Some weeks back I referred to the MLS standings as a Seinfeld-esque Bizarro World where up is down and down is up. A quick look at the tables show that characterization holding steady, with last season’s MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United and Supporters Shield-winning New York Red Bulls sharing last place in the Eastern Conference table.
Given the high expectations from the 2018 season, it was hardly surprising when the coaches of the two strugglers became the subject of dismissal rumors, with the cacophony around Red Bulls boss Chris Armas amplified by the identity of his alleged replacement, legendary former Red Bulls and Arsenal star Thierry Henry.
With English site Sky News reporting that Henry was in negotiations to take the helm in Harrison, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Armas. It didn’t help when the Red Bulls dropped a stultifying 1-0 decision to the New England Revolution Saturday night in Foxborough.
Come Monday Armas’ boss, Denis Hamlett, released the briefest of statements:
“Recent reports of Thierry Henry joining the New York Red Bulls are false.”
Evidently a follower of the maxim, generally attributed to Mark Twain, that says, “I wrote a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one,” New York’s Sporting Director left out any encouraging words for coach Armas to cling to.
Armas puts rumors “officially to bed”
With that backdrop, High Press Soccer traveled out to the Red Bulls Training Facility in Whippany, New Jersey on a perfect Tuesday morning and asked Armas if he had been disturbed by the speculation surrounding his future employment.
Not surprisingly, Armas denied any concern, telling High Press and the two other journalists gathered in a mini-scrum on the edge of one of Red Bulls practice fields, “officially that was put to bed yesterday.”
“From day one,” the former USMNT d-mid continued, “the inside is what we really care about here. And from day one, I was made known that things were just rumors.”
“So imagine now on the outside what’s talked about and imagine the comfort on the inside here,” Armas explained, “which allowed us to show up every day and continue to give everything every day.”
How quickly did Hamlet privately quash the Henry rumors? “As soon as it came out,” Armas responded. “We, the team, was aware of that. I was aware of that, the staff on the inside, again, where things mattered, that was taken care of.”
Armas added that impressions outside of the group didn’t concern him. “No, not at all. I mean in this business – I’ve been around a long time. I mean, we’re always subject to criticism.”
“When I was a player,” Armas continued, “it was the same. You know, so many people (saying) Chris Armas, stinks, why is he on the national team? – (he) shouldn’t be starting, you know, why isn’t he an all-star?”
Flashing a hint of defiance tempered by an understanding of the realities of his chosen profession, Armas went on. “And then you achieve everything and then maybe they quiet down.”
“But in this business, especially when we’re not winning, we’re subject to that. Which is, which is fair game for the folks on the outside.”
But Armas is no longer a player, with the ability to change minds with his performance on the pitch. Nor is he an assistant, allowed to quietly do his work on the anonymity of the training ground. Surely it is different to face the slings and arrows of a disgruntled fanbase as the frontman, as the face of the franchise?
Intentionally or not, Armas channeled the Derek Jeter, Joe Torre Yankee dynasty of the late ’90s and early aughts with his answer.
“Yeah, listen, you know, I remind myself, and I think people who know me know that I don’t really get too high. I mean, on the inside, I love winning. I love success. It’s what I’ve experienced in my career, but I’ve had downs as well, with losses and injuries, and I’ve never gotten too low, at least not for too long.”
Don’t get too high- never get too low. It’s not a bad way to approach a job that invites the type of scrutiny a head coach can endure in the New York marketplace, even if the spotlight doesn’t shine with quite the same intensity on Armas as it does on some of his local coaching brethren.
It’s there though. “So yeah, it’s a, it’s interesting, because last year, you know, it’s this isn’t my first go around, right? I took over the team last year, you’d say it was a really difficult half a season to deal with.”
“And,” Armas noted, “we came out of that looking pretty good. I mean, not much was talked about our team, or me in general, and again, don’t need that. But again, didn’t get too high. And now I’m certainly, I’m certainly not going to get too low.”
Armas paints a picture of a coach and a team that puts its faith in hard work, not rumors.
“What we do is show up every day, where we love the training session today, the energies, right, we believe so much in what we’re doing, we just gotta, we gotta get some results. We know that. And we’re pushing hard.”
MLS Matchday 9 odds are released, including a large slate of Wednesday night games.
Headlining those games tonight is Columbus Crew vs DC United.
For the weekend, our marquee match up is another showdown between the Seattle Sounders vs Los Angeles FC.
