ObafemiMartinsSeattleSounders2-SanJoseEarthquakes (USATodaySportsImages)

Looking at the best in MLS through the first quarter of 2015

Obafemi Martins has been the class of MLS through the first quarter of 2015. Here is a look at the league’s best so far.

USATSI_8487541_168381069_lowres

MLS Ticker: M’Bolhi likely to start for Union; Zizzo sidelined by broken leg; and more

Rais M’bolhi appears to be the likely starter for the Union this weekend after injuries to both Andre Blake and John McCarthy.

PepGuardiolaBayernMunich1-FCPorto (Getty)

UCL Preview: Guardiola returns as Barcelona hosts Bayern

Barcelona’s first leg meeting with Bayern Munich marks Pep Guardiola’s competitive return to the Camp Nou as the boss of the German club.

Looking at the best in MLS through the first quarter of 2015

ObafemiMartinsVsRapids (JaneGPhotography)

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:

Continue reading »

Posted in Featured, Major League Soccer | Leave a comment

MLS Ticker: M’Bolhi likely to start for Union; Zizzo sidelined by broken leg; and more

USATSI_8487541_168381069_lowres

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 »

Posted in Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS- Colorado Rapids, MLS- New York City FC, MLS- New York Red Bulls, MLS- Orlando City, MLS- Philadelphia Union, MLS- Vancouver Whitecaps | 1 Comment

UCL Preview: Guardiola returns as Barcelona hosts Bayern

PepGuardiolaBayernMunich1-FCPorto (Getty)

 

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.

Continue reading »

Posted in European Soccer, Featured | 2 Comments

SBI MLS Spotlight: Benny Feilhaber’s improved fitness allowing him to thrive with Sporting KC

Benny Feilhaber 1 (USA TODAYS Sports)

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.

Continue reading »

Posted in MLS Spotlight, MLS- Sporting Kansas City, SBI MLS Spotlight | 20 Comments

Tim Melia’s shutout adds interesting twist to Sporting KC’s goalkeeper situation

Tim Melia

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.”

Continue reading »

Posted in Major League Soccer, MLS- Sporting Kansas City | 4 Comments

Tevez shines as Juventus take a 2-1 lead to Madrid

FBL-EUR-C1-JUVENTUS-REALMADRID

By COLE KELLOGG

Juventus hadn’t played in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League in a dozen years, but you couldn’t tell on Tuesday.

The Italian champions jumped all over Real Madrid in the early going of their first-leg clash in Turin, and Carlos Tevez helped them capitalize, setting up a first-half Alvaro Morata goal before converting a second-half penalty he helped draw as Juventus posted a 2-1 victory.

Morata opened the scoring against his former club early in the match as he tapped home a hard-driven ball from Carlos Tevez that Iker Casillas could only get finger tips on before it found Morata wide open on the back post.

Just before the half-hour mark, the visitors got on the board through a combination from James Rodriguez and Ronaldo. The Colombian volleyed in a cross from the right side of the box and the Ballon D’Or winner scored the free header from inside six yards. The goal was Ronaldo’s 76th in UEFA Champions League play, the career record.

Juventus had the majority of the  attacking play early on in the first half, with Tevez leading the way against a shaky Real Madrid defense.

Martin Atkinson awarded a penalty to Juventus in the 56th minute of play after Daniel Carvajal fouled Tevez in the penalty area. The Argentine put the resulting penalty past Madrid captain Iker Casillas.

The Italians reverted to a back 3 around the hour mark, replacing Stefano Sturaro with centerback Andrea Barzagli.  Minutes later, Chiellini got horribly bloodied up after taking an elbow to the face. The Italian defender had to come off temporarily for a new uniform.

Three minutes from time, it looked as if Roberto Pereyra would make an immediate impact on the match for Juventus. Fernando Llorente found his way around the Madrid defense and goalkeeper, but his ball to the center of the box couldn’t get to Pereyra.

A Pirlo free kick in stoppage time led to the last real chance of the match. Casillas was positioned well, though, and was able to get to the header from Llorente.

Posted in European Soccer, Uncategorized | 17 Comments

MLS Ticker: Nguyen unhappy over Revolution contract situation; Mbolhi rejoins Union; and more

Lee Nguyen New England Revolution 64

photo by Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

By FRANCO PANIZO

The New England Revolution might be on a roll, but not all things are rosy at the club right now.

A Tuesday report from New England Soccer Today stated that 2014 MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen is not pleased with the club’s unwillingness to renegotiate his deal and skipped practice last week to make his feelings known. Nguyen, 28, is currently making approximately $175,000 a year, but wants an improved contract after helping the Revolution reach last year’s MLS Cup final with an 18-goal, five-assist campaign.

Currently in the second year of a four-year contract with the Revs, Nguyen reportedly informed the club of his desire for a new contract during the offseason. The Revolution were resistant to the idea after having signed him to an improved deal prior to the 2014 season.

The decision left the veteran midfielder frustrated, and he contemplated skipping training early in the year before actually doing so early last week. Nguyen ultimately returned to practice, but did not start in his usual playmaker role in New England’s 2-1 home win vs. the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

This season, Nguyen has one goal and two assists in eight league appearances (seven starts).

Here are more notes from around MLS:

Continue reading »

Posted in Major League Soccer, MLS- Montreal Impact, MLS- New England Revolution, MLS- Philadelphia Union | 42 Comments

NASL Week Five: The SBI Rewind

Cosmos vs Ottawa0299

Photo by New York Cosmos

By RYAN TOLMICH

The New York Cosmos continued to make pushes this week, both in the standings and in the city of New York.

The Cosmos continue to be class of the league, securing yet another victory in an unfamiliar home in Brooklyn. With a three-point lead atop the standings, the Cosmos have proved to be a force wherever they play, whether it’s at Shuart Stadium, on the road or even under the lights of a historic amusement park.

Hot on the Cosmos’ heels are a series of teams with standout performers leading the way, but one team that continues to struggle is the league’s reigning champions, the San Antonio Scorpions, who look all but doomed in the Spring campaign.

Here are some of SBI’s takeaways from NASL Week 5:

Continue reading »

Posted in NASL | 1 Comment