Clive Rose/Getty Images

PL Saturday roundup: Spurs, Arsenal win big; Costa-less Chelsea get back on track

Leave a comment

Both ends of the table continue to provide intrigue after another busy day around the Premier League, including the division’s top three sides each picking up convincing victories.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Here, we take a look back at Saturday’s action from around England’s top flight.

Tottenham 4-0 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP

Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is hitting its stride at the right time, and now Spurs find themselves all the way up to second in the PL. Harry Kane‘s hat-trick helped guide Tottenham to an easy home win over West Brom on Saturday at White Hart Lane as Spurs picked up their sixth-straight victory. The Baggies have now lost three of their last five matches despite sitting in the top 10.

Swansea City 0-4 Arsenal — RECAP

Swansea’s struggles continued on Saturday despite a lively start from the hosts. Once again though, the Gunners proved that they can punish any team in the blink of an eye if given the opportunity. Goals from Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, as well as two own goals, helped guide Arsenal up to third in the table as the top of the league remains congested. Meanwhile, the Swans still sit at the bottom of the PL on 15 points.

Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea — RECAP

No Diego Costa, no problem. While speculation over the Spaniard’s future continues to swirl, the Blues got back on track against the reigning top-flight champions. A brace from Marcos Alonso and a third from Pedro helped give Chelsea all three points and a tentative seven-point advantage over Spurs at the top of the PL. The Foxes once again fell short on Saturday for their ninth loss of the campaign, after having fallen just three times a season ago. Claudio Ranieri‘s men are now just five points above the bottom three with 17 matches remaining.

Burnley 1-0 Southampton — RECAP

The Clarets continued their impressive home record this season with another home victory. Joey Barton‘s first goal since returning to Burnley helped push the hosts up to 10th in the standings after the midfielder came on as substitute. All eight of Burnley’s victories have come at home this season, while 25 of the team’s 26 points have been picked up at the Turf Moor.

HULL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Tom Huddlestone of Hull City (C) celebrates his side third goal with his Hull City team mates during the Premier League match between Hull City and AFC Bournemouth at KCOM Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Hull, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Hull City 3-1 Bournemouth — RECAP

Marco Silva received everything he could have wished for on his PL debut for the Tigers. Despite going down early after Junior Stanislas converted from the penalty spot, it was all Hull the rest of the way. An Abel Hernandez double helped put Hull out in front against the Cherries, while a Tyrone Mings own goal sealed the fate of the visitors on Saturday. Hull now has four wins on the season, moving the Tigers up to 18th in the table.

Sunderland 1-3 Stoke City — RECAP

Marko Arnautovic and Peter Crouch both scored for the visitors as Stoke City rose to ninth on Saturday against the Black Cats. While Jermain Defoe continues to keep Sunderland in the hunt to climb out of the relegation zone, the Englishman lacks a supporting cast up front. Sunderland remains in the bottom three on 15 points, although the Black Cats are just one point behind 17th place Crystal Palace.

Watford 0-0 Middlesbrough — RECAP

Both sides remain above the drop zone despite an uneventful encounter at Vicarage Road. Middlesbrough failed to record a shot on target on Saturday, however, the visitors came the closest to finding an opener when Cristhian Stuani knocked home a flicked ball from Alvaro Negredo. Unfortunately for Boro, the finish was called back for offsides.

West Ham 3-0 Crystal Palace — RECAP

The Hammers remain in fine form as of late courtesy of Michail Antonio‘s three assists against the Eagles at the Olympic Stadium. Manuel Lanzini, Sofiane Feghouli and Andy Carroll all punched their names on the scoresheet for West Ham, who now move up to 12th in the league. None were better than Carroll’s bicycle kick strike which put an exclamation on the match. Palace, however, have fallen all the way to 17th after failing to win in their last seven matches.

Report: Sacramento finally gets MLS expansion franchise

Sacramento Republic
Leave a comment

After years of trying, it appears that Major League Soccer is finally heading to Sacramento.

