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De Boer believes Atlanta fans should lower expectations

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Under heavy disapproval of a poor start to his tenure in charge of Atlanta United, head coach Frank De Boer has looked to rebuff critics by telling fans they have been “spoiled” by the club’s early success.

The club opened its season with a 3-1 loss to Mexican club Herediano, and while they produced a massive 4-0 win in the second leg to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, but they slumped again in the first leg in a 3-0 defeat to Monterrey.

Their league start has also been a struggle. After losing to D.C. United to start the year, they drew 1-1 on Sunday with FC Cincinnati in a game that saw Atlanta go in front early but concede in the last few minutes, de Boer has heard the noise.

“Of course they [Atlanta fans] were a little spoiled with the results of last season,” De Boer said after the defeat to Cincinnati. “Everybody expected [similar results], and that’s also normal.”

De Boer believes the abrupt start to the season due to the continental competition has put them at a disadvantage, citing last season’s strugglers as an example.

“Everybody also saw what happened with Toronto when they played the [CONCACAF] Champions League last season. Out of nothing we were induced to play every three days a game, and now I think in 17 games we play five games or something like that. That’s a lot.”

Last season, after winning the MLS title the year before, Toronto FC reached the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, but it appeared to have a taxing effect on their league campaign. They lost four of their first five MLS games and finished the year with the third-fewest points in the league.

When asked about fans booing the club, de Boer said it’s not fair to the players who have given their all to start the year.

“I don’t think it’s fair because I think everybody worked very hard for it and it’s not that they didn’t give 100%,” De Boer said. “They [Cincinnati] had their first chance in the 85th minute, so it’s very hard to concede a goal like that. Defensively we were standing very well in the last three, they did fantastic I think. I think it’s not fair to the team.”

Finally, de Boer said he thinks teams are beginning to adjust to Atlanta’s style, packing in defensively and forcing them to play a patient style of attack.

“It’s always very difficult against a team that plays so good organized with so many people in their own half,” de Boer said. “I played for a long time with Ajax and as a coach, teams expect you to just expect you to create chances and play in their own half. That’s the most difficult to play as a football team; everybody knows when you have space you can create more or in transition, but this when they drop very deep in their own half, we have to be secure with those individual actions sometimes and make some runs to create space and make them stretch, and hopefully you can get in between the lines. We have to accept that and have to understand what kind of moments when you have to play long and when you have to play in between the lines.”

Ultimately, telling fans they should expect less so early into a job is probably an ill-advised strategy. Given de Boer’s tendency to perform poorly early into recent jobs, including struggles in short tenures with Crystal Palace and Inter, it’s probably in his best interest to avoid telling Atlanta fans to accept losing.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: BATE Borisov pick up win, end early-season drought

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Saturday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Rukh 0-1 BATE Borisov

With an early goal from midfielder Stanislav Dragun, BATE Borisov, Belarus’ most successful team (15 league titles) and a regular face in European competition, earned their first win of the season. Kirill Alshevsky, who took over at the helm prior to the season, had started his spell on a two-game losing streak.

BATE, despite not winning the possession battle decisively, generated twice as many shots on target as the visitors, registering a total of 11 shots throughout 90 minutes at Borisov Arena.

A winner of 13 straight Belarusian Premier League titles – spanning from 2006 to 2018 – pressure began looming over BATE after starting the 2020 campaign with back-to-back lackluster results. BATE, who lost to Arsenal in Europa League’s Round of 32 in April 2019, were outscored 5-2 in the first, two games of the league.

Dinamo Minsk, the second most successful Belarusian side, also picked up their first three points on Friday, following a slower-than-usual start to the season. Meanwhile, defending champion Dinamo Brest fell 2-1 to Slavia-Mozyr, dropping to eighth on the table.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Shakhtyor 0-0 Nerman

Dinamo Brest 1-2 Slavia-Mozyr

NWSL extends league-wide training moratorium through May

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The NWSL is extending its league-wide training moratorium another month amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced on Saturday.

All NWSL teams will be unable to partake in team trainings until at least May 5, extending its previous training moratorium that was set to expire on Sunday, April 5. The 2020 season – which was set to start on April 18 – is expected to start by the end of June, according to NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird.

“We’ve been just communicating with our players and we’re targeting for the end of June for our season to start,” Baird told The Equalizer. “I say that with conviction and hope, but … we’re gonna adhere to the public health guidelines that are in place at the time and I don’t think that we can predict what they are. But our strategy is in place.”

Earlier this week, Major League Soccer and United Soccer League extended their training moratorium through April 24 and April 19, respectively.

Report: England manager Gareth Southgate agrees to 30 percent pay cut

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England manager Gareth Southgate has agreed to a 30 percent pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic, our partners at Sky Sports reported on Saturday.

[ MORE: What PL clubs are doing to help during coronavirus ] 

Southgate’s move, which is reportedly expected to be confirmed by the Football Association (FA) next week, comes hours after the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) released a statement on behalf of the Premier League players responding to proposed pay cuts.

A FA spokesperson told Sky Sports the following: “The financial implications of the coronavirus are not yet known however, as a not-for-profit organization, we want to ensure that we take the appropriate course of action to support the wider organization and our employees.

“We will make a further announcement on our next steps in due course.”

On Friday, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe – and a handful of technical staff personnel – became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. Howe’s “significant, voluntary” pay cuts were done in light of the club furloughing non-playing employees throughout the organization, joining Tottenham, Norwich, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Spanish league and players still far apart on salary cuts

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish league and players are still far apart on the size of the salary cuts they need to take to help reduce the financial impact caused by the coronavirus outbreak, with the footballers saying the organization wants them to carry nearly half the total losses.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players have said they are willing to reduce their salaries, but not as much as the league or the clubs want.

“After analyzing the current circumstances of the sector and given the distance in conversations with the players’ association, it is necessary to adopt measures in view of the serious economic crisis that COVID-19 is causing in the Spanish soccer industry,” the league said in a statement.

It also added that government furloughs are “an exceptional mechanism to avoid and mitigate the negative impact that COVID-19 is having on the sector, and thus guarantee its subsequent recovery.”

According to media reports, the league expects losses of 957 million euros ($1.03 billion) if the season is canceled, with 303 million euros ($327 million) lost if it resumes with games in empty stadiums and 156 million euros ($168 million) of deficits if it continues with fans.

The players said the total cuts in salaries requested by the league would account for 451 million euros ($487 million) if the top flight cannot restart.

The reduction in salaries being discussed reportedly varies depending on the clubs, and also on whether they are playing in the Champions League or the Europa League.

Team captains met with the players’ association late Friday to discuss their options after the league earlier in the day called for all clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs to reduce labor costs while the stoppage of play continued. The furloughs help the clubs and guarantee players their jobs once the crisis is over.

The league said it is responsible for preserving an industry that represents 1.37 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and employs about 185,000 people.

Atlético Madrid and Barcelona were among the clubs to resort to the furloughs in recent days. Both reached an agreement with players to reduce their salaries by 70 percent, and guaranteed the wages of other employees were unaffected.

There are nearly 125,000 cases of the new coronavirus in Spain, which on Saturday surpassed Italy as the country with the second-most infections behind the United States. The death toll in the nation stands at 11,744.

The government is expected to extend lockdown measures until April 26, likely keeping the Spanish league suspended until then.

The league has said the season won’t resume until authorities deem it safe for everyone’s health. It said it will recommend a “minimum of 15 days” of practice before the games can restart, though it suggested recently the training period may begin with restrictions before the lockdown is removed.

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