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Need to Know: What went down on MLS opening day

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The 2019 MLS season got underway on Saturday, and did so with a flurry of action — and goals — across the campaign’s first 10 games…

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Heath lead USWNT back to draw England (video) ]

If you missed the day’s action, here are four of the biggest stories, outcomes, debuts or revelations you need to know…

Michael Bradley Revenge Tour – 2019

First things first, 2019 is a contract year for Michael Bradley, Toronto FC’s $6.5-million-per-year midfield engine. While the one-time (and maybe still) U.S. men’s national team captain can hardly ever be accused of prioritizing money over all else in his career, it’s the whole “getting paid” part that makes him a professional. Beyond the cash he stands to make or lose on a potential next contract, Bradley must first prove he’s got enough left in the tank to warrant the Reds extending an offer in the first place.

Fine, have a season-opening brace in a 3-1 victory away to the Philadelphia Union, one of the Eastern Conference’s six playoff teams from a year ago. What happened to TFC in 2019 was no doubt an embarrassment and an affront for a player of Bradley’s standard.

Taking into account the above two factors, no one should be at all surprised when Bradley turns in Herculean performance after Herculean performance in 2019, shutting up his longtime haters and reminding those who might have jumped ship that he’s far from finished.


Meet the future of the Galaxy, Efrain Alvarez

Efrain Alvarez is a 16-year-old Mexican-American superstar in the making, and he already looks like he’ll be MLS’s next great teenage export to Europe. Making his MLS debut on Saturday, the Los Angeles-born Mexican youth international (he switch from the U.S. to Mexico at the U-15 level, in 2016) needed just eight minutes to make his mark and spark the Galaxy’s comeback.

Paging U.S. Soccer: let’s get on this, ASAP…

As for the Galaxy’s 2019 prospects, the only thing I feel comfortable saying with absolute certainty is this: they will be very fun to watch, and equal parts maddening, probably during the course of one every game. The best thing I can say for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side on his MLS coaching debut is this: after falling behind on a comically atrocious mistake that gift-wrapped Chicago’s opening goal, they knew how to play from behind without handing the Fire a second and/or third goal. Oh, yeah, and he’s already willing to play the Galaxy’s (considerably talented) academy kids.


Keep an eye on Minnesota

Minnesota United appear headed for respectability and a — dare I say it — push for a playoff place in 2019. Finally, after struggling defensively for two seasons, the Loons went out and make a trio of signings that might just prove franchise-altering in very short order: Osvaldo Alonso, Ike Opara and Jan Gregus.

While you’re undoubtedly familiar with the work of Alonso and Opara, Gregus probably has you thinking to yourself, Who? Who, indeed, but the 28-year-old Slovak international proved in Saturday’s 3-2 win away to the Vancouver Whitecaps that he is the midfield anchor Minnesota had been missing. Signed from Copenhagen this winter, Gregus was extremely tidy in possession (he completed 93 percent of the 84 passes he attempted) and provided solid cover for a backline that knew no such thing prior to his arrival.

Darwin Quintero remains one of the league’s biggest game-changers (one goal and two assists), which might not go to waste yet again now that the rest of the roster has a bit more quality and experience.


Orange ball alert

It is with great pleasure that I inform the masses that the Colorado Rapids were forced to break out the orange ball on the opening day of the season, thanks to near white-out conditions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the coldest game in MLS history (18 degrees at kickoff).

What did we learn about the Rapids or their opponents, the defending Western Conference champion Portland Timbers, on this day? Other than the fact that 3-3 draws and 94th-minute equalizers in heavy snow are tons of fun to watch, of course? Not a single thing, thanks to said weather conditions turning the game into a glorified Thanksgiving day pickup game in the backyard.

Full MLS scoreboard

Seattle Sounders 4-1 FC Cincinnati
LA Galaxy 2-1 Chicago Fire
Philadelphia Union 1-3 Toronto FC
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-3 Minnesota United
Colorado Rapids 3-3 Portland Timbers
Orlando City SC 2-2 New York City FC
Columbus Crew SC 1-1 New York Red Bulls
Houston Dynamo 1-1 Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Montreal Impact
FC Dallas 1-1 New England Revolution

MLS roundup: Timbers end road trip with emphatic win in Philly

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in MLS…

[ MORE: USA topped by Ukraine in U-20 World Cup opener ]

Philadelphia Union 1-3 Portland Timbers [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Just when everyone had begun to take the Union seriously — to give them the respect befitting a first-place team — Jim Curtin’s side fell flat on its face and fell out of the Eastern Conference’s top spot. Saturday’s defeat to the suddenly streaking — and homeward bound — Timbers snapped Philadelphia’s six-game unbeaten run (four wins).

24-year-old attacker Brian Fernandez, signed as a Designated Player earlier this month, made his first MLS start and marked the occasion with two first-half goals (31st and 36th minutes). Diego Valeri added the third (87th) after Kacper Przybylko pulled the Union back to 2-1 in the 47th.

Now, with 14 points from their 12-game road trip to start the season, Portland heads home for 17 of their final 22 games to be played inside a newly renovated — and expanded — Providence Park. The gap between themselves and a Western Conference playoff place is just four points.

New England Revolution 1-1 D.C. United [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

With the Union slipping up and dropping all three points, D.C. United made the most of their opportunity to return to the top of the East on the back of Wayne Rooney‘s 90th-minute penalty kick to snatch a 1-1 draw with (what will soon be) Bruce Arena’s Revolution.

Juan Agudelo put the home side ahead with a header in the 61st minute, and the lead held firm for nearly the final half-hour. Alas, video review reviewed a handball late in the game, which presented Rooney the chance to play the part of hero. He duly obliged and hammered his spot kick past backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who replaced Matt Turner following his 56th minute red card for cleaning out Rooney.

