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01 May 6:32 de la tarde

Sometimes the game just isn't flowing your way, and you run out of ideas on how to change it.

It was a lesson a forlorn FC Barcelona side experienced at the ruthless hands of Bayern Munich in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg, and Gus Johnson gained much the same lesson in the broadcast booth over those same 90 minutes.

After a two-month layoff, FOX Soccer used the Barça-Bayern match to resume its controversial on-the-job training of Johnson as the network's lead soccer announcer, a daunting challenge for the veteran sportscaster but one that he's handled reasonably well to date.

But this week was a harder slog for the demonstrative Johnson – and perhaps his predicament is best summed with a hackneyed old coaching phrase: Johnson wasn't really put in a position to succeed.

After pairing him with the more experienced Warren Barton in previous Champions League matches, for today's match the decision-makers elected to leave Barton in his familiar studio environment alongside Rob Stone, Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride. Johnson was instead assigned retired English striker Ian Wright as his partner on the call – and the chemistry just didn't take.

Wright offers a clipped London accent and a wealth of knowledge from a career full of famous goalscoring exploits in the English Premier League, which probably adds up to a can't-miss combination in the eyes of network executives.

But his staccato delivery of repetitive talking points – how many times did Wright castigate Barcelona for their lack of width (which surely sounded more like “whiff” to any untrained American ears watching this game on FOX's more widely carried FX channel)? – left Johnson with limited room for his trademark bursts of excitement, or even the occasional bit of scene-setting.

There were also worrying signs when it came to Johnson's own preparedness, however. He got off on the wrong foot in the early going by referring to Bayern's high-pressure approach as a “full-court press,” which he should know will court scorn from soccerphiles suspicious of his basketball background.

Johnson consistently stumbled over the pronunciation of Barça star Andrés Iniesta, and his allusions to the Spanish giants' famed “tiki taka” passing style were downright malapropisms.

Unfortunately for the broadcast duo, Bayern's systematic blunting and dismembering of their hosts left little drama in the occasion, which only magnified their slips and shortcomings. The anticlimactic game's latter stages challenged Johnson and Wright to provide analysis and conversation without tuning out the action on the field – an underrated challenge that the best in the business manage subtly and adroitly.

Wednesday provided a reminder Johnson hasn't joined their ranks quite yet. And it doesn't get any easier in his upcoming assignments: an EPL match this weekend, followed by the FA Cup and Champions League finals later this month.

01 May 11:09 de la mañana

Si les Espagnols se demandent si le Real (c’est déjà raté) ou le Barça peuvent réaliser un miracle au match retour en Ligue des champions européenne, les Québécois se posent la même question au sujet de Montréal en demi-finale du Championnat canadien Amway (sujet principal de notre dernière émission Coup Franc).

Déçu de ses joueurs pour leur deuxième mi-temps au match aller, l’entraîneur Marco Schällibaum l’est aussi des supporters qui « ne comprennent pas » et insiste sur le fait que la compétition est importante pour le club. Fera-t-il encore tourner son effectif pour ce match retour (coup d’envoi à 19h45, direct TVA Sports et Sportsnet) ? Qui de Jeb Brovsky et Hassoun Camara (à qui fifa.com a consacré un article), les seuls à avoir joué les deux derniers matchs au complet, ou des cadres de l’équipe seront au repos ?

Chez les visiteurs, Ryan Nelsen sera forcé de se priver d’éléments importants : la liste des blessés s’allonge puisque après Richard Eckersley, Terry Dunfield et Darel Russell, ce fut au tour de Justin Braun et Hogan Ephraim de tomber au combat samedi dernier. Cela permettra peut-être de voir le jeune joueur désigné argentin Matias Laba, qui a effectué le voyage à Montréal. Un renfort qui en précède d’autres, puisque le TFC a quelques noms importants dans son viseur.

Après sa victoire 2-3 à l’aller, Vancouver a un pied et demi en finale et l’absence de Kenny Miller ne devrait pas être préjudiciable contre une équipe d’Edmonton dont le but n’est pas de se qualifier mais de jouer aussi bien que la semaine dernière (match à 22h00 HE).

Sur la scène internationale, on suivra de près la finale retour de la Ligue des champions entre Monterrey et Santos Laguna (22h00 HE ; aller 0-0). Double tenants du titre, les Rayados comptent sur leur expérience pour émerger chez eux face au finaliste malheureux de la saison dernière dont le gardien Oswaldo Sanchez est particulièrement motivé à l’idée de disputer la Coupe du monde des clubs.

30 April 9:48 de la tarde

If you spend enough time around Red Bull Arena, you might notice a guy decked out in Red Bulls gear buzzing around, shaking hands and sharing laughs with a variety of faces, young and old

Fernando Ruiz is that guy.

The video above courtesy of New York profiles Ruiz, who made the decision to trade NJ Transit for the training pitch and hasn't looked back since. 

30 April 3:38 de la tarde

With many of the title races in Europe's top leagues all but decided, we're reached the time of the year when the proverbial “silly season” cranks up in anticipation of the international transfer window's arrival this summer.

But when media reports in the club's own backyard place a past Sueño MLS winner on Spanish superpower FC Barcelona's radar, it's worth taking note.

On Tuesday, Barcelona-based publication Mundo Deportivo, citing “some Argentine media,” posted a report claiming that River Plate striker Gabriel Funes Mori is back in the Catalan club's crosshairs as a transfer target.

The Argentina-born, Texas-raised No. 9 was River Plate's leading scorer during the first half of the 2012-13 season and has been linked to Barça and other European powers like AC Milan in the past. But he first rose to prominence as the winner of the 2008 Sueño MLS competition, which earned him a spot in FC Dallas' youth academy.

