Ok so its official now – with Cladio Ranieri getting the sack at Leicester City on Thursday – the dream season where the magical team that could – the team with the least money in the EPL who won the 2016 EPL Title is officially over. Those who follow the game know that City is struggling this year just above the relegation zone – just 1 season after winning the title. Heck they had not scored this calendar year despite returning almost the entire squad from last year’s magical season. They are still alive in Champions League and the 2-1 loss on Wednesday leaves room for them to still advance to the Elite 8. Hard to believe the same guy that worked miracles last season with a roster that won the EPL could be fired just 9 months after such a remarkable feat. But that’s football in the EPL I guess. It sounds like he lost the locker room which is sad – not many on that squad are really great players – and Ranieri is responsible for making many of them a lot of money. For me I will watch – but I will no longer be rooting for Leicester – ah the sad state of Soccer in Europe making what Leicester did last year even more amazing.
Wow – there were some fantastic Champions League games this week with the highest 1st leg games ever – an amazing 8 goals scored with Man City 5 vs Monaco 3 and 6 with Atletico 4 vs Leverkusen 2. Looking forward to the return games March 7/ 8 and March 14/15.
Hard to believe but the Indy 11 and MLS seasons are right around the corner. In fact MLS kicks off next Friday night with Portland hosting new club Minnesota United at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1, while the other new team Atlanta United will host NY Red Bulls on Sunday on FS1 at 7:30 right after Orlando City opens its new stadium with NY City FC on ESPN at 5 pm. Meanwhile the INDY 11 will play a preseason match vs Butler this Friday at 5 pm at the Butler bowl.
This weekend in we get Atletico hosting Barcelona on Sunday @ 10:15 pm on beIN Sport, while Tottenham host Stoke Sun at 8:30 am NBCSN, and Leicester and their new manager host Liverpool Mon at 3 pm on NBCSN.
MLS + Indy 11
Standout Transactions this offseason and nice discussion on MLS
Thurs, Feb 23
12:30 pm Foxsport2 AS Roma vs Villarreal
2:55 pm FoxSport2 Tottenham vs Gent
Fri, Feb 24
5:30 pm Facebook USA vs St. Kitts and Nevis
Sat, Feb 25
9:30 am Fox Sport2 Bayern Munich vs Hamburger (US Bobby Woods)
10 am NBCSN Chelsea vs Swansea
Sun, Feb 26
8:30 am NBCSN Tottenham vs Stoke City (US player)
9:30 am Fox Sport2 Ingolstad vs Borussia Mgladbach (US Johnson)
10:15 am beIn Sport? Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona
Mon, Feb 27
3 pm NBCSN Leciester City vs Liverpool
Weds, Mar 1 – She Believes Cup
4 pm ?? France vs England Women
7 pm Fox Sports 1 US Women vs Germany
Sat, Mar 4 – She Believes Cup
4 pm ?? France vs Germany Women
5 pm Fox US Women vs England
Tues Mar 7 – She Believes Cup
7 pm Fox Sports1 US Women vs France
Manchester City and AS Monaco combined for eight goals during the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie — and they weren’t the only clubs with a potent attack.The 34 goals scored in the first leg ties were the most in Champions League history, surpassing the 26 scored in 2013-14, according to ESPN Stats & Info.City won 5-3 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, highlighted by a frantic second half in which the two teams alternated claiming the leaBayern Munich scored five goals against Arsenal on Feb. 15, Paris Saint-Germain scored four times in a shutout of Barcelona on Feb. 14 and Atletico Madrid won 4-2 at Bayer Leverkusen.Four players — City’s Sergio Aguero, Monaco’s Radamel Falcao, Bayern’s Thiago Alcantara and PSG’s Angel Di Maria — all contributed a brace for their sides.That doesn’t compare to 2014, when three players scored a brace in the same game. Real Madrid won 6-1 away at Schalke in the first leg, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all spurring their club to victory.Madrid, who eventually won the Champions League that year, advanced past Schalke on 9-2 aggregate. City and Monaco need to combine for just three goals in the second leg to match that output — and if the first leg is any indication, it seems entirely possible it could happen.
