When Wolves signed Diogo Jota on loan from Atletico Madrid, they hoped he would make an impact. Eighteen goals later and five assists under his belt – it’s fair to say he has been a hit at Molineux. It is thought that wolves will turn the loan deal into a permanent transfer any day now, but the striker himself admits that no deal has been done yet. In a recent interview with , he talks about his future at the club. He is quoted as saying: “For the next season I still have nothing defined, I still have nothing signed. “I want to stay. Everything that has happened this season leads me to believe that the next season can be good for me in the Premier League but, as I said, nothing is still signed and I can not give anything for granted. ” Wolverhampton Wanderers are reflecting upon a dream season. Promotion, the Championship title and Nuno Espirito Santo heading up a long list of gold and black heroes. Ryan Leister has watched the Molineux stars throughout the glorious 2017-18 campaign. Here’s his marks out of 10 and verdicts on the Wolves players. John Ruddy 8.5 As free transfers go, signing a once-capped England international who is in his prime is pretty good business isn’t it? The Championship’s Golden Glove winner has been a key part of Wolves’ spine throughout a brilliant year. Early in the season he pulled off some fine one-on-one saves, particularly at Reading from point-blank range when the score was 1-0 to Wolves. The former Norwich man had a couple of games when his confidence seemed to dip with his handling, but any doubts were washed away with a magnificent penalty save at Cardiff. Will Norris 7.5 Other than one appearance at Sunderland, the former Cambridge stopper was mainly utilised as a cup keeper throughout the season. His cup form was that impressive it earned him a place in the Carabao Cup team of the season, where he only conceded in the penalty shootout defeat at Manchester City. He admitted himself he was happy with his performance at Sunderland, but other than that, he’d been very reliable when called upon. Willy Boly 9 As good a centre back that’s graced Molineux for many a year. His cult status started at Derby away early in the season when bringing the ball out from the back, he audaciously scooped a pass over the closing forward like it was nothing. A contender for player-of-the-season and in most years he’d have won it, but most years in the Championship you aren’t contending with Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves. Cultured, powerful and composed, the Frenchman has been highly efficient and a joy to watch. Magnifique. Conor Coady 9 This time last year, how many people would have expected the former Huddersfield man to have played such a pivotal part in Wolves’ success this season? Huge credit to Nuno for immediately identifying his best position and of course to Coady for not only repaying the head coach’s faith, but also making the middle centreback position his own. With the whole pitch in front of him, the switch to a modern sweeper slot has really seen the popular Liverpudlian blossom. Without the ball his clever reading of the game has seen him make countless interceptions, but with the ball he’s been as equally impressive, being neat and tidy but also pinging many long range passes to his team-mates. Ryan Bennett 8 He had to wait a while for his opportunity, but slotted in comfortably and has been quietly efficient throughout the season. Along with Ruddy, another fantastic bit of business done by Wolves last pre-season. As defensively solid as he’s been, when I see Ryan Bennett’s name I immediately think about Bristol City away, where he notched a dramatic 94th minute winner. Danny Batth 7.5 Played his part in helping Wolves obtain multiple clean sheets throughout the season and joint-lifted his second promotion trophy for the club. A committed and honest professional whose conduct is an example to others. Bounced back from a few tough occasions to regain his place in the side. Roderick Miranda 6 You have to feel for the former Rio Ave man as his move to Wolves just hasn’t worked out for him. He had a couple of decent games earlier in the season, particularly in big early season wins against Derby and Aston Villa but overall it has been a struggle for him to stamp his mark on the team. It would be a surprise if he was at Wolves next season. He has reasonable distribution, but he’s really struggled defensively. Barry Douglas 8.5 With 15 assists and five goals from left wingback, it really has been an incredible first season in English football for the well-travelled Scotsman. Extremely neat and tidy with the ball and very underrated in the air, the former Lech Poznan defender has been an absolute bargain at the reported £1 million fee paid for his services. He’s not a wingback that will fly past his man, but with a left foot like his, you only need to give him the ball in a dangerous area and nine times out of 10 he’ll deliver. Let’s also not forget his delivery from set plays, which throughout the season has been superb. Ruben Vinagre 7 Some exciting displays earlier in the season but lost his place in the match day squad since BeinkAfobe’s arrival in January, mainly because of amount of loan players you can have in the 18. His highlight of the season was when he danced past Kyle Walker with skill and pace before Wolves eventually lost on penalties to a late sale for Donny van de Beek.It’s been claimed Real Madrid have a deal for the Holland midfielder and will sign him should they fail to land Manchester United star Paul Pogba.But Overmars told SER Catalunya, “Van de Beek will stay with Ajax thiMan City. At just 19, the Under-17 European championship winner has huge potential and even though he only played 13 times last season, I’d sign him if possible. Matt Doherty 8 Without doubt the best season of his Wolves career so far, with the wing-back slot fitting him like a glove. To make 47 appearances and play 4166 minutes of football in an incredibly demanding position is nothing short of amazing. With relentless overlaps and bursts forward, it is no surprise that the Irish international ended the season with four goals and four assists. The powerful wing-back’s form also earned him a long overdue international cap for Ireland. Romain Saiss 8.5 It is hard to understand how he was overlooked for much of last season. Although Ruben Neves gets much of the midfield praise, the Moroccan has also been a key cog in the Wolves engine room this season. Just because the job he does isn’t spectacular, it doesn’t mean he isn’t important, as his contribution has played a huge part in helping allow his centre midfield partner in crime to have the season he’s had. Strong, aggressive and a very tidy footballer. Ruben Neves 10 Marvellous, outstanding, sublime, glorious, majestic and at times breathtakingly exquisite, I just don’t think you understand. The wonderkid from Porto is not only Wolves player of the season, but possibly the best player most followers of the old gold have ever seen in Wolves shirt. It all started with that pass to Matt Doherty on the opening game of the season, when it took those in Molineux a few seconds to realise that he meant it. As well possessing as obscene range of passing, the midfielder has scored six times and all from outside the box, including his stunning goal of the season against Derby. Who said magic isn’t real?! Alfred N’Diaye 