Cincinnati Grinds Out Win Over Toronto

FC Cincinnati grinded out a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC II in front of 18,214 at Nippert Stadium. Danni Konig headed home the winner early in the 18 minute off a cross from Tyler Polak.

Head Coach Alan Koch after the match said, “We had ample opportunity to finish the game much earlier than we did, but glad to pick up three points.” He later commented on the clean sheet saying, “Based on what I saw tonight it certainly wasn’t the perfect defensive performance. We got the clean sheet, which is huge, it gives us confidence. But there were a couple moments where we didn’t do what we need to do.”

Cincinnati dominated possession and controled the game for very long stretches but was only able to muster a few good chances. Toronto was on their heels most of the match but their best chance from Shaan Hundal was put off the post after a shot slid past Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt.

Konig’s goal gave Cincinnati the lead with a header off a cross from Polak from the left. Jimmy McLaughlin received the ball on the left and ran down the side of the field before passing back to a wide open Polak who put a cross in that was headed home by Konig.

Less than a minute before the goal Konig was forced to come off the field after a collision with Toronto’s Brando Onkony due to bleeding on his forehead. After the bleeding was stopped he was allowed back on and ran into the box just in time to score the goal.

Koing had a chance to double his lead before halftime off a corner but the ball looked to surprise him after just getting over the keeper’s outstretched arms. He thrashed at it putting it up over the bar.

Toronto had their best chances early in the second half when a corner was hit too far but ended up at the feet of an unmarked Luis Pereira who put a shot past Hildebrandt but Polak was on the line to send it out of the box. On the next attack Cincinnati’s other fullback Matt Bahner stopped a shot from inside the 18-yard box when the defense looked out of position.

Hundal of Toronto hit the post in the 64 minute after Hildebrandt had to come all the way out of his box to stop the one on one chance.

Cincinnati was then able to grind out the match until a late foul from Jimmy McLaughlin in a very dangerous position. But a poor free kick squandered the last chance for Toronto.

News And Notes

Konig’s goal tonight gives him his third in his last three games for Cincinnati.

Coach Koch praised his medical staff saying, “Danni was off, took one to the head, Dr. Brian Grawe and Athletic Trainer Aaron Powell patched him up as quickly as they could, they got him back in and literally he ran on and scored the goal. It’s not just the 11 players playing on the pitch. We’re a team and we’re a club and we go to battle for each other. I give my medical staff a lot of credit tonight to help us get the three points.”

Cincinnati kept their third straight clean sheet across all competitions, second straight in the USL. Hildebrandt earned his third of the season tonight as well.

Harrison Delbridge and Aodhan Quinn were given their third yellow cards of the season. At five yellow cards there is a one-match suspension. Victor Mansaray is also on three yellow cards.

Moment By Moment

18’ Danni Konig heads home the cross from Tyler Polak from the left. After moving the ball down the left Jimmy Mclaughlin passed back to an open Polak who fired a cross behind the defense where Konig headed it home. Konig scored less than a minute after having to come off the field due to a head to head collision with a Toronto defender around midfield.

28’ Harrison Delbridge picked up the first yellow of the match on an offensive corner where he ran though a Toronto defender.

36’ Aodhan Quinn picked up a yellow for kicking the ball away after he committed a foul in the midfield.

39’ Konig almost got his second off a corner when the ball in just got over the keeper but he touch put it up over the bar. Looked like he didn’t expect the ball to fall to him and a late reaction to put it over.

49’ Delbridge puts a header over the bar from inside the box, it was a good cross from Corben Bone shortly after a corner.

52’ Ball cleared off the line by Cincinnati’s Polak after a corner. The initial corner was too long but got out to an unmarked Luis Pereira at the top of the box whose shot was just past keeper Mitch Hildebrandt but Polak was well positioned to kick the ball away.

64’ A shot from Toronto’s Shaan Hundal hits the post. Hildebrandt came all the way outside the box but was able to cut the angle down enough. Shortly after Matt Bahner stopped a shot from inside the box in a dangerous situation. This ended a great run of possession and play for Toronto.

67’ Cincinnati defender Austin Berry picked the ball up in the midfield dribbled past two defenders getting into a one on one situation in the box, but the shot was right at the charging keeper.

84’ Toronto’s Oyvind Alseth picked up the first yellow card for his team of the day after a challenge on Marco Dominguez who was down for a little while holding his ankle.

90+3’ Toronto’s Asleth earned a free kick in a dangerous position just right of the box after a foul by McLaughlin.

Up Next

This Wednesday May 31 Cincinnati hosts rival Louisville City FC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Third Round at 7:00 p.m. Cincinnati reached this round due to their extra time win against AFC Cleveland on May 17. Louisville reached the third round the same night after a 9-0 thumping of Tartan Devils FC.

