lack of ideas

It seemed Spencer was trying to find the right combination. Darlington Nagbe has played everywhere in attack. Jack Jewsbury went from central midfielder to right back. Rodney Wallace went from left back to left wing. Everybody in the organization was a potential solution to the team’s width issues.

When the team showed improvement and started climbing the standings, Spencer’s tinkering slowed down. Until then, Spencer never stopped trying.

The roster’s very limited, having very few natural wide players. Kalif Alhassan has been injured for most of the season, and until his strong showing against San Jose, Frank Songo’o had given mixed results. The lack of options meant there was only so much tweaking Spencer could do. No matter how he lined his team up, the weaknesses were going to be the same.

Verdict: No

Lost the players

If a team goes into a slump, that’s a problem. If the players don’t believe they can recover, that’s a crisis. A coach can’t lose the dressing room in the best of times. When the team is struggling, it becomes a clear reason to move on.

Portland didn’t seem to have those problems. The players attitude toward Spencer hadn’t change. The respect was there. Occasionally a player would implicitly question a decision, but it rare, and there were no rebellions.

Troy Perkins’ comments after Saturday’s game were as strong as you’ll read, but there’s no singling out the coach:

“There were times we did what we wanted to do, and there were times when we completely had the blinders on. The first hour was okay. I felt the second half we were just chasing the game. We didn’t hold the ball up enough to get guys out and when we did we were too slow to get up.”

“It’s great when we’re at home, sure. At some point, you have to draw the line and say enough is enough. Everyone’s got to say it, do it, believe it, and whether or not we win at home doesn’t matter.  At this point we’ve got to win on the road.”

Verdict: No

Organizational malaise

Perhaps the Timbers front office wasn’t as openly supportive of Spencer as they’d been in the past, but given how the team’s performed this season, it would have seemed overcompensating if owner Merritt Paulsen trumpeted Spencer’s virtues on Twitter. Given the team’s expectations, the tone was appropriately reserved, and if there was conflict created from above, Spencer hadn’t given any hint.

That’s not to say everything was perfect, but the kind of cracks you normally see when a relationship deteriorates weren’t there. Every struggling team has tensions. Portland’s weren’t profound.

Verdict: Maybe, leaning toward no

Coach behavior showing cracks

Behind the scenes, who knows, but John Spencer’s public face always reflected his team’s struggles more than his own. When they improved, he expressed support. When they struggled, he criticized. Nothing seemed disproportionate. There were no meltdowns, shutdowns – nothing out of the ordinary. He led with the same direct, honest intensity that he’d shown all year. At no point did he tense up, start pointing fingers, or otherwise throw people under the bus. If he was fighting for his job, he didn’t take that fight public.

Verdict: No

Failure to meet expectations

Coming into the 2012 campaign, competing for the playoffs was expected. The subtext of those expectations: We’re going to the playoffs! It was something that was constantly mentioned at the beginning of the season, the optimism surrounding last season’s strong finish carried over into the new campaign. Now in mid-summer, it only occasionally comes up.

Setting aside the fairness of those expectations, they were there, particularly after Kris Boyd was inked to a big money deal. If Portland competed for the postseason with a misfiring Kenny Cooper, surely Boyd will push the Timbers into the playoffs. At least, that was the logic.

Portland’s still in the playoff picture, but they haven’t performed like a playoff team. They probably have not performed like ownership envisioned.  That vision undoubtedly includes a consistent, upward trajectory. Expansion teams don’t want to level off in their second season. The first season is a baseline upon which you have to improve. Unfortunately, the results say the Timbers were still in expansion mode.

Verdict: Yes

That the checklist paints a mixed picture explains why the move’s been met with mild surprise. Were it not for last month’s rumors, Spencer’s dismissal may have caught everybody off guard. You sit down and think about it and say Yeah, I guess Portland is struggling, but there was little in the day-to-day happenings that suggested Spencer would go. No fan discontent. No curious leaks in local media. No tension around the club.

Those my be symptoms of an idyllic existence: A new MLS team with a reverent, gregarious support capable of weathering these storms. That might not be good enough for an ownership group that paid  high price to enter Major League Soccer.