8 How many sides in the Championship wouldn’t want this guy to be one of the first names on the team sheet? Not a regular fixture in the side but produced some outstanding performances in some important away scalps, particularly at Norwich and Ipswich. As he’s not been a regular this year, it is hard to see him getting improved minutes next term and I am sure a player of his ability would want to be getting a consistent start. Kept his head down and delivered the goods when called upon. An excellent third choice centre midfielder for Wolves this year. Diogo Jota 9 In the first half of the season he was probably Wolves’ standout player. That’s not saying he had a poor second half of the season though! am this season.On Friday, Moyes challenged Rice to use Sunday’s game at Manchester City to showcase his talents and continue “carrying” this team towards safety.”Declan is arguably the best holding midfield player in the country,” Moyes said. “The beWith 18 goals and five assists, it’s been a fantastic first year in English football for the former Porto loanee. For all of his natural talent, his toughness has been as equally impressive. Despite being kicked up and down the Championship, not once has he shied away and if anything the rough treatment only made him more determined. Helder Costa 8 Having no pre-season was a big setback for last year’s player of the year, so it understandably took him a few months to get up to speed. Five goals and six assists meant he played his part but didn’t quite hit the highs of last term, although he did play considerably less football this time round. As we got deeper into the season, flashes of the form we witnessed last time round became more and more frequent. The season ended a few months early for the Portuguese speedster but with a full pre-season next time round, I think we’ll see him back at his best. Ivan Cavaleiro 8.5 After an up and down first season which ended with a red card at Derby, it looked like his future may have been elsewhere, but what a turnaround in his Wolves career. We had glimpses of his ability in year one, but he’s turned those glimpses into consistency which in terms of statistics, made him Wolves most productive forward in 2017/18 with nine goals and 13 assists. It’s not just his numbers that have been impressive, as he’s also totally bought in to the philosophy and accompanied it with his talent. He became a key player in a fantastic season. Leo Bonatini 7.5 Started his time at Wolves like a train and had an impressive first half of the season. 12 goals and five assist is hardly a bad return but he produced the majority of those stats pre-Christmas. Clearly a very clever footballer with a great first touch, who also links the play exceptionally well. For whatever reason, it has just not worked for him in 2018 and may have dampened his chances of making the move a permanent one. Bright Enobakhare 7 His natural ability to beat a player is as good as anyone’s at the club, but it’s what comes after that is still hindering his progress. Started the season really well but struggled with decision-making and end product when in key areas which cost him place in the starting 11. I still think Wolves have a potentially great footballer in the talented Nigerian, but to continue his development I think a loan spell that can provide him with regular minutes would be best for him next season. Benik Afobe 8 Absolutely no question that this guy is a Championship goal machine, but can he do it in the Premier League? That’s the question that Wolves have to answer in the up and coming weeks when they decide whether to make his move a permanent one. WOLVES NEWSLETTER Put him in a good position and he’ll finish, but does he fully suit Wolves’ style of play or would someone who sits deeper and links be preferable? He’s done well on his second spell at Wolves, but if his future isn’t at Molineux then I wish him nothing but good luck in the future.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to be rested for Manchester United’s Europa League meeting with Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that Ibrahimovic has taken a short break in Milan as the rest of the Red Devils squad prepare for the visit of the Ukrainian side in the second group game of Europe’s second tier club competition.While Ibrahimovic, 34, made the trip to Holland for the opening Group A fixture against Feyenoord, it is understood that Jose Mourinho is set to rest him this time around.United will get a week off after the weekend’s Premier League action, due to the international break, but still it appears as though retired Sweden star Ibrahimovic will not be used in the midweek match. The Gazzetta report suggests that Ibrahimovic dined at Fingers’ Garden restaurant – co-owned by former AC Milan teammate Clarence Seedorf – and could spend a couple of days in Italy which indicates that he will not feature at all at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted that the club’s youth academy is not motivated by the financial aspect of the game.The German claims that the club’s sole focus is on providing a suitable environment for the youngsters at both Kirkby and Melwood to develop their talents and hopefully become key members of the Reds senior squad. “I am not interested in the money,” said Klopp.”Of course, it’s cool if you use 10 players from the Academy and we make no signing in the transfer window – I would love to be part of the press conference when I say this!”It makes it easier of course, but it’s one of the things we have to do, it’s kind of an agreement. These boys start training pretty early in their lives a lot at Kirkby so we have to deliver the best education on the pitch and next to the pitch – that’s our job.”They have to deliver the perfect attitude – all they can, apart from school, they have to invest in football. “In the end, it’s our responsibility that they come through a lot more than in the last few years…but meanwhile it’s really difficult because nobody is patient anymore and in England you don’t have real tournaments for the U23s.”U18 is maybe a little bit of a tournament [but] the younger ones, no tournament, no challenge, no real competition. So, you cannot really judge them and then they get to 18 and it’s the final judgement. “We hope we can give them a little bit longer, we can give them a little bit more time, leave them at the club under our wing and then bring them in the right moment. That’s the plan.”
Liverpool hero Steve McManaman has revealed he was at St George’s Park on the day of the England bust-up between Joe Gomez and Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling.McManaman, who won the FA Cup and League Cup during his time at Anfield, revealed he was at St George’s Park on the day of the incident between Sterling and Gomez and claimed the atmosphere was calm after the altercation.“To be honest, there are always clashes in training – when you live and play football every single day, there’s always heated incidents on the training ground,” he wrote for HorseRacing.net column.“When the intensity is high and people are playing for places, you may get away with a tackle or a pull of the shirt and people get frustrated, it happens all the time.“To me it was nothing; it was over in 10 seconds, both the players were fine and I was actually there on the day it happened at the hotel and it was quite relaxed afterwards.”
