8
Sep

New England Revolution midfielder celebrates goal with imaginary musket

imageDiego Fagundez scored the equalizer in the New England Revolution’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Sunday, and followed it up with one of the best goal celebrations of the year.

After nicking in at the far post to tie the score at 1-1, the Uruguayan midfielder positioned himself next to the three musket-wielding Minutemen behind the goal and played along with their customary gun salute after each Revs goal:

How has it taken this long for a New England player to come up with this celebration, though? Seriously! This golden opportunity has been waiting for you all this time, guys, right in front of your nose.

Finally someone did what had to be done. Well done, Diego.


Via MLS

Image provided by USA Today

13
Jan

World Cup hopes drive Michael Parkhurst’s MLS return

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LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Life on the periphery at FC Augsburg left Michael Parkhurst little choice. He needed to take action in the January transfer window to bolster his hopes of earning a place in Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the World Cup this summer.

Monday, Parkhurst opted to cut short his Bundesliga stint and return to MLS in search of regular playing time. His desire to return to the States played a critical role in Columbus’ decision to acquire his rights from New England on Monday morning.

Crew coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter shipped the number four overall pick in Thursday’s SuperDraft and an undisclosed amount of allocation money to the Revolution in exchange for the rights to the returning U.S. international. Parkhurst has agreed to terms with MLS and will join the Crew pending the receipt of his international transfer certificate.

Berhalter moved quickly to address the vacancy created by Chad Marshall’s departure to Seattle last month. Parkhurst, 29, fits more into the revised Crew ethos: he builds well out of the back given his shift to the right side during his European tenure and supplies a calm, steady intelligence with his diligent work in central defense.

Parkhurst never broke through with Augsburg, but he will expect to play every match for the Crew heading into this season given his compensation (in the ballpark of the maximum salary for a non-Designated Player) and the package required to obtain him. It is a much needed shift for Parkhurst with the US right back berth still available over the next few months. A return to form and match fitness could provide Parkhurst with the platform required to press his claims for inclusion, particularly if Berhalter employs his services at right back from time to time.

Klinsmann relied upon Parkhurst at right back during last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup triumph. While Parkhurst isn’t a prototypical fullback, his savvy displays and his versatility could make him a valuable component for Klinsmann if he can work his way into what is a crowded mix.

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Parkhurst’s primary value to the Revolution came in the bounty for his rights. New England retained those rights after Parkhurst signed for FC Nordsjælland on a free transfer after the 2008 campaign. His return at this juncture was a bonus for the Revs as they have reigning MLS Defender of the Year José Gonçalves in the fold on a permanent contract.

The salary budget simply isn’t large enough to accommodate two starting central defenders on considerable wages. By flipping Parkhurst’s rights to the Crew, the Revolution moved into position to draft a top prospect with the first of their three first-round selections and strengthened their financial position in their search for foreign-based reinforcements in the middle of the field or up front.

If the search yields a potential contributor in a more pressing area, then the Revs can watch Parkhurst take the field at Crew Stadium with the knowledge that his departure paved the way for a stronger side on the whole. Until that stage arrives, they will have to take solace in the fact that their former player is now in a better position to further his international ambitions over the next few months.

Images from Getty Images

20
Dec

Matt Reis’ greatest save, revisited

Earlier this year, MLS Insider released the gripping story of how Matt Reis saved his father-in-law’s life during the Boston Marathon Bombings in April.

Reis, who recently announced his retirement and currently serves as the LA Galaxy’s goalkeeping coach, appeared on FOX Soccer Daily as a guest analyst on Friday, and reflected on his greatest save, also giving an update on his father-in-law’s condition.

12
Dec

Eto’o linked with MLS; Stoke still want Agudelo

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Samuel Eto’o joined Chelsea in the summer initially on a season-long contract. According to Wednesday’s newspapers Eto’o fancies testing himself in America’s Major League Soccer. The league is improving season on season and is increasingly becoming the place for a football swansong.

Stoke are looking to launch a second attempt to land American international Juan Agudelo. Their first bid was thwarted after the New England Revolution striker failed a work permit application. However, Stoke look set to renew interest in January.

For these rumors and all the latest transfer gossip from Wednesday, click here.

6
Nov

MLS Cup Playoffs Preview: Conference semifinals 2nd legs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – New England coach Jay Heaps captured the fraught nature of the toil ahead over the next two days as he assessed the Revolution’s situation ahead of the season-defining visit to Sporting Kansas City tonight.