Djiby Fall is eligible to play against Louisville and it will be his and Cincinnati’s first match since the biting incident. Coach Koch said that Justin Hoyte could be available again after injuring his hamstring.

Both Danni Konig and Tyler Polak said the game feels like a rivalry and that it is a big deal for the players to win.

Next Saturday June 3 Cincinnati travels to New York to play the Rochester Rhinos at 7:00 pm. Rochester currently sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

Final Thoughts

Cincinnati did what they needed to do against a Toronto team that is in last place in the Eastern Conference. But, the defense looked worrying at times and there was a feeling that like last year a goal would be given up late due to a defensive lapse. Cincinnati dropped over 10 points in the final 10 minutes last season.

Louisville will be a huge match for both sides with their Head Coach James O’Connor never having anything nice to say about Cincinnati after Aodhan Quinn and Kadeem Dacres both left Louisville for the short trip up North to Cincinnati. The biting incident with Djiby Fall on April 22 just more fuel on the fire. It will be a hotly contested match this Wednesday and expect both teams to field close to full strength teams.

Premier League Summer

Four potential summer signings that could change the Premier League landscape

As clubs start turning their attention towards next season, the task at hand for managers is to “cut out the fat” of their teams and use the money to sign better replacements. With the latest Premier League TV deal, teams are going to have the money to make a splash in the summer transfer window.

1. Antoine Griezmann to Manchester United

This rumor has gained significant traction in the past few days following the French striker rating his chances of joining United as “a six out of 10.” He also said he was “ready to leave [Atletico Madrid].” Griezmann netted 26 goals in all competitions for Atletico, and his pace, creativity and finishing prowess make him perfect for Jose Mourinho’s side, who struggled to find the net at times this season.

With Wayne Rooney likely leaving the club and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future uncertain, Griezmann could fill a major void. Not since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2009 will Manchester United have had as dangerous a player wearing the No. 7 shirt as Griezmann.

2. Kyle Walker to Manchester City

With one of the highest-regarded managers in Pep Guardiola and a seemingly endless supply of cash, big things will be expected this summer and next season at the Etihad. One of the issues that plagued City in Pep’s first season at the helm was defense. Particularly at full-back, City switched between underwhelming Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov at left back and the aging Bacary Sagna at right back.

With Sagna and Clichy leaving this summer, Walker would be a massive upgrade at right back, and City would deal a major blow to fellow title contenders Tottenham. The England International has improved massively under Mauricio Pochettino. His pace allows him to get forward more than other right backs because he can recover quickly.

3. Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool

Signing Virgil Van Dijk would help cure Liverpool’s defensive woes. (Photo by Sky Sports)

While center backs aren’t usually considered “massive signings,” a player as talented as Van Dijk signing for a club that has struggled at the back like Liverpool could be just that. Van Dijk made WhoScored.com’s Team of the Season for both the Premier League and UEFA Europa League. Before injury in the spring, Van Dijk was playing as well as any defender in England.

If Jurgen Klopp were to acquire the Dutchman’s services, Van Dijk would immediately start alongside Joel Matip at the back for the Reds. A major upgrade over Matip’s old partner Martin Skrtel, Van Dijk is still just 25 and can certainly improve under Klopp. Having conceded 42 times this season, Klopp will certainly take a long look at Van Dijk and how he can sure up the defense.

4. Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton

Just as the Toffees seem to be on the verge of breaking into the top level of the Premier League, their two biggest stars are rumored to be on their way out. Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, who combined for 30 goals and 14 assists this season appear to be headed to greener pastures. However, Ronald Koeman still remains manager and he is excellent at fostering young talent as well as bringing the best out of his players.

Sigurdsson is on the verge of joining from Swansea, where he scored 10 goals and had 13 assists in all competitions. One of the most creative players in England’s top flight, Sigurdsson could possibly be considered a slight upgrade over Barkley by some. The Icelandic international can create goals regardless of the talent around him. If Everton secure Sigurdsson and spend wisely with their Lukaku/Barkley money, they should avoid a decline.

 

Featured Image by 101 Great Goals

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U.S. World Cup

Predicting The United States’ 2018 World Cup Squad

With the deadline to submit the 23-man roster for next summer’s World Cup a year from this week, the picture is getting clearer of who will be representing the red, white and blue in Russia.

Goalkeepers

United States 2018 World Cup

With lack of better options, Bruce Arena could call on Tim Howard to start in Russia. (Photo by Robinson Athletic News)

The unfortunate reality for manager Bruce Arena in 2018 is that long-time goalkeeper Tim Howard will be 39 years old. Howard single-handedly pushed the U.S. into extra time against Belgium in 2014 with a 16-save performance. However, a move back to the MLS and a recent injury may take its toll on Howard.

