MLS exit interviews: Waving goodbye to 9 teams (one forever); how did they do in 2014?

3 Comments

After Chivas USA’s permanent exit from Major League Soccer was confirmed on Monday, this feature has taken a whole new twist.

With Chivas’ time in MLS up forever, as the team will be relaunched and rebranded in LA in 2017, we say goodbye to the Goats as they misses the playoffs for a fifth-straight season in 2014.

Seven other MLS franchises are also done, but just for this season, as we take a quick glance at the teams who didn’t make the 2014 postseason.

Here are PST’s exit interviews. 

WEST

Portland Timbers

Final position: 6th
Points out of the playoffs: 1
Record: 12-9-13
Verdict: A porous defense, a shocking start and damaging injuries proved to be too much for Caleb Porter’s men to handle. Even the midseason arrival of center back and DP Liam Ridgewell couldn’t halt the issues. The defending Western Conference champions stumbled time and time again just when it looked like they were back on track and crashed out of the CCL too. Disappointing season in the Rose City.

Chivas USA

Final position: 7th
Points out of the playoffs: 17
Record: 9-19-6
Verdict: Well, what do we say? It’s all over for the Goats after 10 years in MLS. Great times and playoff runs under Bob Bradley and Preki have given way to scandal, distress and pain for fans of LA’s second team over the past five years. A new team will rise in downtown LA in their place, as Chivas USA are no more. Winning 1-0 in their final game of the franchise shot them up to 7th in the West and gave their long-suffering fans one last thing to celebrate before the lights were turned off for the final time.

Colorado Rapids

Final position: 8th
Points out of the playoffs: 18
Record: 8-18-8
Verdict: After Oscar Pareja jumped ship over the offseason it was always going to be hard to rebuild and rookie coach Pablo Mastroeni has found it very hard in Commerce City, Col. Injuries weren’t kind to the Rapids, but they didn’t exactly help themselves with several heavy defeats along the way. The league’s worst defense conceded 62 goals. Plenty of work to do up in the Rocky Mountains.

San Jose Earthquakes

Final position: 9th
Points out of the playoffs: 7
Record: 10-12-12
Verdict: The second worst season in MLS history for San Jose (ouch) as they begin a brave new era in their new stadium in 2015. Dominic Kinnear will return to coach them after leaving Houston, as Mark Watson struggled massively in his first full season in charge. The ‘Quakes suffered a record breaking 15-game winless streak. Losing Chris Wondolwoski and Victor Bernandez during the World Cup hit them hard and both players looked exhausted after returning from Brazil.

source: AP
A terrible year in Toronto after so much promise.

EAST

Philadelphia Union

Final position: 6th
Points out of the playoffs: 7
Record: 10-12-12
Verdict: An up and down year for the Union who parted company with John Hackworth. They made the Open Cup final but lost to the Seattle Sounders on home soil in over time. Heartbreaker. That loss seemed to carry over to the final months of MLS, as interim boss Jim Curtin saw his side slip out of the playoff race with damaging defeats late in the season after they led the way. Not bad, not great, would be the assessment.

Toronto FC

Final position: 7th
Points out of the playoffs: 8
Record: 11-15-8
Verdict: Where do we start? What a mess. A public spat between young GM Tim Bezbatchenko and head coach Ryan Nelsen led to the latter losing his job in August, then Jermain Defoe looked to be on his way back to the Premier League after falling out with CEO Tim Lieweke but is sticking around… for now. Defoe and Bradley suffered injuries and TFC’s form took a nosedive towards the end of the season with Greg Vanney stepping in. Eight-straight seasons without a playoff appearances for the Reds. Who will clean this mess up?

Houston Dynamo

Final position: 8th
Points out of the playoffs: 10
Record: 11-17-6
Verdict: A poor season for Houston as Dominic Kinnear moves on to San Jose after being the only coach in Dynamo history. Having the worst defensive record in MLS is very “un-Houston” and the new man who comes in will have to rectify that. Big changes at BBVA on the horizon after a forgetful season in Texas. At least they will be in the Western Conference next season and get three games vs. FC Dallas.

Chicago Fire

Final position: 9th
Points out of the playoffs: 13
Record: 6-10-18
Verdict: Ah, the draw specialists. Frank Yallop’s men showed plenty of promise early in the season as rookie Harry Shipp tore teams apart. Losing reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee to injury hit the Fire hard and they never recovered. All in all, a poor season. Will Yallop be around next year?