Dear Tony, fans have been starved of passion and direct leadership from the top for years. Ever since Randy Lerner’s Champions League dream came to an abrupt halt, the man in the position of power held back from giving his full support to the club he eventually ran into the ground. Deep down the departing US billionaire will know that he could have done more, spent more astutely and been seen more during his ten-year reign at Villa Park. And while it would be unfair to put all of the blame on the former owner, relegation to the Championship was the conclusion of years of mismanagement and bad decision-making from the chairman who once bought so much hope. The claret out for Britt Assombalonga.DR Conon-long loan deal.The clubs have agreed to make the deal permanent next summer.Ejaria returns to the Royals having made 16 appearances during a loan spell in the second half of 2018-19.Royals boss José Gomes said, “The fans, the players, my coachinggo international Assombalonga, 26, has scored 31 goals for Championship Middlesbrough since a club record £15million move from Nottingham Forest in 2017.But Boro’s parachute payments stop this summer following releg and blue faithful have suffered in recent times and watching their beloved team, once a Premier League giant, turn into the whipping boys of the top-flight has been hard to take.
No.It may have been the first time England have played with three at the baDaltonck in 11 years and they may have kept their third clean sheet in four games, but Southgate’s men conceded more shots than in Thursday’s win over Slovenia and lacked any sort of creativity in the midfield.The England boss said before kick-off that he would change his formation in order to prepare for stronger teams in Russia next summer.Speaking to ‘ITV Sport’, he explained: ‘We have to pass the ball better, we have to keep possessiArsenal are out of the EFL Trophy after their penalty shootout win against Cambridge United.The Gunners went into the game knowing they could not reach the knockout stages regardless of the result after a draw (and penalty shootout defeat) to Northamon and our connections have been better in this system.’When we lost the ball the other night we were wide open on the counter and this should also help.’After watching anothewals at Barcelona since 2005, and this clause was added in his most recent renewal in 2017, says El Pais.There is an agreement between the player and club that means Messi can decide whether he wants to leave on June 30 at the end of each season.The r uninspiring 1-0 win, the results from the experiment are inconclusive at best.
will attempt to return to winning ways when they entertain Southampton tomorrow. After excellent results against Arsenal and Manchester United, the Baggies suffered a setback in the midweek defeat at Watford. Here’s five things relevant to the Saints’ visit. Uncompromising Hawthorns It’s easy to forget after back-to-back away games, how formidable West Brom have been on home soil this season. The clear to face Manchester United on Sunday.Arsenal are waiting to discover if new signing David Luiz will get international clearance in time to make his debut against Newcastle on Sunday.Emery said: “At the moment we need confirmation if he is OK Baggies have won eight of their last ten at the Hawthorns. Tony Pulis will be eager to continue in the same vein, especially with his team facing three consecutive home matches. Depleted visitors Southampton could be without as many as nine players. Virgil van ormer manager Jose Mourinho’s shopping list.The Sun says United are turning to players first suggested by sacked boss Mourinho to bolster their squad.The Old Trafford club want to make more purchases after adding Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James soDijk, Charlie Austin, Alex McCarthy and Matt Targett are definitely out while key midfielder Oriol Romeu is suspended. Manolo Gabbiadini, Steven Davis, Ryan Bertrand and Sofiane Boufal are all doubts. A double entendre A West Brom win would secure a first league double this season having beaten Claude Puel’s side at St Mary’s on New Year’s Eve. Only once have Albion beaten Southampton twice in the same Premier League season (2012/13). It would also cement Albion’s position in eighth with the Saints currently the nearest challengers. Defeat though would cut the gap to four points with Southampton boasting two games in hand, albeit against Manchester United and Arsenal. A keen winger Matt Phillips will start so long as he gets the green light from the medical team. At Vicarage Road, he showed glimpses of the trickery, purposeful running and pace Albion have sorely missed He hasn’t run out at the Hawthorns since the win against Stoke over two months and will surely be desperate to prove a point and announce his return. Big call up front Pulis has a massive decision to make in up front. Does he stick with Hal Robson-Kanu, who started the last two games as the target man, or go back to Salomon Rondon? There wasn’t even a debate just a few short weeks ago, with Rondon streets ahead. Saints team news But Robson-Kanu’s stock has risen on the back of some lively displays and it will be interesting to see who Pulis goes with.
wants to take advantage of their mid-table comfort when they travel to Arsenal and Spurs The Gunners need to beat Albion on Thursday night to keep alive their dwindling title hopes and, more realistically, boost their chances of a top four spot. Tottenham, who will be well rested following their 4-0 thumping of Stoke City, dare not drop points againstArsenal.The winger became Arsenal’s record signing this summer, but he has initially struggled for consistency.And Wenger says the Ivorian will have to earn his place in Unai Emery’s team on merit alone.”I like the player and I thought it was a good Albion on Monday as they bid to keep the pressure on league leaders Leicester. More Albion reading Albion have achieved their target of 40 points and so all the pressure, Pulis reckons, will be on their illustrious hosts. “We’ll bhe is happy with the improvement he has seen in the team since Mikel Arteta took over.Kanu was a Gunners attacker for several seasons under Arsene Wenger.And the Nigerian is impressed by what Arteta, another ex-player, has achieved since replacing Une given no chance to get anything at Arsenal or Tottenham like we were given no chance to get anything at Man City so the pressure’s not on us,” he said. “We should really relish it, we’ve got the points to keep us in the Premier League. “We should really look forward to these games.” Wanted: A playmaker Albion beat the Gunners at the Hawthorns earlier this season before drawing 1-1 with Spurs in their next home match. Tottenham would not have had too many complaints had Albion walked away with all three points with Spurs under the cosh for much of the second half. Rather than feel intimidated by the return fixtures, Pulis wants the Baggies to continue to embrace the big time. “I think they’re great games,” he said. “I said to the players when we played Man City, there’s such a small percentage of people that get the opportunity to do this in their lives. “To go to these football grounds and play against great players, great football teams at great stadiums. “You relish it, you shouldn’t be nervous or worried about it.”
