Posted April 24, 2014

CONCACAF Champions League final indifference raises concern, questions

CONCACAF Champions League, Liga MX, MLS
Cruz Azul

Cruz Azul celebrates its CONCACAF Champions League triumph over Toluca Wednesday night. (Alejandro Ayala/Xinhua/Zumapress)

Veteran Mexican midfielder Gerardo Torrado, who had lost seven major finals as a member of Cruz Azul, was in tears. Meanwhile, Toluca coach José Cardozo and one of his players angrily confronted the referee. Their desperation and sense of loss was palpable.

La Máquina fans gathered on Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, and the Cruz Azul players inside Toluca’s noisy Estadio Nemesio Díez celebrated joyously with that hideous, but meaningful, black and gold trophy. It seemed that just about everyone connected to Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League finale cared deeply about the dramatic 1-1 result. Cruz Azul had won a record sixth continental title and will represent the region at December’s FIFA Club World Cup. It was an historic night.

The problem is, there’s little indication that anyone outside Mexico felt that connection. Continue Reading

Posted April 24, 2014

Klinsmann: Manchester United pulling the plug on Moyes now didn’t make sense

Avi Creditor, English Premier League, Jurgen Klinsmann, Manchester United
Jurgen Klinsmann

Jurgen Klinsmann feels that David Moyes got a raw deal after being fired this week at Manchester United. (Jay LaPrete/AP)

From one manager to another, Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of sympathy for David Moyes getting fired not even one season into his six-year deal with Manchester United.

Moyes was fired Tuesday after just 51 games and less than 11 months in charge, with United destined for a disappointing finish, no silverware and no Champions League place for 2014-15. He was replaced, in the interim, by player-coach Ryan Giggs, who has tabbed famed Class of 92 teammates Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt to assist him in the final matches of the season.

In a video released by U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann — whose goalkeeper coach with the U.S., Chris Woods, was on Moyes’ staff — commented on Moyes’ dismissal, saying that, from the outside, it would appear that he needed more than just one transition year to make an impact, even likening the situation to that of Brendan Rodgers at first-place Liverpool.  Continue Reading

Posted April 24, 2014

U.S. Open Cup expands to 80-team field, largest in modern era

Liviu Bird, U.S. Open Cup
U.S. Open Cup

Dwayne De Rosario, left, and part owner Will Chang hoist the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy after D.C. United upset Real Salt Lake in the 2013 final. (Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

The largest field in the modern era of the U.S. Open Cup will compete for $250,000 and a spot in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League this year. U.S. Soccer released the complete schedule for the first two rounds on Thursday, as well as a list of the 80 teams that will be involved.

That number is an increase from the 68 teams in 2013 that set an Open Cup record in the competition’s 100th year. However, the cash prizes remain the same: the winner takes home $250,000, the runner-up gets $60,000 and the longest survivor from each lower division wins $15,000. Continue Reading

Posted April 24, 2014

Cristiano Ronaldo chosen as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World

Avi Creditor, Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal, Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. (Andres Kudacki/AP)

Cristiano Ronaldo is the reigning Ballon d’Or winner and one of the most recognizable faces in international sports. His Real Madrid is fresh off capturing the Copa del Rey and is alive in the quest for Spain’s league title and a UEFA Champions League crown. Ronaldo will guide Portugal at the World Cup, where he could forever cement his status as a legend should the Portuguese get out of the Group of Death and make a run to the World Cup title.

With that all going for him, he has been selected as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the WorldContinue Reading

Posted April 23, 2014

Cruz Azul draws with Toluca 1-1, wins CONCACAF Champions League on away goals

CONCACAF Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, Liga MX, Liviu Bird
Mario Pavone (back) celebrates the goal that lifted Cruz Azul to the CONCACAF Champions League title. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Mario Pavone (back) celebrates the goal that lifted Cruz Azul to the CONCACAF Champions League title. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Cruz Azul and Toluca entered the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday as the No. 1 and 2 teams in Liga MX, respectively, and that’s how they finished the continental competition as well. A 1-1 draw at Toluca’s Estadio Nemesio Díez was good enough for Cruz Azul to win the title on away goals after a scoreless finish a week prior.

The away side received a positive omen before the match, as CONCACAF reduced starting goalkeeper Jesús Corona’s three-match suspension to a one-game ban. Corona was punished for his part in an altercation with Club Tijuana players after the final whistle in the teams’ semifinal second leg.