That opportunity quickly led to a trial with England's Chelsea FC. While Funes Mori did not catch on with the Blues, members of River Plate's staff spotted him and both he and his twin brother Ramiro soon joined the renowned Buenos Aires club and rapidly rose through the ranks.

Funes Mori played for Argentina's U-20 side and made an appearance for the senior team in a friendly against Brazil last year, but US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann reportedly took notice of Funes Mori last winter and invited him to switch allegiance to the US.

Funes Mori turns 22 later this year and probably isn't quite the finished product yet. But if he does wind up at Barcelona, he'll be the first player with American ties to join the Blaugrana's senior squad.

30 April 12:21 de la tarde

Entre les matchs aller et retour des demi-finales du Championnat canadien Amway, cette compétition est au centre des discussions de l’émission de la semaine (à écouter ici) animée par son quatuor désormais habituel.

Le fait d’avoir de nombreux réservistes traditionnels dans le onze de départ a suscité beaucoup de commentaires. On se demande si les clubs prennent cette compétition au sérieux et si les supporters peuvent se sentir floués. En alignant beaucoup de jeunes, chacun n’a peut-être pas pris les mêmes risques. Les résultats ont aussi suscité des débats sur les responsabilités des joueurs sur le terrain ainsi que sur la qualité en profondeur des divers effectifs. L’essentiel de la discussion porte sur Toronto - Montréal mais on parle aussi d’Edmonton - Vancouver.

Avec l’arrivée d’une équipe de NASL à Ottawa l’an prochain, le format de la compétition sera légèrement adapté avec un tour préliminaire entre les clubs de NASL. C’était prévisible mais quel message cette décision passe-t-elle ?

Chicago vit un début de saison difficile, qui a été confirmé lors de la dernière journée à Montréal. On a pu constater de près certains progrès de l’équipe mais surtout un manque d’imagination, un potentiel mal utilisé et une défense susceptible de s’effondrer à n’importe quel moment au sein d’un onze qui semble être entré dans une routine menant difficilement à la victoire.

On connaîtra dans les prochaines semaines l’identité du vingtième club de MLS. Les signes mènent vers une deuxième équipe New Yorkaise basée dans le Queens. Alors que les Red Bulls peinent à remplir leur stade, certains s’interrogent sur la pertinence de cette décision qui pourrait cependant amener de nouvelles vedettes internationales en MLS. Et après, quel développement pour la ligue ?

L'émission Coup Franc est disponible sur Stitcher et iTunes. Vous pouvez nous joindre par courriel (coup.franc@MLSsoccer.com), sur Facebook ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS).

30 April 12:17 de la tarde

So, the Columbus Crew paid a visit to WWE Raw last night. It was pretty ridiculous. Daniel Withrow might have a future with these guys if the whole soccer thing doesn't work out. 

It got us thinking, though: Which MLS player would make the best professional wrestler? Jamison Olave? Omar Gonzalez? Donovan Ricketts? Steven Lenhart? 

Tell us in the comments, and feel free to volunteer some nickname suggestions, too.

29 April 11:51 de la tarde

Ever wondered what a match is like at Stade Saputo? The video above might give you a decent idea. Next level quality. 

Neutral MLS fan alert: Viewing may spark newfound affinity for Montreal Impact

Consider yourself warned, amusez-vous!

29 April 4:55 de la tarde

As our man Greg Seltzer pointed out last week, US national team striker Terrence Boyd has had a pretty stellar first season of top-flight European soccer. He's been mostly a starter, he's been mostly really good, and he's been mostly really consistent at putting the ball in the back of the net, scoring 12 times for Rapid Vienna.

But while he's been good, his team just hasn't. Not by their own standards, anyway. Currently the Green-Whites are 23 points off the pace set by (hated rivals) Austria Vienna, and are fighting for the second Europa League spot. For a club that's used to the top of the table – Rapid have an Austrian record 32 titles – third place just isn't good enough.

So the fans bricked up the front doors of the club's offices and made it clear that general manager Werner Kuhn is, ahem, not well-liked:

Message sent.

Credit to Deadspin for spotting the story, and to the Rapid Ultras for the image.

29 April 3:51 de la tarde

Does playing at home influence referees' decisions?

Answering that question may depend on which side fans are on for a given match, and what the outcome of the game is. But there is growing evidence that referees do inadvertently tip the balance in the home side's favor more often than not.

In this article from The Guardian, Sean Ingle discusses the ways in which a home crowd can help their team receive fewer cards, as well as increase injury time if the home side needs more time to get a result.

These results are not only present in English and German soccer, the countries highlighted in the article, as evidence from other sports, including the NBA, also supports the hometown bias.

Still, given the frequent complaints leveled at officials from fans of home teams, the bias isn't the sole determinant of outcome, and obviously has a larger impact on some contests than others. Furthermore, if cheering for one's team and trying to coerce favorable decisions from referees is a hallmark of attending games for fans, the article notes that the impact of fans on actually helping the team perform looks to be negligible, at least statistically.

Don't let that hold you back from heading to the stadium and cheering on your local team, though – you could help give the home team the slightest of edges.

29 April 2:43 de la tarde

Philadelphia Union forward Jack McInerney can score goals. He can also do the weather.

McInerney was a guest forecaster alongside meteorologist Katie Fehlinger on CBS3 in Philadelphia on Monday and, although he wasn't as good as D.C. United's Chris Pontius, the Union youngster still delivered on the day's weather forecast as well as next Saturday's, when Philadelphia host the Seattle Sounders.