Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. BWP'S "SICK" PERFORMANCE
Following reports that Bradley Wright-Phillips might have been too ill to play against the Houston Dynamo, the visiting team undoubtedly wishes he had missed the game. Instead, Wright-Philips combined with Thierry Henry multiple times to lead the home side to a 4-0 victory (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE). The Englishman scored a hat trick in the end, leading manager Mike Petke to joke that he hopes his player has the flu this weekend as well, while the forward himself suggested, “I think I owed Red Bull Arena a goal.” Meanwhile, it’s now five games without a win for the Dynamo, and defender David Horst offered a frank assessment of his team’s latest performance (VIDEO).
2. LOS CAMPEONES
Congratulations to Cruz Azul, winners of the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League. Cruz Azul drew 1-1 at Toluca (watch highlights here), but after a scoreless first leg, that result was enough for Cruz Azul to claim the title by virtue of the away-goals rule. The Liga MX leaders are the first team to clinch a spot at this winter’s FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco. MLS teams did grab a minor piece of hardware, with the LA Galaxy named winners of the tournament's Fair Play Award for having the best disciplinary record in the tournament. With the conclusion of this year’s tournament, we can now look ahead to the 2014-15 edition, and only six of the 15 available places remain up for grabs.
3. SCORELESS DRAW IN CANADA
One remaining Champions League spot will be determined by the Amway Canadian Championship, which got underway on Wednesday. There was very little to separate the two lower-division Canadian sides as the Ottawa Fury and FC Edmonton drew the first leg of their play-in series, 0-0. The two sides now head to Edmonton for the second leg next Wednesday to see which team will advance to the semifinals against reigning champions Montreal Impact (whose current struggles are highlighted in the latest MLS Power Rankings).
4. NYC IN THE MIX
Cross another important item off New York City FC’s to-do list, as the club has received approval for a training facility in Westchester County and, according to one report, could also be targeting a US international as one of their first players. Meanwhile, head coach Jason Kreis is coming toward the end of his time in Europe with parent club Manchester City and, while it’s no doubt been a positive experience, according to Kreis himself, “One of the biggest things I’ve learned actually is that we know what we’re doing over here and we’ve been doing it a while as well.”
5. PONTIUS’ ROAD TO RECOVERY STARTS HERE
It was a case of good news / bad news for D.C. United fans on Wednesday. The good news is that Chris Pontius’ latest surgery was a success; the bad news is that he will be out for another 4-6 months as he recovers. His head coach, Ben Olsen, had other issues on his mind after PRO’s assessment of one refereeing decision during D.C.'s most recent match against Columbus.
6. PORTER'S STRENGTH
This is undoubtedly the toughest spell in Caleb Porter’s tenure as Portland Timbers manager. Going winless in seven games is enough to test any coach, but as Porter himself puts it, “You can’t be a weak leader and go through this … I think you really find out how good a coach you are, how strong a leader you are, in times like this.” While Porter attempts to work out the answer to his team’s problems, Jack Jewsbury is ready to do whatever it takes to once again secure a starting spot on the team.
7. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SIGI
“Good soccer, at the end of the day, is: You want to be winning when the game is over.” That’s the opinion of Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, and yet the MLS coaching veteran does feel the Sounders are starting to play some nice soccer. The team certainly has found a rhythm, so could the return of Brad Evans cause selection issues for Schmid? Too many good players is certainly a good problem to have, and Schmid addressed that along with a number of other hot topics in his weekly press conference.
8. JOHN HACK VS. JACK MAC
After eight games, the Philadelphia Union are not where John Hackworth would like them to be, and according to the head coach, a big part of that comes down to the team’s inability to finish their chances. As part of his weekly press conference, Hackworth talked about how he plans to address that problem and explained his feelings about coming up against former player Jack McInerney when Philadelphia play at Montreal this weekend.
9. STAYING HEALTHY
Prior to Toronto FC’s 2-1 loss against FC Dallas, head coach Ryan Nelsen suggested that Designated Player Jermain Defoe was likely to return to the squad for the game against the New England Revolution on May 2. It’s hardly a problem for TFC, as the season is still young, but with the World Cup drawing ever nearer, Defoe's race to fitness highlights the perils of injury ahead of a major tournament.
10. RISE OF THE SOCCER FAN
Has the US become a soccer country? That topic will be discussed at Washington University in St. Louis on May 5 by a panel including big names such as Hunt Sports Group chairman Clark Hunt and Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl. In the meantime, though, anyone looking for evidence to support a positive answer to that question may want to check out the trailer for the upcoming film charting the history of La Barra Brava, one of the oldest supporters' groups in MLS, and this interesting interview with the director, who explains exactly how the film came to be.
11. LASTING LEGACY?
With the World Cup only 48 days away, what impact will this year’s tournament have on soccer in the United States? Three interested parties give their take, and whatever its inspiration for a new generation of players, a global tournament will get the US national team plenty of additional worldwide exposure, such as this profile of the team from FIFA.com.
12. RAMOS’ GRAND PLAN
Looking to begin preparations earlier for the 2016 Olympics than for 2012, US Soccer has assembled a U-21 team for the first time, but with qualification for that event still almost two years away, what does the more immediate future hold for this new team? US youth technical director Tab Ramos is currently overseeing the new squad and, in a comprehensive chat with American Soccer Now, the former US captain breaks down his vision for the side.
13. LOANS, LOANS EVERYWHERE
The New England Revolution have revealed the fourth player to be sent on loan to the club’s USL PRO affiliate, the Rochester Rhinos. Donnie Smith, a 23-year-old winger who has seen time at outside back, is the player on the move for a short-term loan, and with a 1-1-1 record so far, the Rhinos may welcome the extra help. The San Jose Earthquakes also sent a player out and, with Adam Jahn receiving a red card for fighting during the Quakes last game, the forward now finds himself with the club’s lower-league affiliate, the Sacramento Republic.
14. WHY TACTICS MATTER
Everybody loves to talk tactics. Setting out with the right strategy can be the difference between winning and losing, especially in a league with as much parity as MLS. However, is there a difference between the way we understand such things and how a professional player looks at them? Apparently so, as former FC Dallas midfielder Bobby Warshaw talks us through what tactics mean to him.
15. SPECIAL DELIVERY COMING FOR SABORÍO
The team may be the star at Rio Tinto Stadium, but Utah's culture has certainly played a role in the team's success and is one of the reason international players like Javier Morales and Álvaro Saborío want to stay there long-term. In a Deseret News feature on "Sabo," he discusses some of his off-field passions and his excitement as he and his wife prepare to welcome their first child in late May.
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