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Sacramento Republic acquire new lead investor for MLS expansion push

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Sacramento Republic FC took a giant step forward on Tuesday in its pursuit of a Major League Soccer expansion slot.

The club announced in a statement that it had secured the financial investment of billionaire Ron Burkle, an American venture capitalist who also is a part-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. According to Sacramento Republic chairman and CEO Kevin Nagle, Burkle becomes the team’s new lead investor after a long search.

[READ: Dele Alli out until March]

“For more than a year, we have worked tirelessly alongside Mayor (Darrell) Steinberg to identify a new lead investor that further strengthens our bid to bring Major League Soccer to Sacramento,” Nagle said. “While we held discussions with several potential investors, our focus was, and remains, on finding the right lead investor whose vision for our club and our city best aligns with ours.

“Mr. Burkle is an exceptional leader and businessman, a champion sports owner, a dedicated philanthropist, and someone with a deep appreciation for Sacramento. He is the ideal person to lead the next chapter of our club.”

Founder of the Yucaipa Companies, a venture-capitalist firm, Burkle is reported by Forbes Magazine to hold a net worth of $2 billion, immediately making him one of the richest owners in the American soccer landscape. And according to multiple reports out of Sacramento, the backing of a billionaire was the biggest roadblock between Sacramento joining MLS.

The Sacramento Bee provided some additional notes from the announcement. It’s expected that Burkle will purchase not only the team but also the stadium, which is expected to be privately funded and cost around $250 million. Including a potential future MLS expansion fee of $150 million or more, Burkle could be playing close to half a billion dollars as part of this deal, no small chump change. Nagle meanwhile is expected to stay on as a senior executive.

Since bringing in huge crowds of 10,000 or more fans for their 2014 run to the USL Cup title (which was a lot back in those days), Sacramento seemed to be on the edge of MLS expansion. But since that run, due to missing out on key financial invesments from deep-pocketed owners, Sacramento has been passed by and forced to stay in USL.

Atlanta United, Minnesota United, and Los Angeles FC have all started play in MLS, with FC Cincinnati joining this season. Nashville SC, Inter Miami and Austin FC have all clinched places to start in MLS within the next three years. Meanwhile other cities like Detroit, San Diego and St. Louis are battling with Sacramento for the 28th and (for now) final place in MLS’ expansion journey.

Finlay goal gives Minnesota win over former club Columbus (video)

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It had to be him.

As Columbus continues to search for itself under new management, it’s no surprise that one of its old heroes broke its heart on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Ethan Finlay, he of the 166 Crew appearances before being traded to Minnesota United, said earlier this week, “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to beat up on them pretty bad.”

So of course Finlay scored a 70th minute tap-in to give his Loons a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday in St. Paul. It wasn’t “pretty bad,” but it probably felt pretty good.

The goal was Finlay’s first of the season for United, keeping the hosts unbeaten at home.

Columbus falls to 1-5 away from home under Caleb Porter, and has won just once in its last seven outings.

Brighton ready to pay release clause for Swans manager

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Brighton and Hove Albion is ready to bring one of England’s brightest managerial prospects into the Premier League.

The Seagulls are set to pay a $3 million release clause to lure Graham Potter away from Swansea City, one year after the manager left Swedish club Ostersunds FK.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Potter was 35 when he was hired by the Swedish club in 2010, and helped Ostersunds to three promotions before moving to Wales in 2018.

Swans finished 10th this season, its first in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League.

Brighton regressed in a big way during the second half of this season, and remains in the top flight largely because Cardiff City was unable to take advantage of the Seagulls’ huge struggles.

The report says Swansea offered Potter a new deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium, but the manager wants to try the Premier League.

If he takes the job, Potter will manage against one of his former clubs; Potter played eight times for Southampton in the Premier League.

Pep: Domestic treble harder than winning Champions League

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Manchester City won its third tournament of the season on Saturday, battering Watford 6-0 at Wembley Stadium to add an FA Cup to its League Cup and Premier League titles.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

In doing so, City is the first club to win a domestic treble. Manager Pep Guardiola wants to win every competition he enters, but said winning all three is extra special.

“I love the Champions League but it is more difficult to do what we have done than to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said.

Wait, what?

From ManCity.com:

“It’s not easy being there every three days. We lacked a little bit of energy but it’s normal. It’s been so tough this week. We could not have had more energy but we kept it at the right time.”

Well, that makes sense. Whereas Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp risked less with his cup lineups, knowing his desire for the Premier League and Champions League, Guardiola’s lineups were aimed at winning everything.

And that’s largely why they’ve done it. City might’ve needed penalty kicks to beat Chelsea in the League Cup Final and a John Stones clearance to win the Premier League (or a Vincent Kompany thunderbolt), but the treble is impressive.

AC Milan boss Gattuso insists fifth “not a failure”

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For a solid four months, it appeared AC Milan was on track for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years. Then, it all fell apart.

Still, manager Gennaro Gattuso is insisting their season is not a failure, adamant that a fifth-placed finish would not be considered a disappointment for the club. His reasoning will not be exactly endearing to fans.

“Fifth place absolutely wouldn’t be a failure, not because I want credit myself, plus what would Roma and Lazio say?” Gattuso said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Frosinone. “There’s regret because for two months we’ve had our fate in our hands and we dropped so many points, but it’s not a failure.”

Milan was as high as third place in the Serie A table in mid-March and seemed close to wrapping up a return to Champions League play, but a stretch of one win in seven league matches saw them tumble down into the crowded battle below, with Atalanta, Roma, Torino, and Lazio all in a pack. AC Milan now sits sixth, and while they still remain in the mix for the fourth position, they would need to make up a three-point deficit in just two matches. Fifth-placed Roma drew today, so they can jump to fifth with a win against Frosinone.

Milan was a European powerhouse for decades until the club declined following its 2007 Champions League victory, ultimately falling out of the running for Europe’s top competition, with just a few Europa League appearances since 2014. Gattuso’s comparison to Lazio and Roma, two strong Italian clubs without Milan’s history, is bound to infuriate fans, along with his acceptance of the club’s shortcomings.

The late-season collapse has called Gattuso’s job security into question, but he said that will wait until the end of the season. “Both the club and I have put aside our small talk to reach our objective,” Gattuso said during the presser. “There will be time to talk about the future.”

“There are two games left and we’re still playing for our objective.”