Heard and overheard at MLS Cup 2012

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Frank Lampard to the Galaxy? Not so much

Word from those who know say any media types still peddling the Frank Lampard to Galaxy story need to tap the brakes.

The Galaxy, says one source, has very little interest.

Kaka? Yes, for sure. AEG president Tim Leiweke is on the record about that one. But the Lampard thing seems to have grown a pair of false legs.

They clubs was, on the other hand, very interested earlier this year in Giovani dos Santos and Didier Drogba, the source said, as MLS held substantive talks with representatives of both.

The Galaxy was willing to go up to $9 million a year for Drogba … which just wasn’t going to trump the ridiculous $15 million he’s earning in China.

Josh Saunders out at Galaxy?

We all saw Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders more or less evaporate on the goal line Saturday as Calen Carr slammed the Houston Dynamo into the lead. It was hardly Saunders’ best moment, and it probably will drive home the final, proverbial nail. Word is that the Galaxy are finished with Saunders, who missed time this year while in the league’s substance abuse treatment program.

Word is that the Galaxy would really like to find a way to grab Dan Kennedy from down the Home Depot Center hall. Chivas USA’s besieged goalkeeper may not fit the new profile for the Goats. Or maybe he will – who really knows with that mess of a club? This much is certain: if the Galaxy could pull off this one, it would be a true coup. (And a pretty doggone good deal for Kennedy, too, who would fall break ties with the league’s wackiest, most unstable team for a spot with the two-time defending champs.)

“One … million … dollars”

We all raised eyebrows at the thought of Chris Wondolowski’s seemingly out-sized demands of $1 million.

Word is that it never happened. Not even close.

Wondolowski made $300,000 last year, certainly underpaid for a league MVP, and a record-setting one at that. But credit the man for more awareness; he may want to be a Designated Player, but he understands that he would be more in line with a Fredy Montero or Eric Hassli, DP forwards earning base salaries of somewhere north of $500,000.

(MORE: Will MLS add a little more Designated Player money?)

Bruce Arena showed up … where?

I have never quite decided if Bruce Arena loves to hate the media … or if he just enjoys poking the media bear, and also enjoys a good joust.

Either way, Arena has never seemed to embrace that part of the American soccer coaching experience. He never seems to relish speaking to the media (which isn’t hard to understand considering all of the silly questions the man has endured through the years, especially a few years back before the media world evolved into a better place for soccer.)

Any-whose, it was downright shocking to see Arena show up Thursday at a media happy hour. He was jovial and seemed quite happy to be there.

The Galaxy will be going somewhere … soon

The Los Angeles Galaxy will not be sitting still. Very soon – by the end of the week, perhaps – they will be off on another check-cashing tour to some far-flung land. Not that this is a shocker; the Galaxy have done the same over the last couple of years. The surprise is why the club seems ever intent on making it a surprise. Look for an announcement in the next couple of days.

Red Bulls looking to “buy domestic”

The Red Bulls are moving and grooving on the personnel front. As I mentioned before, that’s dangerous, because they don’t have a coach. When player personnel strokes flow against the coaching grain, chances of success can fall dramatically.

At least the new sheriffs in town around Red Bull Arena seem to recognize their area of weakness – which is a deeper knowledge of where to find domestic talent, and a solid understanding of the MLS player personnel nitty-gritty. Word is that they truly are determined to hire someone that fits the bill – so previous reports to that effect weren’t just talk or misdirection. That’s encouraging if you’re a Red Bulls fan, that this administration may not face the same long learning curve the last one did.

That could be an American coach, and American assistant or it could be in the creation of position in between the manager and GM Andy Roxburgh.

England squad reconnects with fans with image makeover

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VOLGOGRAD, England (AP) — Whatever happens to England at the World Cup, at least the reception facing the squad should be less brutal than it was in 2014 after its exit following the group stage.’

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

For once, the players can’t be accused of hiding away, retreating behind their headphones. The hallmark of England’s preparations for Russia has been shedding the past reticence to engage with the public, a calculated move by the team leadership to reconnect with a public disaffected by years of failure at tournaments and uninspiring performances.

“They appear more relaxed. They appear more normal,” supporter Gavin Hughes said, overlooking the Volgograd Arena where England opens its World Cup campaign against Tunisia on Monday. “They appear human. They are just lads playing football at the end of the day. That’s been the problem in the past. There’s more of a togetherness.”

A defining clip of the 2010 World Cup was Wayne Rooney bellowing down the barrel of a camera after a 0-0 draw with Algeria: “Nice to see your home fans booing you, that’s what loyal support is.”

