Southampton close in on Mark Hughes

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Southampton is set to turn to an experienced Premier League manager to save them from sleepwalking into relegation.

Pro Soccer Talk understand that Mark Hughes is the overwhelming favorite to take charge of Saints after they fired Argentine coach Mauricio Pellegrino on Monday following a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle where he accused his players of “giving up” during a dreadful display.

It is believed Southampton aren’t set to appoint Hughes imminently, while other candidates such as former Hull City and Watford manager Marco Silva, plus ex-West Ham boss Slaven Bilic, aren’t currently in the running.

Current Southampton assistant coach and former goalkeeper Kelvin Davis took training on Tuesday after Pellegrino’s departure following just one win in their last 17 Premier League games.

Information obtained by Pro Soccer Talk from a source close to the situation revealed that Southampton aim to have their new manager in charge before this weekend. They play at third-tier Wigan Athletic on Sunday in the FA Cup quarterfinal for a place at Wembley in the last four of the competition.

Premier League survival is the main aim but whoever takes over could well be just 180 minutes from leading Saints to a major cup final. The main aim will be turning around the displays of a group of players who many feel have had too much of a say in how the club is run during the short reigns of Claude Puel and Pellegrino over the past 18 months.

Hughes, 54, has been out of work since being fired by Stoke City in January but it is hoped the former Southampton striker (Hughes scored twice in 52 Premier League appearances in a deeper midfield role for Saints from 1998-00) can galvanize a talented squad and pull them through in the final eight games of the season. Hughes has never been relegated as a Premier League manager and with his former club Stoke also in the PL relegation battle with Saints, it may be a way to show his former employers what they’re missing.

Saints are currently one place and one point above the relegation zone and realistically need three more wins (they only managed five in 30 games this season under Pellegrino) to stay out of the bottom three.

After spending the past five seasons at Stoke, Hughes led the Potters to three-straight ninth place finishes before a 13th place finish last season and then a poor start to the current campaign which cost him his job.

While some may question Saints hiring a manager from the merry-go-round with Hughes having a mixed bag of results managing Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham, QPR and Stoke over the years, it may well spark their under-performing squad into life. Hughes is well known to be a “players’ coach” and could inspire a complete shakeup at St Mary’s in the final months of the season.

With Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel and Pellegrino the last four managers at Southampton, hiring an experienced, British PL boss will be a big shift in direction from Saints. At this point they will do whatever they can to secure their Premier League status.

Hughes will have his work cut out to do that with Saints still to play Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton and Man City in their final eight games of the season, while five of the eight games are away from home.

Red Bulls fall again, on the road at New England

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The defending champions are struggling under new management, and so are the defending Supporters Shield winners.

New York remains with just five points on the season after falling at Eastern Conference rivals New England 1-0 on Saturday. On a rainy night in Gillette Stadium, there was just enough offense for the hosts to squeak by, while the visitors had no end product on a forgettable evening.

After a listless first half that featured little for fans to savor, New England bagged the winning moment with 17 minutes to go. On the break, substitute Cristian Penilla blasted a right-footed shot past Luis Robles in somewhat innocuous fashion. It’s one the goalkeeper will want back, and given the 21 total shots on the night, not exactly the best chance of the evening.

With the loss, New York remains in 10th on just five points through the first seven games of the season, the same amount defending champions Atlanta United has sitting one position lower. Neither side has been able to repeat the form they had in last year’s award-winning season. Chris Armas has seen the team perform in spurts at best, and while the -1 goal differential maybe suggests the points total will improve, it’s still a far cry from what last year provided.

While the defense has lost its way at times, the Red Bulls attack has been the biggest culprit to this point, and that reared its head again tonight. The Red Bulls created 10 chances, but only one of those was a big chance, and they struggled in one-on-one situations, successful in just five of their 18 attempted take-ons. Bradley Wright-Phillips was isolated up front and while Armas clearly set the build-up so he would be a factor in the air, BWP struggled mightily in that department, winning just five of 18 aerial duels.

Timbers off the mark at Columbus with first win of the season

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The Portland Timbers are finally off the scheid in the 2019 season, earning a road win at a quality opponent, downing Columbus 2-0 at MAPFRE Stadium.

It took a half-hour for the breakthrough but in the 31st minute Larrys Mabiala got his head to a set-piece delivery and powered it in past the near post. Zack Steffan got his hands to the ball but it was from close enough range that he couldn’t muster the power to stop the effort.

That wasn’t it for the Timbers before halftime as they doubled the lead four minutes later. Sebastian Blanco sent in a low, slicing cross from the left flank into the center of the box, and with Artur slow on the close out, Jeremy Ebobisse latched on and buried it into the back of the net.

After the break, Pedro Santos brought Columbus back within one in the 69th minute with an ambitious chip that caught Jeff Attinella way off his line, but it wasn’t enough. Jorge Moreira finished things off in injury time, blasting a howitzer into the top of the net for a 3-1 lead and all three points. The win lifted Portland off the bottom of the Western Conference, on four points to push them to 10th. Columbus, meanwhile, fails to take the opportunity to move top of the Eastern Conference, still sitting fourth, level with three other teams on 13 points.

Premier League Sunday preview: Arsenal, Man United, Liverpool all in play

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The battles at the summit of the Premier League table continue as three of the top six teams take the field on Sunday.

The title race is still white hot, with both Manchester City and Liverpool swinging back and forth with every positive result. City jumped back into the lead with the win on Saturday over Tottenham, a point in front with four matches remaining on both the dockets.

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The fight for the Champions League places also looks a good one, with four teams battling for just two places. Tottenham sits precariously in third on 67 points, while Arsenal and Chelsea are level on 66 with the Gunners holding the goal differential tiebreaker by five. Manchester United is in sixth on 64 points, still in the mix.


