Steve Bruce's tenure at Sunderland has come to an abrupt end.
The Premier League club fired Bruce from his post as manager on Wednesday, cutting his time at the Stadium of Light short in his third season since joining the club from Wigan Athletic — the 19th-place club to whom Sunderland lost at home last weekend. That result pushed Sunderland (2-6-5) to 16th place in the league table, and the Black Cats haven't won since Oct. 22 – a 2-0 win over 18th-place Bolton.
Bruce's assistant, Eric Black, will take the reins while the search commences for a new manager. Names reportedly being thrown out as early candidates to replace Bruce include Martin O'Neill, Mark Hughes, Guus Hiddink and Rafa Benitez, all of whom have previously coached in the Premier League.
Here are a few more stories from around the soccer world:
RSL QUINTET UNDERGOES KNEE PROCEDURES
Five Real Salt Lake players underwent operations to to either clean up or repair knee problems, and all are expected to be ready for the start of the preseason except for one — star striker Alvaro Saborio.
The Costa Rican international had a right scope on his knee to repair a chondral defect, and his return is expected sometime "early in the 2012 campaign" according to a team release.
The other players — striker Fabian Espindola (right knee cystectomy), midfielder Jean Alexandre (right knee scope for meniscus injury), striker Cody Arnoux (left knee scope to clean out effects from past microfracture surgery) and backup goalkeeper Kyle Reynish (right knee scope) — should be ready for the start of preseason camp in late January.
UNION TRIO TRAINING ABROAD
As SBI reported on Monday, Philadelphia Union midfielder Amobi Okugo will be training with SC Freiburg in Germany, but he's not the only Union youngster getting international club experience.
Homegrown Player Zach Pfeffer and U.S. U-20 goalkeeper Zac MacMath will also train overseas, with Pfeffer going to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and MacMath going to Everton.
It marks the second straight offseason that both players will train with those respective clubs. For Pfeffer, he'll be around U.S. internationals Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson and U.S. youth players Joe Gyau and Charles Renken. For MacMath, he gets the opportunity to work with U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard again (and American Marcus Hahnemann, one of Howard's backups) as he prepares for a likely role with the U.S. Olympic qualifying squad.
LIVERPOOL'S LUCAS COULD BE OUT FOR YEAR
Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva could be out for the season after severely injuring his knee in Liverpool's Carling Cup triumph over Chelsea on Tuesday.
After being stretchered off the field, Lucas reportedly fears that he suffered major ligament damage, although he won't undergo full testing until Thursday.
Think it was a mistake for Sunderland to fire Bruce? Who would you like to see take over for him? Worried about some of the RSL knee injuries? What do you make of MacMath, Pfeffer and Okugo's training stints? How do you think a long-term injury to Lucas would affect Liverpool?
Share your thoughts below.