16
Jan

Seattle Sounders pick part-time rapper in MLS SuperDraft

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Break out the turntables, Seattle!

In the second round of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, the Sounders selected Jimmy Ockford out of Louisville, a promising central defender and…  rapper?

Yes, the 21-year-old prospect has built up a solid rap catalog along with his partner Dalton Carroll. The duo, who call themselves “Absolute Pursuit,” have posted ten songs on Soundcloud and amassed more than 6,000 likes on Facebook. Pretty good!

Or…not so good? Their Facebook page lists Asher Roth and Sam Adams among their influences. Hmm.

Of course, it’s no surprise Ockford was drafted by the Sounders, who already employ one part-time rapper:

Let’s hope that Dempsey… er, Deuce, can give Jimmy a few tips before they team up for the inevitable collab album.

Image via Instagram/Jockford

1
Dec

Cole the latest Chelsea star linked with Major League Soccer

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Jermain Defoe’s protracted move to Toronto seems to be the continuation of a new trend in soccer transfers - with players being linked to moves between the Premier League and MLS almost constantly.

LA Galaxy stars Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane have recently been linked to loan moves to the so-called ‘biggest league in the world’, as has Seattle Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey.

This next rumor is a biggy, though. According to one of the Sunday newspapers over in the UK, Champions League winner and England and Chelsea star Ashley Cole is being eyed up by two MLS sides for a summer switch.

Find out who and take a look at the rest of the day’s rumors in today’s Paper Chase.

14
Nov

Iniesta, Dempsey wanted by Premier League heavyweights

In terms of soccer transfer stories, they don’t get much bigger than what we present you today. The latest rumors link Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta to Manchester United, whose creative midfield problems have been only too documented in the past.

As well as that though, we bring you the news of a true soccer legend nearing his own return to the Premier League. Clint Dempsey has previously turned out for Fulham and Tottenham in England, and those two sides, as well as Aston Villa and Everton, have expressed an interest in bringing the Seattle Sounders stars back on loan. Read all about the above rumors and many more with a simple click.

7
Nov

Portland vs Seattle. Here. We. Go.

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We all love our rivalry games. El Clasico. El Superclasico. Manchester derby. Bayern-Dortmund. Roma-Lazio. Boca-River.

In North America, the best we have is in the Pacific Northwest: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders. And tonight, for one last time this season, they will battle. This time it’s in the playoffs, with a spot in the conference final on the line. Not only that, but it’s Portland’s first-ever MLS playoff match at home, and they hold a one-goal lead heading into this second leg. Are you getting the shakes just thinking about it?

With so much at stake, it would be amiss to not get you pumped up with an awesome super-fan video. This short film gives an inside look into the Timbers Army, and what goes into making their famous tifos. It also follows a group of 1500 die-hards to a rivalry match in Seattle, one of the loudest places on Earth. It really captures the intensity and importance of the rivalry, and there couldn’t be a better appetizer to tonight’s match!

7
Nov

Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans could be named sheriff for a day

Just how many write-in votes Seattle Sounders and U.S. national team midfielder/right back Brad Evans got exactly for the King County sheriff election on Tuesday is hard to say. He definitely got one, from Sounders podcaster Aaron Campeau, who tweeted out his picture.

Even if John Urquhart ran unopposed, the unofficial Evans campaign, which seemed to lack exposure, traction and, erm, campaigning, won something in the end.

If the Sounders beat the Portland Timbers tonight and advance to the Western Conference finals, Urquhart will let Evans be sheriff for a day. Or so he said in his own tweet, holding up a Sounders scarf.

Evans, in turn, re-tweeted Urquhart’s tweet with the post-script “this is happening!

So if the Sounders drag out a win from their 2-1 aggregate deficit on Thursday night, be sure not to spit, litter or urinate in public around Brad Evans on Friday.

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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30
Oct

MLS Playoffs Preview: Knockout Round

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The quest for MLS Cup commences in Seattle Wednesday night. Ten teams will embark upon this perilous journey with a single objective in mind. Two of them will drop out of the reckoning entirely by the end of Thursday night.

It is rather harsh justice to risk a season’s worth of toil with one game on short rest, but four teams find themselves in that predicament over the next two days. The binary nature of the process leaves no room for interpretation: advance with a win, exit with a defeat.

The outcome in both matches – Colorado’s trip to Seattle tonight, Montréal’s excursion to Houston tomorrow – rests upon finding a way to solve the inherent problems created by this difficult situation and snag the desired result. The answers to a few pressing questions along the way could determine the identity of the last two entrants into the final eight over the next few days:

Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids (Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET)

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Is it time for the Sounders to make an MLS Cup final? (Action Images)

1. Can Seattle put its house in order?: Sounders coach Sigi Schmid faces considerable pressure to turn his talented squad around after a poor conclusion to the campaign squandered a direct berth into the Western Conference semifinals. Clint Dempsey’s first Seattle goal on Sunday night provides some hope of an uptick in his game, but Dempsey can’t solve all of the problems. Schmid must find a way to establish the necessary cohesiveness and rhythm in short order to avoid a disappointing – and yet entirely plausible – result on home turf and a vibrant offseason debate about his job status.

2. How will injuries influence team selection?: Schmid will likely omit Obafemi Martins (groin) from his plans. Colorado coach Oscar Pareja will probably cope without Dillon Powers (concussion) and ponder whether Vicente Sanchez (shoulder) is fit enough to feature from the outset. The potential absence of those three players will necessitate some adjustments, though Seattle has ample experience without Martins and Colorado possesses some options in midfield.

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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.