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MLS exit interviews: Bidding adieu to four Eastern Conference sides


New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Orlando City, we hardly knew ye.

That’s cool, because we’ll meet again in a few short months. Two expansion clubs and two big markets missed the postseason in 2015.

Let’s delve into the why’s, the how’s, and the “Is it acceptables?”.

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

Orlando City SC

Final position: 7th
Points out of the playoffs: 5
Record: 12-14-8
Verdict: MLS is a learning process, and the Lions figured out the league a bit too late for this season’s postseason (See: Two different 9-plus game stretches with just one win). A five-match win streak toward the end of the season saw the club beat playoff sides Montreal, New York Red Bulls and Sporting KC. Kaka and Aurelien Collin both lived up to expectations.

The big question moving forward: Cyle Larin was a revelation as No. 1 overall pick, shattering rookie scoring records, but will the Canadian wonder want to try his hand abroad? Interest is there.

New York City FC

Final position: 8th
Points out of the playoffs: 12
Record: 10-17-7
Verdict: The club’s power trio of Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa acknowledge that a preseason together would’ve saved the club’s season, but that’s probably a bit too humble. Just having Lampard and Pirlo with Villa, who was there all season, would’ve done the trick. NYC started the season 1-7-5. Once June hit, they went 9-10-2. That’s not a big win, but protracted over a season it’s about 47 points.

And maybe that preseason pops it up a few points, or one of those early losses to Chicago or Philly flips into a win. An offseason’s adaptation for the big three and the underperforming Mix Diskerud, plus continued growth for Kwadwo Poku and some defensive additions could and should make this team a true contender (And what about a healthy, older Khiry Shelton?). That’s not even considering more Manchester City loan options like Angelino and Shay Facey. Disappointing season? Very much so, but the sky (blue) is not falling.

C.J. Sapong, Tranquillo Barnetta
C.J. Sapong, Tranquillo Barnetta

Philadelphia Union

Final position: 9th
Points out of the playoffs: 12
Record: 10-17-7
Verdict: Doomed by a similar poor start to NYC’s, Philly went 1-7-3 to start the season. The club needs investment, and a difference maker. Look down the club’s advanced stats and you’ll see a group of steady players: Sapong, Nogueira, Maidana, Lahoud, Fabinho. Maurice Edu was down and Tranquillo Barnetta didn’t instantly adjust to the league. Andre Blake is a star in the making, but who is on the marquee?

The Union badly need an answer, maybe several. Enter Earnie Stewart, who will put the whole darn thing on its ear. Expect Philly to look much, much different in 2016.

Chicago Fire

Final position: 10th
Points out of the playoffs: 19
Record: 6-10-18
Verdict: One of only two teams who’d be fooling themselves to ask, “What if?” Chicago finished more than six wins out of the playoffs. The Fire had losing streaks of three, four and five matches. There’s not a lot of depth in Chicago, but Gilberto, Mike Magee and Jeff Larentowicz were strong down the stretch, and there’s potential in Harrison Shipp and David Accam. The defense needs major upgrades, and Sean Johnson badly needs to find his game.

Bilbao’s Williams: ‘I suffered racist insults’ at Espanyol

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams says that he was a victim of racial abuse from fans while playing at Espanyol in a Spanish league game on Saturday.

Williams said after the 1-1 draw that “I suffered racist insults, something that no one wants to hear and has no place here.”

Williams, who is black, played 82 minutes of the match before being substituted.

“People should come to enjoy themselves, to help their team. This is a sport about friendship,” Williams said.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

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With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

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BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.