Seattle, Toronto set for MLS Cup breakthrough battle

Toronto (Canada) (AFP) – Saturday’s title-deciding MLS Cup final brings together two of Major League Soccer’s best supported and best financed clubs, Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders, each in search of a first ever championship. Both clubs are playing in their first MLS final but their ‘barren runs’ have been of starkly different character. Until this season, the Sounders were consistently the bridesmaids while the Canadians simply risked becoming the league’s laughing stock. Seattle, who average a league-high 42,000 fans at each home game, have made the playoffs in every season since entering the league in 2009 but never made it to the championship game. In contrast, Toronto, who came into MLS in 2007, failed to make the post-season  for eight straight years, breaking that run last season only to be knocked out by Canadian rivals Montreal in the first round, despite investing heavily in some big-money signings. The club Continue reading "Seattle, Toronto set for MLS Cup breakthrough battle"

NY Cosmos fate uncertain as crisis engulfs US lower leagues

Los Angeles (AFP) – Turmoil in the lower tiers of football in the United States has left one league on the brink of implosion and arguably the most glamorous name in American soccer, the New York Cosmos, facing an uncertain future. Five years ago, the New York Cosmos announced their rebirth after decades of hibernation with Pele and Eric Cantona heading their delegation for a friendly against Manchester United at Old Trafford. The team, which became an iconic franchise during the 1970s heyday of the North American Soccer League — when the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto played before enthusiastic crowds of 70,000 — were back. But fast-forward to 2016, and the ambitions which accompanied the team’s 2011 relaunch have stalled. A crisis in the North American Soccer League (NASL), US soccer’s second tier, has prompted the Cosmos ownership to terminate the contracts of its players. While Continue reading "NY Cosmos fate uncertain as crisis engulfs US lower leagues"

Pressure on Emery as PSG meet Nice in summit clash

Paris (AFP) – Unai Emery is once again a coach under pressure as his Paris Saint-Germain side prepare to face Nice on Sunday looking to close the gap on the surprise Ligue 1 leaders. A 12-game unbeaten run had appeared the perfect response to early-season criticism of Emery at PSG, but in the last week the Spaniard has seen his side humbled 3-0 by Montpellier and then left to scramble a 2-2 draw with Ludogorets in the Champions League. After two such worrying performances, it is debatable whether Emery could even survive a defeat at home to Nice, which would leave the defending champions seven points adrift of the southern upstarts with the season’s halfway stage approaching. “It is a difficult spell, but we will show a reaction on Sunday in what is a huge match for us,” insisted midfielder Blaise Matuidi, just about the only PSG player deserving of
Continue reading "Pressure on Emery as PSG meet Nice in summit clash"

Turin derby eyes on United target Belotti

Milan (AFP) – Reported Manchester United target Andrea Belotti could star when Torino host depleted city rivals Juventus who are looking to secure the spoils from a city derby attracting particular interest from Roma and AC Milan. With 10 goals in 13 appearances in only his second season in Serie A, Belotti — who celebrates his goals by mimicking a rooster’s comb with an open hand to his forehead — has emerged as the most exciting home-grown striker in years. So much so that Torino president Urban Cairo, amid reports of interest from United manager Jose Mourinho, added a 100m euros buyout clause when he tied the 22-year-old front man to a new deal until 2021 in midweek. “I will repay the club’s faith in me by giving my everything in every training session and every game,” Belotti said as a way of thanks. It should buy Torino coach Sinisa Continue reading "Turin derby eyes on United target Belotti"

Real eye record back where it began for Zidane

Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid can set a club record by extending their unbeaten run to 35 games when Deportivo la Coruna visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. Deportivo’s last visit to Real was Zinedine Zidane’s first match in charge back in January and the 5-0 thrashing of the Galicians was a sign of things to come in a dream debut year for the Frenchman as a senior coach. Madrid haven’t tasted defeat since April, winning the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and opening up a six-point La Liga lead over Barcelona in the process. “You have to congratulate the players,” insisted Zidane humbly after Madrid had to settle for qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League in second place behind Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. “They are the ones that are on the pitch, that have to fight and run.” Los Blancos will be looking for the Continue reading "Real eye record back where it began for Zidane"

Relegation fears turn focus on trigger-happy Palermo president

Milan (AFP) – Jokes about Maurizio Zamparini’s notoriously twitchy trigger finger abound, but the prospect of relegation for Palermo has switched the focus on the Serie A club owner’s penchant for sacking coaches.  Barely 15 games into the season Palermo are on their third coach after Zamparini appointed Eugenio Corini last week to replace Roberto De Zerbi, who succeeded Davide Ballardini only two weeks into the campaign. Zamparini, a 75-year-old businessman from Udine, is so notorious in Italy that Twitter pranksters quipped this week he was to blame for the downfall of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who resigned following a referendum vote. They posted a picture of a serious-looking Zamparini with the message: “It’s not true that Renzi resigned. Zamparini sacked him.” For the man who was so unhappy with his team in 2003 he threatened to castrate the players and use their testicles as toppings in his Continue reading "Relegation fears turn focus on trigger-happy Palermo president"

Sepp Blatter: Gianni Infantino has shown me no respect

• Disgraced former Fifa president turns on his successor
• 80-year-old says Infantino has not returned his callsSepp Blatter says his successor Gianni Infantino has shown him no respect by failing to return his phone calls. The disgraced former Fifa president lost his Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) appeal on Monday against a six-year ban for ethics violations, imposed amid the biggest corruption scandal to hit world football’s governing body. Continue reading...