Paolo Di Canio fired by Sunderland: Favorites, and whither Jozy Altidore

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Paolo Di Canio was only in charge of Sunderland for six months, two-and-a-half of which featured no competitive action. That may lead some to hint he wasn’t given enough time, a conclusion precludes the possibility of somebody quickly showing he wasn’t right for the job.

While Di Canio kept Sunderland in the Premier League last year, he only took eight points from seven games. After his offseason changes and slow start to this year’s Premier League, there was no evidence beyond hope that he would be a success with Sunderland.

Whether Ellis Short and Margaret Byrne made the right move, however, will be dictated by Di Canio’s successor. There is no point getting rid of a head coach if his replacement doesn’t improve the club, so if Sunderland were to go out and sign, say, Richard Farley, the Di Canio departure all of a sudden looks rash.

Thankfully for Short and Byrne, there appears to be a wealth of candidates to be wooed. From The Guardian:

Ellis Short, Sunderland’s American owner, is expected to move swiftly with Robert Di Matteo, the former Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion manager, and Gus Poyet, until recently in charge of Brighton, among the favourites. Roberto Mancini, out of work after leaving Manchester City, has previously expressed interest in the job but would probably be beyond Sunderland’s budget. Meanwhile Steve McClaren, currently helping Harry Redknapp coach QPR, is probably an outsider.

All of those men would be an improvement on Di Canio, but the question is whether Short can lure any of them north. That’s part of the reason the timing of this move was so crucial. If Sunderland  continued dropping points, it would have been more difficult to convince a quality boss to board a sinking ship. Five matches into the season, there’s still time to turn things around.

Whomever Short tabs will be responsible for answering the question on many American soccer fans’ minds: What does this mean for Jozy Altidore? The U.S.’s first choice number nine was relegated to the bench on Saturday, with Di Canio electing to start Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini. With Fletcher separating his shoulder at The Hawthorns, Altidore looked set to resume a first-choice spot, but if the new boss goes to a one-front, Fletcher, Altidore, and Borini will be fighting for one spot. Those wouldn’t be good odds for a man who started this weekend on the bench, and even if the new coach persists with a two-forward set, does Altidore beat-out one of the other two? You’d think so, but every man sees their players differently.

Ten months out from the World Cup, Altidore and the U.S. will be particularly interested in whom Short tab to succeed Di Canio. Given the options, however, Sunderland almost certainly made the right move.

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.