That disconnect with the public has been bridged by the 23-man squad facing the media in a 45-minute, Super Bowl-style session before leaving for Russia. The English Football Association’s approach is in a marked contrast to club duty where they are largely closeted away, save for appearances with paying broadcasters or often in controlled appearances.

[ MORE: Where to watch Monday’s games, feat. England and Belgium ]

“We’ve done a lot for the fans on social media so they can see what we are up to, which has not always been the case,” captain Harry Kane said Sunday. “It’s important while we have free time is to try to let the fans know what we are up to.”

The public is seeing a new side of the players. Not only are they more relatable but painted in a more sympathetic light, beyond the caricatures of millionaire mercenaries just chasing more money.

“That connection with the supporters is really important,” coach Gareth Southgate said. “There have been perceptions about our players for a long time … so it’s been really good for our public to see how much it means to the players to play, to see a different side of their personality.”

In a move unthinkable in years gone by, when a since-departed FA official blocked Rooney talking about his Christianity, defender Danny Rose recently opened up on his problems dealing with depression. Publicly praised by Prince William for raising awareness of health issues, Rose realizes how players can use their new platform to show their human side and inspire others.

“A lot of people messaged me to say thank you, that they know someone who is going through this or has been through that and that I’ve helped them and given them the confidence to express themselves,” Rose said. “We have a lot of down time and I’m going to think of something to help others when I get back. I’ve got time to think while I’m here and when I get back from the World Cup about how I can go forward and help people.”

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

It’s not just about the players feeding a voracious traveling media pack with material. Kieran Trippier, who is also Rose’s club teammate at Tottenham, told the left back he appeared no longer burdened by a private plight in England’s last World Cup warm-up game.

“I was playing with a bit of freedom,” Rose said of the victory against Costa Rica. “I think he’s got a point.”

Southgate is credited with encouraging the warmer environment, far removed from the controlling regimes under Fabio Capello and Gary Neville, who was Roy Hodgson’s assistant for the dismal 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship last-16 humbling to Iceland. A bemusing, running theme in the British papers at Euro 2016 in France was the players’ refusal to divulge any details of a darts tournament. The squad has been overhauled by Southgate and it has even been playing darts with the media at the World Cup base near St. Petersburg.

Southgate has been playing his part, going to fan forums in the buildup to the tournament to recognize the commitment and cost involved watching England abroad.

“Sometimes those really good people who follow us are overlooked at the expense of some who have caused problems in the past,” Southgate said.

Ultimately, results dictate the public mood and England hasn’t won a knockout game at any tournament since 2006.

“It’s about how we perform,” Southgate said, “but there’s a bigger picture.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 5 — England, Belgium enter the fray

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The weekend might be all but over, but that doesn’t mean that 2018 World Cup action is slowing down anytime soon.

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Monday, in fact, will be quite the opposite, as Group G giants — and a pair of popular dark horse picks — Belgium and England make their debut in Russia, taking on Panama and Tunisia, respectively.

Following Germany’s 1-0 loss to Mexico on Sunday, Group F is currently turned upside down on its head. Sweden and South Korea, who’ll face off in the day’s opener, are even more hopeful now than prior to the start of the tournament.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 18

Group F
Sweden vs. South Korea: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Panama: Sochi, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Tunisia vs. England: Volgograd, 2 p.m. ET –LIVE COVERAGE

Petkovic: Time to “take Switzerland seriously” after Brazil draw

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While much of the talk about Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Brazil and Switzerland will focus on the former, the Swiss would like their share of credit for frustrating — and matching — one of a handful of favorites to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic is chief among those who believe it’s time those on the outside “start taking notice of us and taking us seriously.” As for the insinuations that his side roughed up Neymar, who suffered 10 of the 19 fouls committed by Switzerland, most of them were “very clean” — quotes from the BBC:

“Sometimes if there is a lack of recognition that is a pity because we have played very well. We showed and demonstrated that this team always believes in itself and can achieve results.

“Most of the duels (with Neymar) were won in a very clean way. It was one of the key ingredients to neutralize Neymar.”

“I’m very proud and pleased with the discipline with the way we played. We worked collectively and cohesively.”

“When we are able to play forward and press higher up we were able to do it well and it is an excellent starting position for the rest of our group matches.

“We had real difficulties in the first 40 minutes, I said ‘let’s remain calm, focused and believe in ourselves, push up higher up the pitch and create opportunities to score.'”

Having secured a point in far and away their toughest group game, Switzerland now have eminently winnable games against Serbia (Friday) and Costa Rica (Wednesday, June 27) remaining. Four points from those two games would just about guarantee progression to the knockout rounds.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 2

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Layla Anna-Lee has a new show and, well, it’s unbiased. At least occasionally…

In the second episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Layla Anna-Lee looks at the best moments from the first set of matches in the 2018 World Cup.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.