“There’s a lot of work (ahead),” Heaps said earlier this week after his side claimed a 2-1 victory in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal tie on Saturday. “These are playoff scenarios in MLS: you have to be ready for halftime, basically. It’s just a long halftime. It’s a tough task. We have a couple of days to prepare. We’ll go in there ready.”

The entire season for eight teams boils down to the second half of a two-game, aggregate goals series. Each of the four semifinals – yes, even Portland up 2-1 heading into a second leg at JELD-WEN Field – hangs firmly in the balance after the first half. The job isn’t done yet, though. And the way these teams see out the second half will determine the composition of the final four when the last of these conference semifinal ties winds to a close on Friday morning.

New York – Houston (Wednesday, 8:00p.m. – tied 2-2 on aggregate)

How – if at all – will Houston adjust to Jamison Olave’s absence?
New York must take the field without its defensive leader after he procured a red card for his rash lunge on Omar Cummings during the first leg.  The corresponding alterations – Markus Holgersson into the middle, Brandon Barklage to fill the void at right back – appear relatively straightforward from the Red Bulls’ point of view. Houston’s amended approach remains a bit more uncertain, though. The most straightforward play involves dropping Giles Barnes or Will Bruin and injecting a bit of pace, but the Dynamo – tried and true in the postseason – could find other ways to exploit the deficiencies without altering its personnel group.

New England – Sporting Kansas City (Wednesday, 9:00p.m. – New England leads 2-1 on aggregate)

Can Sporting Kansas City muster the necessary sharpness in front of goal?
The question isn’t whether Sporting will produce the chance or two required to pull this tie level. The home side will enjoy enough of the ball and send enough numbers forward to threaten at some point. Whether this group can finally break through when presented with the requisite opportunity remains uncertain. If Sporting fails to find its equalizer in due course, then its ambition could prove its undoing with the Revs more than capable of absorbing the pressure with its stout defensive shape and exploiting the resulting space with tidy work on the counter.

Real Salt Lake – LA Galaxy (Thursday, 9:00p.m. – LA Galaxy leads 1-0 on aggregate)

Will Real Salt Lake find a way to translate its possession into goals?
Big matches at Rio Tinto Stadium often unfold along the same, frustrating lines for the home side: plenty of the ball, not enough incisiveness. The infuriating recent history provides further incentive to start well and place the Galaxy under the sword from the outset. The desire to rectify past ills comes with a caveat, though: RSL must carefully monitor where it concedes possession in order to prevent the visitors from dashing through midfield or exploiting the additional space ceded on the edge by penalty area with the return to the 4-4-2 diamond setup.

Portland – Seattle (Thursday, 11:00p.m. – Portland leads 2-1 on aggregate)

How often will Seattle place Clint Dempsey in a position to change this series?
Dempsey posed a constant threat in the first leg without converting in front of goal. Any improbable revival effort – and it is decidedly against the odds given Portland’s formidable home record and its ability to see out these sorts of matches with its work in possession – hinges on whether Dempsey can turn those openings into a more tangible end product. Seattle paid Dempsey handsomely to deliver in these sorts of spots. The formation and the team selection must provide him with the latitude to do so.

4
Nov

MLS Cup Playoffs: What we learned from Conference Semifinal 1st legs

imageImages: USA Today

LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena summed up the tenuous state of the MLS Conference Semifinal ties in his typically succinct way on Sunday night.

“I’d rather be the team ahead,” Arena told reporters after his side claimed a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in Carson, Calif. “These are always difficult matches. All the games in the league are all competitive going into the second game. It’s going to be difficult. Obviously, having the one goal is a real plus, but it’s going to take a heck of an effort in the next 90 minutes.”

It took plenty of energy to even reach the halfway point in these series, truth be told. All eight teams enter midweek with genuine hopes of booking a place in the final four, but they must heed the lessons learned from a nervy weekend in order to claim it:

New England 2 – Sporting Kansas City 1

Precision provides Revolution with a foothold: New England ceded possession by design (38 percent accrued on the night, according to Opta statistics) in this first leg in a bid to draw Sporting out and exploit the ensuing space. Sporting, for the most part, resisted those urges and retained its shape superbly, but two lapses – one iffy clearance, one instance of poor closing through midfield – invited the Revs to attack swiftly. The tidiness displayed in those sequences – particularly the sumptuous second rounded off by Kelyn Rowe’s outside of the foot finish – punished Sporting for its modest letdowns. If the Revs can produce similarly neat combination play as Sporting eventually commits numbers into the attack on Wednesday night, then they could book a place in the Eastern Conference championship.

