Posted in Golf

Masters 2017: Is this finally the tournament Sergio Garcia gets rid of the ‘nearly man’ label?

The Spaniard has a share of the lead at Augusta alongside Charley Hoffman, Rickie Fowler and Thomas Pieters. 

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Sergio Garcia shows his appreciation to the crowd. (Image Credit: JEFF SINER/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER via. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article143462294.html. 

Sergio Garcia is a golfer with a monkey on his back. With 22 top-10 finishes in major championships, it seems the 37-year old has done everything but win one of golf’s big prizes.

However, after scoring a three-under-par 69, the Spaniard is in a good position to challenge for this year’s green jacket.

Along with American Rickie Fowler and Belgian Thomas Pieters, the trio have a share of the Masters’ lead alongside overnight leader Charley Hoffman.

The American shot a three-over-par 75 to knock his score back to -4.

Should Garcia go on to win the tournament on Sunday, it would be a fitting tribute to old friend Seve Ballesteros, who would’ve been celebrating his 60th birthday.

A large amount of the golfing audience has a lot of time for the Spaniard, who is one of the game’s friendliest and most consistent players.

The closest the 34-year old has come to a Masters victory was back in 2004, where he finished tied fourth.

He has also placed runner up twice in the Open back in 2007 and 2014.

A sign of his mental strength occurred during the back nine of his round yesterday, as a scoring error nearly cost him his current position.

Garcia bogeyed the par four 10th, but was hit with a triple-bogey by the scoring system to slip down the leaderboard.

Instead of complaining, the Spaniard carried on playing his game, and when the score was made correct, he birdied holes 15 and 17.

It’s the sort of mentality that major champions have. Day three is projected to have the best weather conditions, making it much easier to score under-par as it has been on days one and two. This could play to Garcia’s advantage.

Even though the Masters can throw up some memorable moments, it can also be a place of nightmares if things go wrong.

That was certainly the case for Danny Willett. The 2016 Masters champion missed the cut, making him the first winner to not make it to the weekend since Canadian Mike Weir in 2004.

The Yorkshireman quadruple-bogeyed the opening hole, followed by two more bogeys on the fourth and 11th.

Other big names who missed the cut include reigning Open champion Henrik Stenson, plus former Masters winners Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson.

For the full leaderboard, click here. 

 

Posted in Golf

Masters 2017: Charley Hoffman provides masterclass on how to take on Augusta in difficult conditions.

The American leads after round one on seven-under-par. 

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Hoffman leads the 2017 Masters after the opening round. (Image Credit: MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS Via. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/golf/wind-kicks-up-at-the-masters-and-charley-hoffman-handles-it-best-after-one-round/2017/04/06/9c06abd4-1afc-11e7-bcc2-7d1a0973e7b2_story.html?utm_term-.ba12980f4fbb.

On a day where previous green jacket winners and major champions struggled, Charley Hoffman produced the round of his professional career.

The 40-year old sank nine birdies to score a seven-under-par 65, four shots clear of fellow American William McGirt in second.

They were the only two golfers to finish with a score above 70, but it will be Hoffman that will be on all of the back pages this morning.

Born in San Diego, the Californian has only finished in the top 25 of a major once in his career, back at the 2015 Masters.

After recording a two-under 34 on the front nine, Hoffman hit four consecutive birdies through holes 14, 15, 16 and 17.

His four shot lead is the largest after the opening round at the Masters since 1941.

McGirt is his closet challenger after he made an impressive start to his Masters debut.

The world number 53, who is only one place behind Hoffman in the rankings, is another American that lacks pedigree in the majors.

He missed the cut at both the US Open and The Open last year, before finishing a respectable 10th at the USPGA.

Although two Americans lead, there is a strong field of Englishmen who are only a few shots back and could mount a serious challenge for the green jacket if they continue their fine form into round two.

Lee Westwood hit an eagle on the 13th and sits third on two-under-par, one shot clear of Justin Rose, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan.

Rory McIlroy finished strongly with three birdies to end the day on even par, as he looks to complete his quest to win the grand slam.

But with powerful gusts and strong winds, the conditions at Augusta were the most difficult they have been in recent history.

It seemed to have an effect on most of the players out on the field, with many battling to try and get round on level par to stay in contention.

This wasn’t a day where the Masters could’ve been won, but it most certainly one where it could’ve been lost.

