AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

Bayern wins sixth straight Bundesliga crown – with help from Heynckes

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BERLIN (AP) Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has earned his retirement at the end of the season.

Again.

After returning to the helm in October, Heynckes’ Bayern won its record-extending sixth straight Bundesliga title on Saturday with a 4-1 win at Augsburg.

No other team has come close since Bayern claimed the treble in 2013 under Heynckes, who has said he will go back into retirement at the end of this season – despite Bayern’s attempts to keep him on.

Bayern sealed its record 28th German championship, including the solitary pre-Bundesliga title in 1931-32, with five rounds to spare.

Here’s a look at why Bayern keeps winning in Germany:

HERO HEYNCKES

Bayern’s lackluster start to the season is all but forgotten due to the rapid turnaround instigated by Jupp Heynckes on his return for his fourth stint as coach in October.

Bayern was five points behind Borussia Dortmund after slipping to two draws and a defeat in its opening seven league games, but Heynckes started with a 5-0 win over Freiburg, led the side back to the top and claimed the title with 18 wins in 21 games, including the victory in Augsburg.

A perfect record in the German Cup – four wins from four – and Champions League – seven from seven – sees Bayern well placed in both competitions for a possible repeat of the treble achieved in Heynckes’ previous stint in 2013.

The only issue Bayern has with Heynckes is that he won’t continue. The 72-year-old former striker has long maintained that he will go back into retirement once the season is done.

Bayern coach Heynckes and Franck Ribery (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

TACTICS

Jupp Heynckes reverted to the 4-2-3-1 system he favored in the treble-winning season for most games this time round, but he has also shown willingness to tinker with the system depending on the opponents.

He also coaxed a better work-rate from his players, starting with league top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, who pressurizes defenders for the ball and helps to win back possession.

Heynckes returned to the wide areas as key facets of the side’s attack. Franck Ribery, despite celebrating his 35th birthday against Augsburg, has enjoyed a renaissance on the left wing. Kingsley Coman (before his injury) and Arjen Robben have also excelled, helped by overlapping pace from David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich.

IMPROVEMENT

Arturo Vidal was criticized by Jupp Heynckes shortly after returning, saying the combative midfielder wasn’t working hard enough and that others were ahead of him in the pecking order.

But the Chile midfielder, familiar to Heynckes from their days together at Bayer Leverkusen, responded as Heynckes undoubtedly knew he would and has since emerged as one of the team’s key players in fighting for midfield possession. Vidal has also chipped in six goals.

James Rodriguez is another player to have blossomed under Heynckes, returning to the form that prompted Real Madrid to pay a reported 80 million euros for his services in 2014. Madrid could yet regret letting him go.

MONEY

Bayern is by far the richest club in Germany thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals, TV money, ticket sales and other sources of revenue. Last season the club posted a record turnover of 640.5 million euros ($759 million) with profits up 22.2 percent on the season before.

Borussia Dortmund, the next nearest challenger, lags well behind with turnover of 405.7 million euros for 2016-17.

Bayern’s financial clout means it can afford to turn down mega-money advances for its best players. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently ruled out Robert Lewandowski moving to Real Madrid. Bayern can also cherry-pick the best of what the rest of the Bundesliga has to offer.

Schalke’s Leon Goretzka is joining for free next season.

COMPETITION

Bayern had no challengers for the title after Borussia Dortmund’s early promise collapsed. Schalke, the best of the rest, is clearly not at the same level, despite its improvement under new coach Domenico Tedesco. Bayern has scored almost twice as many goals.

Faced with the added strain of European football, last year’s runner-up Leipzig was unable to mount a challenge.

Dortmund faces another summer of rebuilding, while Bayer Leverkusen has been too inconsistent to mount a challenge under new coach Heiko Herrlich.

“It looks like we’ll also be German champions next year,” Heynckes said last month.

Three things from USMNT’s pathetic loss in Canada

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We were warned after Couva that perhaps, somehow, the United States men’s national team still had some ways to go before really hitting rock bottom.

It seemed absurd, but after 10 months of the Gregg Berhalter era, which followed the least interesting manager search of all-time, perhaps the warning was needed and should’ve been heeded.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

The USMNT had no answers and no options on Tuesday in Canada, showing no urgency and getting bossed off the pitch against a team which may not qualify for the Hex.

Time for a change? It’s not insane to consider it. The team Berhalter rolled out, with several players who aren’t even standouts in MLS, was inept in Ontario.

Either the plan or players the problem, and both point one way

Canada’s John Herdman and his desperate team were ready for a fight, and the visitors apparently thought their talent and reputation would win the day.

Nuh-uh.

The book on Canada was electric attackers and suspect defense, so what did Gregg Berhalter spring for his opening salvo? No pressing on the back line and two plodding center backs. Tim Ream could work with an athlete like Matt Miazga. Aaron Long, too, but Berhalter put both players together (Long certainly grew into the game).

The result was that Alphonso Davies was shifted mainly to the side of the field with Daniel Lovitz, and man did he run wild.

So did Canada’s midfield who out-worked the Yanks up-and-down the center of the park. It was sad, and littered the match with doubt heading into the break.

Granted the U.S. is short several injured players and lost Jozy Altidore just before the international break, but Berhalter had no answers on his bench, or at least couldn’t manufacture one.

And that’s a huge part of the issue here. If you don’t have any sugar, might wanna prepare something other than cookies.

He removed Christian Pulisic at the hour mark, who had been poor (see below) but still represents the best playmaker in his pool. Aside from the Chelsea man’s missed 1v1 duel with Borjan, there were not real attacking moments.

This was so bad, and absolutely according to plan by Herdman. No, not Tata Martino this time… John Herdman.