Sacramento Republic FC have long been one of the best runs franchises in the lower leagues in the United States of America and both city officials and their new ownership group have backed this push to join MLS.

It seemed certain that Sacramento would get a team in 2016 and 2017, but they’ve been left behind as plenty of other cities have been awarded expansion franchises.

A report from the Sacramento Bee states that the franchise will be announced on Monday in a ceremony in downtown Sacramento.

“Sources said league officials will hold a press conference in downtown Monday followed by a fan event in the afternoon, celebrating the franchise award. The announcement will mark the successful conclusion of a laborious five-year effort by Sacramento community leaders and various investors to secure a franchise in MLS.”

New majority owners LA billionaire Ron Burkle (who also owns the Pittsburgh Penguins) and Hollywood producer Matt Alvarez joined Sacramento businessman Kevin Nagle this spring to get the finances in line for a new soccer-specific stadium and to pay the expansion fee which is close to $200 million.

Sacramento released a statement on the speculation, after Burkle, Alvarez and Nagle had been working closely with MLS in recent months to iron out the details of arriving in North America’s top-flight.

“We share the great excitement and anticipation in our community about Sacramento’s bid to join Major League Soccer. We will continue to respect the MLS expansion process and remain confident about the future of our club and our city. We look forward to sharing more information in the days ahead.”

Nagle and Warren Smith set up Sacramento Republic FC, who began play in the United Soccer Leagues in 2014, and have built an impressive fanbase.

Burkle and Alvarez were the final pieces of the jigsaw as their cash investment will allow the construction of a $250 million 20,000 capacity stadium long planned in the Railyards district of downtown Sacramento, while the city will also add funding to the effort as they add their second major league franchise.

Sacramento Republic will have an instant rival in MLS too, as the San Jose Earthquakes are located just 120 miles south-west.

With St. Louis awarded an expansion franchise in August and to begin play in 2022, MLS is now up to 29 teams with Nashville and Miami joining for the 2020 season, plus Austin FC arriving in 2021.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber seems keen to get the number of teams to 30, with Charlotte, Phoenix, Detroit and Las Vegas all pushing hard to become the 30th franchise in the coming years.

Sacramento’s journey to MLS has been a long one, but now they are about to celebrate.

Bulgaria detains four fans following racist acts

Getty Images
Leave a comment

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) The Bulgarian government says it has detained four soccer fans linked to making racist gestures, including Nazi salutes, during a European Championship qualifying match against England.

[ MORE: Bulgarian FA chief resigns ]

Bulgarian fans also directed monkey noises at England’s black players during the match, which was halted twice in an effort to stop the racist abuse. England won the match 6-0.

The Ministry of Interior says police have “detained four people, whose involvement in what happened is being clarified.”

The ministry says any evidence collected will be handed over to prosecutors.

In the fallout from Monday’s game, the president of the country’s soccer federation has resigned and the Bulgarian special police forces have raided the federation offices.

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

Berhalter slams USMNT after Canada defeat. What now?

Getty Images
4 Comments

Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT hit a new low on Tuesday as they lost 2-0 to Canada in Toronto and it could have been worse.

Much worse.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

Totally outplayed in their CONCACAF Nations League game, pressure is mounting on Berhalter as the U.S. men’s national team perhaps haven’t even hit rock bottom yet. Two years after their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as they lost at Trinidad & Tobago, in many ways the performance against Canada was worse.

What progress has been made since that fateful night in Couva in 2017?

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Speaking to reporters after the damaging defeat at BMO Field, Berhalter threw his players under the bus. Big time.

“The first thing that stands out to me, was desire; desire of Canada,” Berhalter said. “Give them credit. But having said that, the minimum we expect is to match that. We need to compete on every single play in games like this, and that’s important. I don’t think it was a lack of effort. I don’t think it was purposeful. But I wasn’t happy with the desire that we displayed tonight to win the soccer game. Too many 50-50 balls we lost, and that hurt us.”

