By ALAN HAINKEL
In what will be weather more suited to playing ice hockey on a backyard pond (Saturday’s forecast high is 24), Sporting Kansas City will try to win their franchise’s second MLS Cup, having won their first in 2000.
This time, however, they will be playing in front of their home fans, in what will be the club’s 36th consecutive sellout. They will also be trying to do something that hasn’t been done in Kansas City since 1985, winning a league championship at home, when the Royals won the World Series.
Despite what could arguably be called the biggest game in club history, Sporting Kansas City is trying to maintain a sense of normalcy through the group by staying active in the community. As an example, several players attended the league event at Ronald McDonald House where the basement was remodeled with a soccer theme in just 10 days.
Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By TYLER GRAY
In a year that was supposed to be a rebuilding one for Real Salt Lake, the status of their head coach, Jason Kreis, is more of a question mark than their current roster.
After offloading Jamison Olave, Will Johnson and Fabian Espindola in the offseason, it was largely the belief that this year would be a rocky one for the Utah side. However, RSL finished second in the Western Conference and has been arguably the hottest team in the postseason entering the MLS Cup final, largely on the backs of its younger players.
General manager Garth Lagerway spoke of the decision to make such drastic changes at the end of last year in conference with the media.
“Obviously it’s not something we hope to do every day; trading away three all-stars at the end of a season,” Lagerway said. “But we went five games last year at the end of the season without scoring and we felt like we had a Champion’s League group that we should’ve advanced out of, but we didn’t. So we thought we had to change some things up.”
Photo by Garrett Cleverley/Soccer by Ives
By FRANCO PANIZO
KANSAS CITY - It could have been worse.
That was the overall message from members of the U.S. Men’s National Team following Friday’s 2014 World Cup draw that saw them land in Group G alongside Ghana, Germany and Portugal. Some of the players said the U.S. is in the tournament’s Group of Death, but still kept a positive outlook on the difficult draw that seemed inevitable as soon as Germany was paired with Ghana.
“This is what the World Cup is about,” said Clint Dempsey. “It’s about playing the best teams and we’ve got a good group as far as that’s concerned, and I think we still have the quality if we play our best ball that we can get out of the group. It’s just making sure that we do that and try to get the most out of every game and not wait until that last game and need other people to do favors for you.
“At the same time, looking at that group, we think it’s going to go down to the last minute for everybody.”
Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
The draw for the 2014 World Cup was not kind to the United States.
The U.S. Men’s National Team was handed one of the most difficult groups in World Cup history as they were placed in Group G with Germany, Ghana, and Portugal, with matches in the north (Manaus) and northeast (Natal and Recife) of Brazil. In addition, the distances between the venues they’ll play in and their home base in Sao Paulo are vast. The U.S. will likely end up traveling nearly 9,000 miles in the group stage alone.
Group G is filled with plenty of story lines, from USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann facing his native Germany to the never-ending rivalry between the USA and Ghana.
Here’s a closer look at the outcome of the rest of the draw:
By JAY BELL
Several Americans abroad will look to keep their momentum going from good showings in midweek games in a busy week across Europe.
Tim Howard helped Everton to a rare win over his former club at Old Trafford on Wednesday. The Old Toffees topped their former boss, David Moyes, and Manchester United 1-0. Next up: top-of-the-table Arsenal.
Jozy Altidore finally scored his first league goal for Sunderland in a 4-3 loss to Chelsea on Wednesday, but he’ll have his hands full once more in the Black Cats’ next match at home against Tottenham.
Alejandro Bedoya also scored on Tuesday as Nantes defeated Valenciennes on Tuesday. Bedoya will be back at it on Friday against Marseille. Reading midfielder Danny Williams had an assist on Wednesday and is starting to earn minutes for Reading since recovering from injury. Reading will face AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.
Jose Torres, Jonathan Bornstein and Tigres UANL were bounced from the Liga MX playoffs last weekend by Club America.
Here is who the Americans Abroad will be facing this weekend:
By DAN KARELL
Bayern Munich may be slowly running away with the Bundesliga title for the second season running, but the battle for second place is as hot as it’s even been.
The second and third-placed teams in the Bundesliga meet up on Saturday in what could be a proverbial “six pointer” kind of match, as Bayer Leverkusen drives an hour up the road to Signal Iduna Park to face Borussia Dortmund. While Bayer’s season hasn’t gone as well as they would have liked in UEFA Champions League, they’re still three points above Dortmund in the standings and within reaching distance of Bayern, provided the defending champions slip up.
English Premier League leaders Arsenal host a high-flying Everton side coming off a famous 1-0 victory at Manchester United on Sunday. Both teams are in great form this season and the Gunners were surely glad to leave Olivier Giroud on the bench for 90 minutes, saving his legs for this weekend’s clash.