Arena is expected to take charge of Revs training this week and make his debut as head coach next Sunday, when his new side visits… his old side, the LA Galaxy.

Colorado Rapids 3-2 Columbus Crew SC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Don’t look now, but the Rapids have won two straight games under interim head coach Conor Casey and appear set on clawing their way out of the league’s basement.

Sure, they blew a pair of leads at home, but they also hit back with another goal of their own every time Crew SC drew level, culminating in a stunning winner from Nicolas Mezquida.

The gap between Colorado and 23th place is now just three points, as expansion side FC Cincinnati come closer and closer on the horizon.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 1-1 New York City FC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 FC Dallas [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
FC Cincinnati 0-2 New York Red Bulls [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Minnesota United 1-0 Houston Dynamo [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders — 6 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. San Jose Earthquakes — 7:30 p.m. ET

Will winning the double be enough to keep Kovac at Bayern?

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BERLIN (AP) Niko Kovac is the first to win a domestic double in Germany as a player and coach, yet it may not be enough to keep his job as Bayern Munich coach.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Kovac, whose side defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday, a week after clinching the Bundesliga title, is yet to be given assurances in public from the club that he will remain in charge, despite bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

The pressure and uncertainty appeared to cast a shadow on what was Kovac’s second successive German Cup win — he was Eintracht Frankfurt coach when the side defeated Bayern in the final last year.

“Last year I was leaving the team. This year everything is a little less emotional, no tears, but still, I’m happy,” Kovac said.

“Sometimes I would really wish that things went a little differently. It’s difficult to turn the wheel back. We should all work on it, we’re all human. We should make sure that we get along with each other.”

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Kovac, who won the double as a player in 2003, acknowledged the cup win on Saturday was “very important” as “it shows that we have worked well.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was again coy when pressed on the coach’s future.

“At the end of the day, we have to get titles. Of course the coach plays a central role,” Rummenigge said. “It was never an issue for us with the term that he has until 2021, that he would simply not be there anymore as coach beforehand.”

John Terry is a finalist for the vacant Middlesbrough job

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In a matter of just a few days’ time, John Terry could be named the new manager of side Middlesbrough.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

According to a report from the Guardian, Terry is being considered as one of three finalists, alongside former Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic and former Boro defender (and current first-team coach) Jonathan Woodgate, for the EFL Championship side’s vacant job.

Terry has reportedly spoken to the Boro hierarchy in recent days, and chairman Steve Gibson is expected to make a final decision over who will replace Tony Pulis following the weekend. Boro spent the entirety of the 2018-19 season jostling for a place in the promotion playoffs, but finished seventh and missed out by a single point.

After announcing his retirement from playing in October, Terry was named assistant coach on Dean Smith’s staff at Aston Villa, where he has remained throughout the season and will do so through Monday’s promotion playoff final against Derby County.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Jokanovic led Fulham to promotion last season before he was fired in November as the Cottagers appeared headed for an immediate relegation back down to the Championship, which ultimately came to pass.

Woodgate came through the Boro academy and played for the club on two occasions, 2006-2007 and again from 2012-2016. He was named a member of Steve Agnew‘s coaching staff in March 2017, less than a year after ending his playing days.

German Cup: Bayern Munich complete double by beating Leipzig

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BERLIN (AP) Captain Manuel Neuer returned from six weeks out injured to help Bayern Munich complete a domestic double after beating Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Robert Lewandowski scored twice and Kingsley Coman grabbed the other as Bayern claimed a record-extending 19th cup win to make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s final to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who was in charge of Frankfurt at the time, boosted his chances of keeping his job in Munich after bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

Neuer, who missed Bayern’s Bundesliga triumph the week before due to a calf injury, produced two stunning saves in either half when a goal for Leipzig might have been decisive.

Neuer somehow denied Yussuf Poulsen’s header from close range in the 11th minute, when the ball crashed back off the crossbar, and got the better of Emil Forsberg in a one-on-one after the break, when the Swedish midfielder should have equalized.

“You couldn’t write a better script,” Neuer said.

Lewandowski opened the scoring with a header in the 29th, Coman doubled the lead in the 78th after Forsberg’s miss, and Lewandowski wrapped it up with a chip over the goalkeeper in the 85th.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery went on late to make their last appearances for Bayern after 10 and 12 seasons respectively. Ribery became the only player to play in eight German Cup finals.

“They delivered a lot for the team and the club,” Lewandowski said. “We have to be grateful.”

Leipzig was appearing in its first, and had been hoping to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding date with a win. Thousands of fans made the relatively short journey from Saxony to cheer their side, though they found themselves outnumbered by Bayern fans at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, which hosts German soccer’s showpiece every year.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff said. “When you come here, you want to win.”

The supporters had been warming up for hours before the encounter, downing beers and singing songs at various locations in the city before making their way to the game. Fans who arrived on chartered buses lit barbeques and shared crates of beer by the side of the road.

Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, the sporting director who took charge of the team on an interim basis before Julian Nagelsmann arrives from Hoffenheim, started with his strongest team, with American Tyler Adams lining up beside Kevin Kampl in midfield.

Leipzig looked sharper, fresher and quicker at the start, but one lapse was all Lewandowski needed to open the scoring. David Alaba whipped the ball in toward the penalty spot, where Lewandowski had too much space to head inside the left post.

Coman displayed a fantastic first touch to control the ball past the helpless Peter Gulacsi for Bayern’s second, and Lewandowski ensured the result was emphatic when he claimed his competition-leading seventh goal. Lewandowski was booked for removing his shirt in the celebrations, but he accepted the yellow card with a smile.

“We worked hard for the whole season. In the end you could say it was a good season for us,” the Polish striker said.