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LA Galaxy hire Barros Schelotto as new coach

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The LA Galaxy is used to making big splashes with signings on the field. On Wednesday, it made one off the field.

The club announced that it had hired Guillermo Barros Schelotto as its new head coach, replacing interim manager Dom Kinnear, who failed to turnout a rough season that saw the Galaxy miss the MLS Cup playoffs. It’s a return to MLS for Barros Schelotto, after he led the Columbus Crew to an MLS Cup title and two U.S. Open Cup titles a decade ago as a playmaking midfielder.

Chelsea host Southampton on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge and our Premier League analysts will be breaking down Pulisic’s move.

Barros Schelotto followed up a terrific career in Argentina, ten years with Boca Juniors and MLS with a successful transition to coaching. Barros Schelotto began coaching with Buenos Aires side Lanus in 2012 and a year later, he led his club to the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s Europa League equivalent.

The 45-year-old joined his former club Boca Juniors in March 2016 and led his side to back to back Argentine League titles as well as a place in the Copa Libertadores Final.

The news of Barros Schelotto returning to MLS comes exactly as the crisis around Argentine Soccer has become more severe, while leagues like MLS take advantage. Barros Schelotto could easily have continued at Boca or gone to Europe, but it’s likely that following the Copa Libertadores chaos last month in Buenos Aires, it showed that the Argentine security apparatus can’t keep players or fans safe before and during matches.

What is Argentina’s loss is MLS’ gain. It’s unclear how Barros Schelotto will handle Ibrahimovic, but he’s a player that will garner instant respect in the locker room. Barros Schelotto had no problem benching club legend Barros Schelotto at Boca the last few months, but his big job won’t be handling Ibrahimovic as much as retooling the Galaxy’s defense.

Report: LA Galaxy agree terms with Boca Juniors boss Schelotto

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s new boss has a pretty nice resume.

The LA Times’ Kevin Baxter says the LA Galaxy have reached an agreement with a new manager: longtime Columbus Crew star and recent Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

[ RECAP: Brighton 1-1 Arsenal ]

The 45-year-old Argentine won the Primera Division in both seasons with Boca, leading Lanus to the Copa Sudamericana in 2013.

A former MLS MVP, Schelotto is tasked with restoring one of the biggest clubs in league history to glory. The Galaxy have lost ground not only in the league, but in their town. LAFC made the playoffs in its first season while the Galaxy failed to make the postseason.

From the LA Times:

When Schelotto joins the Galaxy for the opening of training camp in Carson in 3½ weeks, he will become the team’s fifth head coach in 26 months. Bruce Arena, a five-time MLS Cup winner, left in November 2016 after leading the Galaxy to its last playoff berth. He was replaced by Curt Onalfo, coach of Galaxy II, the team’s United Soccer League affiliate. Onalfo was fired after just 20 games and replaced by Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history.

Schmid (narrator voice) failed badly with a talented, veteran-laden team which included Ibrahimovic, Ola Kamara, and both Jonathan and Giovani Dos Santos.

Schelotto leaves Boca Juniors after Copa Libertadores loss

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Boca Juniors confirmed the departure of head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto on Friday, five days after losing to domestic rivals River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final.

Schelotto steered the club impressively through the Copa Libertadores all the way to the final where they were halted by fellow Argentinian club River over two legs, the second leg taking place in Madrid after fan violence in Buenos Aires. The domestic season, however, has been a relative struggle for the club, as they sit sixth in the 26-team table, 12 points back of leaders leaders Racing Club. The club won the title last season under Schelotto as well as the year before, so expectations are high.

Schelotto joined Boca Juniors in 2016, a club he made 300 appearances for as a player across a decade of service time. The 45-year-old has just one other managerial stint on his resume, a three-year spell at fellow Argentinian club Lanus before joining Boca.

“The best thing for Boca is to start the year making a change – search for a new coaching staff and start all over from scratch,” said Boca Juniors president Daniel Angelici in a news conference. Schelotto was sitting beside Angelici at the presser, and said, “Despite not winning the Copa Libertadores, I leave at peace knowing that I left it all on the field. This is the best decision that we could have taken.”

Schelotto’s contract expires on December 31, and Boca does not play another match until restarting its league campaign against Newell’s Old Boys on January 26, giving the club ample opportunity to find a new manager and allow him time to begin with the squad.

Angelici said that Schelotto “has left the bar very high,” a nod to his popularity among fans, given his success with the club as both a player and a manager. Along with winning two league titles as manager, Schelotto won three Copa Libertadores titles as a player before moving to Major League Soccer in 2007, joining the Columbus Crew.

