Archive for the ‘MLS’ Category

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Austin FC will play their inaugural Major League Soccer season in 2021.

The Texans were ushered in as the 27th MLS franchise during a ceremony on Tuesday. They arrive having already courted plenty of controversy through their owner Anthony Precourt’s bid to relocate his former outfit, the Columbus Crew, to the music mecca.

Following an impassioned campaign by the Save the Crew collective, Columbus kept its club thanks to a takeover from the Haslam and Edwards families. However, Precourt was rewarded an expansion franchise by MLS commissioner Don Garber after his efforts to move the Crew collapsed.

“People have tried for decades to bring major league sports here, but you came here and did things the way they needed to be done and presented us with the best stadium deal anyone has gotten, anywhere,” mayor Steve Adler said in thanks to Precourt.

United States men’s national team legend Alexi Lalas presented the ceremony, and at one point felt compelled to strum an acoustic guitar along to some chants he coaxed out of the onlooking Austinites. Lalas’ musical efforts weren’t really audible over the crowd, but that might be for the better.

With Austin FC’s entry, MLS follows the NBA among North America’s top five professional sports leagues in having three franchises hailing from Texas. Austin will enjoy state rivalries with FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo in MLS.

“I would anticipate we will continue to be a possession-oriented, attacking style of club,” Precourt forecasted in an interview with the Statesman’s Chris Bils. “We like beautiful soccer on the field. I think (former Crew and recently appointed USMNT coach) Gregg Berhalter’s style is something you should continue to expect.”

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Newcastle United reportedly must increase their bid for Atlanta United sensation Miguel Almiron to stand any chance of signing the Paraguayan in the January window, according to the Guardian’s Ed Aarons.

Atlanta is apparently demanding a fee in the range of £30 million for Almiron, who helped the club to an MLS Cup in its second year of existence.

It’s believed Newcastle already agreed to personal terms with Almiron, but a deal can’t be done without satisfying Atlanta.

The 24-year-old admitted in December that he enjoys the “English style of football” and its “competitiveness.”

He’s been in demand since joining Atlanta from Argentinian side Lanus in December 2016. Atlanta reportedly rejected “eight-figure offers” during his first season in MLS.

A precocious player with superb dribbling ability, pace, and creative instinct, Almiron registered 21 goals and 28 assists over the last two MLS campaigns. He also won the 2017 MLS Newcomer of the Year award.

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Toronto FC have made a big change at boardroom level.

The Reds have hired former New York Red Bulls sporting director Ali Curtis as their new general manager, the club announced Thursday.

“Ali brings great MLS experience having been a player, an executive in the league office, and as New York Red Bulls sporting director,” said TFC president Bill Manning. “His work with the Red Bulls saw the club become Supporters’ Shield winners while strengthening their academy and the pathway for youth players to become professionals.

“We needed to move quickly and decisively and we are excited to get right to work with Ali, beginning with next week’s draft.”

Curtis, 40, left the Red Bulls before the 2017 campaign after overseeing the club’s 2015 MLS Supporters’ Shield triumph and their East-best record in 2016. He was also instrumental in the establishing of NYRB II, the club’s prolific development team.

As Curtis enters, Tim Bezbatchenko exits. Toronto confirmed Bezbatchenko, who also served as senior vice president of soccer operations, will depart with immediate effect “to pursue another opportunity.” The native Ohian was reported this week to be close to joining the Columbus Crew as team president.

“With this exciting change comes the departure of a valued executive and friend, but we understand Tim’s desire to pursue a new challenge,” Manning continued. “On behalf of everyone at Toronto FC, we want to thank Tim for his contributions to the club over the past five years. Tim played a big part in helping TFC win multiple trophies and we wish Tim, Annie, and their family all the best in the future.”

Manning and Toronto owe much to Bezbatchenko. The 37-year-old helped transform the Reds from MLS laughingstock to MLS Cup winners since his arrival in late 2013, building a side including Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco, and Jozy Altidore. After a disappointing 2018, however, it is Curtis who will lead the Canadian outfit into 2019.

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The Columbus Crew are reportedly set to poach Toronto FC‘s senior vice president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, a source told Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press.

Bezbatchenko will be named the Crew’s new team president, and he’s set to oversee both the franchise’s business and sporting operations, sources told MLSsoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal. He’ll fill the void Gregg Berhalter left after he was named the United Statesmen’s national team’s new head coach in December.

Bezbatchenko, an Ohio native, first joined the Reds in 2013 and was a key component in Toronto’s 2017 championship season. During his tenure north of the border, Bezbatchenko helped orchestrate the designated-player signing of Sebastian Giovincofrom Juventus. He also oversaw the additions of current team captain Michael Bradleyfrom Roma and forward Jozy Altidore, who joined the Reds in 2015 in a swap for Jermain Defoe.

Both Davidson and Stejskal report Ali Curtis is among the candidates to replace Bezbatchenko. The 40-year-old executive was most recently the New York Red Bulls‘ sporting director, but he left his post ahead of the 2017 season.

 

 

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The Columbus Crew have been saved.

Major League Soccer announced Friday the franchise will remain in Columbus, Ohio for next season, with the Haslam and Edwards families agreeing to take over the Crew from current owner Precourt Sports Ventures.

“After several months of discussions, we are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with the Haslam and Edwards families for them to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Columbus Crew SC starting in January 2019,” commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

Both the Edwards and Haslam families – the latter of which also owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns – were first reported to be in negotiations to take over the MLS franchise in October.

