This time around, Neymar let his scoring make the headlines against Celtic.
The Brazilian star, who was chided by Celtic manager Neil Lennon for diving in the clubs’ first UEFA Champions League meeting this season, scored his first Champions League goals — three of them, to be exact — Wednesday, in Barcelona’s 6-1 rout of Celtic in their group stage finale.
The 21-year-old Neymar, who has Copa Libertadores, FIFA Confederations Cup and Spanish Super Cup silverware to his name already and will have the weight of the World Cup on his shoulders this summer, helped ensure that Barcelona captured first place in Group H with his hat trick, which put him at eight goals in all competitions this season. Continue Reading
Jason Kreis will become the first head coach of the MLS expansion team New York City FC after declining to extend his contract with MLS Cup runners-up Real Salt Lake.
Sacha Kljestan’s foray into the Champions League did not yield a berth in the knockout round for his Belgian club, Anderlecht, but it certainly did not lack headlines.
Between Kljestan’s run-in with PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a game in which he also had an assist and was sent off and Tuesday’s noteworthy moment, the U.S. midfielder left his mark on the 2013 group stage, which ended with his side bowing out of Europe with a last-place finish in Group C.
Kljestan’s 39th-minute equalizer against Olympiakos made him the fifth American to score in the Champions League, joining Jovan Kirovski, DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu and, most recently, Jermaine Jones as Yanks to score on Europe’s grand stage. It wasn’t enough to send his side out with points, though, as Olympiakos finished off a 3-1 victory in Piraeus over 8-man (yes, THREE red cards, none of which were awarded to Kljestan) Anderlecht.
Kljestan’s goal, off a counterattack that he finished off for his career-high eighth goal in all competitions this season (and it’s only December), can be seen below: Continue Reading
Remember last MLS season, when Real Salt Lake sent Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola to New York two days after MLS Cup?
Well, nothing on that blockbuster level has materialized just yet, but in the budget-conscious, overturn-heavy confines of MLS, change is almost always immediately in the offing, and the “offseason” has already started to resemble just that.
A day after parting ways with goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, the Seattle Sounders swung a trade with Toronto FC for former 1st-round draft pick and goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Seattle sent a first-round draft pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft to Toronto, which was busy in its own right on Monday evening. Continue Reading
Former U.S. national team and MLS Cup-winning midfielder Pablo Mastroeni announced his retirement Tuesday, bringing an end to yet another lengthy career for a grizzled MLS great.
The 37-year-old Mastroeni steps aside after a 16-year career, one that included places at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and a 2010 MLS Cup title with the Colorado Rapids. Mastroeni, who began his career with the since-contracted Miami Fusion, ended his career with the LA Galaxy after a June trade from Colorado reunited him with former U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena, under whom he earned 50 of his 65 international caps.
As for Mastroeni’s place in MLS and U.S. Soccer lore, there’s no denying his lofty all-time status, as evidenced by his former teammates, both for club and country, chiming in following his announcement: Continue Reading
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In this second half of SI.com’s conversation with MLS commissioner Don Garber, the league’s steward discusses the owners’ relationship with the union and each other, the scheduling quandary, his own quirks as a soccer fan, his most significant memory, success and failure since taking over in 1999 and how the league “didn’t get it right” with Chivas USA.
Garber was speaking from his hotel suite in Kansas City two days before the MLS Cup final.
Abby Wambach has matched or surpassed Mia Hamm in just about every possible way on the soccer field, and she is one step closer to matching Hamm’s feat of winning consecutive FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year awards.
Wambach, the prolific U.S. women’s national team forward, is among three finalists for the honors, which she captured last year for the first time. She is joined by Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer and Brazil forward Marta. If Wambach wins, she would equal Hamm’s feat of winning twice, which she accomplished in 2001 and 2002. Continue Reading
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It was a competitive advantage usually foreign to soccer that offered a welcome boost to Sporting Kansas City, which really needed one mid-way through the second half of American soccer’s biggest game.
There was a time out.
It wasn’t official, of course. That would be against the rules. But when Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert went down injured in the 63rd minute of Saturday’s MLS Cup final and needed treatment on the field, Sporting had the opportunity to regroup.
The hosts had lost one of their most important players, midfielder Uri Rosell, to an injured ankle early in the first half. The match at sold-out Sporting Park was becoming increasingly short-tempered and in the 52nd minute, RSL took the lead on a gorgeous goal from Álvaro Saborío.
Sporting gathered in a circle at midfield.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – In the 118th minute of Sporting Kansas City’s epic triumph in the 2013 MLS Cup, a roar began to emanate from the Sporting supporters. Was it something wacky on the video board? No — it was focused on the field. Had a goal been scored? No — play was stalled at the other end.
So why, then, for the sudden commotion, audible above all the cacophonous din of a standing-room only crowd?
Because Jimmy Nielsen was doing push-ups. To stay warm. This, despite broken ribs in his right side — an injury not revealed to anyone until after the match. It was just that frigid.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s ridiculous cold,” Nielsen told reporters earlier in the week, reflecting on his team’s win against Houston in the semi-final — a game that was actually warmer at kickoff (22 degrees) than the final played on Saturday (20 degrees). Both set records for coldest match in MLS’ 18-year history. “I’m a goalkeeper, I’m just standing there, my gloves have to be wet so I can catch the ball…I got some Scandinavian blood in me, but it was still very, very cold.”
Jason Kreis was just minutes removed from a heartbreaking loss — one that could be the end of his remarkable run as manager of Real Salt Lake. Yet sitting in front of the assembled press after his team’s epic loss on penalty kicks to Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final, Kreis spoke primarily of the pride he felt in his side.
“We drew. But since there aren’t any draws and we had to go to PKs, it is what it is. The unfortunate situation about losing in any fashion is that the team is just going to remember that they lost,” Kreis said. “I just want to make sure my group doesn’t walk away forgetting everything that they did this year. Because it was a whole hell of a lot…It’s just been an incredible, incredible, incredible year.”