The players have failed Leicester this season but Ranieri has paid the price –
Ian Macintosh- ESPNFC – Former Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd once said that sacking Sir Bobby Robson in 2004 was like “shooting Bambi.” He had it easy.Leicester City’s decision to sack Claudio Ranieri is like shooting Bambi, if Bambi had just won you the GDP of a medium-sized European nation on the lottery and had the winning ticket held gently in his mouth, a sparkle in his eye and an impish grin on his face. This is the most controversial, most cold-blooded, most ruthless decision taken by a football club in recent years.And yet it’s the right decision.With Ranieri in charge, Leicester were going down. They have been wretched this season, profoundly awful in every way, and there has been nothing to suggest that their form would change. Don’t let Leicester’s improved second-half performance against Sevilla fool you. In fact, let it guide you. Leicester started the season badly and have been increasingly dreadful as the season progressed. And yet oddly, they remain competitive in Europe. Almost as if the players are raising their game for the big occasions, but lowering their standards for the day-to-day grind. Imagine.The noble course of action would have been to do nothing. If decisions in football were determined by honour alone, everyone concerned would conclude that Ranieri’s achievements last season were so spectacular, so earth-shattering, that he above all others had earned the right to oversee Leicester’s relegation. Faith in him should have been constant and unwavering until the very moment that their demotion was confirmed. He deserved nothing less.But this is football. Modern football, so cruel and calculating. And this is relegation in 2017. This is not Manchester United being relegated in 1974, when the blow was merely an embarrassing setback not even considered worthy of removing the manager. Relegation in 2017 means that your snout is hauled roughly out of the cash trough. It means that your players will leave. It means that the ones who stay will lose interest. It means sweeping redundancies behind the scenes. And while it’s easy enough to say that you’ll rebuild and return, it’s much, much harder to do.Look at Aston Villa, former European Cup winners, now spiralling toward the third flight with five points from a possible 30 since Boxing Day. Look at Nottingham Forest, look at Leeds United, look at Blackburn Rovers. Look at the devastation caused by the gulf in revenue between the Premier League and the Championship. Relegation from the Premier League is a catastrophe to be avoided at all costs. No matter who you have to sacrifice. No one can be bigger than the club.It is abundantly clear, regardless of what has been said publicly, that the bond between Ranieri and the players has perished since their triumph. They are simply not playing for him. Their title success last season was the product of many factors, but most of all, it was a product of a good, regular XI playing at their absolute peak, giving all that they had to give, refusing to buckle under pressure, on the pitch or off the pitch. No one could say that those players have come even close to replicating those performances of late. Right up until the moment on Wednesday night when it seemed that they would be humiliated by Sevilla in front of everyone. Then they deigned to care.Rumours that the dressing room was lost some time ago are legion in Leicester. Performances in 2017, and remember that they haven’t so much as scored a single Premier League goal since the turn of the year, certainly support those claims. It would not be the first time that a successful manager has swiftly lost his players. Jose Mourinho was rumoured to be nowhere near as popular in the Chelsea dressing room as was made out towards the end of his first spell at the club, and indeed toward the end of his second. Footballers can be selfish. Footballers do not always enjoy sharing their praise with their superiors.Ranieri did not deserve this. He has made mistakes this season, certainly. He has been too loyal to some, too untrusting of others and his frequent tactical changes failed utterly to reverse the team’s fortunes. But he did not deserve this. There were those who, as he lifted the trophy on that unforgettable day in May, hoped that he might recognise that no one could ever exceed such a moment, and that he might retire and walk away at the very pinnacle of his career. It’s too late for such a dignified exit now.It is some compensation that his place in history, both for Leicester and for the English game, is secure forever. He was not the first to lead an unfancied provincial club to the title, but given the huge inequalities in the game, he may be the last. He is, and always will be, a genuine legend.As for the players, they have no such consolation. Do or die, they are damned regardless. If they go down, with ample time to save themselves, then they will not be able to blame Ranieri for their shortcomings. If they improve and stay up, as you very much suspect they might now, then searing questions will be asked about their sudden rediscovery of competence.This is a sorry episode in the season, a glaring moment of sobriety after the giddiness of that incredible night in May. But if Leicester were to have any chance of staying in the top flight, this is what had to happen.Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.