If Spencer’s termination does nothing else, it at least sends a message to the entire organization: 2012 has not been good enough.

Manchester City vs Inter Milan: How to watch Champions League Final, odds, predictions

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Manchester City is on the chase for a historic treble and standing in the way is Inter Milan, one of Europe’s precious few clubs to claim such an honor.

[ LIVE: Manchester City vs Inter Milan ]

The Premier League winners three times running have an FA Cup under their belt after beating Manchester United on June 3 and the final jewel in their treble crown awaits with a win in Istanbul on June 10.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Pep Guardiola could lead a second club to a treble after he did it with Barcelona in 2008-09, and they would give heated rivals United domestic company on the treble stage right down the road.

Guardiola says it’s now okay to talk about the treble. We agree, and we’ve laid out why the achievement is so special after the jump.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester City vs Inter Milan.


How to watch Manchester City vs Inter Milan live, stream link and start time

Dates: 3pm ET June 10, 2023
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: TUDN, Paramount+


What Premier League clubs have won the treble?

Manchester United won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in 1998-99.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils are the lone Premier League club to win it.

That’s it. For now.


How many times has the treble been won?

Nine times in history has a team won its domestic league, top domestic cup, and the European Cup.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona have each done it twice, with Bayern doing it in 2012-13 and 2019-20 and Barca pulling it off in 2008-09 and 2014-15.

Celtic was the first to win a treble, doing it in 1966-67, while Ajax was the next in 1971-72.

PSV Eindhoven then won it in 1987-88 before Man United made it happen 11 years later. Inter Milan is the only Italian team to pull it off, winning in 2009-10.

(UEFA.com)


Champions League Final odds (Betting odds provided by our partner, BetMGM )

BetMGM is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on BetMGM for the first time after clicking our links. 

Man City (-250) vs Inter Milan (+625) | Draw over 120 mins (+380)

Over 2.5 goals (-160). Under 2.5 goals (+110)


Champions League Final predictions

Joe Prince-Wright: Man City 2-1 Inter Milan
Andy Edwards: Man City 3-1 Inter Milan
Nick Mendola: Man City 2-0 Inter Milan


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: None

Inter Milan team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Joaquin Correa. OUT: Dalbert.

Premier League ins and outs: Summer signings, exits for all 20 clubs

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Some Premier League mainstays have left their clubs and may even depart the league this summer, whether their choice or the desire of their teams.

Ashley Young, Lucas Moura, and Joao Moutinho are among the players who will not return to their clubs, and all this before June is more than a few days gone.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Arsenal | Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United ]

Meanwhile, some new names are arriving in the Premier League, with Brentford purchasing a new keeper and Brighton raiding Watford for a star attacking talent.

As the summer goes on, this page will be consistently updated with the comings and goings around all 17 returning Premier League clubs and promoted sides Burnley, Sheffield United, and Luton Town.

See all signings, after the jump.


AFC Bournemouth

In
Hamed Traore (Sassuolo)

Out
Jefferson Lerma (Released)
Jack Stacey (Norwich City)
Junior Stanislas (Released)


Arsenal

None


Aston Villa

Out
Ashley Young (Released)


Brentford

In
Mark Flekken (Freiburg)
Ethan Brierley (Rochdale)

Out
Pontus Jansson (Malmo)
Saman Ghoddos (Released)
Tariqe Fosu (Released)
Joel Valencia (Released)


Brighton & Hove Albion

In
Joao Pedro (Watford)


Burnley

In
Jordan Beyer (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Out
Ashley Barnes (Norwich City)


Chelsea

Out
Dujon Sterling (Rangers)


Crystal Palace

Out
James McArthur (Released)
Luka Milivojevic (Released)


Everton

Out
Niels Nkounkou (Saint-Etienne)


Fulham

None


Liverpool

Out
Roberto Firmino (Released)
Naby Keita (Released)
James Milner (Released)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Released)


Luton Town

None


Manchester City

None


Manchester United

Out
Ethan Galbraith
Phil Jones (Released)