Those who struggled included two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson (+3), 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson (+4) and world number four Hideki Matsuyama (+4).

Jordan Spieth quadruple-bogeyed a hole for the second successive round at the Masters. Following his disaster at the 12th in the final round last year – a hole which ultimately cost him a second consecutive green jacket – the 2015 Masters champion struggled this time on the 15th.

The 23-year old needed nine strokes to complete the par-5 hole, and he ended on three-over-par alongside Watson. He will need to provide some more Masters magic if he is to get back into contention.

For full leaderboard, click here.

Posted in Golf

Masters 2017: Who do the bookies fancy for this year’s green jacket?

Some familiar names are among the frontrunners to win in Augusta. 

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Englishman Danny Willett won last year. (Image Credit: PETE WALSH/ THE STATE  via. http://www.thestate.com/sports/golf/article71066922.html. 

It’s that time of year again. The jaw-dropping scenery of Augusta National will once again be the home of the biggest names in golf, with the 2017 Masters set to begin tomorrow.

Following Danny Willett’s very traditional British champion’s dinner, the players will be practising around the infamous course one last time this evening before the competition begins.

Here are ten players the bookies are favouring to win the opening golf major of 2017.

DUSTIN JOHNSON (11/2)

The world number one is without doubt the favourite going into the tournament. The 32-year old has won his previous three events, the Genesis Open, WGC- Mexico and the WGC-Match Play.

After a sensational 2016, where he won the US Open (the first major win of his career) and helped USA to their first Ryder Cup victory since 2008, the man from South Carolina is hoping to carry on his superb form at a tournament where he has struggled previously. He has only finished in the top 10 twice in the last eight years.

No world number one has won the Masters since Tiger Woods back in 2002.

JORDAN SPIETH (7/1)

Is there any golfer who looks more at home at Augusta than Jordan Spieth? The American won the tournament in 2015, sandwiched between two runner up finishes in 2014 and 2016 respectively. His 2015 success saw him match Wood’s record total of 18-under-par.

The 23-year old has made an indifferent start to the 2017 season. His win at Pebble Beach back on the 9th February was the last time he finished in the top 10 of an event on the PGA Tour. But if there is one place he can turn his form around, it’s the Masters.

RORY MCILROY (8/1)

The Northern Irishman is said to be confident ahead of this year’s tournament. The 27-year old needs just the green jacket in order to complete the Grand Slam. However, Augusta has proved to not be such a happy hunting ground for him.

In 2011, he shot the worst round recorded by the leader of the Masters going into the final round. His round of 80 saw him slip from first to tied 15th.

McIlroy has not really been in any contention to win the tournament since then, but with that objective to win all for majors serving as his motivation, that could change this time around.

JASON DAY (16/1)

The former world number one will play at the tournament following his mother’s cancer diagnosis. In fact, it seems to have made him more determined to win.

The 2015 USPGA champion insists victory this week in Augusta would ‘dwarf the emotion of winning his maiden major’.

Day didn’t play at the WGC-Match Play so that he could be with his mother before she had lung surgery, but the Australian seems ready to battle for the green jacket.

The 29-year old has not got a bad record at the Masters either, finishing in the top 10 three times in the last six years.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA (18/1) 

The 25-year old has become Japan’s golfing prodigy. The Japanese golfer has four PGA Tour wins to his name and has seemed destined to challenge for a major in the near future.

At Augusta, he finished fifth in 2015 and tied for seventh last year. This has made him a name hot on everyones lips going into the tournament.

But recently his form has not been to the level many expect of him. Since winning the Phoenix Open in February, Matsuyama has not finished any higher than 25th at an event.

RICKIE FOWLER (20/1)

Matsuyama was drawn alongside Fowler for this year’s opening two rounds, and the American is a man hoping to finally break his major duck.

The 28-year old came runner up at both the US Open and The Open during his career to date.

As his game has developed, so has his maturity when approaching each shot, making a far dangerous player when he hits top form. The closest he came to a green jacket was back in 2012, where he came fifth.

JON RAHM (22/1)

Young Spanish golfer Jon Rahm has moved up in odds under the radar. Rahm turned Pro last year and has radically climbed up the rankings.

In a matter of only 10 months, Rahm has climbed up from 539 to world number 12 ahead of the Masters.

The 22-year old has one PGA Tour win to his name, the Farmers Insurance Open in January this year.

