Andrea Pirlo Juventus (Getty Images)

UCL Preview: Juventus hosts reigning-champion Real Madrid

The UEFA Champions League semifinals open Tuesday with a meeting between the reigning champions and an Italian giant looking to end a 12-year drought.

JoseMourinhoChelsea1-CrystalPalace2015 (Getty)

Tuesday Kickoff: Mourinho in contract extension talks; Maradona blasts Blatter; and more

Chelsea are in talks to extend Jose Mourinho’s contract through 2019, and Diego Maradona hits out at Sepp Blatter for FIFA “anarchy,” in this morning’s Kickoff.

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Birmingham City part ways with U.S. U-23 defender Packwood, offer Spector new contract

Birmingham City announced that it is parting ways with American centerback Will Packwood, but did offer fellow American defender Jonathan Spector a new contract.

SBI MLS Rookie of the Week: Axel Sjoberg

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Photo by Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

By RYAN TOLMICH

Facing off with two of the league’s most dominant sides within a space of three days, Axel Sjoberg’s baptism by fire continued this past week.

The hulking centerback passed the test with flying colors, playing 90 minutes in back-to-back draws to earn SBI MLS Rookie of the Week.

Tasked with taking on the New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy just days apart, Sjoberg helped anchor a Rapids back line that put together back to back 1-1 results away from home. With a combined six interceptions in the two games, Sjoberg showed poise in limiting two of the league’s more high-powered offenses to just penalty-kick and corner-kick finishes.

Sjoberg’s role in what turned out to be a pair of strong defensive performances earned the Rapids defender SBI MLS Rookie of the Week, beating out Sean Davis, Fatai Alashe and Matt Polster for this week’s honors.

What did you think of Sjoberg’s performances? Which rookie stood out to you this past weekend?

Share your thoughts below.

Posted in MLS- Colorado Rapids, SBI MLS Rookie of the Week | Leave a comment

UCL Preview: Juventus hosts reigning-champion Real Madrid

Andrea Pirlo Juventus (Getty Images)

By MATT STYPULKOSKI

The UEFA Champions League semifinals open Tuesday with a meeting between the reigning champions and an Italian giant trying to end a 12-year drought.

Real Madrid, which won its record 10th European title in 2014, is sure to be the favorite in its matchup with Juventus. But the Turin club, which hosts Tuesday’s opening leg, has European momentum and an open schedule on its side.

With seven consecutive victories in the league, Real Madrid remains in the midst of a fight for the La Liga crown. Entering the season’s final three matches, Los Blancos sit two points behind leaders Barcelona.

Meanwhile, The Old Lady wrapped up the Serie A title this past weekend, leaving it distraction-free for the Champions League.

For all the club’s recent struggles in Europe, this Juve squad has found a formula for success so far this season. The Turin side has yet to lose a home match in the Champions League during 2014-15. As a result, Juve has also advanced to its first semifinal since 2003, when the Biaconeri knocked off Real Madrid en route to the continental crown.

During that 2003 tie, the Spanish and Italian giants each won one match, with Juventus ultimately going through with a 4-3 aggregate win. The small margin between the two clubs fits with their larger history against one another – Real Madrid enters Tuesday holding a narrow 8-7-1 all-time edge against Juventus.

Though there will still plenty of talent on display, both sides enter the semifinal with injury issues. Juve remains without Paul Pogba, who has been missing from the lineup since March, while Real Madrid is forced to cope without both Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.

Los Blancos will have Gareth Bale at their disposal, however. The Welshman, who had suffered a calf injury, returned to action as a second-half substitute over the weekend.

Posted in European Soccer, Featured, UEFA Champions League | Leave a comment

SBI NASL Team of the Week: Jacksonville Armada FC

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Photo by Jacksonville Armada FC

By AARON CRANFORD

Being an expansion club, Jacksonville Armada FC will have its ups and downs as it tries to figure things out in the NASL; but its performance Saturday was certainly one of those ups.

Armada FC stayed undefeated at home in their first year after a 2-1 win against the defending champion San Antonio Scorpions, earning it recognition as SBI NASL Team of the Week. The team can thank Alhassane Keita for providing the dramatic extra-time game-winner in front of 8,147 fans at Community First Park.

With their second win of the year, Armada FC is in the thick of things in the Spring Season table. If the ball continues to bounce its way, it could see a finish at the top of the table.

Jacksonville’s result and outing beat out the performances of the New York Cosmos and FC Edmonton for this week’s honors.

What did you think of Armada FC’s performance? Which team stood out to you in this past weekend’s NASL play?

Share your thoughts below.