The even more unfortunate reality for Arena is that he may not have a better option than the aging Howard. Longtime backup Brad Guzan will be 33, but he has looked awful when appearing for relegated Middlesbrough this season.

Bill Hamid of D.C United will be 27 and in his prime, but he lacks the overall ability of Howard. 21-year-old Ethan Horvath could also push himself into consideration with a strong 2017-18 season for Club Brugge in Belgium.

Prediction: 

Despite his age, Howard will likely still be Arena’s best option, and his past experience will be invaluable. Guzan, while uninspiring to say the least, also has major tournament experience. Finally, expect Arena to look towards 2022 a bit by rounding out his selection of goalkeepers with the young Horvath, who looks like the early favorite to be between the sticks in Qatar.

 

Defenders

The likely center back pairing for the Yanks in Russia will be John Brooks of Hertha Berlin and Geoff Cameron of Stoke City. Brooks is arguably America’s best player and has proven himself to be a stalwart at the back for a side that qualified for Europa League this season. Cameron is very experienced and plays in the most competitive league in the world on a weekly basis.

United States 2018 World Cup

John Brooks burst onto the scene in Brazil 2014 with his decisive goal vs Ghana. (GIF/Photo by Complex)

Two established USMNT center halves could be backing them up in Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Both were featured in Brazil 2014. However, the fact that they don’t play in Europe could hurt their chances to start.

A pair of young guns could also make a push for a backup role as Walker Zimmerman of FC Dallas and Cameron Carter-Vickers of Tottenham Hotspur are showing promise.

At the right back position, DeAndre Yedlin’s quaity play at Newcastle Utd has him as a shoo-in for that role barring an injury. At left back, there is quite a large question mark.

DaMarcus Beasley will be 36 and hard pressed to make his fifth World Cup squad. Jorge Villafana of Santos Laguna in Mexico seems to be Arena’s preferred replacement. However, the new manager could bring Fabian Johnson back from midfield to play full back as Jurgen Klinsmann did in 2014.

Prediction 

Brooks, Cameron and Yedlin all appear to be locks to make the squad. Expect Arena to take one experienced center back and one younger one. Gonzalez and Carter-Vickers appear to have the higher upside, so we’ll go with them. Villafana should make the squad barring a drop in form and Timmy Chandler of Eintracht Frankfurt is too good of a player to leave out of the squad at right back.

 

Midfielders

The American midfield is full of both proven and unproven commodities. Among the proven is captain Michael Bradley, who is set to appear in his third World Cup next summer. The Toronto FC man may be the most experienced player on the squad if Howard, Beasley and Clint Dempsey miss out.

United States 2018 World Cup

18-year-old Christian Pulisic is arguably the most talented player the USMNT has ever seen. (Photo by Deadspin)

The aforementioned Fabian Johnson of Borussia Monchengladbach will also be in the squad either as a midfielder or a defender. Alejandro Bedoya played with Johnson in Brazil and has the ability and experience to push for a starting spot in Russia.

On the other end of the spectrum is the unproven, but massively talented 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund phenom Christian Pulisic. Pulisic has already shined for the USMNT, but is yet to appear on the massive stage that is the World Cup.

Other young midfielders who could potentially make the squad are Kellyn Acosta of FC Dallas and Lynden Gooch of Sunderland. Both 21, Acosta has the potential to be one of the best defensive midfielders to ever play for the USMNT. Gooch is a very promising attacking, creative midfielder, who could take a big step next season playing in the Championship with Sunderland.

Prediction 

While there are a few locks (Bradley, Pulisic, Johnson), the midfield is still looking very unclear for next summer. Assuming Acosta and Gooch continue to progress, they should be there. Bedoya provides experience that younger players will look to and that will help his case.

Finally, Arena should look to two wild cards in Darlington Nagbe and Julian Green. Both players have shown flashes of brilliance, but have also struggled with inconsistency. However, in a short one-month tournament, it’s worth the gamble to hope one of them hits top form in Russia.

 

Forwards

United States 2018 World Cup

Clint Dempsey will be hoping to lead the USA at the World Cup for a fourth time in 2018. (Photo by Daily Mail)

Forward is perhaps the easiest position group for Arena to pick out of. The major question will be whether Clint Dempsey will be in fit enough to make his fourth World Cup appearance at age 35. Dempsey, who is one goal away from matching Landon Donovan’s USMNT record 57 career goals, can still be a major contributor if playing well and used right.

Injuries have plagued Jozy Altidore at major tournaments in the past, but the 27-year-old will be in his prime in Russia. Big things will be expected from the Toronto FC striker, who most agree is the American’s best scorer at this point in time.