JUSTIN ROSE (25/1)

The 2013 US Open and current Olympic champion tied second in this tournament two years ago with a respectable 14-under par.

The Hampshire-based golfer failed to make it into the top 10 of his last three events.

PHIL MICKELSON (25/1)

One of America’s most successful golfers, Phil Mickelson is a name that will always pop in when it comes to major contenders.

The three-time Masters Champion is a veteran when compared to the younger men in the field, but with that trusted left hand of his, anything could happen.

ADAM SCOTT (30/1)

The 36-year old won the green jacket back in 2013, becoming the first Australian to complete the feat.

However, since his victorious year, the one-time major winner has struggled to replicate his 2013 performance at Augusta, and has failed to make the top 10 for the past three years.

OTHER NOTABLE GOLFERS 

Henrik Stenson (Open Champion 2016) 30/1

Bubba Watson (Masters Champion 2012 and 2014) 40/1

Jimmy Walker (2016 USPGA Champion) 80/1

Danny Willett (2016 Masters Champion) 100/1

Scott Gregory (2016 Amateur Champion) 1000/1

*All odds correct via. SkyBet at time of writing.

 

 

Posted in MLS

MLS Daily: Diego Valeri is proving why he is so instrumental for Portland Timbers this season.

The Argentine has netted five goals in five MLS games in 2017. 

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Diego Valeri celebrating his goal against New England Revolution last weekend. (Image Credit: PETE CHRISTOPHER/ THE OREGONIAN/OREGONLIVE via. http://www.oregonlive.com/timbers/index.ssf/2017/04/portland_timbers_vs_new_englan_6.html.

Diego Valeri is certainly the most exciting player in the American top flight currently.

Yes, that is a bold statement. Especially when you consider the starts Josef Martinez and Erick Torres have both made in the MLS this year.

But the Argentinian playmaker has been doing this for Portland year after year since his arrival in Oregon back in 2013.

A former Porto loanee, this guy is the real deal. He is someone who will once again be a contender for this year’s MVP in the MLS, an award he won back in 2015.

Why? For one he brings goals to the team. Valeri already has five goals in as many games this term, adding to his previous 37 over a four-year period. He is currently second on the MLS goalscoring charts this season behind Houston’s Torres.

He is also crucial in providing assists for his team. He may only have one so far this season, but he is very good at unlocking defences and playing killer balls into either the channels or into the box for forwards. Overall, he has provided 36 assists during his time at Portland.

The Argentine scored without doubt the goal of the week last time out, with a superb volley against New England Revolution.

He spoke to Portland Timber’s media team after they drew 1-1 to their Eastern Conference opponents, and admitted the result was disappointing.

“We played deeper then we wanted,” he said.

“They are a good team but the result is bad. We did enough to win.

“We will take the positives from this game though and prepare for Philadelphia next week.”

With over 100 appearances for the club, Valeri is a icon at Providence Park. The Timber Army adore their playmaker.

His 42 goals for the Timbers is just three shy of Fanendo Adi and John Bain’s all-time record for goals scored at the club.

Adi has benefited hugely from having the 30-year old behind him. The Nigerian striker joined a year later than Valeri, but his goalscoring record speaks for itself having matched his Argentinian teammate’s tally in 12 months less.

In fact, since both made their debuts for Portland, Adi is second in the MLS goal charts and Valeri is first for assists. That shows how much of an influence they have had on the league these past few seasons.

Portland need him to stay fit if they are to replicate their 2015 MLS Cup win. Without his goals and assist this season, Portland would not be top of the Western Conference. He galvanises the team, and helps players play at their best when they are alongside him, learning from him and using his assets to strengthen their own.

Valeri is heading towards the prime years of his career. Watch this space, he could cause a storm in the MLS for the next few campaigns.

 

Posted in MLS

MLS Daily: Columbus win again, Minnesota grab first ever MLS victory and Galaxy thrashed in Vancouver.

29 goals have been scored in the MLS this weekend. 

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Meram in action for Columbus Crew. (Image Credit: AARON DOSTER/USA TODAY SPORTS via. http://www.floridatoday.com/story/sports/2017/04/01/meram-scores-twice-crew-beats-orlando-city-sc/999920778/.

Columbus Crew continue their impressive start to the season with a 2-0 victory against Orlando City at the Mapfre stadium.

