By FRANCO PANIZO
As if bragging rights were not a big enough of an incentive, both of MLS’s New York teams will have plenty more to fight for when the meet for the very first time this weekend.
The New York Red Bulls and New York City FC are set for their inaugural match against one another on Sunday at Red Bull Arena, and both clubs will eagerly be gunning for three points after some less-than-stellar results in recent weeks.
The Red Bulls are on a three-game winless run that most recently saw them suffer their first defeat of the season at the hands of the New England Revolution, while NYCFC has gone seven straight games without picking up maximum points to fall to eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
While those numbers might seem to point at the expansion club as being the team with more pressure going into this game, the Red Bulls will be playing in front of their home crowd. That will certainly be a benefit, but it also puts the onus on them to pick up the victory. Anything less could trigger an angry response from a fanbase that is still being won over following some offseason controversy.
With all that, which team do you think has more pressure going into Sunday’s showdown?
Vote in the poll after the jump:
By IVES GALARCEP
The UEFA Champions League match-up many would have pegged as the best pairing for a final will take place in the semifinals, as FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich square off starting today with the first leg at the Camp Nou (2:45pm, Fox Sports 1).
Pep Guardiola returns to Barcelona to face the club he spent most of his life with before leaving and eventually resurfacing with Bayern. He will lead the German champions into the Camp Nou as slight underdogs against a Barcelona side playing some of its best soccer since Guardiola’s departure.
Bayern will be without a handful of stars, including Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber, but still has plenty of firepower to cause problems for a Barcelona side featuring a full-strength squad.
SBI will be providing live commentary on today’s semifinal first leg, so please feel free to follow along here. As always, you are welcome to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
Enjoy the action (Today’s SBI Live Commentary is after the jump):
Photo by Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
Rais M’bolhi returned to training Tuesday, and the Philadelphia Union may be forced to rely on the controversial goalkeeper after being struck by the injury bug.
Both Andre Blake and John McCarthy will miss out on this weekend’s meeting with the Vancouver Whitecaps due to injury, with Blake suffering a meniscus injury similar to the one that has kept him out since the preseason. McCarthy, meanwhile, will miss out due to a concussion, leaving the Union with a bit of an issue at the goalkeeper position.
“Unfortunately, with Andre, we just got word, confirmation, and you feel bad for the kid, but he tore his right meniscus now, almost the exact same injury as the preseason,” head coach Jim Curtin said at a press conference on Wednesday. “He’ll be getting surgery tentatively, probably as soon as possible. Coincidentally, I get an email from Jamaica today asking to call him in and have him be part of the Gold Cup and Copa America, so I’m really devastated for the kid. He’s had a tough run, obviously, with the injuries, so I feel bad for him. Continue reading
Photo by USA TODAY Sports
By IVES GALARCEP
It may not seem like it, but we have already seen one quarter of the 2015 MLS season go by. If you feel like it has flown by, you are not alone.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Orlando City was making its MLS debut in front of a packed Citrus Bowl, but yes, we have watched the weeks fly by. The early going was a bit sloppy, and light on goals, but things have begun to pick up in recent weeks as some of the league’s top teams have begun to hit their stride.
With one fourth of the season already in the books, I decided to take a look at the best performers through the first quarter of 2015. In my latest piece for Goal.com, I gave my picks for the top league awards, and selected a Best XI for the first quarter of the season.
Here is some more insight into the picks, including the toughest decisions:
Photo by Mike DiNovo/USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
Rais M’Bolhi rejoined the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday, and now it looks likely that the Algerian goalkeeper will regain his starting role for the time being.
M’Bolhi is likely to start Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps after both Andre Blake and John McCarthy suffered separate training injuries in Tuesday’s practice. Blake reportedly injured the opposite knee than the one that has kept him sidelined to start the season.
The Algerian goalkeeper started the first five games for the Union this season before being replaced by McCarthy.
M’Bolhi trained in full with the team on Tuesday after previously spending time away from the club following his benching.
Here are more of Wednesday afternoon’s MLS news and notes: Continue reading
By ADAM TROXTELL
There will be mixed emotions aplenty in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg, with Barcelona welcoming a familiar face back to the Camp Nou.
Pep Guardiola returns to the place where he won 14 titles for the Catalan giants, only this time it will be with Bayern Munich on the visitors’ bench. After sealing the Bundesliga title a few weeks ago, Bayern is looking to add a second European crown in three years to the trophy cabinet.
Robert Lewandowski is expected to return to boost those chances after suffering a fractured cheek bone against Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal last week. Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Holger Badstuber and David Alaba all remain out for the German champions.
Barcelona has less injury concerns, though defender Jeremy Mathieu will miss out due to a reported Achilles tendon problem. The Catalan side will otherwise look to inflict damage on its former boss with a fully fit squad.
photo by Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
Two weeks ago, Roger Espinoza teased Benny Feilhaber about his lack of goals. Feilhaber responded in the best of ways, striking twice in the very next game to punctuate a strong month that saw him either score or create more than half of Sporting Kansas City’s goals.
Feilhaber had quite an April, as he directly involved in five of the club’s eight April goals. The veteran midfielder bagged a brace against the Houston Dynamo on April 25, which included a dramatic volley in the 95th minute that gave Kansas City a 4-4 draw, and assisted on three more goals during the course of its three other matches. He also set up numerous other opportunities that were just narrowly missed or mis-hit.
While it was the 30-year-old Feilhaber’s offensive contributions that grabbed plenty of national attention, he also helped his club by doing all of the little things defensively. Feilhaber looked as involved as he’s ever been on that side of the ball, getting stuck in, tracking back and breaking up numerous plays to help win possession for his team.
He looked more like a complete two-way player and less like the offensive-minded playmaker that a few years ago didn’t have the chops defensively, a development he attributes to Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes, as well as improved fitness.
“I used to be a guy that didn’t have the best fitness, and I definitely got tired throughout games,” Feilhaber told SBI last week. “When you get tired you tend to lack in some areas, typically the area that you’re weak at, so that’s always been the defensive side for me.
Photo by John Rieger/USA Today Sports
By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City spent a pretty penny this past offseason to bring in Luis Marin. The exact figure has not been made public, but for an international goalkeeper with national team experience, the cost likely isn’t cheap.
The price of admission may be even more eye-opening now that Marin has given up six goals in his last two starts and was benched Sunday in favor of Tim Melia, the former Chivas USA player who made the most of his opportunity by organizing a 1-0 shutout over the Chicago Fire.
With Marin still finding his footing in a new league and country, and Melia proving he has what it takes, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes finds himself in an interesting predicament. One that begs the question: Is the goalkeeping situation wide open right now?
“Seriously?” Vermes said when asked that very question Sunday. “What is this, quarterback day or what? Tim had a very good game and that’s it. That’s where we are right now.”