Vancouver Whitecaps FC will look to keep their winning tradition alive in their new home against a D.C. United side needing wins to stay in the MLS Cup Playoffs hunt when the clubs meet Wednesday evening at BC Place. Whitecaps FC got their MLS victory at their new ground last week, a dominant 3-0 win against Real Salt Lake. United come into the game five points out of the final wild card spot, but with a couple of games in hand, after a second consecutive loss in their last outing, a 2-1 loss at the Columbus Crew. Hilario Grajeda. SAR (bench): Bill Dittmar; JAR (opposite): Paul Scott; 4th: Yader Reyes MLS Career: 55 games; FC/gm: 24.4; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 11; pens: 9VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC – OUT: FW Atiba Harris (R knee surgery); DF Jonathan Leathers (R hamstring strain); GK Brian Sylvestre (L knee surgery); MF Russell Teibert (R toe laceration); PROBABLE: MF John Thorrington (L groin strain) D.C. UNITED – OUT: MF Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear); MF Chris Pontius (R tibia fracture); DF Jed Zayner (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Ethan White (L MCL sprain): none noneSUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: VAN: Jeb Brovsky, Jay DeMerit, Jordan HarveySUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: VAN: Michael Boxall, Eric Hassli, Gershon Koffie, Jonathan Leathers à DC: Marc Burch, Austin da Luz, Charlie Davies, Dwayne De Rosario, Ethan WhiteALL-TIME: United 1 win, 4 goals … Whitecaps FC 0 wins, 0 goals…Ties 0In the first meeting this season, Chris Pontius scored twice and Dwayne De Rosario set up two goals as United rolled to a 4-0 win, Aug. 13 at RFK Stadium.Coaches’ records: Ben Olsen v VAN: P1 W1 L0 T0…Tom Soehn vs. DC: P1 W0 L1 T08/13: DC 4, VAN 0 (Pontius 45, 70; Najar 48; King 81)United took the lead just before halftime. Dwayne De Rosario was at the heart of the move, dancing past Whitecaps FC defender Jay DeMerit in the right corner of the box before finding a sliding Chris Pontius to knock it home at the back post.Two minutes after the second-half restart, D.C. doubled its lead. Santino Quaranta sent a long, diagonal ball towards a streaking Andy Najar in the right corner, and he fired a low shot from almost on the end line that caught Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly by surprise.United made it 3-0 in the 70th minute. Stephen King fired a shot from the top of the area that was deflected to the left, but right to Pontius, who hammered the rebound into the roof of the goal for his second on the night.De Rosario again played provider nine minutes from the end, getting forward on the right flank before rolling a square pass to King who drilled a left-footed shot past Nolly for the United fourth.D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Joe Willis – Perry Kitchen, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard – Clyde Simms – Andy Najar (Austin da Luz 74), Santino Quaranta (Stephen King 63), Chris Pontius (Marc Burch 77) – Dwayne De Rosario, Charlie Davies.VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (4-4-2): Jay Nolly – Jonathan Leathers, Jay DeMerit (Davide Chiumiento 62), Michael Boxall, Jordan Harvey – John Thorrington (Jeb Brovsky 70), Peter Vagenas (Mustapha Jarju 70), Gershon Koffie, Shea Salinas – Camilo, Eric Hassli.Vancouver Whitecaps FC claimed their first victory in their new BC Place home, strolling to a 3-0 win against Real Salt Lake on Thursday evening. Whitecaps FC have 25 points from 31 matches, sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference.Whitecaps FC were two goals to the good from penalty kicks on either side of halftime. First, in the 43rd minute, RSL midfielder Collen Warner was adjudged to have used his hand to stop Jay DeMerit’s header on the line. Warner was sent off and Camilo stepped up to the spot, sending goalkeeper Nick Rimando the wrong way for the opener.Then eight minutes into the second half, RSL defender Chris Schuler was ruled to have handled the ball in the box after it ricocheted off a teammate, and Camilo again did the honours to double the Vancouver lead.The home side capped the victory two minutes from end when Nizar Khalfan left fly from outside the area. Rimando managed to get a hand on the shot, but Khalfan’s strike had too much sting and he could only direct the ball into the corner of his goal.Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn made four changes to the team that fell 1-0 to the Portland Timbers at BC Place. Carlyle Mitchell, Nizar Khalfan, John Thorrington and Long Tan all came into the team, in place of Shea Salinas, Peter Vagenas, Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento.VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (4-4-1-1): Joe Cannon – Jeb Brovsky, Carlyle Mitchell, Jay DeMerit, Alain Rochat – Nizar Khalfan, Gershon Koffie, John Thorrington (Peter Vagenas 69), Jordan Harvey – Long Tan (Shea Salinas 84) – Camilo (Omar Salgado 73).The win snapped a three-game losing streak and was the first for Whitecaps FC in their new BC Place home, after a 1-0 loss to Portland in the first MLS game there.“Tonight we had a chance not only to get the lead, but to also keep it. It was a complete performance, one of the few this season, so you take these games and you make sure that you find out why that happened so you can experience that again,” said center back Jay DeMerit.After being signed by the club just before the roster freeze deadline, Trinidadian center back Carlyle Mitchell made his MLS debut, coming into central defense alongside Jay DeMerit.“He gave us some bite and real athleticism. He did a good job of communicating and holding a high line,” said Whitecaps FC interim head coach Tom Soehn. “We did a good job of staying organized, but all in all, I still go back to the group effort. It was a really good group performance.”It was the fifth clean sheet of the season for Vancouver and the first in five games, since a 1-0 win against Houston on Aug. 27.“It was really easy the way [DeMerit and Mitchell] were playing,” said goalkeeper Joe Cannon. “I think Jay and Mitchell are very similar in the sense that they’re good in the air, good in the tackle.”Long Tan made his second start in MLS play and his first since May 14, playing an underneath striker role. “I thought Long Tan had a really good day up top,” Soehn said. “He worked hard and created a lot.”Camilo took over the Whitecaps FC team lead with 11 goals, scoring twice û both from the penalty spot. Eric Hassli, the club’s leading scorer entering the match and the regular penalty taker, was suspended through caution accumulation.