MLS weekend preview: Sounders meet Galaxy again, Caps and Timbers jostle for playoff spot

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It’s the last weekend of MLS regular season, and the playoff picture is almost complete. All five postseason spots in each conference have been clinched, except for fifth place in the West. The Vancouver Whitecaps will try to save that spot, and the Portland Timbers, only a point behind the Caps, will attempt to surpass Caleb Porter’s side.

Here’s a quick preview of each match.

Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo: Both teams are out of the playoffs, so there are zero postseason implications. But it will definitely be interesting to see how these two teams close out the season. Houston and Chicago both regressed from a year ago, with encouraging play coming from young Fire midfielder Harry Shipp and the Dynamo’s 26-year-old goalkeeper Tyler Deric. It will be Dominic Kinnear’s last game after eight years as Houston’s manager.

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy: Two of Major League Soccer’s best teams with some of the best attackers in the league will continue their showdown on Saturday. Last week, the Galaxy gained a 2-0 lead at the StubHub Center, but Dempsey and Co. stormed back to salvage a 2-2 draw. The Supporter Shield is at stake, though for unbiased viewers, interest will arise from watching Clint Dempsey combine with Obafemi Martins for Seattle, or the wizardry of Robbie Keane and burgeoning talent of Gyasi Zardes on LA.

Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United: The East’s first-place squad, D.C. United, will face the conference’s last-place team, the Montreal Impact, in what will be Marco Di Vaio’s last competition for the Impact prior to his retirement at the end of the year. United never has any tricks up their sleeve; they just play fundamentally-sound soccer, and they should extend their unbeaten run to six matches.

New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC: A very disheartening season (missing the playoffs) for Toronto took place following their signings of two marquee Designated Players—U.S. international Michael Bradley and former Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe. On the other side, the Revolution will make the playoffs for the second-straight year, and the combination of MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones, a mid-year acquisition,  have propelled the Revs to second place in the Eastern Conference.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers: The Timbers have a lot more at stake in this scenario than the Toros do, as Portland sits in tight contention for the West’s last playoff position. If they grab three points on the road, Vancouver must draw or lose to keep the MLS Cup dream of Porter and Co. alive. Nevertheless, the magnificent performances of Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo have bolstered Dallas’ attack and carried the squad to the playoffs on the heels of a weak 2013 campaign. Diego Valeri has been a key component to the Timbers, and his play will certainly help decide the result.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids: Vancouver’s wealth of attacking players hasn’t made the biggest of impacts this season, but the Canadian crew has managed a four-game unbeaten run that has guided it into strong playoff contention. The Rapids, meanwhile, haven’t won since July, and having one of the worst statistical defenses in MLS moved Colorado in the wrong direction. Deshorn Brown, who leads the Rapids in goals with 10 scores, has been the only player to supplement their offensive end.

Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union: The Union beat the reigning champion Sporting Kansas City last week, 2-1, but that victory wasn’t enough to keep them in the race for fifth place in the East. With interim manager Jim Curtin supposedly staying in Philly for the long run, there won’t be any efforts from players to retain his job. Columbus is secure for the playoffs, and has lost only two our of their past eight competitions. For purely the spectacle, let’s hope Federico Higuain buries a well-taken free kick for the Crew.

Chivas USA vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Chivas and San Jose just didn’t have the magic this season, and we’ve come to expect the poor record from the Goats. In 2013, however, the Quakes almost slid into the playoffs. Chris Wondolowski has scored more goals this season, too, but his supporting cast hasn’t contribute much on the attacking side. The same goes for Chivas. Erick Torres is surely a top striker in MLS, but once he stopped putting the ball in the net, he had no secondary support in addition to a dreadful defense.

Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls: To cap off the series of MLS contests this weekend, Sporting KC will enjoy home-field advantage when the Red Bulls, coming off a tough 3-1 defeat to the Crew last weekend. All eyes will examine Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips, as the dynamic duo is set to face the strongest defense in league anchored by U.S. center back Matt Besler. Dominic Dwyer will look to overshadow the Red Bulls’ stars and snag a win that prevent the Red Bulls from overtaking KC in the standings.

Everton must think bigger than retread replacement for Silva

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Marco Silva is out as Everton manager, the Toffees turning the page on a disappointing execution of their ambitious vision.

Despite plenty of investment, Silva’s Everton wasn’t able to do much of anything good and now sits in the Premier League’s Bottom Three after 15 match days.

[ MORE: Everton sacks Silva ]

Silva’s men finished eighth in the league during his first season, but the best he can say about his truncated sophomore campaign is that the club are into the League Cup quarterfinals.