While Angelici said no talks are currently under way with a successor, names such as Gabriel Heinze, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Gustavo Alfaro have all been rumored in the media.

Atlanta’s MLS Cup celebration is joyous, but short-lived

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ATLANTA (AP) Despite cold, drizzly weather, thousands of fans turned out Monday for a downtown parade and rally to celebrate the city’s first championship since 1995.

The revelry won’t last long.

Atlanta United must find a coach to replace Tata Martino and likely cope with the loss of star midfielder Miguel Almiron before returning to the field in February for their first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League.

“That puzzle exists every year in professional sports,” team owner Arthur Blank told reporters after the rally outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “The great organizations, the great teams find a way to respond to that. What we’ve built here is a sustainable, winning organization, so we’re looking forward to being back – not just competing, but being back on this stage a year from now.”

In just its second season since entering Major League Soccer as an expansion team, Atlanta United won the championship with a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Saturday night.

Less than 48 hours later, the city toasted its first championship team since the Atlanta Braves won the 1995 World Series .

“We did it! We broke the curse!” said rapper Archie Eversole, whose song “We Ready” became a popular theme at home games.

The players rode a double-decker bus on the 1-mile-long parade route, holding up the cup for the cheering crowd as they passed the Georgia Aquarium, College Football Hall of Fame and Centennial Olympic Park. Blank, team president Darren Eales and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms revved up fans in convertibles at the front of the procession.

The parade ended in a grassy lot alongside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where some 15,000 turned out for a lunchtime rally also attended by outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal.

“We’ve won a championship in only our second season,” Eales said. “That’s pretty incredible.”

In probably his last appearance with the team, Martino hammered in the golden spike while the crowd roared. The Argentine coach is reportedly headed to Mexico to become that country’s national team coach.

“Coach Martino is one of the great coaches in the world,” Blank said. “He saw the vision, he bought into the vision, and he executed the vision with this incredible group of players.”

That group will be changing.

Atlanta already made several moves, announcing the day after the game that it declined contract options on five players including captain Michael Parkhurst, though the 34-year-old defender is expected to return in 2019. The team said it has already begun negotiations on a new contract with Parkhurst, who finally won the MLS Cup after playing on four runner-up teams.

The biggest moves are still to come. Almiron, who was runner-up in the MVP voting to teammate Josef Martinez, is expected to follow through on his desired move to Europe, which should bring United a hefty transfer fee.

The team seems to have already lined up a replacement.

Argentine star Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, who scored the clinching goal in River Plate’s victory Sunday in the Copa Libertadores final, announced on the field right after the game that he’s leaving the team. He told media in his native country that he’s headed to Atlanta United.

Martinez, who scored a record 31 goals during the regular season and added four more in the playoffs , appears likely to remain with the team for at least one more season. He’s had much more success in MLS than his previous stint in Italy’s Serie A.

“I am going to be here as long as they want me,” Martinez said after winning the MVP award. “I feel like I’m at home.”

Atlanta United could target another South American coach as Martino’s replacement, with an eye toward maintaining a pipeline to promising young players from that continent. As Almiron has shown, the MLS can provide a useful steppingstone to those wishing to further their careers in Europe.

Among those mentioned as candidates: Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who previously won the MLS Cup as a player in Columbus and coached Boca Juniors to the Copa Libertadores final this season; along with Marcelo Bielsa, who has close ties to Martino and is currently managing Leeds in England’s second division.

Atlanta United will have an additional priority in 2019 after qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, the continent’s top club competition. They will face Herediano in the two-legged opening round, with the first game to be played in Costa Rica in a Feb. 19-21 window before the second leg at Mercedes-Benz Stadium a week later.

That 16-team competition, which runs through the first of May, figures to be the team’s top priority in the early part of the 2019 season. The only U.S. team to win the title was D.C. United two decades ago.

But Atlanta is intent on defending its MLS championship, as well.

“It’s an honor to represent this city,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan, saluting the fans who broke numerous attendance records during the club’s first two seasons. “We’ll be back next year to defend this cup.”

“The Game of the Century”: Boca vs. River, Copa Lib final

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) They’re calling it “The Game of the Century” and “The Final of all Soccer Finals.” They’re not wrong.

Think Celtics vs. Lakers, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, and England vs. Scotland all rolled into one and you still might not be doing it justice.

The rivalry between Buenos Aires soccer teams Boca Juniors and River Plate ranks up there with the fiercest, most intense on the planet, and their regular “Superclasico” matchups create heated atmospheres that aren’t for the faint of heart.