Newcastle United

None


Nottingham Forest

Out
Jack Colback (Released)
Will Swan (Mansfield Town)
Jordan Smith (Released)
Andre Ayew (Released)
Cafu (Released)
Jack Colback (Released)
Jesse Lingard (Released)
Jordan Smith (Released)
Lyle Taylor (Released)


Sheffield United

None


Tottenham Hotspur

Out
Lucas Moura (Released)


West Ham United

Out
Arthur Masuaku (Besiktas)


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Out
Jeong Sang-bin (Minnesota United)
Diego Costa (Released)
Joao Moutinho (Released)
Michael Agboola (Released)
Lee Harkin (Released)
Jack Hodnett (Released)
Luke Matheson (Released)
Taylor Perry (Released)
Jack Scott (Released)

Premier League 2023-24 season: Start date, teams, fixture release, how to watch live, odds

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An epic 2022-23 Premier League has only just finished but the 2023-24 Premier League is already fast approaching and there are plenty of key dates and information you need ahead of the new campaign.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

From Premier League fixture release date to the opening day of the season, how to watch the games and early odds for who will win it all, there is a lot going on.

Below is everything you need to know about the 2023-24 Premier League season.


When are the 2023-24 Premier League fixtures released?

The Premier League will announce the schedule for the new season on Thursday, June 15, 2023 at 4am ET.


When will the 2023-24 Premier League season kick off?

The opening day of the season will be on the weekend of Saturday August 12, 2023.


When is the final day of the 2023-24 Premier League season?

Championship Sunday will take place on Sunday, May 19, 2024, with all 10 games kicking off at the same time.


Where can I watch Premier League games in the USA?

You can watch all 380 games during the 2023-24 Premier League season across our NBC platforms. During the 2022-23 season you could watch games on USA Network and NBC, plus via Peacock Premium.


Will there be a winter break in the 2023-24 season?

Yes, there will! It has returned after the 2022 World Cup impacted the 2022-23 season. There will be a ‘mid-season player break’ of Premier League action from January 13-20.


Which teams will compete in the 2023-24 Premier League?

Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton, Burnley, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Luton Town, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers


Odds to win the 2023-24 Premier League title – (Betting odds provided by our partner, BetMGM )

BetMGM is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on BetMGM for the first time after clicking our links. 

Manchester City: -175
Manchester United: +800
Arsenal: +900
Liverpool: +900
Chelsea: +1200
Newcastle United: +1400
Tottenham: +4000
Brighton: +5000
Aston Villa: +12500
West Ham: +20000
Brentford: +25000
Crystal Palace: +25000
Nottingham Forest: +25000
Everton: +25000
Fulham: +30000
Wolves: +30000
Bournemouth: +30000
Burnley: +50000
Sheffield United: +50000
Luton Town: +50000


Premier League 2023-24 kits

And of course, a new season means new kits! We are ranking the new threads as they are released and you can see all of them right here.


Premier League Summer Series coming to USA in 2023: How to get tickets, watch live, schedule

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The inaugural Premier League Summer Series is heading to the USA in 2023 as teams will square off across multiple American cities in a brand new tournament.

And now you can start to purchase your tickets to the Summer Series.

[ MORE: Buy tickets for the Premier League Summer Series here ]

If you registered for early access you can purchase tickets on pre-sale on Tuesday, April 25 only, while tickets will be available on general sale on Wednesday, April 26 from 10am ET by clicking on the link above.

Six Premier League teams — Aston Villa, Brentford, Brighton, Chelsea, Fulham and Newcastle United — will be playing in nine games across five U.S. cities in July and it will be one heck of a summer party.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

And you can watch all of the action across our platforms here at NBC Sports.


Alan Shearer: ‘I love the passion of the fans’

The Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer Alan Shearer spoke to ProSoccerTalk (full interview above) about why this Stateside tournament is going to be special.

“It is fantastic news. I have been lucky enough to spend time with the guys at Premier League Mornings Live and be at seven of the eight Fan Fests that have happened and it is fascinating,” Shearer said. “I love the passion of the fans. I love the friendly rivalry. For them to get up at stupid o’clock and queue for hours and come in and watch their teams and mingle and all get together, I love it. To have six teams coming over to America in the summer, I think it is fantastic and something to look forward to.”