So what will Everton do now? Well, Duncan Ferguson is in charge for the Toffees’ Saturday visit from Chelsea, though the club has vowed to “swiftly” find their next full-time boss.

Frankly, the club could do its next man a favor by taking its time, as the post-Chelsea fixtures are Manchester United, Leicester City in the aforementioned cup fixture, and Arsenal.

Back on topic, what the Toffees should do is appoint a man with vision. While it would be tempting to slide into the comfortable slippers that are David Moyes, appointing him or some Sam Allardyce or Mark Hughes type would be another step in the wrong direction.

That’s because this is truly an opportunity for the right coach to take the club in a tremendous direction. Everton might be in the drop zone, but its talent is a mile ahead of true relegation candidacy.

Whoever is hired — and this is why Big Sam is probably holding aloft a boombox outside Goodison Park — is going to “save the Toffees” and earn another season at the helm. Allowing that to be some retread would be a mistake.

Rafa Benitez isn’t going to come to Goodison Park because of his relationship with Liverpool, but a a manager of his ilk should very much be in play. The Toffees boast a still-improving star forward in Richarlison and two proper fullbacks in Lucas Digne and Djibril Sidibe.

Richarlison is 22. Alex Iwobi is 23. Defenders Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate, and Michael Keane are all under 26. A manager who can develop and fine tune talent will have a field day with this rostyer.

Their 9.1 shots allowed per game is a figure bettered by only Man City and Chelsea. The side has been prone to allowing those shots to be dangerous ones, but there’s every reason to believe that fixing their fourth-worst goals conceded total should happen soon given some adequate goalkeeping performances.

Jordan Pickford is England’s No. 1, but hasn’t been right for the Toffees. Logically, he’ll get back to at least average and start stealing some points. The goals are going to keep coming, and likely increase with the wins; Everton is eighth in the xG table.

The Premier League is better when Everton is a good side. The Toffees are not going to be relegated this season, and need to approach that hiring with that mindset. Get someone worth believing in, not just blind hope and a nod to the past.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Brighton, Sheffield Utd v. Newcastle

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Matchweek 15 of the 2019-20 Premier League season wraps up on Thursday, with two more midweek clashes featuring two mid-table sides, and two more from much nearer to the relegation zone, in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

First up, PL new boys (and 9th-place side) Sheffield United will host 14th-place Newcastle United, who sit just two points outside the relegation zone ahead of kickoff. 45 minutes later, 10th-place Arsenal will host 16th-place Brighton & Hove Albion in Freddie Ljungberg’s first home game as Arsenal interim manager.

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The schedule for Thursday’s two games is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


2:30 p.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Newcastle United [STREAM]
3:15 p.m. ET: Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion [STREAM]

Marco Silva fired by Everton

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Marco Silva has been fired as manager of Everton, making him the fourth Premier League manager to lose his job in the last 16 days.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Silva reported for a regular day’s work at Everton’s training ground on Thursday, a day after suffering a 5-2 defeat to local rivals Liverpool, all while a conference call was expected to take place involving the relevant figures: owner Farhad Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenright, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale and director of football Marcel Brands.

15 games into the 2019-20 PL season, the Toffees currently sit 18th in the league table with less than a point per game — relegation territory — on the back of three straight losses and just four wins all season. Silva’s only victory since mid-October came against fellow bottom-four side Southampton nearly a month ago.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

It’s not just the number of losses for Everton (now up to nine) on the season thus far, but many of the sides to which they’ve lost (newly promoted Aston Villa, 12th-place Bournemouth, newly promoted Sheffield United, 11th-place Burnley, 16th-place Brighton & Hove Albion and 19th-place Norwich, to name a few) that forced them further and further down the table and made relegation a semi-serious threat, at least for the time being.

Atleti escapes major punishment for fans’ Griezmann threats

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MADRID — Atletico Madrid escaped major punishment Wednesday after its fans made threatening chants against former player Antoine Griezmann during last weekend’s La Liga match against Barcelona.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

The Spanish league had denounced the club after some fans chanted “Die Griezmann” in Sunday’s match, won by Barcelona at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

The Spanish soccer federation said it would fine Atletico $333 because the game was disrupted, but it did not cite the chants against Griezmann. The fine was prompted mainly because fans threw objects — including an umbrella — onto the field.

The Spanish league had denounced the club to the federation’s anti-violence committee, saying about 2,000 fans from Atletico’s “ultras” section made the chants for about 20 seconds before the start of the second half, and again later in the game.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Griezmann left Atletico for Barcelona at the end of last season in a transfer worth more than $132 million.

The France forward was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball at the Metropolitano on Sunday. It was his first match at Atletico’s stadium since leaving the club.