The next two games, however, will be even more magnified than usual because the clubs will be facing each other in the final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.

“I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” said Gonzalo Rodriguez Peralta, a 45-year-old River fan who was given club membership by his late father when he was born. “There’s no explanation … you only understand it when you’re there.”

It’s the first time that Argentina’s two biggest teams will meet in the Copa Libertadores final. Boca has won the title six times since the tournament began in 1960, one behind Argentine club Independiente’s South American record of seven titles. River has won it three times.

“Boca and River have raised Argentine soccer where it has never been before,” Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “Regardless of the outcome in these finals, we’ve put Argentine soccer at the highest level. Today, the whole world is talking about this final.”

The first leg will be played Saturday at Boca Juniors’ home stadium, an intimidating ground known as “La Bombonera” or “The Chocolate Box” for its tightly enclosed shape that looks like boxes stacked on top of each other. The second leg will be on Nov. 24 at River’s Monumental de Nunez Stadium, where Argentina won its first World Cup in 1978.

As is usual in recent years, visiting fans will not be allowed at either match because of the fear of violence. It’s been that way since 2013 and not even a plea from Argentine President Mauricio Macri, a former Boca president, could change that.

Argentina’s most successful teams originated in the docks of the southern working-class Buenos Aires neighborhood of La Boca and their rivalry dates back to the early 20th century.

Boca was founded by a group of Italian immigrants who chose the blue and yellow club colors after the flag of a Swedish ship that arrived in port. River, with its white shirt and diagonal red stripe, moved to a northern affluent neighborhood during the league’s beginnings. The derby’s gritty play, passionate fans and colorful celebrations was once ranked by British newspaper The Observer in its top spot of the 50 sporting things you must do before you die.

Some of history’s best players have come from Boca and River. Diego Maradona, who captained Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, spent two stints at Boca and has his VIP seat reserved at the stadium. Playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme and prolific goal scorer Martin Palermo were part of a golden era when the club even beat all-mighty Real Madrid for the Intercontinental Cup in 2000.

River Plate takes pride in having produced world-class players like Alfredo Di Stefano, who began his career at the club and went on to win five European Cup titles with Real Madrid. Or Enzo Francescoli, an inspiration for France great Zinedine Zidane, who named one of his children after the Uruguayan forward.

Although it’s the first time Boca and River will play each other for the Copa Libertadores title, the teams have met in the South American competition three times previously. Boca won in the 2000 quarterfinals 4-2 on aggregate and in the 2004 semifinals on a penalty shootout. River won the 2015 round-of-16 match in 1-0 after tournament organizers eliminated Boca because of pepper spray spread by its fans in the second leg.

“No one can erase what has been done,” River coach Marcelo Gallardo said recently. “But now, it’s a whole new story, one more page in this book. It will be up to us to continue being part of this history.”

River is looking for its second Copa Liberatdores title in the last three years, a huge achievement considering the team was relegated to the second division in 2011 – a painful blow that triggered riots between police and fans.

Gallardo, a former River player, has restored River’s pride since taking over in 2014, winning several championships and last year’s Argentine Super Cup against Boca.

Of course, none of that matters to Boca Juniors.

“This is not one more game in the league. This is a final,” Barros Schelotto said. “The only thing in my mind is to try to win these two games.”

Both coaches have plenty to play for. Besides gaining iconic status among the legions of fans for each team, the winning coach also would improve his prospects of taking over Argentina’s national team.

Gallardo will be at a bit of a disadvantage, though. He will miss the first match after being sanctioned by South American soccer’s governing body for failing to follow a previous suspension that banned him from contacting his players during the semifinals.

On the field, Boca’s best-known player is forward Carlos Tevez, who appeared in two World Cups for Argentina and previously played for clubs including Juventus, Manchester United and Manchester City. But these days, the team depends on striker Dario Benedetto, whose goals helped the club reach the final.

River striker Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez could be the one to watch on the other side. He scored in the last two matches against Boca and is expected to return after recovering from the flu. Other key players include midfielder Juan Quintero and Franco Armani, who is considered one of the best goalkeepers in Latin America.

“The pressure is very high because the public is following closely and the result will matter to them. It will be remembered for many years because it is a unique final,” said Oscar Mangione, a sports psychologist who has worked with Boca but is a devoted River fan. “It now depends on the players, on the coaches and how they deal with that pressure.”

The pressure, the history, the animosity: No one in Argentina seems to be talking about anything else.

“We’re living a unique moment,” Boca captain Pablo Perez said, “first because it’s a final, and second because it’s against River.”