Justin Meram scored twice for Gregg Berhalter’s men, as they stretched their winning run to three successive matches.

The Iraqi international netted his first with a low shot into the bottom right corner inside the opening 15 minutes. He then doubled his and his team’s lead in a similar fashion on 76 minutes.

“He’s flying,” Crew SC captain Wil Trapp told mlssoccer.com.

“He’s on another level when he’s confident. He’s been contributing in every single game this year. I think him signing that new deal and getting his footing underneath him and being able to move forward without anything hanging over his head has really been good.”

Minnesota United finally had something to cheer about after a tough start in their debut season in MLS.

A brace from Christian Ramirez, along with goals from Kevin Molino and Johan Venegas helped the Loons to a 4-2 victory over free-falling Real Salt Lake.

RSL, who will now be managed by Mike Petke following the result in Minnesota, have not won a match all season.

“It’s tough when you’re away and don’t finish your chances,” Yura Movsisyan told the Desert News. “It comes back to bite you, and that’s what happened. The last few weeks have been difficult. A new season starts next week with a new coach.

“It won’t matter who you are, whether you’re a designated player or not. If you train well and impress the coach, you’ll play. If not, you shouldn’t.”

Another team struggling for consistency is LA Galaxy, after they were beaten 4-2 in Vancouver.

Despite Romain Alessandrini’s brace which gave the visitors a 2-1 lead at half-time, the Whitecaps scored three second half goals to grab their maiden win this season.

Galaxy sit tenth in the Western Conference, and captain Jelle Van Damme admitted that losing from a winning position was not good enough.

“There were too many mistakes today. We weren’t playing well but we were leading and this cannot happen. You cannot lose a game 4-2 when your leading 2-1 with 20 minutes to go.

“We have to react next week. We have to relax, regroup, start over and do better.”

Elsewhere, Bastian Schweinsteiger scored on his MLS debut as Chicago Fire drew 2-2 with Montreal Impact, and New York City returned to winning ways after they beat San Jose 2-1 at Yankee Stadium.

Erick Torres grabbed a hattrick as Houston Dynamo thrashed New York Red Bulls 4-1. In the capital, DC United won for the first time this season, beating Philadelphia Union 2-1.

Toronto were held to a 0-0 draw in their home opener against Sporting KC, whilst Seattle’s match against Atlanta also finished goalless.

 

Posted in MLS

MLS Daily: Bradley Wright-Phillips is worthy of his new deal at New York Red Bulls.

The former Charlton Athletic striker has become a sensation across the pond. 

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BWP in action against Seattle earlier in the season. (Image Credit NICK DANIELSON AND MATT WARSO/ PROST AMERIKA via. http://www.prostamerika.com/2017/03/19/sounders-christen-mls-cup-banner-3-1-win-red-bulls/156779.

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been rewarded with a new lucrative contract at New York Red Bulls following his impressive spell in the MLS.

It’s nothing more than what the striker deserves. The Red Bulls have relied on him heavily for their goals, making him a vital asset for the team. The deal marks another positive chapter in the 32-year old’s career, one that originally took a long time to get into gear.

Wright-Phillips struggled to make a name for himself in English football, and following spells with Manchester City, Southampton and Charlton Athletic, he decided upon a move to America in an attempt to rebrand himself.

His father, former-Arsenal striker Ian Wright, was always going to be a tough act to follow. From the outset, many wondered if he would ever reach the same level as his dad, but finally we seem to have an answer.

Whilst he may not still be a household name here in the UK, he has more than certainly stamped his mark on the Red Bulls and the MLS.

He is the club’s all-time top goalscorer in America’s top division with an impressive 70 goals in 111 games, an average of one goal every 63 minutes.

Wright-Phillips has also broken plenty of records and received many accolades during his four-year spell in the States.

On 23 April 2014, he scored a hattrick in a 4–0 win against Houston Dynamo, which meant he became the first Englishman to score three goals in an MLS game. He also won the golden boot that season after scoring 27 league goals.

Subsequently, he was signed on as a designated player in 2015, and a year later secured his second MLS golden boot award after netting 24 goals during the campaign. He is the only player ever in MLS to score 20+ goals in more than a single season.

Whilst he lost his DP status in 2016, is it just deserved he get it back this season. He is a club legend, and he will be for some time. That goal record is as impressive as any in world football, and at 32 years of age, you can expect him to possibly extend it to 100+ goals in a Red Bulls shirt.