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2
Nov

MLS Cup Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Preview

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Consider the Knockout Round games in midweek as a modest appetizer for the entertainment to come this weekend. The path toward MLS Cup commences in earnest at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night as the final eight sides prepare for the first leg of the conference semifinals.

Each of the four ties possesses the same governing principles (two-legged, aggregate goal series with the potential tiebreakers of two 15-minute extra time periods and penalty kicks after the second leg) and turns on different particulars.

The outcomes will not hinge on the results this weekend, but the answer to one specific question could provide a telling glimpse about the result in the first match and the eventual winner of the tie in midweek:

New England – Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 8:00p.m. ET)

Can New England find a way to break quickly?

Sporting Kansas City commits numbers into the attack for two reasons: it needs the extra bodies to pose problems and it wants to win the ball high up the field when the opposition wins possession. Those structural concessions create ample room to counter, particularly when Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic foray forward to provide width. There are a couple of ways to exploit the holes – quick inside-out passes through the middle back into the vacated space, long vertical balls down the side line – yet Sporting does a particularly good job of preventing opposing teams from pursuing those avenues by breaking up the play and closing down quickly. New England must find a way to move concisely and neatly enough out of the back to avoid those issues and spark their usually tidy work through the middle of the park.

Seattle – Portland (Saturday, 10:00p.m.)

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Is it really a matter of three versus two in central midfield?

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24
Oct

Playoff picture still murky as MLS season comes to a close

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(Image courtesy of USA Today)

By Kyle McCarthy

Leave it to the final weekend of the MLS season to sum up the entire campaign in a nutshell. In this parity-fueled league with little genuine separation between the teams, a compressed table rife with uncertainty serves as a fitting conclusion to eight months of toil.

Small margins in both conferences leave the composition of the playoff field in a state of flux. Most of the playoff berths — all five in the Western Conference, plus two more in the East — are decided, but five teams remain in the mix for the last three berths. Throw in the completely unhinged seeds — no team is locked into a given seed heading into this weekend — and there is plenty of reason to keep a close eye on results this weekend.

If the playoffs started on Thursday:

Eastern Conference
(1) New York
(2) Sporting Kansas City
(3) Montréal
(4) Chicago
(5) New England

Western Conference
(1) Real Salt Lake
(2) Portland
(3) LA Galaxy
(4) Seattle
(5) Colorado

Read More

17
Oct

All to play for as race to MLS playoffs heats up

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Image courtesy of Getty.

There are few certainties in the MLS playoff race heading into the final two weekends of the season. New York and Sporting Kansas City will take part. Several other teams will join them. A few more will miss out entirely.

Further verdicts remain difficult to draw. The compressed standings in both conferences create the possibility of widespread upheaval with one result going either way. There are likelihoods in play, but no firm guidelines to set forth with just a fortnight remaining.

At this stage of the campaign, favors fall upon teams willing to dispatch their business accordingly. There are few guarantees on the table right now, but this one is etched in stone: a pair of victories will improve your position substantially heading into the postseason.

New York, Sporting Kansas City, Houston jostle for top three seeds in the East

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Remaining fixtures

RBNY: at Houston, vs. Chicago

SKC: vs. D.C. United, at Philadelphia

HOU: vs. New York, at D.C. United

New York holds a slim advantage in the race for top spot heading into the final two weeks, but a defeat in Houston on Sunday could break the race wide open. Sporting Kansas City could apply further pressure with a straightforward home victory over D.C. United on Friday. A couple of extra goals would help the cause: Sporting currently sits one goal behind the Red Bulls in the goals scored category, the second tiebreaker.

If Houston collect maximum points over the Red Bulls on Sunday, the Dynamo can maintain touching distance with the top two. The third seed — barring an outright collapse by either New York or Sporting — looks more likely given the Dynamo’s current points deficit and its disadvantage in both total wins (first tiebreaker) and goals scored.