“When we began exploring the possibility of keeping Crew SC in Columbus, the process started with an appreciation for the benefits a professional sports franchise brings to a region,” the two families said in a combined statement. “We quickly began positive discussions with Major League Soccer – the league office and many of the league’s owners.”

One of only 10 clubs to begin play in Major League Soccer’s inaugural 1996 season, the Crew’s days appeared numbered in October 2017 when owner Anthony Precourt announced his intention to move the club to Austin, Texas if he failed to secure a new downtown stadium in Columbus.

While Precourt remains committed to launching the Austin franchise no later than 2021, the Crew may still play in a new downtown stadium after all. According to Jeremy Pelzer of Cleveland.com, the Ohio Senate approved $15 million in funding for the project earlier this month, just days after Columbus’ city council approved $50 million in funds for the stadium.

After much speculation, Atlanta United have found their replacement for Tata Martino.

The reigning MLS Cup champions announced Sunday that Dutchman Frank de Boer, who has spent time on the bench at AjaxInter, and Crystal Palace, inked a multiyear contract to become the club’s next head coach.

“The club’s sportive ambitions, as set out in a long-term strategy to be the best in class, clearly fits my personal ambitions,” de Boer said.

“I would like to build on the current success to develop a secure, solid foundation for the club at the top of MLS and beyond. Aside from the club’s ambitions, the values, culture, and the philosophy for the entire organization are a vital part in realizing that point of success. This is exactly what I believe in as a person and as a coach. All of this combined, makes that I am really excited to be a part of it,” he added.

The 48-year-old arrives in MLS following a dubious Premier League stint with Crystal Palace in 2017; he was fired after the Eagles lost their opening four matches of the season without scoring a goal.

In Atlanta, though, the decorated former defender will have the benefit of working with arguably the most talented squad in the league, even if the Five Stripes could soon lose some of their key contributors from last season’s title-winning campaign.

Seth Rollins was interviewed by Iridian Fierro before last week’s RAW where he talked about his WWE TLC match with Dean Ambrose this past Sunday. After a surprisingly poor audience reaction at WWE TLC on Sunday, and the loss of his Intercontinental Championship to boot, it’s understandable that “disappointed” is how Rollins described his feelings the match. The Intercontinental Championship match went 24 minutes and was filled with fans audibly chanting “this is boring” and “Becky” throughout the action.

Rollins expressed his own frustration with the outcome of the match, saying that he thought things were left unaccomplished. He added that he plans to enact his rematch clause to finish what he started, although WWE dropped the automatic rematch stipulation later that night.

“I’m feeling disappointed, to say the least,” Rollins admitted. “I let my emotions get the better of me. It really put me in a position where Ambrose was able to capitalize, drop me on my head for the Dirty Deeds and pick up the win. Unfortunately for Dean Ambrose, every champion has a right to a rematch and so sooner or later he’s gonna have to answer to me. So, I’m not envious of Dean Ambrose’s position right now.

“I have my eye on Dean Ambrose, that’s where it’s at,” Rollins continued. “There’s definitely a personal issue there that I don’t feel like was resolved last night. Obviously, I got my hands on him, I got to express to him in a very physical manner exactly how I felt about what he did to me, and Roman, and The Shield. At the end of the day, I don’t think that I accomplished what I wanted to, so I would definitely love to get back in there with Ambrose and finish what I started.”

This past October, fellow Shield member Roman Reigns vacated the WWE Universal Championship and announced he had leukemia to a stunned, silent Monday Night RAW audience. Rollins talked about how he’s been keeping up with Reigns, saying that Reigns doesn’t want to focus on anything WWE related while he’s going through treatment.

“I talk to [Roman] once a week or so just to see how he’s doing,” Rollins said. “And mostly it’s about that, at the end of the day, he doesn’t want to worry about work. He doesn’t want to deal with that right now, so it’s mostly just about how he’s doing, seeing how he’s feeling, and how his recovery is coming and stuff like that. It’s nice to hear from him and every once in a while I do have a question about how things are, but for the most part, it’s just two friends keeping up with each other and making sure everyone is doing alright.”

Rollins’ 220 day WWE World Championship title reign, which began in March 2014, also ended by needing to vacate the title. Rollins discussed his former WWE Championship reign, admitting that his heel tactics of stealing the WWE World Championship in the Wrestlemania main event, using the Authority to keep the title, and similar antics left him feeling unfulfilled at the end of his reign.

“I didn’t really feel like [my WWE World Championship reign] was as fulfilling as I would have liked it to be,” Rollins admitted. “Based on kinda how I went about things, how I got the title and all that stuff. For me, I think this recent Intercontinental Championship run with two different title runs over the past, since Wrestlemania basically, so the past like 8 months. But with the absence of the Universal Championship on RAW, it’s really elevated the Intercontinental Championship being more than this kinda, fiddle-of-the-road title.”

Rollins recent run as Intercontinental Champion and his corresponding feud with Ambrose over the title has been the featured feud of Monday Night Raw for the past couple months. Rollins talked about how much he loves working for the red brand and how he feels a sense of responsibility while Reigns is recovering.

“Monday nights are my home, for now,” Rollins said. “Obviously, you never know what’s gonna happen here in WWE. But truth is, I love it here. I love Mondays and I feel like this is my show, and I feel a lot of pressure now that Roman’s on the shelf and trying to get better to carry that load, and to carry that torch. And so, I’m looking forward to 2019. 2018 was a great year for me.”