Leicester right to sack Claudio Ranieri
There was an ominous change of mood at Leicester City before a ball had even been kicked this season, after their remarkable Premier League triumph during the 2015-16 campaign.Two days before the champions faced FA Cup winners Manchester United in the Community Shield at Wembley, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri held a press conference at the club’s Belvoir Drive training ground. At it, he complained about the attitude of his players during the preseason and the delivery of 19 Azure Blue sports cars, given as presents by club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha to the squad for winning the title three months earlier.”There are some gifts, only for them?” Ranieri said. “Let me think about the match, not the cars. It’s not important to me to think about cars.”The Italian was irritated by the gesture, believing that his attempts to focus his players on the challenge ahead, rather than backward toward the prolonged celebrations of the summer, had been compromised by his employers.Last summer, at Leicester’s Los Angeles training base, Ranieri first noted the altered mindset of his players. They had been happy to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Santa Monica and photo shoots with actor Will Ferrell, but on the pitch, they were hammered 4-0 by Paris Saint-Germain, and Ranieri was alarmed.”I want more than the maximum; that’s why I was not happy in Los Angeles,” he said. “I did not see the same mentality together. Everybody worked hard, but not as a team, and that is the difference.”Unfortunately for Ranieri, though he saw the danger signs, he was unable to prevent the team’s fall from grace and his fears of complacency back in August went unheeded. The players took their eye off the ball, wallowed in their achievement, and could not rediscover the magic.As a result, after being told on Feb. 7 that he had the “unwavering support” of the ownership, Ranieri was sacked Thursday, less than 24 hours after Jamie Vardy’s first goal of 2017 in a 2-1 first-leg away defeat against Sevilla gave Leicester genuine hope of progression to the Champions League quarterfinals.They may still get there, but they will have to do so without Ranieri.But while the European dream remains, Leicester hover just one point above the Premier League relegation zone, and survival is the priority. The club’s owners believe the team has a better chance of achieving that with somebody else in charge of the team.That could be Roberto Mancini, Alan Pardew or even Nigel Pearson, the architect of Leicester’s “great escape” two years ago and the man who made way for Ranieri in the summer of 2015.If no appointment has been made by Monday, assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and first-team coach Mike Stowell will be in charge when Leicester host Liverpool at the King Power Stadium, by which time they could find themselves in the bottom three.Hull and Swansea have dragged themselves from seemingly doomed positions after changing managers since the turn of the year, and now Leicester must hope for a similar change of fortune. If they are to do that, they will need more from the men on the pitch as well as a new manager.Of Ranieri’s title winners, perhaps only goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel could claim to have performed anywhere close to his best this season.Losing N’Golo Kante to Chelsea before this season was a hammer blow, but were Leicester really about just one man last season? Vardy has scored just seven goals this season, and none in the league since early December, while Riyad Mahrez has gone from the heights of being crowned PFA Player of the Year to performing like the misfit who once struggled during a trial with Scottish outfit St Mirren.Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have seen their rock-solid central defensive partnership crumble on a weekly basis, and Danny Drinkwater has reverted to being the journeyman he had become before last season’s heroics alongside Kante.Ranieri was let down by the players he guided to the title; he attempted to fire them up again after last season, but nobody was listening. But that is also a failing of the manager: If his message is not getting through, he needs to be smart enough to change it, and Ranieri was unable to do so.And although sacking him appears brutal and lacking in any kind of recognition of what he achieved last season, this is the right decision. Ranieri had time and public backing to turn it around, but with relegation beginning to loom large, Leicester could not gamble any longer on loyalty.Not all fairy tales can have happy endings, and Ranieri has discovered that the hard way. But the time in Los Angeles suggested he knew what was coming anyway.Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him
U.S. Soccer’s Carli Lloyd seals Manchester City move
By Jonathan Smith | Feb 15, 2017
FIFA World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd has joined Manchester City on a short-term contract.U.S. national team captain Lloyd will play for the current FA Women’s Super League champions in the 2017 Spring Series, FA Women’s Cup and UEFA Women’s Champions League.The 34-year-old could stay with City until June 1 if they reach the Champions League final before returning to the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States.The signing is a major coup for City, who remained unbeaten last season as they won their first Super League title as well as the FA Women’s Cup. They also reached the Champions League quarterfinals, where they will play Danish side Fortuna Hjorring in March, and Lloyd is eligible for both legs.”I’m incredibly excited to be joining Manchester City — a club, which is leading the development of women’s football both on and off the pitch,” Lloyd said.”Having played in the U.S. throughout my career, the chance to fulfil a long-held ambition to test myself in a new footballing environment, as well as playing in the Champions League, is something I am relishing.”With the challenge of the Spring Series and the FA Women’s Cup ahead of us too, I really can’t wait to pull on my City shirt in front of our fans and make them proud.”The signing of the two-time FIFA Player of the Year is a major statement from City, who have invested heavily in their women’s team.Lloyd, who scored a hat trick for United States in the 2015 World Cup final, will train at City’s £200 million ($248m) state-of-the-art Etihad Campus, where Pep Guardiola coaches the men’s first team.City women’s head coach Nick Cushing said: “We are a successful team but a young team too, having only entered the Women’s Super League three years ago, so adding players to our squad with substantial experience is crucial to our development.”Carli has had an incredible career and is recognised as one of the best in the world. There is much we can learn from her that will help us to improve as a team. We are all looking forward to working with her over the coming months.”Lloyd, who has scored 96 goals in 232 appearances for United States, joined Houston Dash after the 2014 season and is expected to return to the Texas club.As well as European competition, she will play for City in the Spring Series — a one-off competition created to bridge the gap between seasons — as the FAWSL moves from being a summer league to the traditional football calendar.Two other U.S. internationals, Crystal Dunn and Heather O’Reilly, have also moved to England, with Chelsea and Arsenal, respectively.