He is a typical striker who gets into the right positions at the right time to score goals. He is good with either foot and with his head. He causes all kinds of problems for the opposing defence throughout the 90 minutes, and that’s what makes him such a crucial weapon in Red Bulls’ arsenal.

“I’d like to thank Jesse Marsch, and everyone at the club for the opportunity to continue wearing this shirt and playing in front of the best fans in MLS,’ BWP said to the media.

‘I am very proud of what has been accomplished in my time here, But my sole focus is on trying to win MLS Cup.”

The Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield back in 2013 and 2015, but are yet to go all the way. However, with BWP still leading the line for this season and beyond, that could well change in the not too distant future.

 

 

 

 

Posted in MLS

MLS Daily: Minnesota United thrashed yet again on the road.

Adrian Heath’s side have conceded 18 goals in just four MLS games this season. 

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Kallman and Adegulo fighting for possession. (Image Credit: @MNUFC via. TWITTER.COM)

Minnesota United are quickly becoming the whipping boys of the MLS.

Following on from their 5-1 defeat to Portland on the opening weekend and their 1-6 home loss to Atlanta United, the Loons went down 5-2 to New England Revolution yesterday.

Adrian Heath’s side again conceded early as Juan Agudelo met Chris Tierney’s cross with a free header inside four minutes.

Collen Warner equalised for the away side, but New England were soon ahead once again through Kei Kamara.

Lee Nguyen made it 3-1 from the penalty spot, with Agudelo netting his second just before half-time with a low shot.

Brent Kallman halved the deficit when he struck home a half volley three minutes into the second half, but another penalty was converted this time by Tierney to make it 5-2 to the hosts.

Twice Minnesota conceded just minutes after getting themselves back into the game. No team can expect to win games when they give away cheap goals so soon after scoring.

Offensively the Loons aren’t so bad. They have scored in each of their four matches so far. However, it is their fragile defence that is causing a lot of the problems.

They have conceded an average of 4.5 goals a game so far, and only have the single point so far this season from a possible 12.

Does Heath need to invest in some quality defenders? They are certainly missing a leader on the pitch. Someone that will keep the line, someone that will make sure that the defence is solid and will keep clean sheets. Whether that means signing a DP then so be it. They need to change something otherwise they will not survive in the MLS.

They may have been missing nine players through internationals and injuries, but the Head Coach was not impressed with his side in the opening 45.

“The first half was really, really poor defensively,” Heath told MNUFC.com after the game.

“Every time they attacked it looked like they were going to score.

“I thought we were a lot better in the second half, but it was a little bit too little, too late.”

As for the Revs, it is a first win of 2017 and another home opening victory.

Jay Heaps’ side are now unbeaten in 11 home openers, and after two tough away defeats at Colorado and Dallas, this could be the platform on which New England build upon this season.

New England’s Diego Fagundez praised teammate Agudelo after the game. He told press after the game that “If he makes good runs we will reward him and thats what we did. We can beat anybody in the league if we play like we did again.”

Agudelo added: “The mind set was really strong from the team. The coaches told us to come out flying at home. We wanted to win it inside the first 15 minutes and that’s exactly what we did.”

Elsewhere, Portland Timbers’ 100 percent start to the 2017 season is over after they lost 3-2 away at Columbus Crew.

Crew now overtake New York Red Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference, after Jesse Marsch’s side drew 0-0 at home to Real Salt Lake.

TWEET TWEET

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Juan Agudelo thanked the fans after the New England Revs won their first match of 2017.
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Christian Ramirez vows the team won’t give up after another tough loss.
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Columbus trio Ola Kamra, Niko Hansen and Jon Mensah after they beat Portland 3-2 last night.
Posted in MLS

MLS Daily: Kenwyne Jones should step in for injured Josef Martinez at Atlanta United.

The former Sunderland and Stoke City striker has been waiting for his golden opportunity. 

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Kenwyne Jones signed for Atlanta last year ahead of the clubs debut season in MLS. (Image Credit: JASON GETZ/ USA TODAY SPORTS via. http://www.dirtysouthsoccer.com/2017/3/10/14879424/kenwyne-jones-lineup-atlanta-united-minnesota.

Atlanta United were dealt a blow in midweek, after Josef Martinez went off injured while on International duty with Venezuela.