MLS Matchweek 9 Game Odds
|Wednesday, April 24|
|New York City -165||Draw +310||Chicago Fire +420|
|Columbus Crew -155||Draw +290||DC United +430|
|New England Revolution -110||Draw +260||Montreal Impact +280|
|Minnesota United +105||Draw +280||LA Galaxy +220|
|Seattle Sounders -270||Draw +410||San Jose +700|
|Saturday , April 27|
|New York City FC -170||Draw +310||Orlando City SC +440|
|Toronto FC -195||Draw +350||Portland Timbers +490|
|FC Dallas -230||Draw +380||San Jose +600|
|Vancouver +160||Draw +240||Philadelphia +165|
|Atlanta United -270||Draw +410||Colorado Rapids +650|
|New York Red Bulls -200||Draw +350||FC Cincinnati +500|
|Houston Dynamo -115||Draw +280||Columbus Crew +280|
|Sporting KC -290||Draw +350||New England +550|
|Sunday, April 28|
|Montreal Impact -115||Draw +270||Chicago Fire +300|
|Minnesota United +105||Draw +270||DC United +230|
|Seattle Sounders +115||Draw +270||Los Angeles FC +210|
|LA Galaxy -210||Draw +360||Real Salt Lake +500|
Odds and Ends
- In our highlight match for tonight, Columbus Crew (-155) vs DC United (+430), both teams are coming off of losses. Although DC United is sitting in 1st place in the Eastern Conference with 14 points at the moment, Columbus is right on their tail (along with two other teams) with 13 points. This is a home game for Columbus and, although Columbus has not beaten DC since last March, they have won the last two home games against DC.
- Seattle Sounders (-270) vs San Jose (at a whopping +700!) should be more interesting than we think. As the Sounders come home after a tough 4-1 loss away to LAFC, San Jose will be coming in hot after a surprising 4-1 win against Kansas City. Could this be the push San Jose needs to upgrade their spot in the standings? Guess we’ll see tonight…
- Minnesota United (+105) vs LA Galaxy (+220) should be another interesting match up as Minnesota try to get their very first win against LA Galaxy AND their very first win at the Allianz Stadium. A double whammy! Although, it won’t exactly be easy as LA Galaxy is coming in with a five game winning streak with their most recent win being over the unbeaten (not anymore) Houston Dynamo.
- Lastly, in our highlight match of the weekend Sounders (+115) vs LAFC (+210), we ask – “Can LAFC continue their Western Conference dominance?” Last Sunday, LAFC destroyed Seattle 4-1 in LA. This time around, Seattle either get to redeem themselves or lose once again to LAFC but in front of a home crowd. The odds seem to be slightly in Seattle’s favor but not by much.
The first 45 minutes were competitive.
The final 45 minutes were not.
Manchester City defeated Manchester United 2-0 in a game that likely decided the Premier League title race.
Bernardo Silva put City ahead 1-0 in the 54th minute thanks to some poor defending by Luke Shaw and worse positioning by David de Gea. Leroy Sane, who came on as a substitute for Fernandinho , iced the game in the 66th.
These two teams are light-years apart on talent. This will be a busy summer transfer period for United if they want to get back to elite levels again. They need help all over the pitch, particularly on the backline. United have given up 50 goals in a domestic season for the first time in 40 years.
Manchester City odds to win Premier League
Over on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ, City are now priced at -390 to Liverpool’s +240. This was City’s supposed hardest remaining game (if you’ve watched Man U lately though, maybe not so much).
City next play a scrappy Burnley team away on Sunday. Despite being home and in decent form, Burnley is a +1500 underdog to City’s -750 (draw is +700) on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
The following week City play Leicester City at the Etihad. They’re -950 to win. Leicester is a whopping +2000 (draw is +800).
While this epic title race is not over yet–the fat lady is warming up her vocal chords. FiveThirtyEight has boosted their probability from 59% to 73%.
Thanks to Arsenal’s dismal 1-3 defeat to Wolves, the loss doesn’t change United’s UCL prospects at all. They’re on the outside looking in, but could give themselves a small shot by defeating Chelsea this weekend.
One of the genuinely stupidest hot takes over the past week is that Manchester United—Liverpool‘s hated rival–will not try to beat Manchester City today in their critical derby.
The thinking goes: newly appointed full-time United manager,
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is from the old school. United hate Liverpool more than anyone, including cross-town rival Manchester City. OGS and the fans would rather see City win this year’s Premier League title instead of Liverpool. Hatred bleeds red.
There are millions upon millions of reason to win
Manchester United is a publicly traded company (NYSE: MANU). They are among the most–if not the most–bottomline orientated club in the world.
A UEFA Champions League appearance nets them guaranteed income. This year, it was just north of $36M USD. Each round they advance, that number goes up.
Last year, Liverpool earned £72m from reaching the Champions League final, helping them achieve record profits for a soccer club.
If Man U don’t win today against City, they almost assuredly won’t be in next year’s UCL, losing out on that revenue.
Let’s set aside the fact that the actual players on the team would much prefer playing in the Champions League trophies than Europa League crowns (which they would). And let’s set aside that it’s more appealing to transfer targets when you’re pitching UCL play over Europa (it is).
As a public company, Manchester United have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize their earning potential. They simply cannot lose a game intentionally that could cost them tens of millions of dollars because of bloody Liverpool.
If Manchester United get pounded today, it’ll have a lot more to do with their recent form and the overall quality of City than because of a heated rivalry.
UPDATE 04/25/19: Whatever. They got pounded. The heralded Class of ’92 probably wouldn’t beat this City squad.