Elsewhere in the world, AS Roma takes on Guiseppe Rossi and Fiorentina on early Sunday morning, Southampton returns home and hopes to inflict some wounds on Manchester City, which struggles away from home. In Spain, with the Copa Del Rey underway, Athletico Madrid’s trip to Catalonia to face Sant Andreu should be an interesting match to keep. And finally, on Sunday evening, the second leg of the Liga MX playoffs begins, as Club America hosts Toluca and Santos Laguna hosts Club Leon, with both hosts needing to overturn deficits.
Here is a rundown of This Weekend’s Soccer on TV:
By CASEY CANNON
Hello and Welcome to the Soccer by Ives Fantasy Corner – now with more snow on the pitch! Every week I dig through statistics, news, and rumors to provide the reader with the kind of fantasy advice that only the last MLS fan paying attention can provide.
Well back in my younger days there were these MLS playoffs and as I recall four teams played for the right to play in the MLS Championship game. Back then there were all sorts of players to write about and fun choices to be made. Now, it’s just two teams facing off in the MLS championship and 30 or so players to choose from. This week it’s important to squeeze maximum value out of every pick.
If memory serves I wrote something along the lines of the “Goal Fest Out West” regarding the RSL at Portland game. It’s possible I was somewhat off on that prediction. On the flip side I correctly predicted the Eastern Conference finals. I expected 2-0 and it was only the early deflected goal that gave the 2-1 final score line. For the playoffs, I am 9-3-1.
That is a good string of results but perhaps not good enough to make up 185 points and vault into first place. Currently in first place is EternalBluForeverGrn with a commanding 24 point lead on second place Marmots. KFC Official is one week from having the highest weekly score for the entire post season. He has pulled off the impressive feat of leading from the wildcard all the way to the finals. FC SLC was the high score of the week with 71 points.
On my team I have discovered a great new way to pass the time. I pulled the caparoo. Switched off Collin to Will Johnson. That went poorly for me. To be clear I threw away eight points. Now I get to check the standings in each league and think about where I would be if I hadn’t thrown away those points. (Tied with Ben Jata in 45th place overall).
Instead I’m in 56th overall 24th in SBI. Feel free to look. I know I’ll look a few more times. Here’s your MLS Cup Final fantasy preview:
The day that we’ve all been waiting for is finally here.
In beautiful Costa do Sauipe, FIFA will draw each of the 32 nations qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil into one of eight groups (11:30am on ESPN2/ESPN3/Univision). From there, fans will begin to contemplate their team’s chances for achieving World Cup glory.
For the USA, the chances of drawing a group featuring a European giant and/or South American power are incredibly high, but they’ll be hoping to be drawn in a group with Switzerland and Algeria. Regardless of their group, the U.S. Men’s National Team has proven in the past that they can overcome the odds, winning their group in 2010 and making a run to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002.
If you need another run through, here’s a primer from FIFA on how the World Cup draw will proceed. The United States are placed in Pot 3 with the three other CONCACAF nations and the four nations from the AFC.
We’ll be doing a live commentary of the draw, but in the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts, hopes, and fears in the comments section below.
Enjoy the draw (commentary is after the jump):
KANSAS CITY – Mike Magee found out about a week ago over a phone call that he was the 2013 MLS MVP.
He still found it surreal on Thursday.
Standing in front of family and media members on Thursday evening ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup Final between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, Magee joined a distinguished group of players by being named the league’s best player for the 2013 campaign. Magee gave a speech in which he credited his move from the LA Galaxy to the Chicago Fire, his teammates, and Windy City-based family for putting together a dream season that saw him score a combined 21 goals.
Afterwards, Magee went to a backroom and fielded questions from reporters. He reiterated what he said during his speech, only in a little more detail.
“I was going home, which is so easy,” said the 29-year-old Magee when asked about his successful transition to the Fire. “I’ve made so many different moves and there’s a lot of different transitions that have been so difficult and going home is as easy as can be.”
It sure seemed that way judging by the frequency in which Magee scored goals this season. Not only did Magee light up scoreboards, but he also made his teammates better and that had a Fire team that began the year very poorly on the brink of reaching the postseason up until the final day of the regular season.
By DAN KARELL
It may have only felt like a few minutes to us, but Hannover defender Steve Cherundolo’s three minute cameo against last Sunday marked his return from injury for the first time since May.
The long-time U.S. Men’s National Team right back has been dogged by knee problems in the last 12 months, and has undergone surgery on his left knee three separate times in 2013. Thankfully, he says, the injury problems are all behind him.
With the knees everything is okay again,” Cherundolo told German publication BILD. ”I’m 34-years old and have made over 500 official appearances, you always know your own body.”
Fans at the HDI-Arena in Hannover last Sunday gave their club captain a rousing ovation as he entered the field in the 87th minute of the Red’s 2-0 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt. It was a moment that Cherundolo is very thankful for, and with the positive result, has him hopeful for the club’s fortunes to turn around.