The in-form forward is top of the goalscoring charts in the MlS this season with five goals in just three games.

Martinez came off after falling when taking a shot, and Venezuela’s Head Coach Rafael Dudamel has suggested a minimum of 10 days rest for the player to recover. He will have a MRI scan tomorrow to determine the severity of this injury.

If 10 days proves to be an accurate assessment, that will mean the 23-year old will be more than likely to miss Atlanta’s match against Seattle Sounders next week.

However, Head Coach Tito Martina has got other weapons within his arsenal, one of which is the vastly experienced Kenwyne Jones.

The Trinidad and Tobago captain has a wealth of Premier League experience after spending a decade in and around England’s top flight with Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland and Cardiff City respectively.

Jones may not be the most prolific of strikers, but he does cause defenders enormous problems with his strength and aerial power.

He is a completely different type of striker in comparison to Martinez. Jones isn’t the fastest, and at 32 years of age, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

He also isn’t as potent as the Venezuelan. In the last 10 seasons, the Trinidad international has only hit double digits twice in terms of goals scored. The last time being the 2014-15 season for Cardiff.

But his positioning, especially inside the penalty box, is excellent. He will often find himself in the right place at the right time when the ball is flirting around the oppositions goal. It’s a trait that is very difficult to teach.

He may not score bucket loads of goals, but he scores important ones.

The 32-year old’s hold up play and ability to start counter attacks almost goes unnoticed. He is an excellent team player, who can head the ball on from a goal kick or throw-in to create an opportunity for a teammate to test the keeper or even score.

Martinez has shown plenty of promise so far for the new MLS side, but there is no reason why Jones can’t either. He has been waiting in the shadows at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for his chance to prove his worth to the manager, the fans and the city.

Whether he fits into Martina’s formation and tactics is another matter, but one that can’t be discussed without the Argentine giving him a go.

Perhaps he will use an alternative formation which would make Jones’ a greater asset. A switch from 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 might suit the Trinidad striker better. He could get isolated on his own up top so a strike partner that would run onto his flick ons or run down the channels to provide crosses for the 32-year-old wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

It’s whether Martina takes a gamble on changing what is a winning formation.

Many in Atlanta will hope Martinez will be fit in time for the Sounders match, but they shouldn’t worry too much if it is Jones starting at CenturyLink Field.

Posted in MLS

MLS Daily: Real Salt Lake in need of a revival after sacking Jeff Cassar.

Daryl Shore will act as Interim Head Coach until a replacement is found, and will manage the team against New York Red Bulls on Saturday. 

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Former Real Salt Lake boss Cassar. (Image Credit: RUSSELL ISABELLA/USA SPORTS TODAY via. http://sbisoccer.com/2017/03/real-salt-lake-dismisses-head-coach-jeff-cassar.

The sacking of Jeff Cassar on Monday evening ended what can be best described as a turbulent last six months at Real Salt Lake.

After nearly a decade at the Utah based club, the 43-year old became the first managerial casualty of the 2017 MLS season.

RSL are winless so far this campaign, with one win and two defeats to their name, but their torrid run actually stretches back to the end of last season.

A 2-1 win at home to Colorado Rapids on the 26th August was the last time this side tasted victory-that was 11 games ago.

The poor run saw them slip from second in the Western Conference to sixth. They were then beaten 2-1 to LA Galaxy in the knockout round.

With the dismissal of Cassar, RSL will hopefully rediscover their form from years back, when current Orlando City boss Jason Kreis was in charge.

Kreis led the club to the Play-Offs consecutively between 2008-2013, winning the MLS Cup in 2009.

Cassar was assistant manager to Kreis back then, before taking over when the latter left for New York City FC.

The 43-year old stuck to Kreis’ successful 4-4-2 in 2014, which resulted in another Play-Off finish, but things began to unravel a year later.

Trying to implement his own style, Cassar switched to a 4-3-3 formation. With the wrong personnel to fit the formation, and a lack of goals being scored, RSL failed to make the Play-Offs in 2015. That was followed by the painful 2016 season as mentioned above.

It’s quite clear that a revival is needed at the Rio Tinto Stadium.

The club, unlike others, is struggling to acquire high calibre players such as Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and latest MLS newcomer Bastian Schweinsteiger. With better players coming through, and the leagues standards continuously improving, there has never been a more crucial time for designated players to come in and make a real difference for their team. Unfortunately, those at RSL aren’t quite to the same level as those at New York City or Orlando.

