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Need to Know: Sounders, MNUFC quickest out of the gate

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While we’re already through two jam-packed MLS Saturdays in 2019, it’s still far too early to make any sweeping judgments about this or that, so we’re prepared to ride the fence a little longer as we observe and discuss a few major talking points…

[ MORE: What did we learn on a wild Premier League Saturday? (video) ]

Fear The Loons

For a two-hour period of time Saturday night, the single-table MLS standings read as follows:

If you spent more than 15 minutes watching Minnesota United at any point during their first two seasons in MLS, you’re probably convinced that the above image is a cheeky photoshop. Not the case, because the Loons won their second straight game to start the 2019 season on Saturday, 3-0 away to the hapless San Jose Earthquakes, and were briefly the only team in the league with six points (more on the team that later joined them in a moment).

Given the fact they’ve played perhaps the two worst teams in the Western Conference — if not the entire league — it’s tough to say just how much better Minnesota are than they were in the last two years, but the fact remains: they’ve beaten a pair of worst-in-the-conference/league candidates, so it’s no longer them. Head coach Adrian Heath is convinced the roster is lightyears ahead of where it was, and that point is nigh impossible to argue.

Fear The Sounders More

The Seattle Sounders leapfrogged Minnesota before the night was over, and Brian Schmetzer’s side looked downright terrifying in doing so — for the first 15 minutes, at least. After racing out to a 2-0 advantage in the 8th minute, Seattle never really got out of second gear the rest of the way, mostly because they didn’t have to.

It almost feels like, after going to MLS Cup in back-to-back seasons and having very little of an offseason as a result, Seattle looks fully rested and re-energized after bowing out a full month earlier than they had recently done. Starting quick has never been a strength of the Sounders, but they’re already flying out of the gate to start 2019.

Houston is a problem

Speaking of sides that have impressed on this very young season, the Houston Dynamo have looked more than solid while juggling CONCACAF Champions League and start of the MLS regular season, reaching the quarterfinals of CCL and picking up a very deserved and hard-fought first league victory on Saturday.

The three points didn’t come easily for Wilmer Cabrera’s side, as they fell behind in the 34th minute — on the Montreal Impact’s only shot on target for the entire game — before responding almost immediately, courtesy of Memo Rodriguez just two minutes later.

Cabrera opted to rotate half of his potent attacking quartet, dropping Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto to the bench while leaving Mauro Manotas and Tomas Martinez in the lineup. The gamble paid off, as it was Quioto who set up Manotas’ 86th-minute winner.

Manotas has to be the least heralded 19-goal scorer (last season) in league history, and he’s got two in two games to begin the current campaign. If you’re looking for an under-the-radar pick for the Golden Boot, or throwing out darkhorse candidates for best most complete forward in the league, you could do a lot worse than the 23-year-old Colombian.

Full MLS scoreboard

Chicago Fire 1-1 Orlando City SC
New England Revolution 0-2 Columbus Crew SC
FC Dallas 2-0 LA Galaxy
Houston Dynamo 2-1 Montreal Impact
Real Salt Lake 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
San Jose Earthquakes 0-3 Minnesota United
Seattle Sounders 2-0 Colorado Rapids

Report: No money in January for Mourinho

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Jose Mourinho will have to deal with the squad he has for the rest of the season, according to a report the Guardian.

The report states that Tottenham isn’t making any money available for signings in January, meaning that Mourinho won’t have the chance to add to his Spurs squad. Usually, when a new coach comes in, they’re given at least a transfer window to bring in one or two players, especially mid-season, to stabilize the squad.

[READ: Mourinho speaks for the first time as Spurs manager]

It’s certainly an unusual move from Tottenham. It leaves Mourinho in a bad spot in terms of the five first-team players who will be out of contract in June. If any of them, including Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, leave on transfer, perhaps Tottenham can use those funds towards new signings. However, it’s more likely at this point that all five will finish the season at White Hart Lane and leave, setting up a massive summer for Mourinho.

At the same time, Tottenham has shown financial austerity for the past few seasons, as it struggles to pay back the loans it took to renovate its stadium. Pochettino didn’t make a single signing for the entirety of the 2018-2019 season and while the club broke its transfer record to sign Tanguay Ndombele, there wasn’t investment throughout the squad.

Considering Tottenham’s financial behavior, it does question why Mourinho took the job in the first place. But with his reported eight-figure salary, and the chance to work with Harry Kane, Mourinho may have decided it’s worth it, even if he can’t sign his players and mold the squad in the way he wants.

Looking Ahead: Mourinho’s first 10 games

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Tottenham’s stunning week continued on Wednesday with the appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager.

Taking in his first day of training, Mourinho can now get to grips with not only his squad, but what’s ahead for Spurs. Here’s a look at what Mourinho will be up against in the next two months.