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Posted April 23, 2014

Watch: Real Madrid’s Benzema strikes on precise counter to stun Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich, Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
Benzema

Karim Benzema celebrates his opening goal for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. (Paul White/AP)

Bayern Munich dominated the ball in the first half of their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg encounter, out-passing Real Madrid 402-91 and making itself right at home at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Possession doesn’t always translate to the scoreboard, though.

Madrid’s Karim Benzema stunned Bayern, the defending Champions League winner, with a strike off a precise counterattack in the 19th minute. A pair of Portuguese internationals connected to spark the play, with Cristiano Ronaldo — in his return to the lineup from injury — finding Fabio Coentrao with a splitting through ball down the left channel. Coentrao placed a pinpoint cross into Benzema’s path, and the unmarked Frenchman tapped home by a helpless Manuel Neuer to give the hosts the only goal they would need in a 1-0 triumph that puts Bayern under pressure in the return leg at Allianz Arena next week.

Watch Benzema’s game-winning goal below (via Fox Soccer):

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Posted April 23, 2014

Q&A with Real Madrid, Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso

Bayern Munich, Champions League, Grant Wahl, Real Madrid, Spain
Xabi Alonso

Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso is aiming to take down mighty Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semifinals. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

God bless Xabi Alonso. The George Clooney of international soccer has won the sport’s most important trophies—World Cup, European Championship (twice), UEFA Champions League, Spain’s La Liga, etc.— yet found time on Tuesday night, just hours before the world’s biggest club game of the year so far, to take a phone call from SI.com.

Alonso’s Real Madrid takes on defending European champion Bayern Munich on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals (2:45 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1), a match-up that most neutrals were hoping would wait until the final. Bayern is slightly favored, but Real Madrid is certainly capable of dethroning the Bavarians, especially if attacking stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are fit to play after dealing with injuries. Continue Reading

Posted April 23, 2014

Watch: Rafa Marquez sent off in Copa Libertadores for kicking opponent

Avi Creditor, Mexican national team, Miguel Herrera, Rafa Marquez
Landon Donovan, Rafa Marquez

Mexico captain Rafa Marquez (4) got sent off late in Leon’s Copa Libertadores draw with Bolivar, and the club was ousted on away goals. (Rock Scuteri/AP)

On a night when Mexico manager Miguel Herrera boldly tweeted that he will release his 23-man World Cup roster on May 9 — a solid three weeks and change before he is required to by FIFA — one of the players whom he has called a lock for that roster added another dubious moment to his resume on a grand stage.

U.S. nemesis, former MLS malcontent and current Leon and El Tri captain Rafa Marquez was sent off in the 77th minute of Leon’s Copa Libertadores round of 16 second leg against Bolivar Tuesday for delivering a flying kick to the back of an opponent. Leon, level with Bolivar on aggregate 3-3 at the time but trailing on away goals, was reduced to 10 men for the final 13 minutes of the match and was unable to get a fourth goal to extend its stay in the premier South American/Mexican competition. Continue Reading

Posted April 22, 2014

Landon Donovan: David Moyes deserved more time at Manchester United

Avi Creditor, L.A. Galaxy, Landon Donovan, Manchester United, U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan, right, played for David Moyes at Everton on a pair of loan stints. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Count Landon Donovan among those who feel that David Moyes did not necessarily get a fair shake at Manchester United.

Donovan, who played under Moyes at Everton on a pair of loan spells in 2010 and 2012, said on Tuesday’s SI Now that he thought Moyes deserved a bit more time to prove himself at Old Trafford. He was fired Tuesday morning with three games remaining in the Premier League season.

“I love David Moyes,” Donovan told SI’s Maggie Gray. “Not only as a manager but as a person. He was very good to me, brought me to Everton. I was very hopeful that he would do well at Manchester United. It’s sad to see that he didn’t get a little more time, but that’s the way the world works these days. I’m sure he’ll fall on his feet and do well.”  Continue Reading

Posted April 22, 2014

Manchester United fires David Moyes; Ryan Giggs takes over as interim manager

English Premier League, Liviu Bird, Manchester United
David Moyes

David Moyes has been fired by Manchester United less than a full season into his succession of Sir Alex Ferguson. (Martin Rickett/PA Wire/AP)

After what will be Manchester United’s worst season in at least 23 years, the club fired its first-year manager David Moyes on Tuesday. Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor leaves without securing a UEFA Champions League spot for the club for the first time since the creation of the Premier League.

“The Club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role,” the club wrote in a one-sentence statement announcing Moyes’ dismissal.

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