“Today is good,” Camilo said. “I scored and we won the game. For me, it’s good [to lead the team in scoring], but [Hassli] is the big player on this team. He supports us younger players and shows us everything it’s good for me.”Nizar Khalfan made his first start since July 9 and scored his first MLS goal. “I felt good [when Soehn said I would play],” Khalfan said. “I was waiting for a chance like this. I spent a long time and I didn”t get a chance in a game. So when coach said yesterday I was going to start today, I said I would do my best.”Jordan Harvey also moved forward from his usual fullback spot to play on the left side of midfield. “He’s had some experience with that. What we wanted to do with that was make sure our shape was good,” said Soehn. Said left back Alain Rochat: “Jordan was great to play with, he knows how to defend, so we had some switches in the game and it worked well.”D.C. United lost a second consecutive match for the first time in months, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Columbus Crew on Oct. 2 at Crew Stadium. United have 38 points from 30 games on the year, sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.United took the lead in the 37th minute. Dwayne De Rosario served a free kick from near the right touchline and Daniel Woolard was able to sneak through the Crew back line before volleying home with a classy redirect with his left foot.But three minutes into the second half, the Crew were even. A Shaun Francis shot hit a goalmouth scrum and fell to Crew forward Andres Mendoza. He spun and fired on goal, and while Woolard tried to clear, the carom squibbed past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.The home side then hit for the eventual winner on the hour mark. Sebastian Miranda broke down the right touchline and put in a low cross from the edge of the area, and Eddie Gaven flung himself headlong at the ball, sending a diving header into the back of the net.United coach Ben Olsen made five changes to the team that fell 3-2 to Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. Chris Korband Daniel Woolard came into the back four for Brandon McDonald and Ethan White, and Santino Quaranta, Charlie Davies and Joseph Ngwenya came into the team for Austin da Luz, Stephen King and Josh Wolff.D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Bill Hamid – Chris Korb, Daniel Woolard, Perry Kitchen, Marc Burch – Clyde Simms (Josh Wolff 75) – Andy Najar, Dwayne De Rosario, Santino Quaranta (Austin da Luz 62) – Charlie Davies, Joseph Ngwenya (Stephen King 56).United have suffered back-to-back losses for the first time since the second and third games of the year, when they lost at Colorado and New England.“The feeling’s not too much different than (after the Philadelphia game),” United head coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s not fun to lose these games. I thought overall it was a good effort, but we took those two plays off and you can’t do that down the stretch.”The game in Vancouver is the final road game of the regular season for United. They return home for contests against Chicago, Portland and Columbus- all teams they are battling with directly for berths in the MLS Cup Playoffs.“It’s not what we wanted with six games left, to lose both those games,” said Josh Wolff. “[This is] a little bit of a chance to regroup certainly and get some guys healthy. We labored into that game in Columbus and showed that we’ve got to have guys ready and willing to perform, whether you’re a starter or a non-starter.”Olsen was forced into changes to both center backs against Columbus, with Brandon McDonald suspended and Ethan White suffering an MCL sprain in his knee. That meant that another youngster, Chris Korb, slotted in at right back and Daniel Woolard made a start in central defense.“When you’re in this, and you’re in a race, it becomes much more dramatic,” Olsen said. “And I still think overall looking back at the season, I’m very happy with how they’ve done, and I think they’ve got some valuable experience.”But United do not expect to have Dwayne De Rosario available for the Vancouver match. De Rosario has been called in for Canada’s World Cup qualifier the night before vs. Puerto Rico in Toronto. De Rosario has 11 goals and seven assists in his 15 games with D.C.“If that plays out, that’s pretty much a long shot,” Olsen said of De Rosario’s chances to play. “Especially if he sees minutes in [the Tuesday] game, that’s just setting him up for injury. It’s a long way away and we’ve had some talks with him and the federation and we’ll do what’s best for Dwayne.”
Somehow, even FC Barcelona seem to improve on near perfection year after year. So does the team at EA Sports with its latest edition of the best-selling soccer video game in the world. And fans who have been eagerly awaiting FIFA 12 will not be disappointed.For this year’s update on the long-running franchise, there are a few new tweaks that enhance the experience even further. New defensive controls, rewards system and impact engine all give FIFA 12 a leg up over last year’s model without drastically altering what makes it great: the game play.The first thing that strikes you is the new defensive control scheme, which includes the ability to perform standing or shoulder tackles. This is a great way to force your opponent to give up the ball as long as it doesn’t result in a foul.Also jockeying your opponent is no longer done for you, as there is no more auto-defense. You must actively make your player, and optionally a second player, cover an opponent. This can seem overwhelming at first, but in the hands of an experienced player, this only adds to the game-playing experience.This new penchant for realism doesn’t end with game play, either.The attention to detail is remarkable. One look at the faded Canadian Football League lines on the BC Place turf and a few seconds of commentator Martin Tyler cooing in your ear about how good it is to have the Vancouver Whitecaps back in business is enough to convince you EA Sports has gone all out.It conjures images of the words FIFA 12 and “details” underlined and heavily emboldened on a whiteboard in the EA Sports office.There is also a Youth Academy to scout players, your choice of four different English-language commentators and more than 500 clubs containing 15,000 players.Add in real headshots of players and a new impact engine that results in lifelike movement of both players and balls and you have a recipe for an altered but not butchered gaming experience. FIFA 12 is full of bells and whistles, but manages to stay true to the solid game play for which the series is known.It’s a must-have for both gamers and soccer fanatics alike.