[READ: 5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham]


Game 1: Tottenham at West Ham, Saturday, Premier League

Mourinho’s first game in charge is a London derby, which is a pretty tough way to start life at the club. Coming on the road, you can expect a packed house, tons of media attention, and possibly a re-energized squad. That’s what Mourinho will be hoping for, anyways.

Sebastian Haller has struggled recently, and with just four goals in 11 Premier League games, he could be looking at this matchup as a way to get back on the scoresheet. It will be up to Mourinho to re-organize a want-away defense.

Game 2: Tottenham v. Olympiakos, Nov. 26, UEFA Champions League

Game 3: Tottenham v. Bournemouth, Nov. 30, Premier League

Game 4: Tottenham at Manchester United, Dec. 4, Premier League

Mourinho only has to wait three weeks before his first trip back to Old Trafford. Even though it’s coming soon, it’s not a guarantee that it will be Mourinho v. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is under a lot of pressure himself. Things haven’t improved at Man United much since Mourinho was sacked, and a win for him on the road would be the kind of grudge match he lives for.

Game 5: Tottenham v. Burnley, Dec. 7, Premier League

Game 6: Tottenham at Bayern Munich, Dec. 11, Champions League

If the Champions League stopped today, passed Go and went directly to the knockout rounds, Tottenham would be in. Despite all the Premier League troubles, Spurs have done well enough to stay ahead of Red Star Belgrade and Olympiakos in the standings. Should Tottenham beat Olympiakos in November, and Red Star loses to Bayern Munich, it will be set. However, if Tottenham hasn’t secured a place in the knockout round by then, it may need a result against Bayern at home. That will be one of Mourinho’s biggest tasks moving forward.

Game 7: Tottenham at Wolves, Dec. 15, Premier League

Game 8: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Dec. 22, Premier League

Tottenham opens the busy holiday period against Mourinho’s other Premier League former club, and the place where he made his name in England. At this point, Mourinho will have been with Tottenham for an entire month and if things are going well, Tottenham could challenge Chelsea in this match. If Tottenham remain at its current level, Chelsea could certainly win a match like this on the road at the new White Hart Lane. Another side plot will be Mourinho facing his former star midfielder, Frank Lampard.

Game 9: Tottenham v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Dec. 26, Premier League

Game 10: Tottenham at Norwich City, Dec. 28, Premier League

Mourinho will have to navigate some tough matches, including big six derbies against Chelsea and Man United, plus a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, it certainly could have been worse for Tottenham. Spurs has five home games, along with matches against Burnley, Bournemouth, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite 10 games in the rest of 2019, and a busy holiday period, Mourinho has a shot to turn Spurs’ season around and put them in contention for fourth place by May.

UEFA investigates player’s claim of racial abuse in Romania

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA has called for further investigations into allegations by a Sweden player he was racially abused by Romania fans at a European Championship qualifying game.

After Alexander Isak reported his claim to the match referee last Friday, play in Sweden’s 2-0 win was briefly stopped to broadcast a warning to fans in Bucharest. The stadium will host four Euro 2020 games in June.

[READ: How the USMNT found and kept Sergino Dest]

UEFA says it opened a disciplinary investigation, and also charged Romania’s soccer federation for separate incidents of an alleged “illicit banner” and “illicit chants.” Those charges will be judged on Dec. 12.

Romania faces more severe UEFA action because it was already under one year’s probation for previous incidents of offensive fan behavior.

Only accompanied children were allowed to attend Romania’s home qualifier against Norway last month.

The next UEFA punishment could affect Romania’s next game in the Euro 2020 playoffs round in March.

Report: Austin FC hire Reyna as sporting director

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Months after locking in Josh Wolff as head coach, Austin FC is reportedly on the verge of naming one of MLS’ best sporting directors to the same role.

The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has hired Claudio Reyna from New York City FC to be the expansion club’s new sporting director. It’s the second expansion club that Reyna is working for since he joined NYCFC in 2013 as its first director of soccer operations.

[READ: MLS takes big step with All-Star game update]

If true, it’s a shrewd move by Precourt to bring in a man who knows MLS like the back of his thumb, and to pair him with a former teammate from the U.S. Men’s National Team. Wolff’s spent almost his entire career in professional soccer in MLS too, so the club now has two influential individuals who are knowledgable about the league and it’s various roster mechanisms.

Austin FC doesn’t enter MLS until 2021, so locking in Reyna now gives him more than a year of runway towards building an MLS-ready roster. Precourt has surely seen the best-case scenario – Seattle, Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United – where a team loaded with top-heavy talent and good role players can make a deep playoff run in its expansion season. But he’s likely also seen the worst-case scenarios – look at Minnesota United in the past and FC Cincinnati this year.

Bringing in Reyna certainly makes it more likely that Austin FC’s future will lie in the former category.