Created by the Premier League, the Summer Series will see games take place in Atlanta, Orlando, Harrison, NJ, Philadelphia and Landover, MD.

“I love how passionate the fans are,” Shearer said about Premier League fans in the USA. “They are obviously very knowledgeable. They obviously love their football very much. I understand it might not be the No. 1 sport in America but soccer is growing and it is growing really fast… The more events like this, the more times that we, the Premier League, come over to America and showcase the Premier League and the trophy at these organized events, it is only going to get bigger.”

“I think this will be the first of many,” Shearer added. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was going to happen every single season. It will be a great tournament and a chance to see some Premier League legends and huge football clubs.”


Aston Villa duo excited to experience the United States

Aston Villa and Brazil star Douglas Luiz, who was just named Villa’s Supporters’ Player and Players’ Player of the Season, is excited to play in front of fans in the USA, making the most of the hot weather and exploring the cities to learn more about their history.

“I am so happy. It is a good weather like it is in Brazil, I am so happy and excited to go to the US,” Luiz said. “It is a very good, very good people and I want to visit and I want to know so much more. I am so excited to go with Aston Villa and I want to enjoy seeing as much as I can.”

Aston Villa and Jamaica winger Leon Bailey is no stranger to playing Stateside and is looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere.

“I like the U.S. a lot, so I’m looking forward to a great time in the USA traveling to different States. It is a nice atmosphere, the people always come out in numbers and the support is brilliant. I’m really looking forward to it and I think it is going to be brilliant… I’ve been to LA, Houston, DC and Orlando, with the last Gold Cup most of our games [with Jamaica] were played in Orlando. It’s great and we always get time to explore. So it is nice and you are playing football and you enjoying it but you are enjoying it in a different in a city, which is great.”


Which teams are playing in the Summer Series?

The teams competing in the Premier League Summer Series in the USA in 2023 are:

Premier League

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is extremely excited about the league hosting their first-ever preseason tournament in the USA.

“We are delighted to be bringing six clubs to the USA in July for the first-ever Premier League Summer Series,” Masters said. “Our clubs have incredible supporters in the US, who passionately follow their teams throughout the season. We have seen this dedication first-hand from the tens of thousands who have attended our Mornings Live fan events and are excited to be building on this by bringing live Premier League action to five cities this summer.

“We are currently enjoying one of the most competitive Premier League seasons of all time at both ends of the table and I am sure we will see some thrilling matches during the tournament.”

Below are all the details you need on the the tournament.


Premier League Summer Series 2023 schedule, dates, how to watch live

Where: Atlanta, GA, Orlando, FL, Harrison, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Landover, MD
When: July 22-30
Tickets: Via the Premier League – April 25 (pre-sale), April 26 (general sale)
How to watch: Across the NBC Sports platforms, including Peacock

Saturday July 22

Match 1: Chelsea vs Brighton – 7pm ET at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia – WATCH LIVE ON PEACOCK

Sunday July 23

Match 2: Fulham vs Brentford – 4pm ET at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia – WATCH LIVE ON PEACOCK
Match 3: Newcastle vs Aston Villa – 7pm ET at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia – WATCH LIVE ON PEACOCK


 

Wednesday July 26

Match 4: Brentford vs Brighton – 5:30pm ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta – WATCH LIVE ON PEACOCK
Match 5: Chelsea vs Newcastle – 8:15pm ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta – WATCH LIVE ON PEACOCK
Match 6: Fulham vs Aston Villa – 7pm ET at Exploria Stadium, Orlando – WATCH LIVE ON PEACOCK


Friday July 28

Match 7: Brighton vs Newcastle – 7:30pm ET at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey – WATCH LIVE ON PEACOCK


Sunday July 30

Match 8: Aston Villa vs Brentford – 12pm ET at FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland – WATCH LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Match 9: Chelsea vs Fulham – 2:45pm ET at FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland – WATCH LIVE ON NBC