Remember how the Houston Dynamo said they feel they can win without injured MVP candidate Brad Davis yesterday? Well, LA Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter is a skeptic: “Until he’s not playing, until he’s not on the field in the final, we’re still thinking he’s going to play, most likely,” he said.Meanwhile, the MLS Cup trophy made its arrival at the Santa Monica Pier yesterday and former champions Alexi Lalas and Mauricio Cienfuegos were there to greet it LA-style, accompanied by two models and a convertible. (VIDEO)Staying in LA, the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez became the youngest winner of the Defender of the Year award yesterday. Stay tuned today as the best XI squad is unveiled as well as the season’s top referee.Both of today’s awards will be unveiled by MLS Commissioner Don Garber in his annual media teleconference call with reporters ahead of MLS Cup. You can also listen in for all the breaking news from the media call by checking back with MLSsoccer.com for the live stream beginning at 2 p.m. ET.Gonzalez is not the only MLS defender frustrated by the fact that US boss Jurgen Klinsmann has ignored him. Here’s how Vancouver’s Jay DeMerit feels about his own situation: “To have a new manager come in and not pay attention to me was a little bit frustrating.”The Philadelphia Union officially said goodbye for the offseason yesterday, stating their intentions to add experienced players to the squad in two key areas: striker and defender.Meanwhile, the Union’s Sébastien Le Toux is positioning himself to be the full-time forward next year. “I already talked to [Peter Nowak] about that,” Le Toux said. “I like most to play on top.”According to the man who helped Le Toux arrive to the United States, the Frenchman has his green card and is in the process of being naturalized. win in whatever we do — whether that’s winning in a draft, winning on the field, winning on an international transfer, whatever that may be,” said Brian Bilello, who was moved up to team president.The Seattle Sounders plan to exercise the option on Erik Friberg’s contract next year as they seek to keep the core of the US Open Cup title-winning squad intact. However, GM Adrian Hanauer hints at a potential move: “On occasion, the way the system works, you do have to get rid of a highly compensated player or a young player that has a lot of potential that you can sell and use that money as allocation money.”Reports from Mexico indicate that officials from Atlas have already spoken to Rafa Márquez and the two sides are attempting to work out a six-month loan deal that would allow the New York Red Bulls Designated Player to remain fit and help his former club avoid relegation. (SPANISH)A separate article says that Club América are trying to find a new home for forward Ángel Reyna, who called out the club’s captain and his fellow teammates in recent months. Apparently, the team’s preference is to place him in MLS. (SPANISH)Veteran midfielder Peter Vagenas wants to be back for preseason training with the Vancouver Whitecaps in January. But he doesn’t want to be a back-up: “The moment I consider myself a depth player will be the moment I hang it up and try something different. I want to play as much as I did when I was 18 — probably more.”San Jose Earthquakes defender Nana Attakora hopes that his career receives a boost after his shock call-up to the Canadian national team in place of injured Toronto FC midfielder Matt Stinson: “When I got the call, I was on my way to see my agent, so it came at a good time. finishing as the leading marksman among reserves.American Mike Grella also an incident involving an angry mob of Viborg fans following a loss. By the way, if the Red Bulls are interested in him again, so is he.Carrying a message of anti-violence and social change is Vancouver’s Jeb Brovsky, who’s heading to India for three weeks for non-profit work: “This is my life’s mission and I’m going to dedicate myself to it,” the Notre Dame grad says.No fair play here. Former Chicago Fire manager Carlos de los Cobos is being accused of asking players to fake injuries during a 2009 Gold Cup match against Costa Rica when he was at the helm of the Salvadoran national team. (SPANISH)It could shape up to be a magical Olympics for the Galaxy’s David Beckham as the schedule and venues for London 2012 were unveiled today. Great Britain will play their opening match at Beckham’s former home, Old Trafford.Bold move by Newcastle United in England: They five national team players were caught breaking curfew and found in “a state not deemed adequate for the Chilean national team, for a professional player,” said manager Claudio Borghi. This report in Chile says that the other players on the team met with the five and gave them a piece of their mind.On the contrary, it’s been a quiet lead-up to the USA vs. France international friendly that will be played tomorrow in Paris. Watch this video about US defender Oguchi Onyewu returning to where it all started. (VIDEO)Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers took a photo earlier today of the USMNT’s visit to the Palace of Versailles, which blew him away. Check out the photo here. (PHOTO)As we await all the international action on Friday, fans will have to settle for Brazil vs. Gabon (1 p.m. ET, ESPN Deportes) and the England vs. Iceland Under-21 Euro qualifying match on Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes (2:30 p.m. ET). There’s also the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana quarterfinal between Vélez Sarsfield and Santa Fe after their 1-1 tie in Colombia (7 p.m. ET, Fox Deportes).Former Houston Dynamo president Oliver Luck tasted his fair share of international soccer with his son, projected No. 1 NFL draft pick Andrew Luck, during their drives around Europe, where the senior Luck played American football. They caught plenty of UEFA Champions League matches, according to the lead of this story.The following video is sure to elicit a laugh. Catch the fan in the background autographing a jersey for Snoop Dogg, who was also donning a Flamengo jersey after a show in Brazil. (PHOTOS)Lastly, wrestling fans from the late 1980s will remember The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. Well, read this blog entry and you’ll see how his son apparently came real close to making the US national team.Lee Nguyen on the verge of signing a contract in MLSClimbing The Ladder: Which MLS team used the most MLS talent this season?MLS Cup Top 50 Moments: #11 Kevin Hartman’s gaffe defined MLS Cup ‘99 but not his careerGet the The Kick-Off delivered to you!Enter your email address below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.The Kick-Off