Everton v. Manchester United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The Red Devils are the first of the Champions League contenders to take the field as they visit Goodison Park. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s honeymoon period in charge of Manchester United is over and it’s time for him to prove he belongs. The Norwegian boss was given the permanent position after a record start to his interim tenure, but the timing was still odd and as the season winds down, the Red Devils could be left out of the mix for Europe’s biggest competition. Luke Shaw is suspended for the match for yellow card accumulation, but otherwise the injury news is good with Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, and Alexis Sanchez all reportedly available.

Everton, meanwhile, sits in a similar position as Manchester United, battling for a European place but bringing up the rear. The Toffees sit in 10th, back of the pack among a crowded fight for the last Europa League place. Everton is still just three points back of Watford who currently holds that spot, and while they can break everyone’s hearts by upsetting Manchester City in the FA Cup final, a loss would give the Europa League position to whoever finishes seventh.

INJURIES: Everton —  OUT: Yerry Mina (hamstring), Andre Gomes (suspension). | Manchester United — OUT: Luke Shaw (suspension).


Cardiff City v. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool yet again has to put pressure on Manchester City to have any hope in the Premier League title race. Ahead of the midweek Manchester derby, the Reds have the opportunity not just to take the lead but to stay there should City slip up at all against the Red Devils with their game in hand.

They’ll need a result against a team fighting for its life. Cardiff City is in 17th in the Premier League table, three points shy of safety. A shocking win would put Cardiff in much better position, while a loss would see them potentially fall two games out. They’ve lost three straight and haven’t scored in their last two, so Liverpool will be licking its chops.

INJURIES: Cardiff City —  OUT: Souleymane Bamba (knee), Callum Paterson (ankle), Matthew Connolly (ankle), Harry Arter (calf), . QUESTIONABLE: Aron Gunnarsson (back). | Liverpool — OUT: none. QUESTIONABLE: Dejan Lovren (illness), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee).


Arsenal v. Crystal Palace — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSports.com

The Gunners will know Manchester United’s result before taking the field, to see whether they will be looking to strengthen their Champions League position or hoping to recapture it. Arsenal is currently in fourth, clinging barely to its spot in the top European competition, but they have been strong of late and have a soft schedule to finish the season, so there is no reason not to lock the spot down. Still, the injuries are rampant and there are fears that Aaron Ramsey‘s Arsenal career will end with the thigh injury he picked up midweek in Europa League play. Coupled with the three long-term injuries to Bellerin, Welbeck, and Holding plus Sokratis’ suspension, the Gunners are thin.

Crystal Palace has little to play for at this point, sitting in 14th on 39 points but unlikely to be sucked into the relegation battle. Roy Hodgson has led the squad to five wins since the start of February, good enough form to keep them out of the maelstrom at the bottom of the table. They put up a decent fight against title leaders Manchester City last time out, and kept two straight clean sheets in the matches before that. However, they lost two important players recently in James Tomkins and Jeffrey Schlupp who both will miss the rest of the season after long-term injuries.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Sokratis (suspended). QUESTIONABLE: Granit Xhaka (groin). | Crystal Palace — OUT: James Tomkins (groin), Jeffrey Schlupp (ankle), Mamadou Sakho (knee).

Tenacious 2-1 Dallas victory at Atlanta deepens Frank de Boer’s woes

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Jesus Ferreira scored just six minutes into the match and that was enough to top a disjointed and sputtering Atlanta United side 2-1 at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Atlanta held nearly 70% possession and outshot Dallas 16-6, but the final product was far from polished yet again, and they were unable to find a breakthrough at the venue they devoured opponents in just last season. The hosts connected on just one of 18 attempted crosses and created nine chances but only one labeled as a big chance by Opta statistics.

On the other end, Dallas picked its spots to perfection, connecting on five of its seven shots, the first of which provided the key moment of the match. Michael Barrios stole the ball near midfield and broke two-on-two, beating Brek Shea with his dribble before feeding a perfect ball to Jesus Ferreira at the far post for the finish.

FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez was big the rest of the way, making a big save in the 79th minute to deny Josef Martinez to keep him off the scoresheet yet this season, up to over 400 minutes of scoreless play. Again he denied Martinez in the 82nd minute off a set-piece as he dove down to stop a shot at the near post. Overall, Gonzalez made seven saves to preserve the clean sheet.

The visitors put the game away in the 84th minute on the break as Atlanta had committed the team forward to find an equalizer. Michael Barrios broke on a turnover and received the ball deep in the attacking half, pausing for a moment before finding substitute Bryan Acosta who was streaking down the middle. Acosta had beaten Leandro Gonzalez Pirez on the counter, and with one touch he poked the ball past Brad Guzan to seal the victory.

Martinez had a chance moments later to make things interesting late and give Atlanta a chance, but completely botched the opportunity after a wonderful touch got him behind the Dallas defense in the 89th minute. That miss was a perfect encapsulation of Atlanta’s start to the 2019 season, a chance that would have unquestionably found the back of the net had Martinez been in last year’s form.

Atlanta gained a consolation at the death as VAR caught a tackle by Carlos Gruezo on Brek Shea at the edge of the area in the 76th minute. That finally saw Martinez put the ball in the back of the net for his first goal of the MLS season, but it only served to compound his earlier miss that would have brought Atlanta back into the match with time to spare.

The loss leaves Atlanta in 10th in the Eastern Conference with just five points thus far. They are without a win at home in three tries this season in MLS play, a place they dropped just 14 points all season last year. It is just the fourth home loss at Mercedes Benz Stadium in club history, and increases pressure on Frank De Boer who has only won a single game through his opening six league fixtures in charge of the defending champions.