There is every reason to doubt Berhalter right now, and just as many to think that U.S. Soccer hierarchy wouldn’t consider remedying the situation on account of pride.

Given the way national team soccer works, it would not be off-color if the federation pulled the chute on Berhalter. The only possible excuse is injury, but Berhalter knew what he had in this camp and still rolled this plan out there in Toronto.

Pulisic frustrated and off-color… and subbed?

Christian Pulisic didn’t have to do much in Friday’s demolition of Cuba, and he couldn’t do much of anything on Tuesday when asked to carry the team.

The Yanks were absolutely bamboozled in the first half which often had the match asking Pulisic to run wild once the ball actually found its way to him.

But he was dispossessed too often in any event, and missed a necessary goal when Jordan Morris sent him alone 1v1 with Milan Borjan. Yeah, that’s a Champions League goalkeeper with Milan Borjan, but this is the pride and joy of the program and it’s best product maybe ever.

Still, for Berhalter to pull him after 60 minutes begs the question of whether there’s an injury here. If not, well, there are a lot more questions than answers.

Davies roars, Steffen saves USMNT from blowout

While the Yanks’ best players wasn’t in rhythm, Canada’s was borderline symphonic.

Former Vancouver Whitecaps phenom and current Bayern Munich youngster Alphonso Davies was a problem for the Americans from Moment No. 1, and the only thing that could slow him was a 53rd minute leg injury.

Davies had the U.S. back line on its toes all night, and cooked Tim Ream early in the match before doing the same to Aaron Long on a play the Red Bulls man did very well to recover and slide to safety.

Fortunately for Gregg Berhalter, Zack Steffen is used to being put in bad positions due to his starring stint on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf. The goalkeeper made a phenomenal 1v1 stop on Davies in the first half and was often forced to command his box under duress.

Disheveled USMNT out-muscled by Canada

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Gregg Berhalter’s doubters found a lot of fuel for their fire as the United States men’s national team was out-worked, out-thought, and out-played in an embarrassing first loss to Canada in over 30 years.

Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini scored for the Canadians in a 2-0 win at BMO Field in Toronto, as Christian Pulisic was removed after 60 minutes.

The Canadians now hold the keys to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals after improving to 3-0 on the campaign to the Yanks 1-1.

[ MORE: Time for a change? ]

Mark-Anthony Kaye lasted less than 10 minutes with a hamstring injury as Canada was forced into subbing one of its top midfielders early in the fray.

And Davies was all over the U.S., and could’ve had a breakaway were it not for a ridiculously poor offside flag when Ream tried to play him offside.

Davies forced Steffen into a save on a bounding shot in the 12th minute. He then cooked Tim Ream but was stifled by Long.

That’s when Cristian Roldan made an unfathomable back pass to Davies, only to be bailed out by Steffen and then Davies pushing the rebound wide of the far post.

The U.S. finally got pressure on goal in the 18th minute as Pulisic set up Jordan Morris for a left-footed shot that was diverted for a corner kick.

Pulisic had two chances in the last 15 minutes of the half, but both didn’t reach the keeper.

The second half saw some early promise but it became property of the hosts when Davies tore down the left of the pitch following a sleepy pass reception from Morris. Davies turned two defenders but one of them, Long, recovered to make a fine last ditch sliding tackle.

Jonathan David should’ve made it 1-0 as Richie Laryea fed the Gent man, who had taken advantage of Long but couldn’t get the ball inside the near post.

At the other end, Morris fed Pulisic for a point blank chance but the out-of-form Chelsea man rifled a shot right at Milan Borjan.

Long grew into the game and made another fine intervention when Davies was sprung down the right at the hour mark.

Berhalter then took off Pulisic for Arriola, and the Chelsea man was visibly emotional on the bench. There wasn’t much time to stew on that, because Canada scored.

Bradley bungled a ball in his own third and Ream couldn’t get purchase on his clearance. Canada sent the ball to the back post, where Yedlin was absent for another lazy concession in a U.S. shirt.

Morris headed a Yedlin cross to Borjan in the 72nd, but Canada right back at it when Long misjudged a lost 50/50 ball from Ream and Steffen made an outstanding save on David.

Atlanta president rips USMNT after Robinson injured

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Atlanta United president Darren Eales is enraged with U.S. Soccer after center back Miles Robinson pulled his hamstring on international duty.

Robinson did not play in Friday’s 7-0 win over Cuba, instead getting injured after the match in a “hard training session.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Mitrita scores beauty for Romania ]

Atlanta United play-by-play man Mike Conti has these quotes from Eales, who said Robinson is “touch and go” for Atlanta’s first round playoff match with New England on Saturday.

“He goes on international duty, and 11 o’clock at night after a game where he sat on the bench, they’re doing a hard training session and he’s doing sprints and he pulls his hamstring. Just really disappointed that he was put in that position.”

The timing couldn’t be much worse for Atlanta nor the USMNT considering its backs are having trouble with the athleticism of Canada. It’s a hindsight 20/20 thing, but either way it doesn’t look good for Gregg Berhalter’s staff even if injuries happen.

NYCFC’s Mitrita scores 2nd stunner of international break

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New York City FC star Alexandru Mitrita’s very good club summer is folding into a very decent international tenure, at least individually.

Mitrita scored again on Tuesday, zipping onto your screen to steal the ball just inside half before dancing toward the 18 and lashing an opening goal for Romania in EURO 2020 qualification against Norway on Tuesday.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]

Unfortunately, the Romanians would concede an equalizer to Norway and cost itself prime positioning in the race for a place in the tournament, but it was quite a bit of work from Mitrita.

It was only a slight downgrade from his Friday beauty.

Mitrita had not scored in his first seven caps for Romania and didn’t get called over the summer as he worked into the frame as one of NYCFC’s Designated Players.

Safe to say things have progressed nicely.