PARIS — US national team netminder Tim Howard is expecting his defense to be on its toes during Friday’s friendly with France (3 pm ET, ESPN2, Univisión, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).The Everton custodian says he will do his best to direct the back-liners in the most efficient manner for limiting chances to the French side, knowing he’ll need plenty of help against their attack-minded hosts.”The biggest challenge tomorrow is to stay organized and tight at the back and press the ball,” Howard told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “Obviously, if we can cut them out before they get shots off or make runs, the better off we’ll be. After that, you’ve got to start making that money, making some saves.”Despite the prospect of facing a highly skilled Les Bleus arsenal at Stade de France, the ‘keeper says he doesn’t go into a contest with any mental game plan for any of the particular marksmen.”My preparation is the same as it always is,” Howard said. “I’ve played in a lot of big games. Goalkeeping is so reactionary. The time to think about things is when things go wrong. Top-level players are top-level players, whether or not they play for France.”Playing in the English Premier League’s spotlight for more than eight years has honed the New Jersey native’s ability to tune out distractions from rowdy away crowds.”At this stage, I don’t find too many things that rattle me,” admitted Howard. “It doesn’t mean things are always great, but I try to take them in stride. I have seen a lot and that’s to my advantage — that’s experience.”Howard is also looking forward to next week’s reunion tilt in Slovenia. At the 2010 World Cup, the US fell behind by two goals only to rally for a 2-2 draw in their second group-stage game in Johannesburg.”That will be difficult as well,” he said. “We will be away against the team that we drew, and it was certainly a game of two halves. It will be interesting.”Even more important than the potential entertainment value, the 32-year-old knows harsh tests like these two road friendlies will benefit the team greatly once 2014 World Cup qualifying starts next June.”We want to have these challenges so that when you get to World Cup, which is our ultimate goal, we’re prepared for whatever comes our way,” stated Howard, who will collect his 71st cap against France.”These are important games for us. We can try and measure ourselves against the best teams in the world, so we’re prepared for qualifying. The fact that they’re at home makes it even tougher, but hopefully it will toughen us and make us stronger.”
#18. Blame It on the Rain (1996)“You’d have to be absolutely crazy to be outside in this weather today.”That’s what the voice on the radio said in Boston on the morning of MLS Cup 1996, the first championship game in league history. A Nor’easter carrying record rainfall was tearing through New England and Foxboro Stadium, the site of the final, was not be spared.“My recollection is the guy on the Weather Channel in his hurricane suit standing next to the ocean waves as they’re crashing against the shore,” MLS president Mark Abbott said of the TV news reports on that day. “This was a storm that was epic. Here we are, the crowning day of our first season, and we’re wondering are we going to be able to get the game off?”Field conditions – Foxboro Stadium had a grass surface at the time – and concerns about attendance were at the forefront of the discussions taking place among league executives as MLS Cup weekend kicked off.LA Galaxy midfielder and current UCLA manager Jorge Salcedo recalls the team meal on the day of the game and the commotion at the club’s hotel.“I remember it was up in the air whether the match would take place, although the coaches and owners of the team didn’t say much to us so that they wouldn’t worry us about whether wewere going to play,” Salcedo said. “It was still a big question mark. There was talk that maybe they would push the match to a later time or maybe the next day. We left the pregame meal with uncertainty whether the match would be played.”“We had a dilemma and clearly we had to take a look at whether the game could go forward,” Abbott said. “We were focused on moving forward with the game if at all possible, and I think the weather added to the mystique of the game rather than detracted from it.”The league’s braintrust eventually opted to move forward with the match even though there was standing water in the corners of the pitch and the wind was whipping hard. But the players understood the momentous occasion and the reality that the show must go on.“I always thought it would be on,” said D.C. United defender Eddie Pope. “The conversation I do remember is that it could have been a little delayed because they had to squeegee the field.”“It rained so much that it was logical that the game would be postponed,” D.C. midfielder and current Montreal Impact manager Jesse Marsch said. “Even though under normal circumstances that game would normally be postponed, given the enormity of the situation, there was no way it was getting cancelled.”Marsch tells the story of the D.C. equipment manager forgetting to bring enough socks for the match. Together with the other reserves, Marsch spent halftime wringing the water from their socks to give to the starters.Galaxy midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos talked about taking the field with regular cleats even though team personnel had warned him he’d slip and slide all over the place if he didn’t wear the screw-on studs.”In no moment did I slip,” the Salvadoran Cienfuegos said. “In my country, it always used to rain and the fields were bad where we grew up.”In fact, the pomp and circumstance had been axed out of the program in an attempt to avoid further damage to the field, but in the end, the celebrations were memorable – especially the ones that saw Galaxy forward Eduardo Hurtado and Pope make gliding head-first dives on the wet Foxboro grass.“During the course of the game, I was thinking, ‘In the end, this isn’t going to be a soccer game,’” LA defender Greg Vanney said. “And with a lot of excellent players on the field, we didn’t see their best because of the conditions. But it was an exciting game, for sure, the way it came down in the end.”More than 34,000 fans braved the weather just to witness soccer history – Pope’s golden-goal header won it in overtime – surpassing by far the attendance projections of league officials under the circumstances. Among those present was the family of LA Galaxy icon and current New York Cosmos director of soccer Cobi Jones, who camped under a tarp for the entire match.“Especially nowadays, the game would be canceled for sure,” Jones said. “But we knew the game was going to be played. It was the first year. It had to be played.”The lasting memory for Abbott is the ad hoc trophy ceremony and the enthusiasm of the D.C. United players that not even the driving rain could dampen – umbrellas and musty camera lenses included.“I think that the right decision was to move ahead with that game,” Abbott said. “We saw some pretty special play despite the field conditions and some very memorable moments in the history of the league. And I wouldn’t trade that.”