USMNT fans are calling for Berhalter to be fired just 10 months into his reign, and his possession-based style isn’t sinking in with his young, hard-working squad. Berhalter wants the USMNT to play like Barcelona but right now they look more like Burton Albion. And that’s being kind.

The youngsters coming through are being asked to overcomplicate things and aren’t playing to their strengths. After a heavy defeat to Mexico last month and a damaging loss to Canada, qualifying for the 2022 World Cup would now be a huge achievement for the USMNT. It should be a given.

Where do we go from here?

The fact USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart may well have to get the thumbs up from Berhalter’s brother, Jay, who is the expected incoming new CEO of U.S. Soccer, adds to the anger from U.S. fans.

It is unlikely Berhalter will be removed anytime soon and that U.S. Soccer will stick with him after waiting a year for him to take charge.

Former interim coach Dave Sarachan did the best job he could do from November 2017 to November 2018, but that lost year waiting for Berhalter has sent this young group of players spiralling backwards.

The lack of progression is clear for all to see, but Berhalter doesn’t want anyone pointing to the shocking defeat in Canada as a true reflection of where this team is at.

“I wouldn’t make a statement about the program based on this game,” Berhalter said. “The reason why is that these games are difficult. It was never going to be easy and come here and win the game. There was no way. When you look at their team, when at their quality, when you look at where they are right now, it wasn’t going to be an easy game. We have to accept that. I think all of us have to accept that. We wanted to win the game, and hopefully we’re going to keep improving and hopefully we’re going to start winning games on the road, but tonight wasn’t the night to do it.”

Berhalter is under pressure and things have got worse for the USMNT since their embarrassing World Cup qualifying failure two years ago.

Is it time to pull the plug on Berhalter? After the performance against Canada his players appear to think so, and so too do the fans.

U.S. Soccer have a big decision to make, as things look like they will get a lot worse before they get any better.

State of play in CONCACAF Nations League

Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Well, well, well…

Canada’s controlling 2-0 defeat of the USMNT on Tuesday adding some intrigue to the final two match days of the CONCACAF Nations League next month

[ USMNT-CANADA: Time for change? | Player ratings ]

Mexico nearly provided another shock at Azteca thanks to a relative inability to break down Panama, but young stunner Jose Juan Macias scored for the fourth time in three caps to lead El Tri to a 3-1 win on the night.

Roberto Alvarado saw his 28th minute goal canceled out by pre-halftime own goal, and Mexico had better than 75 percent possession when Macias bagged his winner. Rodolfo Pizarro rounded out the scoring in stoppage time.

Here’s where we sit in the battle for four semifinal spots. The semifinals and finals will be staged in June.

Group A

Canada’s defeat of the USMNT means the Yanks need to make the most of the Canucks visit to the Orlando next month and smash Cuba in the Cayman Islands. Overall goal difference is the second tie breaker, and the Yanks are four behind Canada. A two-goal win in Florida would mean the Yanks would simply need a victory over Cuba to advance to the semifinals. Canada advances with a draw against the U.S., while Cuba has already be relegated to League B.

Group B

Mexico now has six points to Panama’s three and Bermuda’s three. El Tri will visit Panama next and can clinch a spot in the semifinals with a draw or better. Even if Panama beats Mexico, Tata Martino’s men would need to get nothing from Bermuda at Azteca to fail to make the semifinals. Bermuda needs Panama to beat Mexico before getting a blowout win at Azteca. Not looking good.

Group C

Honduras is onto the semifinals. Whether Martinique or Trinidad and Tobago, both on two points, can avoid relegation by getting a superior result against Honduras in November. Honduras heads to Martinique before hosting T&T.

Group D

Curacao had five points compared to its rivals two each and can advance to the semifinals with a home defeat of Costa Rica. If Los Ticos claims the three points, then it will have at least a two-goal advantage on Haiti heading into a home finale.