Montreal Impact

Final position: 10th
Points out of the playoffs: 21
Record: 6-18-10
Verdict: The Frank Klopas experiment has so far been a bit of a nightmare at Stade Saputo. The Impact put up the lowest points tally in MLS and wholesale changes are needed to move the Black and Blue back in the right direction. It took them eight games to get a win in 2014 and losing veterans Davy Arnaud and Alessandro Nesta hit them hard. Work to do in Quebec.

Champions League: PSG ruin Atalanta fairytale with stoppage-time comeback

Champions League PSG
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Atalanta were within five minutes of knocking off PSG and reaching the Champions League semifinals, but those final five minutes were to be played after the proverbial midnight, and their carriage turned to a rotten pumpkin so very close to the final whistle.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

Paris Saint-Germain’s stoppage-time comeback brought about the harsh end to a fairytale run which had captured the hearts and minds of neutral fans the world over.

The three-time reigning Ligue 1 champions were quickest out of the starting blocks and jumped all over Atalanta with a flurry of early chances. They were, however, wasteful to an alarming degree — none more egregious and disappointing than Neymar’s one-on-one chance in the third minute.

Atalanta treaded water in those opening 25 minutes before hitting PSG with a blindside haymaker in the 26th. With three defenders surrounding — and winning — the ball atop their own penalty area, PSG were a bit unlucky to see it pinball into a patch of open space where Mario Pasalic was lurking completely unmarked. He still had plenty to do, though, and he left no doubt whatsoever with the left-footed finish.

Unfortunately for Neymar and PSG, his earlier blunder wasn’t his only shocking moment of the game. On most any other day, he scores one or two — maybe even all three — of these chances. It wasn’t his day, clearly.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Kylian Mbappe (ankle) was introduced as a substitute right on the hour mark, and the 21-year-old instantly threatened and gave PSG energy and life. His first great scoring chance — and PSG’s best chance since Neymar’s early miss — came in the 74th minute, but Marco Sportiello was up to the task of denying one of the world’s most expensive signing.

Six minutes later, it was the exact same story.

Finally, with 89:35 on the clock, Marquinhos broke through Atalanta’s stout defense and drew level. It was anything but pretty, which made it all the more painful for Atalanta.

Two minuets after drawing level, Mbappe teed up Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for the close-range winner that PSG largely deserved on the whole of their dominant performance.

Up next for Thomas Tuchel’s side is a semifinal clash with the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig.

Thiago to Liverpool: Bayern boss urges Premier League move

Thiago to Liverpool
Photo by A. Hassenstein/Getty Images for FC Bayern
Leave a comment

Thiago-to-Liverpool gaining momentum: Bayern munich manager Hansi Flick has taken the unexpected step of not only endorsing, but seemingly urging, Thiago Alcantara’s rumored transfer to Premier League champions Liverpool this summer.

[ MORE: Paul Pogba contract talks to begin after Man United season ends ]

Contract negotiations have stalled and perhaps reached an impasse with just 12 months remaining on Thiago’s contract, therefore the logical expectation is that he will leave the club in the coming weeks. Flick is fully understand, and accepting, of the situation — both from the standpoint of the club and that of the player — quotes from the Metro:

“As a person and as an athlete, I can understand him. Thiago played for Barcelona, and seven years for Bayern. Now he wants a new challenge, which in my opinion must be the Premier League.”

It has previously been reported that Liverpool had agreed personal terms with Thiago, but the two clubs are yet to agree a transfer fee as of yet.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Promes to Arsenal ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright, on how Thiago-to-Liverpool might look on the field, from last week:

The deep-lying playmaker is a totally different central midfielder to what Liverpool currently have as Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all hard-working more defensive minded players. And then there’s Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who provide a bit more attacking intent with forward runs from central midfield.

Thiago Alcantara would help Liverpool control games better when opponents sit back and don’t allow them space to operate in-behind. He is a silky pass-master who is wanted by PSG, Liverpool, Manchester United and others, but it appears he will be heading to Anfield to give Liverpool a totally new dimension to their play. If this happens, it will make an already strong Liverpool side stronger.

Pogba contract talks to begin after season ends

Pogba contract
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pogba contract update: For all the talk of Paul Pogba leaving Manchester United this summer, last summer and the summer before that one, the 27-year-old midfielder now appears ready to commit to the Red Devils for the foreseeable future.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Promes to Arsenal ]

According to a report from Sky Sports, not only is Pogba happy at Man United these days, but he also expects negotiations over a new contract to begin after the club’s Europa League run ends. United are set to face Sevilla in the quarterfinals on Sunday, with the final looming large next Friday, Aug. 21.

“Pogba is happy at United and he’s expecting them to open contract talks once their Europa League campaign is over.

