(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)
Next up in our peak around the MLS landscape are the Philadelphia Union. The third-year expansion franchise — can we really call it an expansion club anymore? — didn’t have a strong 2012 but has plenty of pieces to compete this season. John Hackworth will have a full year to earn his keep after taking over for Petr Nowak midway through last year’s campaign. The big question: Can he combine the wily veterans with a growing crop of talented youngsters to make a push for the playoffs? The answer to these three questions will help us decide.
- Can Jack Mac dominate?
The forward, who turns 21 on August 5, is coming off a kind of, sorta breakout season in 2012. After starting just five matches in 2011, he made the opening XI 18 times, netting eight goals. McInerney is one of the most natural finishers in the league, a talent not shared by too many young Americans. He is young, but entering his fourth season in MLS and could be primed to truly make an impact on every game he plays. The Union, who finished ninth in the Eastern Conference in goals scored, desperately need him to hit for a dozen or more.
- What to do about Freddy Adu?
We know one thing: The teen prodigy-turned-flameout won’t be playing for Hackworth. The coach said as much in his honest, infamous open letter to fans, saying Adu was “not part of our plans going forward.” Hackworth did not spell out those plans — nor does he have to — but it’s clear that the midfielder will find himself elsewhere or sitting out the season entirely. From a playing perspective, Adu’s final destination does not matter as the Union have enough talent to compete without him, but they are hamstrung by his salary. It would be better to be rid of him sooner rather than later, even if that means taking on a portion of that DP fee.
- Are they ready for “the Leap”?
In 2010, the Union got their bearings. In 2011, they surprised the league and made the playoffs. In 2012, they struggled under Nowak, then managed to find some stability with Hackworth but still finished in eighth in the Easter Conference. Anything could happen in year four. It’s doubtful that they will be one of the top teams in the conference, but a good year could see them compete for a playoff spot. If a few players can improve, the entire squad could follow. A lot of ifs, however.
Step back in 2012 after a strong 2011
MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:
Up Next: Portland Timbers
Despite a late scare, dominant Brighton and Hove Albion put an end to Frank Lampard‘s run in the FA Cup with a 2-1 defeat of Derby County at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.
Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia scored in the final dozen minutes of the first half for the Seagulls, who will learn their quarterfinal foe on Monday.
[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]
Substitute Ashley Cole scored in the 80th minute for the Rams, who were heavily outshot in the match.
It was Cole’s first goal in England since 2012, when he bagged a Premier League marker for Chelsea against Stoke City.
Locadia was injured just before the Seagulls conceded, and looked to be in considerable pain with an ankle injury.
American attacker Duane Holmes started up top for Derby but was subbed after 45 minutes. The 24-year-old Columbus-born man has become a regular starter under Lampard.
The 20th Anniversary of Manchester United’s treble, to the day, will see Sir Alex Ferguson managing the club.
This, of course, is for a single night only, as the Red Devils celebrate their 1999 treble with a testimonial of sorts against Bayern Munich, who it beat 2-1 to win the Champions League on May 26, 1999.
[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]
“I’m really looking forward to what will be a special day at Old Trafford. It will be great to catch up with some familiar faces and a great opportunity to support the work of Manchester United Foundation,” Ferguson said.
Players for the game are not confirmed but imagine the possibilities: Peter Schmeichel was across the field from Oliver Kahn. Lothar Matthaus had to deal with Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, and the Neville brothers started or were in the 18.
Keep in mind that Solskjaer scored the winner for Ferguson’s United that day at the Camp Nou, as the Red Devils scored twice in stoppage time for a remarkable comeback win.
A pair of Premier League team attempt to dodge upset bids with varying degrees of likelihood, while one of the guaranteed lower league quarterfinal berths will also be clinched during Saturday’s FA Cup action
Brighton and Hove Albion opens the day hoping to outlast Frank Lampard-led Derby County at the Amex Stadium.
[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]
The other Premier League side, Man City, visits League Two side Newport County. Pep Guardiola is wary of the side’s physicality, but an upset is the longest of long shots.
Sandwiched in the middle is Millwall’s visit to AFC Wimbledon, the League One hosts hoping to continue the magic that helped them knock off the visitors’ rivals: West Ham United of the Premier League.
FA Cup Saturday
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Derby County — 7:30 am. ET
AFC Wimbledon v. Millwall — 10 a.m. ET
Newport County v. Man City — 12:30 p.m. ET
Rogelio Funes Mori is healthy again for Monterrey, and that’s a big reason why they lead the Clausura standings.
The 27-year-old Argentinian striker is in great form this Clausura after missing a significant portion of the Apertura with injuries. He had five goals in six Clausura matches coming into Friday night’s match with 16th-placed Monarcas Morelia.
He now has six goals, and his last one was an absolute stunner.
Funes Mori stole the ball off Aldo Rocha’s sloppy touch, looked up, and noticed Monarcas goalkeeper Sebastian Sosa just a hair out of his net. That was all the space he needed, letting loose from at least 35 yards out and producing an absolutely stunning finish that Sosa barely even had time to back up and give a stretch. Just like that, Monterrey went ahead.
Unfortunately for Monterrey, they gave up an equalizer less than a minute later as the left flank of the Monterrey defense saw their controller batteries die, allowing Edison Flores to snag a loose ball behind the lollygagging defenders and fire a low shot past Marcelo Barovero to level the score. The game ended 3-2 to Monterrey as Funes Mori would score a 78th minute equalizer and then the visitors won in stoppage time.
Still, win, lose, or draw, that strike by Funes Mori is something to behold. On the same day that a French top flight player unleashed from nearly halfway, Liga MX has a goal of the same caliber.