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Loving the idea of Berhalter for USMNT, but hating the process

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Let’s get the ugly out of the way early: The appearance of nepotism is garbage, and U.S. Soccer will have made the latest of several ego-driven, tone deaf, unforced errors if and when it announces the hiring of Gregg Berhalter without having spoken with a number of top candidates.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day ]

It’s only going to look like they had their guy all along, the brother of the federation’s chief commercial officer Jay Berhalter, and that their new general manager either wasn’t allowed to conduct a full interview process or hire a new USMNT manager without his hand being held.

Again, that’s probably not what happened, but U.S. Soccer not caring how it looks shows that very little’s changed since Sunil Gulati left office channeling Gordon Bombay’s “quarter of an inch” logic.

So, again, U.S. Soccer didn’t interview Tata Martino, who may be off for the Mexican gig, and that knowledge triggered a pretty healthy discussion on Twitter with the knowledge that Sporting KC mastermind Peter Vermes, 2016 MLS Coach of the Year Oscar Pareja, RB Leipzig assistant Jesse Marsch, and former El Tri boss Juan Carlos Osorio also were not interviewed. Doug McIntyre adds ex-USMNT coach Bob Bradley and longtime U-20 boss Tab Ramos to the list.

Assuming the reports are all true, that’s a problem. It also doesn’t mean that Berhalter isn’t a good, if not great, candidate for the job (and maybe Stewart was hired after saying, “I’d take Gregg as my No. 1 guy.”)

The 45-year-old knows the importance of both testing himself overseas and keeping himself sharp in MLS, having player in the Netherlands, England, and Germany before finishing his career with the Galaxy.

In management, he got his start assisting Bruce Arena before taking a head job in Sweden and losing just 11 of 46 matches for Hammarby.

Moving to Columbus in 2013, he’s led the a team which has never spent much to supply a team under his eye. According to Spotrac, the Crew have spent the 22nd (2018), 17th, 17th, 13th, and 17th most dollars on player salaries in the league. Here’s how those teams performed in the league:

That’s outstanding, and when you throw in the fact that he’s done that with the distraction of owner Anthony Precourt at times literally trying to keep fans from making the stands look full for a playoff game so he could engineer a move to Austin? Insane!

Even if Columbus loses on Sunday and is passed by Montreal for a playoff spot, that’s still impressive.

You could reasonably argue that fans should want his hire as much as any other American candidate and many from outside the continent, too. Shoot, as long as an interview doesn’t drop where Berhalter claims an MLS All Star Team would dominate the top tiers of England, Germany, Spain, and Italy, and that Gyasi Zardes is like-for-like with Roberto Firmino

Anyway… what I’m saying is there would be plenty of reasons to be excited with the Berhalter hire, who has show he knows when to drop off and defend and when to lay his foot on the pedal. There are only two things to really dislike about him, and one assumes Martino is off to Mexico.

  1. Berhalter is 0-4 against Martino in MLS play
  2. Unfortunately we hearken back to the top of the post, and the knowledge that the USSF will have put its new boss in a precarious position amongst its supporters and “shareholders.”

It won’t change how Berhalter does his job — the guy looks like he’d rather chew through a 2×4 than deal with speculation — but it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the other aspects of how the federation has dealt with an improbable World Cup qualifying failure in one of the most forgiving confederations on Earth.

Then again, maybe they’ll announce Zinedine Zidane on Nov. 1. What do we know?

Pellegrini: Wilshere returning to West Ham lineup soon

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Jack Wilshere has made just five appearances for West Ham United this season, but the number six is coming soon.

The Hammers have very slim hopes for seventh place, but also need to restore some positive vibes at the end of a tough stretch which includes losses to to Everton, Manchester United, and Chelsea.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Now it’s Leicester City, a direct rival at mid-table, and Manuel Pellegrini is quick to remind us that West Ham has had plenty of obstacles in the form of injury as he looks to build a European contender. From Sky Sports:

“He’s a midfielder that we need because in that position we have (had) so many times all of them injured. (Andriy) Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Lanzini, so the return for Jack will be a good injection.”

Having played for the U-23s again last week, it sounds like Wilshere may start on Saturday (though Pellegrini says it may take another week).

Liverpool’s Klopp on facing Messi for the first time

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Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool is the only returning club in the UEFA Champions League semifinal, and the manager says that’s worth a bit of celebration.

“I’m happy for all the people in the club that it’s like this, second time in the second year in the semi-final,” Klopp said. “That’s a big statement. However you go there, it’s difficult. Everybody tries it and nobody did it in the last two years.”

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

That also means Klopp’s first “proper game” managing against Barcelona, and Liverpool’s first meeting with the Blaugranas since the 2006-07 UCL knockout rounds. All-time, the Reds are 3W-3D-2L versus Barca in European competition.