“His current deal runs out next summer but United always insert this year option so they don’t get caught out with free transfers.

“It should be said United are in a better position to negotiate with Pogba and the returning Dean Henderson, as it stands from Sheffield United, following the departure of Alexis Sanchez and all of the money his wages have now freed.

“There appears to be a willingness from all parties to get around the table as far as Pogba is concerned.”

The part of the report referring to Sanchez’s now-offloaded contract is of the utmost importance. Not only was the transfer itself — and the Chilean’s time at Old Trafford — an incredible flop, but his massive (reported) $500,000-per-week contract was a huge obstacle for the club when it came time to sign new players and/or negotiate new contracts with players already at the club.

[ MORE: Ranking new Premier League kits: 2020-21 ]

It’s not just the Pogba contract which needs resolving in the coming months, but budding superstar Mason Greenwood is almost certain to get another pay rise following his standout performances over the second half of the 2019-20 season. The 18-year-old signed a new contract back in October, but he will likely be rewarded — and locked down — with the longest possible terms as United move to fend off any interest from other clubs in the Premier League and around Europe. Without the Sanchez money off the books, taking care of such business would have been that much more difficult.

Key battles in Champions League quarterfinals

Champions League quarterfinals
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take center stage this week and we’re going to select one key battle which should determine the outcome of all four games.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

With Manchester City the favorites against Lyon, a massive clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, plus intriguing ties between Atalanta and PSG, plus RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid, the final few games in the 2019-20 Champions League campaign will be so tight to call.

[ MORE: Man City beat Real Madrid ]

In the next few days the Champions League quarterfinals will excite as the mini tournament in Portugal begins.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate to reach the last eight and Pep Guardiola’s boys will be confident but wary after Lyon dumped out Juventus in the Round of 16. Bayern v. Barcelona should be all-out attack, while Atletico v. Leipzig will be full of grit and Atalanta and PSG could end up 6-5 to either team as two free-flowing attacks collide.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, and there will be one heck of a show over the next few days.

Below is a look at the key battles, as well as how to watch and follow all of the Champions League quarterfinal fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League quarterfinals

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Key battles

Atalanta – PSG: Marten de Roon v. Ander Herrera

Yes, that Marten de Roon from Middlesbrough. The Dutch midfielder has been a sensation at Atalanta and does most of the dirty work for Gomez, Zapata et al. to score boat loads of goals. His battle in the engine room against Ander Herrera will be crucial. Marco Verratti is out injured and that is a big blow, especially with Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria out too for PSG. Neymar and Icardi will be looking for the midfield to give them the ball as much as possible and if that happens, PSG could run riot. That said, if De Roon can win that battle with Herrera, Atalanta’s attackers can cause PSG’s defense big problems. Whoever wins the midfield battle will win this game. It should be tight and full of goals. Enjoy.

RB Leipzig – Atletico Madrid: Dayot Upamecano v.Diego Costa

This should be an epic head-to-head. Costa loves the one-on-one scraps and Upamecano is among the finest center backs in Europe right now. The young Frenchman doesn’t get bullied often but Costa will have a good go. Costa has hardly been prolific in his second spell at Atletico but he so often sets the tone for their scrappy displays under Diego Simeone. Leipzig like to play a back three at times and that could leave space for Costa to run at Upamecano. This will be intriguing. Watch out for Costa to put down his marker early on with elbows and everything else flying at Upamecano.

Barcelona – Bayern Munich: Lionel Messi v. David Alaba

Barcelona - Bayern
Getty Images

Okay, so, we know how Jerome Boateng v. Lionel Messi went before. Somewhere, somebody is still using that gif of Boateng tangling his own legs like spaghetti as Messi bamboozled him to score at the Nou Camp. So it’s probably best if versatile Austrian star David Alaba goes up against Messi. It’s likely that Alaba will play at the back but he should basically mark Messi, and when (or if, because this is Messi) he gets the ball back he has the quality to start attacks. Bayern and Barcelona both score plenty of goals but defensively they have to improve if they’re going to win the Champions League this season.

Manchester City – Lyon: Aymeric Laporte v. Memphis Depay

Everyone is tipping Man City to beat Lyon easily, but that’s what everyone said about Lyon against Juventus. Memphis Depay is a real threat up top and Lyon usually do very well against Man City. Pep Guardiola needs Aymeric Laporte to be at his very best and it is likely he and Fernandinho will again line up together at center back. Laporte will line up on the left and Memphis will start on the right side of Lyon’s central strikers, so this will be a battle to look out for. Laporte has class but his pace is sometimes questioned and if City leave him exposed on the break, Memphis can take advantage of those situations.