Chicago, Montréal hold narrow edges in five-way battle for fourth and fifth spot

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Remaining fixtures

MTL: vs. Philadelphia, at Toronto FC

CHI: vs. Toronto FC, at New York

PHL: at Montréal, vs. Sporting Kansas City

NE: vs. Columbus, at Columbus

CLB: at New England, vs. New England

The calculus for all five of these teams is fairly simple: win two games, then see what happens. If four of these five teams embark on a season ending tear (quite unlikely, indeed), then Montréal and Chicago will stand atop the heap.

It is difficult to envision Montréal rattling off two wins in a row at this stage given its recent form (see: the reserve-laden 1-0 defeat at LA Galaxy on Wednesday), but a favorable schedule – a home match against the goal-shy Union and a visit to TFC on the final day – and a strong position on tiebreakers at least gives the Impact a fighting chance. One win might even do it. Chicago fattened up on D.C. United and FC Dallas over the past couple of weeks to move into a promising position. Another victory over Toronto FC this weekend – combined with its superior wins total – leaves the Fire in reasonable stead.

Philadelphia likely needs a minimum of four points (and likely six) from its pair of difficult assignments to have a chance. New England essentially needs six points against the Crew given the state of play, though it could edge out the Fire or the Union on goals scored if four points somehow suffices for a fifth-place tie. Columbus needs two wins against the Revs and a whole lot of losses by everyone else to have a prayer.

Four teams in the mix for top three seeds out and one nasty door prize out West

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Remaining fixtures

PDX: vs. Real Salt Lake, at Chivas USA

RSL: at Portland, vs. Chivas USA

LAG: vs. San Jose, at Seattle

SEA: at FC Dallas, vs. LA Galaxy

The top two sides in the Western Conference tangle at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday with an opportunity to stake a claim to the top seed. A draw should suffice for Portland with a visit to Chivas USA on the docket to end the season, but the Timbers’ iffy road form and their wins deficit provides plenty of incentive to take care of business at home and remove all doubt. RSL remains in good shape for the second seed even with a defeat: Jason Kreis’ side closes the season at home to Chivas USA in midweek (a likely victory) and possesses an edge on goals scored over the other two contenders if Portland finishes first.

LA Galaxy and Seattle look likely to qualify for the playoffs absent a total meltdown (and the Sounders sure are trying). Their ultimate playoff fate – two v. three in some order or four vs. five – hinges on the meeting at CenturyLink Park to conclude their respective seasons. Seattle will need to finish with more points (or wins) than any of its counterparts to avoid the goals scored tiebreaker. Any type of setback in Frisco on Saturday places Seattle in a must-win spot to avoid the fourth (or even fifth) seed heading into the final weekend of the season.

Colorado, Vancouver duel to the death as San Jose hopes for a chance to pounce

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Remaining fixtures

COL: vs. Vancouver, at Vancouver

SJ: at LA Galaxy, vs. FC Dallas

VAN: at Colorado, vs. Colorado

Colorado scuffed away a chance to essentially secure its playoff destiny in the 1-0 defeat at San Jose last week. Now the Rapids confront a tricky home-and-home test with a Vancouver side in line to hop over them with four points over the two matches (based on the goals scored tiebreaker). The good news for Colorado: one victory would eliminate the Whitecaps, require the Earthquakes to win both games to qualify (due to San Jose’s vastly inferior goals scored record).

San Jose needs considerable help from the Whitecaps to claim the final playoff spot due to tiebreakers. One victory in two matches would suffice if Vancouver picks up exactly four points. More than likely, the Earthquakes will need at least four (if both Colorado-Vancouver matches in draws) and probably six (in a bid to edge out a Colorado side with four points gained or a Vancouver outfit with two wins) points to snatch an improbable postseason place.

17
Aug

Juan Agudelo returns to Revs lineup with dazzling goal

Stoke City fans, help is on the way.

The bad news? It will not arrive until January.

Juan Agudelo, who recently agreed to a winter transfer deal with the Premier League club, returned to the New England Revolution lineup in style after a two-month layoff by nudging a one-touch backheel flick from Chris Tierney’s looping pass over on-coming Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson and defender Bakary Soumare.

The goal serves as another example why many European clubs have knocked on the 20-year-old’s doorstep for years. More importantly, Agudelo’s goal snapped the New England’s scoreless streak of 261 minutes.

And you thought Stoke City had problems scoring. Yikes! Then again, it’s Stoke for goodness sakes:

Take a bow, Juan. We expect more of this during your winter stint across the pond.