#HANKSPEAK – Indy 11 PRESEASON BY POSITION
Coach Hankinson breaks down the roster fit for 2017 so far
Feb 14, 2017
The “Boys in Blue” hit the field on Wednesday for the first time in 2017 with mostly familiar faces leading the line at Grand Park. Head coach Tim Hankinson touched on trialists and new additions in yesterday’s hit on the guys being back in town; today he spoke with IndyEleven.com about how the roster is shaping up as a whole, his tactical approach to the 2017 season, and how he feels this year’s squad may be Indy’s most balanced yet.
Starting with the ‘keepers, Hankinson only saw Plan A as the option – keep Jon Busch and Keith Cardona and let their work from the 2016 season continue. By exercising their options, he got exactly what he wanted.
“Jon has hinted after the season at possible retirement, but I’m not buying it yet (laughs). But, he’s prepared himself again physically to have a great year. He and Keith were great work partners last year, and part of Jon’s responsibility other than preparing himself for games is to grow Keith’s readiness,” Hankinson said.
“Buschy” manned the net most weeks in 2016 while Cardona continued to develop, with the latter seeing minutes towards the tail end of the year to gain some valuable reps. Now their work continues, but with the caveat that Cardona will step into a more advanced role.
“For Keith, it’s the biggest year of his career. He’s got to develop the performance that makes us unquestionably look at him as the future,” continued Hankinson. “For him, the future comes now. If Jon does retire, he’ll want to be considered the man that Jon has been for us, and he may be the next man. It may be a bigger year for Keith than any other player on the team.”
In front of those two is a solid defensive core that includes returning players Lovel Palmer, Nemanja Vukovic, Colin Falvey, Marco Franco, and newcomer Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Like with last year’s signings, Hankinson stressed leadership and ability to work within the system that he built – one that was successful throughout the whole of last year.
“It brings back the ‘know-how.’ They have confidence in each other, they know what Jon [Busch] wants from them and are confident in that, and they’re confident in our defensive concept as a whole,” said Hankinson. “Getting a new defender to step in amongst three experienced ones makes that transition easier. Even our younger players that are developing are there as well and out to prove that they can do a job.”
One of thse “younger players” will be the 13th returning member from last season’s squad … whose official return is set to be announced on Wednesday.
With the addition of Ben Speas into an already active midfield, the group of Brad Ring, Gerardo Torrado, Don Smart, and Sinisa Ubiparipovic will no doubt be fighting for time, and that’s before any newer additions or returning players are announced (again, this could include another official addition as early as Wednesday).Hankinson likes the prospect of a selection headache, though, saying that “great competition” is in order ahead of the season opener on March 25 in San Francisco.
“Clearly, either Brad [Ring] or Gerardo [Torrado] can hold down the midfield in that No.6 role, and sometimes it’s even effective to use them together when we’re trying to solidify our presence in that part of the park,” explained the 2016 NASL Coach of the Year. “Having players that are as strong defensively as Brad and ‘G’, it gives us the luxury to be able to play a guy like Sinisa [Ubiparipovic] as a playmaker.”
About the ‘new guy’ Speas, Hankinson appreciates the versatility the ex-Minnesota United FC performer – and more newcomers – will bring to the collective.
“In looking at new players like Ben Speas, who we have penciled in as an outside midfielder, he can also play as an attacking midfielder at the top of the diamond, and we’re hoping to bring one or two more guys in that are equally as versatile.”
Up top, the balance in scoring once again falls between the partnership of the clinical Eamon Zayed and his workhorse of a partner, Justin Braun. The former quickly smashed club records for the most goals on both a season and career basis with 15 regular season tallies, thanks in part to notching the first two hat tricks in NASL play by an Indy performer. Meanwhile, Braun’s eight goals and five assists solidified him as another big threat, placing him in the NASL’s top 10 in both categories. After cueing smoke from the Brickyard Battalion stand at a prodigious rate in 2016, Hankinson is hoping for even more from the dangerous duo.
“I’m expecting even more production out of our front two than last year, but only because they already have that understanding, that partnership, that I touched on earlier. I remember many practices early on last year where we had to stop the entire practice because those two did not yet grasp the other’s tendencies – we won’t have that this year,” said Hankinson. “Those things are understood now. What were misunderstandings then have transitioned to fluency now. As the season went on last year with so many minutes and games under their belt, they depended on each other to be successful. That’s where we get to start. The production should be seen early and often.”
With most of the pieces in place for the 2017 season, the almost coaching veteran is now hoping that his decisions pay off.
“I think we may be even more attacking this year. When we started last spring, for example, you generally don’t attack as well when you don’t possess the ball. But, we weren’t a good possession team,” said Hankinson.
“Now I think we have players, and confidence, and knowledge of how to work together, that should get us off to a quicker start and create more opportunities from the get-go. As I said, the competition for playing time and a starting spot will take senior players who assume they will return to their starting role and drive them to new heights. It will be a battle.”
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