HOUSTON – Avoiding the temptation to overreact to the physical play of the Philadelphia Union was an important part of the Houston Dynamo advancing through to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.After passing that test, Houston face another tough challenger in Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Championship on Sunday (5:30 pm ET; FOX Soccer, FOX Deportes; live chat on MLSsoccer.com). Sporting are a team that, like Houston, are known for blending a physical brand of soccer with a potent offensive attack – and it’s a trait that’s caused some opponents to label them as “dirty.”“I don’t think [Sporting] deserve a reputation as a dirty team because every team has players at positions on the field that need to be physical,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said on a media conference call on Friday. “You can’t have people playing soft out there, especially at this time of year, and you need players to make sure every challenge is challenged.”Finding that blend down the stretch has helped in putting both teams a game away from the MLS Cup final.While Houston know the need for physical play, their 2011 track record against Sporting shows its dangers. The Dynamo’s regular-season games against Sporting were marred by three red cards to Colin Clark, Brian Ching and Carlo Costly.Ching’s red card is indicative of the dangers of succumbing to agitation brought about by physicality. Ching battled Aurélien Collin all night in Houston’s 1-1 draw on July 16, going head-over-heels one time on a 50-50 challenge at midfield. The big Frenchman worked his way under Ching’s skin enough to provoke the usually calm Dynamo captain into a rash kick from behind that ended Ching’s night.Ching was Collin’s second victim on the night – the defender was on the end of a red card challenge from Clark earlier in the evening.Avoiding those kinds of plays while still maintaining their physical edge is high on the list of Houston’s priorities.“We’re not going to hold back on the physical side of things,” said midfielder Adam Moffat, who got into a shoving match with Philly’s Sheanon Williams in the first leg of the semifinals after the latter’s ugly, two-footed tackle. “Maybe they’ve got some guys that are known around the league as being a little cheap, but we can’t give in to that.”That was the formula the Dynamo used to combat Philadelphia’s physical play. Houston were able to match Philadelphia’s physicality without giving the Union an advantage by, for the most part, avoiding red card-worth retaliation.It’s a bit of wisdom Kinnear hopes his side have taken to heart.“Everybody plays the game hard and it depends on how you react to certain situations,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com after Friday’s training. “We’ve reacted poorly in the past but I think we’ve learned our lesson.”Follow@Dynamoexaminer
English Premier League side Everton are dipping into the US market for help this transfer window and it does not involve Landon Donovan.The apparently decided to accept the offer from the Galaxy and will join the champs for the next two years. That’s what his agent announced to a news program in Costa Rica. (SPANISH)One player who won’t be on his way to MLS is Nicolas Anelka, who has come to an agreement on a contract with Shanghai Shenhua in China.Anelka’s former French national team strike partner, Thierry Henry, is he “always thought about playing [in Australia].”With managing director Jeff Plush exiting the scene, the Colorado Rapids are without a head coach or GM just one year removed from their MLS Cup triumph. This report highlights the coaching candidates the Rapids have interviewed, including Denis Hamlett, Richie Williams and Steve Sampson, who indicated that a move to Colorado was “not in the cards.”Is it in the cards for Didier Drogba to make a move to MLS during the offseason? After a sensational display against Valencia in the UEFA Champions League yesterday, Drogba refused to speak about his contract situation: “We’ve got no plans to do anything like it in the future,” said an adidas executive.They may be retro in look, but not in quality. Mick Hoban, who played for the Timbers in 1975, says the material used back then forced players “to wear Band-Aids on our nipples.”Also yesterday, the national TV matchups for opening weekend were announced. FC Dallas will host the first MLS match on NBC Sports Network and Montreal Impact fans learned they would be playing their first ever MLS match at BC Place in Vancouver against the Whitecaps.Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie spoke at the 2011 Vancouver Southsiders, saying that he believes he can sign better players than are available in the Re-Entry Draft: “Between now and the start of the season, there will probably be about eight or nine players that I think will make a significant difference to the squad we’ve got,” he said.While Logan Pause (Chicago Fire), Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA) and Luiz Camargo (Houston Dynamo) all received extended stays with their MLS sides yesterday, Greek papers are making it sound like take active steps to create strategies and solutions that keep D.C. United as a professional soccer team located within the District of Columbia.”In the women’s game, WPS officials traveled to Chicago to make their case in front of the US Soccer Federation yesterday and this article sums up the serious issues the league faces.Provided that context, it’s interesting to read Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi explaining why he thinks the WPS is “going to cripple you financially” and how a women’s league “needs to be a semi-pro league … that understands it’s very early times for the sport.”For anyone who doesn’t think American goalkeeper Brad Guzan has what it takes to hold his own as he steps in to become a starter in the English Premier League for Aston Villa, he makes this much clear: “There’s no better preparation than facing the likes of [Darren Bent] and [Gabriel Agbonlahor] every day. … they wrapped gifts yesterday for a good cause. (PHOTO)Welker and his NFL colleagues will have to make room on Sunday afternoon for the EPL. Fox has reportedly decided to show Arsenal vs. Manchester United on over-the-air Fox network on Jan. 22 as it leads up to the broadcast of Chelsea vs. Manchester United on Super Bowl Sunday.In other international soccer news, former Real Salt Lake forward Yura Movsisyan could be readying for a big move to CSKA Moscow.Meanwhile, another former MLS forward, 2010 World Cup striker Herculez Gomez, is using Facebook to poll fans as to where they want him to play since he “may be elsewhere next season.”Lastly, it promises to be another dramatic day in the UEFA Champions League with Manchester United needing at least a point in Switzerland at Basel (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes) and Manchester City needing to win against Bayern Munich (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Plus).The SuperDraft Big Board: Listing the best 2012 prospectsFormer youth national team star Lee Nguyen signs a multi-year MLS contractRumor Central: Get the lowdown on all the chatter surrounding player comings-and-goingsGet the The Kick-Off delivered to you!Enter your email address below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.The Kick-Off