The spine of the side also presents fears of a bleak future. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckermann, both part of the successful 2009 side, are coming towards the end of their careers at 37 and 34 years of age respectively. Javier Morales, the heart of RSL’s flowing attack, left at the end of last season.

Those players will ultimately need replacing with good, young talent. However, according to transfermarkt.com, RSL have the second oldest squad in the league. This is just an example of what needs to be addressed.

Saying that, one thing the club can pride itself in is it’s impressive youth development. Homegrown players like defender Justin Glad have intergraded well into the first team setup and are now vital for the team going forward. More of the same will mostly definitely help the team in future seasons.

In terms of a replacement for Cassar, Toronto’s Assistant Coach Robin Fraser is one of the favourites for the job. The former Chivas USA manager has previous ties to RSL and could be good for what the club are looking to do, which is to rebuild from the ground up.

Other names mentioned include Wade Barrett, Mike Petke and sensationally Sigi Schmid.

Whoever comes in will have a lot to do if they want to make this club great again, and fans may have to wait a few years down the line before they see their club competing for major honours once again.

Posted in MLS

MLS Daily: Bastian Schweinsteiger’s move to Chicago Fire is a scalp not just for the club, but also the league.

The former Germany captain has won the World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, multiple Bundesliga titles and the FA Cup during what has been a hugely successful career.

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Schweinsteiger with the World Cup trophy after Germany beat Argentina in the 2014 final. (Image Credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP via. http://sports.yahoo.com/news/2014-world-cup-final-bastian-schweinsteigers-finest-hour-111822107–sow.html.

Chicago Fire have today announced that they are signing Bastian Schweinsteiger from Manchester United.

The 32-year old midfielder will complete his move to the United States after he’s obtained a VISA and passed a medical.

After a torrid two seasons at Old Trafford, the former German international will be hoping to reignite his career over in the MLS; a league that will only benefit from his imminent arrival.

Unlike big names from the past like Steven Gerrard and Didier Drogba, Schweinsteiger is still at an age where he could play for another five seasons if he wanted too, should he stay fit.

This makes him perhaps the biggest marquee signing from Europe for some time. The former Bayern Munich man could easily become the new face of MLS, should he rediscover the form that made him one of the best holding midfielders on the planet.

He will also boost the interest in the league both in the United States and in Germany. Fans will flock into stadiums to see him play. German networks will want to show live matches and provide additional coverage to a larger worldwide audience. His face on the advertising boards will only be a huge plus for the MLS marketing team, as it continues to compete with the Chinese Super League.

Moving to Chicago of all teams will give Schweinsteiger the chance to really showcase his talent for the whole world to see. Where he was fifth or even sixth choice at Manchester United, he is going to be number one on Veljko Paunović’s team sheet.

The Chicago Head Coach has spoken to the media about Fire’s new signing, and claims he cannot wait to start working with him.

“His immense expereince at the highest levels of this sport will be a great benefit to this squad of players,” Paunović said.

“Bastian will help with our team’s organisation and have an impact on our build up play towards the final third thanks to his vision, creativity and ability to score goals.”

Chicago Fire’s General Manager Nelson Rodríguez added: “This is a very big day for our club and I believe for the MLS after acquiring one of our sports great champions.

“Bastian isn’t just here because of his pedigree, but also because we believe he represents our club’s values.”

The signing of Schweinsteiger further showcases just how far the MLS has come in recent years. It finally looks like players aren’t moving across to America for a final ‘pay-day’. They actually believe the MLS is becoming a competitive league that wets their appetite.

Manchester United fans weren’t been too pleased with the treatment the German received at the Premier League club, especially under Jose Mourinho. He failed to make a single appearance in the league this season, meaning he leaves after playing just 18 times in a Red Devils shirt since his arrival back in July 2015.

Germany Head Coach Joachim Löw said in his press conference today that the midfielder was not given a chance to show his full potential at United, and that is was a shame he couldn’t light up the Premier League just like he had the Bundesliga

Across the pond however, fans are beginning to feel rather excited about their new man. Jerseys with the German’s name on the back are already selling, and people are calling it the ‘greatest signing in Chicago Fire’s history.’

Schweinsteiger could make his debut at Toyota Park on Saturday 1st April, where Chicago Fire host Montreal Impact.