Benny Feilhaber Sporting Kansas City 23

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

Benny Feilhaber is thriving as more of a two-way midfielder for Sporting Kansas City these days, and a big reason for that is his improved fitness.

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.

WillPackwoodBirminghamCity1-NottsCounty2014 (Getty)

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

Benny Feilhaber Sporting Kansas City 23

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 was 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 others 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.

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SBI NASL Player of the Week: Lance Laing

Laing_FCEdmonton_NASL

Photo by FC Edmonton

By AARON CRANFORD

For the second week in a row, FC Edmonton winger Lance Laing continues to be productive going forward.

The speedy attacker scored a beautiful free kick and assisted the team’s second goal en route to a 2-2 draw vs. the 2014 Spring Season winners, Minnesota United, which also earned him recognition as SBI NASL Player of the Week.

Laing and counterpart Sainey Nyassi harassed the Minnesota United FC back line Sunday, but it was the Jamaica international who was the most fruitful and dynamic on the afternoon. He now has three assists in the Spring Season, tied for the league lead.

Laing’s goal, assist and overall play earned him recognition as SBI NASL Player of the Week, beating out Lucky Mkosana, Marcos Flores, Tiyi Shipalane and Alhassane Keita.

What did you think of Laing’s performance? Which player stood out to you in Week 5?

Share your thoughts below.

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SBI MLS Goal of the Week: Sebastian Giovinco

GIovinco 1 (USA TODAY Sports)

Bill Steicher/USA Today Sports

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SBI NASL Power Rankings: Week Five

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Photo by New York Cosmos

By AARON CRANFORD

With only two teams winning in Week Five, the NASL Spring Season table remained mostly in-tact.

With the results, there also weren’t too many changes to this week’s edition of the SBI NASL Power Rankings, as the top six remained unchanged. A few bad performances saw some sides drop even further down the ladder.

Minnesota United FC and the San Antonio Scorpions remain winless after five weeks of NASL action, while the New York Cosmos continue to steamroll through the 2015 campaign. However, the Tampa Bay Rowdies produced a draw on the road against the Carolina RailHawks, continuing to nip at the heels of the league leaders for the time being.

Here is a closer look at the SBI NASL Power Rankings following Week Five: Continue reading »

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NWSL Week 4: A Look Back

NWSL Christen Press by Daniel Bartel for Red Stars

Photo by Daniel Bartel / Chicago Red Stars

By LEOPOLDO PONCE

In the final week that any team in the NWSL had its U.S. Women’s National Team players, those that did made full use of the opportunity.

Sydney Leroux scored a decisive goal for the Western New York Flash, as the club recorded its first win of the season against the Boston Breakers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Chicago Red Stars remained unbeaten against Sky Blue FC.

A pair of Seattle Reign FC players, Merritt Mathias and Kim Little, provided the league with some offensive output and theatrics. Both end the week as possible candidates for NWSL player of the week.

Now with that in mind, let’s take a look back at this past week’s NWSL action.

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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 | 1 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.

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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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