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Tuesday Kickoff: Mourinho in contract extension talks; Maradona blasts Blatter; and more

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By DAN KARELL

Jose Mourinho’s first stint with Chelsea only lasted a little more than three seasons. It’s a safe bet that this time around, he’ll be at Stamford Bridge for the long term.

After securing Chelsea’s first English Premier League title in five years, the club are in talks with Mourinho to extend his contract through June 2019. Mourinho signed a four-year contract in June 2013 worth £10 million per season, and it’s expected that he’ll receive a raise with the new contract extension.

According to Italy’s Gazzetta Dello Sport, Mourinho and Chelsea already have a verbal agreement and Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes is putting the finishing touches on the deal, which could be signed in the coming days.

Mourinho’s Premier League title takes his trophy haul to eight at Chelsea and 22 titles overall.

Here are some more stories to kick off your Tuesday:

Continue reading »

Posted in European Soccer, Featured, South American Soccer | Leave a comment

Birmingham City part ways with U.S. U-23 defender Packwood, offer Spector new contract

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By DAN KARELL

Will Packwood’s eight-year spell with Birmingham City has come to an end.

Following the end of the 2014/2015 season, Birmingham announced that they had parted ways with a number of players, including the 21-year-old American centerback Packwood. The decision ends an eight-year stay at the club, which began in the team’s youth divisions but finished with Packwood languishing on loan at League Two club Cheltenham Town.

Packwood, who currently is a member of the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, was a promising prospect for Birmingham before suffering a horrific leg break in January 2013, an injury that kept him out for ten months. Since then, Packwood has spent time on loan at League Two’s Bristol Rovers, League One’s Colchester United, and Cheltenham Town, where he played five times this spring but couldn’t help the club avoid relegation from the football league.

While Packwood will be seeking new pastures, Birmingham City did reveal a new contract offer to American defender Jonathan Spector, a new two-year deal with an option year attached.

Continue reading »

Posted in Americans Abroad, Featured | 10 Comments

NYCFC look to Sounders as model for expansion success

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Photo by Adam Hunger/ USA Today Sports

BY MICHAEL PENG 

NEW YORK — Building a team from the ground up is no walk in the park, and Jason Kreis knows that, but after watching his club’s winless streak extend to seven matches with a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the New York City FC head coach is left searching for answers on how to turn this team around.

But perhaps he doesn’t have to look too far to find some inspiration.

“I think there’s a lot of models out there, but Seattle being a team that came from expansion, a team that has a very good fan-following in a fantastic stadium and a fantastic city,” Kreis said after the game. “There’s a lot of things we can model ourselves after them.”

That’s not a bad choice for a paragon by Kreis and NYCFC, as the Sounders have been one of the most successful teams in the MLS since joining the league in 2009, making the playoffs each season while advancing to the conference finals of the MLS Cup twice and winning the U.S. Open Cup four times.

Continue reading »

Posted in MLS- New York City FC, MLS- Seattle Sounders | 24 Comments

European Weekend Review: Chelsea crowned Premier League champions; Juventus claim Serie A; and more

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By AYDIN REYHAN

This weekend brought us a champion in the Premier League and let us know that some leagues are going to be extremely fun going into the final weeks.

With a 1-0 victory on Sunday, Chelsea was crowned champions of the Premier League, earning manager Jose Mourinho his third title with the club and first since returning to the team in 2013.

Chelsea was not alone in claiming a domestic crown as Juventus locked up their fourth consecutive Sere A championship with a victory over Sampdoria.

 

Meanwhile, Spain’s title race remains nowhere near as clear cut, as Barcelona thrashed Cordoba 8-0 on the road as they are still protecting their two-point gap atop of La Liga ahead of Real Madrid.

Here is what happened in European soccer’s top five leagues this weekend: Continue reading »

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U.S. U-23s to meet France, Netherlands and more in Toulon Tournament

Jordan Morris, Jorge Espericuete

By AARON CRANFORD

The U.S. Men’s Under-23 National Team will compete against some heavy-hitters one year before the 2016 Olympics, as they head to France to compete in the 2015 Toulon Tournament.

The 43rd edition of the event will take place in picturesque southeastern France and run from May 27 until June 7. The U.S. have been placed in Group A, which features France, Netherlands, Costa Rica and Qatar. The winner of the group will play the winner of Group B, which includes China PR, England, Ivory Coast, Mexico and Morocco. There will also be a third-placed match, which will pit the runners-up of each group.

“Toulon is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world at this age level, and we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to compete against some of the top teams in the world,” U.S. head coach Andi Herzog told U.S. Soccer about the tournament. “Having seen matches here many times before, I know the type of talent we will face. This is huge for us as we get ready for qualification this October, and is another step in the development of our players in international competition.” Continue reading »

Posted in U.S. Men's National Team, U.S. Men's Olympic Team | 3 Comments