Already stocking the cupboards for a Quadruple repeat (Doubledruple?), Manchester City are reportedly tracking the “next Ronaldo,” Portuguese star João Félix.
It’s going to be a great summer to be Félix’s agent (Pedro Cordeiro). With City tracking the Portuguese teen, and Real Madrid (which we pegged as Félix’s likely destination), AND Barcelona, Manchester United, Atlético Madrid, Juventus, West Ham (!!!) and Borussia Dortmund…Félix’s sale price is surely going well north of €100M. Cordeiro, enjoy your 10%.
Félix is publicly unaffected by all the attention, telling MARCA:
“Right now, I’m only thinking about Benfica. We are heading towards the end of the season in a very close fight for the title. I cannot pause to think about everything that is happening around me.
“My dream has always been to play for the big teams and in the biggest competitions, but, as I said, I am here and I am very happy at Benfica, which, like those teams, is also one of the biggest sides in Europe.”
More Annoying City News
After losing out on Ajax star Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona, City has zero’d in on Saul Niguez as an eventual replacement for Fernandinho.
The 24 year-old Atléti midfielder is reportedly coming over for an €80m deal.
Read More: 2019 Summer Soccer Transfers
With Olympic Qualifying looming in October, US Soccer has named longtime MLS coach Jason Kreis to fill the vacant U23 men’s coaching position. The U.S. failure to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics bore bitter fruit when the USMNT failed to advance to the 2018 World Cup, missing out the sport’s marquee event for the first time since 1986.
US Soccer also named a 23-man squad to contest a pair of friendlies in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain this weekend. They’ll play against Egypt this Friday, March 22 and the Netherlands on Sunday, March 24.
Short Prep Bolstered by Big Talent
The 46-year-old Kreis won’t have much time to prepare this group before his debut but the former MLS coach with Real Salt Lake, NYCFC, and Orlando City SC will have some genuine talent at his disposal.
Kreis will benefit from the surprising decision by USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter to leave strikers Tim Weah and Josh Sargent off of the full national team that has gathered in Orlando ahead of games versus Ecuador, in Orlando, March 21, and Chile five days later in Houston.
High Stakes for Kreis
The stakes with this hiring are high for both US Soccer, which cannot afford another failure at the level, and for Kreis who is coming off of back-to-back firings with NYCFC and Orlando. These two firings have tarnished a previously stellar reputation as one of the top American coaches in the sport–a reputation earned during Kreis’ six-year stint with Real Salt Lake, which included winning MLS Cup in 2009.
In a statement from US Soccer, Earnie Stewart, the Men’s National Team General Manager said:
“Jason’s qualities and experience made him stand out as the best candidate to lead our U23 Men’s National Team in this important cycle towards the 2020 Olympics. The U23s are a significant part of our program, and Jason is an experienced head coach with significant success both in league and CONCACAF competitions. His knowledge of the player pool is impressive, and we are confident in his ability to implement the style of play we are building with the senior MNT and throughout our national teams. We appreciate the willingness of Inter Miami CF to allow us the opportunity to take advantage of Jason’s abilities to guide this group.”
Kreis recently took on a role on the technical staff with David Beckham‘s Inter Miami franchise, a job Kreis will retain even as he attempts to get his coaching career back on track while leading the American men through CONCACAF Qualification.
Kreis went straight from the pitch to the bench when he was named head coach of RSL on May 3, 2007, ending an impressive playing career that saw him become the first player to score 100 goals in Major League Soccer.
Kreis had tremendous success with Real Salt Lake, becoming the youngest coach to win MLS Cup in 2009. Kreis stepped down at RSL to take on the challenge of building a team from scratch with NYCFC but was fired after just one season, harshly, many observers felt.
The Orlando job then seemed like a good step on the road to redemption for Kreis, but after taking over midway through the 2016 campaign, Kreis would compile a record of 23 wins, 28 losses, and 12 ties in 63 matches before getting the sack last June.
Orlando’s struggles under Kreis’ successor, James O’Connor, offer some vindication, but Olympic Qualification may be the former MLS Cup winners best chance to right his coaching career.
It is an opportunity Kreis seems eager to embrace, saying, via US Soccer:
“It’s a tremendous opportunity, it’s an opportunity to be a part of a new system under the leadership of Gregg Berhalter and Earnie Stewart leading the national team the way that they are. It’s an opportunity to work with the country’s brightest young stars, and it’s an opportunity to represent your country. In my opinion, that’s the highest honor of all.”
The U23 USMNT Roster
U.S. U-23 MNT Roster by Position (Club; Hometown)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha BSC/GER; Newport Beach, Calif.), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; Alamo, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (9): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompac, Calif.), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City/WAL; Southend-on-Sea, England), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers; Portland, Ore.), Jack Maher (Indiana; Caseyville, Ill.), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United/ENG; Trenton, N.J.), Donovan Pines (D.C. United; Clarksville, Md.), Lucas Pos (FC Lausanne-Sport/SUI; Irvine, Calif.), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic/ENG; Milton Keyes, England), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; Arlington, Mass.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Penn.), Cameron Lindley (Orlando City SC; Carmel, Ind.), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; Lemont, Ill.), Keaton Parks (New York City FC; Plano, Texas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; Alexandria, Va.), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; St. Paul, Minn.)
FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Josh Perez (LAFC; La Habra, Calif.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Hobro IK/DEN; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; O’Fallon, MO), Tim Weah (Celtic FC/SCO; Rosedale, N.Y.), Haji Wright (Schalke/GER; Los Angeles, Calif.)
With 10 games remaining in La Liga, the title is Barcelona’s to lose, and that might be an understatement (FanDuel NJ Sportsbook have them priced at -20000, no joke). But while the Catalans are 10 points clear, the race for fourth place – and an automatic spot in next year’s Champions League – remains wide open.
A look at the standings show that the two teams best-positioned for a ticket to Europe’s top competition are fourth-place Getafe, with 46 points, and fifth-place Alavés (44). In sixth and seventh are two teams with much bigger reputations in Sevilla (43) and Valencia (40). At this point, it’s probably also worth mentioning Real Betis (39), but they would need a heck of a finish, and a significant collapse by the clubs they trail.
As far as FiveThirtyEight is concerned, it’s a two-horse race between Getafe, which it says has a 42% chance, and Sevilla (38%). Alavés and Valencia both have a 9% chance, according to the analytics site.
A Case for Alavés…
I won’t pretend to have a percentage in mind for the likelihood they make the UCL, but I don’t understand the lack of love for Alavés, especially since Getafe, Sevilla and Alavés have all won 12 of their first 28 games.
Despite what FiveThirtyEight has to say, I think Alavés remains very much alive, especially considering they’ve recorded three wins and three draws since a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid on Feb. 3. They’ll almost certainly need to win more than half their games the rest of the way, though.
…and for Getafe Too
As for the recent form of the other teams in this race, Getafe – with four wins and two draws in its last six, and no league losses since Jan. 26 – is playing much better than Sevilla over the last six weeks.
Sevilla won its last two matches, but its 2-1-4 combined record for February and March is extremely concerning. It looks that much worse when you realize three of those losses were to teams in danger of being relegated in Celta Vigo, Villarreal and Huesca – by a combined score of 6-1 (!), no less. With that in mind, it’s hard to like Sevilla’s chances, even if they boast a solid goal differential of +11. One reason for optimism – if you can call it that – is the club’s elimination from the Europa League last week, which means it will be able to focus on its domestic matches moving forward.
Who Gets the 4th Spot?
So, between Getafe and Alavés, who’s the smart pick? Both teams are among the league’s best defensively. Getafe is third in goals allowed (24), while Alavés (31) is fifth. The biggest difference at this point is goal differential. Getafe’s is +12, while Alavés’ 0 is the same as 10th-place Real Sociedad’s. Getafe and Alavés will not meet again this season, so it comes down to their schedules.
For Alavés, the outcomes of the next two matches will be telling. If they can knock off both Atlético (March 30th) and Sevilla (April 4th), that will be a great sign they need to be taken seriously. Those are not Alavés’s only tough tests left, though, as they also will face Barcelona (April 24th) and Valencia (May 12th). With four of their last 10 games against teams currently in the top seven, Alavés has a tough road ahead.
Getafe appears to have an easier slate. Their next four are against 14th-place Leganes, 13th-place Espanyol, ninth-place Athletic Bilbao and 16th-place Athletic Bilbao. Overall, Getafe’s last 10 games include three against top-seven opponents: Sevilla, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
FiveThirtyEight unsurprisingly likes Alavés in just four of their final 10, while it favors Getafe in six of theirs.
I’m much more bullish on Alavés than the numbers say I should be, but I still believe the smart money is on Getafe to make the UCL for the first time in club history. The team that finishes fifth punches a ticket to the Europa League, while the sixth-place club will have a chance in Europa League qualifying, and we’ll break down that race as the season winds down.
With the international break upon us, the MLS has a light matchweek of fixtures. Early contenders like New York Red Bulls, LAFC, and the Columbus Crew at least give this scaled back schedule some headliners.
MLS Matchweek 4 Game Odds
All listed odds from March 20 on FanDuel NJ Sportsbook.
|FC Dallas -170||Draw +310||Colorado +460|
|Philadelphia Union +165||Draw +240||Columbus Crew +160|
|New York Red Bulls -310||Draw +440||Orlando City +750|
|LAFC -170||Draw +310||Real Salt Lake +440|
|New England Revolution -105||Draw +280||FC Cincinnati +250|
Odds and Ends
- NYRB are by far the heaviest favorite this week against a not-great-but-not-that-bad Orlando City. NYRB have a game in hand and if they paste Orlando by 4, would move into an early tie with DC United for top of the table.
- Columbus Crew is an ever-so-slight road favorite against a Philadelphia Union team that just tied Atlanta United. Any points here would move the Crew top of table.
- Should New England Revolution really be an odds-on home favorite? They play a mid-table FC Cincinnati team who also tied ATLUTD on the road. The +280 draw or +250 on Cincinnati outright my have some value.