It also means an attempt to slow Lionel Messi, who at age 31 is in splendid form with 45 goals and 21 assists in 42 matches. Of those goals, he’s bagged 10 in eight Champions League appearances (two v. Manchester United, two v. Spurs, two v. Lyon, and four against PSV Eindhoven).

From LiverpoolFC.com:

“Thank God I don’t have to think about that tonight and thank God I have a few more nights to think about it! I think everybody tried it so far and nobody can really do it. We still will try it. But we are looking forward to it, but we have so many jobs to do before we meet Barcelona. So let’s first play these games and then let’s prepare for Barcelona. Then we will see. I have never played Barcelona in a proper game, so [it’s] my first time there and I’m looking forward to it.”

Messi went 90 minutes in his only appearances against Liverpool during that 2006-07 series, though he was 19 years old.

He’s just a bit wiser now, but remember it works both ways; As much as Klopp’s never had to stop Messi, he’s certainly had plenty of opportunity to watch what other managers have tried in bids to slow the Argentine. Could Klopp cement his tactical legacy and make another UCL Final, or will he just hope to outgun the genius of Catalonia?

This Alves stunner wasn’t enough for PSG to seal Ligue 1 (video)

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Paris Saint-Germain again failed to clinch the French league title after losing 3-2 at Nantes on Wednesday.

PSG could have sealed it this past Sunday and the weekend before that but picked up only one point from those two matches. The defending champion leads second-place Lille by 17 points with six games left and can celebrate at the fourth attempt by beating Monaco at home on Sunday, or if Lille fails to win at Toulouse earlier in the day.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

It looked like the celebrations were on at Nantes when the veteran fullback Dani Alves put PSG ahead with a superb dipping shot from outside the penalty area. But the defense crumbled again, letting in an equalizer within four minutes, another goal just before halftime and a third shortly after the break to make it 10 goals conceded in three games.

PSG needed only a draw on Sunday to to seal the eighth league title in its history, but lost 5-1 at Lille – the biggest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge in 2011. Before that, PSG needed a home win against Strasbourg but drew 2-2.

PSG let in two goals against Lille from set pieces and did so again this time.

Center half Diego Carlos equalized when he headed in a corner from the left.

Then, one minute before halftime, right back Thilo Kehrer was easily knocked off the ball by Kalifa Coulibaly, and unmarked striker Majeed Waris finished at the back post. A corner from the left in the 52nd led to Carlos turning the ball in from close range, even with three PSG players around him.

Nantes, which moved up to 14th place, missed further chances before PSG substitute Metehan Guclu pulled a goal back in the 90th.

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

How the UCL results affect the Premier League title run-in

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The Premier League title may well be decided one week from now.

No, it won’t mathematically be impossible for Manchester City or Liverpool to catch the other, but the former’s exit from the UEFA Champions League certainly puts the season’s binoculars in better focus.

To recap: City trails Liverpool by two points but has a match-in-hand on its title rivals, a card which will be played next Wednesday across Manchester at Old Trafford.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 34 26 7 1 77 20 57 15-2-0 11-5-1 85
 Manchester City 33 27 2 4 86 22 64 16-0-1 11-2-3 83

It would be surprising if Liverpool finished with any less than 97 points given its remaining schedule, and downright shocking should the Reds lose a match (yes, we know red cards and penalties happen, and that Premier League does not yet employ VAR).

Liverpool faces Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United, and Wolves. The final two matches are in contact with a pair of Champions League matches against Barcelona, but dropping points more than once seems like a long shot.

By comparison, Man City has to rebound from Wednesday’s stunning thriller of a loss to Spurs with a rematch at the Etihad Stadium before making it three tough matches in eight days with a Manchester Derby on April 23.

Should Man City manage those two wins in five days, Pep Guardiola‘s men will (likely) have a one point lead on Liverpool with three matches left (two fewer than the Reds). If it comes to that, the advantage is squarely in Pep’s court.

Here are the remaining matches for both teams, not including the FA Cup Final or (possible) Champions League Final.

All times ET

Saturday – Man City v. Tottenham (7:30 a.m.)

Sunday – Cardiff City v. Liverpool (11 a.m.)

Wednesday – Man Utd v. Man City (3 p.m.)

April 26 – Liverpool v. Huddersfield Town (3 p.m.)

April 28 – Burnley v. Man City (9:05 a.m.)

April 30 – Barcelona v. Liverpool (TBD)

May 4 – Man City v. Leicester City (7:30 a.m.)

May 5 – Newcastle v. Liverpool (11:30 a.m.)

May 7 – Liverpool v. Barcelona (TBD)

May 12 – Brighton v. Man City -and- Liverpool v. Wolves (10 a.m.)