Two other talented strikers look set to make their World Cup debuts as Jordan Morris of Seattle Sounders and Bobby Wood of Hamburg have enjoyed breakout seasons. Both are potential talismen for the U.S. at future World Cups, and Arena will want to expose them to the big stage.

Prediction 

Dempsey always seems to find a way to defy the odds, especially when he is representing his country. The Sounders striker will make his record-tying fourth World Cup appearance. Altidore, Wood and Morris all seem like pretty sure things.

Each World Cup, one pick always seems to surprise and that pick will be Josh Perez in 2018. The Fiorentina winger made his debut for the Italian club at the age of 18. He will be 20 next season and a strong 2017-18 would certainly put him on Arena’s radar.

 

Full Squad: Howard, Guzan, Horvath, Brooks, Cameron, Gonzalez, Carter-Vickers, Yedlin, Chandler, Villafana, Bradley, Pulisic, Johnson, Bedoya, Gooch, Acosta, Nagbe, Green, Dempsey, Altidore, Wood, Morris, Perez

 

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Konig Leads Cincinnati In Lightening Shortened Win

FC Cincinnati won a lightening shortened match against the Bethlehem Steel 2-1 at Nippert Stadium in front of 18,441. Danni Konig scored both goals for Cincinnati. Bethlehem’s Seku Conneh converted a penalty for their lone goal.

A good match for the front three of Konig, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Kadeem Dacres led Cincinnati to the victory. McLaughlin assisted the first goal with a beautiful cross and Dacres played the final pass to Konig before he scored his second.

“3 points,” Is how Coach Alan Koch started his press conference. He continued, “Finally our players are rewarded for all the hard work they put in”. When asked how he handled the break he commented, “Walked around a lot, sat down had chats with the guys. Made sure they were nice and relaxed, which they were.” Later he commented on the length of the break, “Kind of ridiculous we had to wait that long and obviously it is still lightening outside, I just saw lightening again. But if that’s what we have to do to finish up the job we’ll wait that long.”

The first half was very back and forth in the beginning before Cincinnati gained the upper hand and had five minute stretch with several shots and culminating in Konig’s first goal for Cincinnati. Bethlehem’s first attack off the kickoff led to two back-to-back chances with Mitch Hildebrandt saving the first shot and Harrison Delbridge clearing the second off the line to preserve the lead.

Bethlehem tied it up after Conneh drew and converted a penalty, chipping it the opposite way of Hildebrandt. Conneh looked to be pulled down from the referee’s point of view by Aodhan Quinn just inside the box.

Right before the half Bethlehem’s Chris Nanco gathered a through ball from the midfield and split the defense giving him a one on one with the keeper. But, one errant touch sending the ball too far away allowed Hildebrandt to easily corral the ball.

Konig supplied his second of the night after a great Quinn long pass from his side of the field up to Dacres who slid the ball over to Konig making a run down the center before putting past the keeper on his near post.

As Bethlehem was pressuring late a lightening delay was called for almost two hours before the decision to call off the final four minutes of stoppage time.

News and Notes

Konig commented on his goals saying, “Every goal is amazing. I live on scoring goals and everyone is amazing.” On his goal that was waved off he said, “I was frustrated, I didn’t think I did anything wrong. I jumped higher than the keeper and I scored a good goal.”

Konig became the second Cincinnati player to score more than one goal tonight. Djiby Fall currently leads Cincinnati with six while three others have one.

Mitch Hildebrandt made five saves tonight and punched away a handful of crosses in a superb performance to get the win.

Romario Williams of the Charleston Battery, who scored his seventh goal, eclipsed Djiby Fall as the USL goal leader tonight. It has been four weeks since Djiby has last played due to suspension.

Moment By Moment

14’ Danny Konig heads a ball into the net but is called for a foul negating the goal. Corben Bone’s cross from the endline was deflected into the air where Konig and the Bethlehem keeper Jake Mcguire

18’ Danny Konig scores the first goal for FC Cincinnati. A beautiful header off a cross from Jimmy McLaughlin to give Cincinnati the lead.

19’ Mitch Hildebrandt makes an initial save but the rebound falls to a Bethlehem striker whose shot if cleared off the line by Harrison Delbridge to stifle the attack directly after the goal. Hildebrandt got a piece of the ball on the second shot deflecting it right to Delbridge.

33’ Seku Conneh converts a penalty to bring the match level. Aodhan Quinn clumsily pulled down Conneh on the edge of the box.

43’ Daryl Fordyce of Cincinnati is given a yellow card for running into James Chambers after he kicked the ball away.

45+1’ Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt stops a one on one breakaway from Chris Nanco. After a through pass splitting the Cincinnati center defenders he made let the final touch get too far away from him allowing Hildebrandt to corral the ball right before halftime.

47’ Seku Conneh earns a yellow card for pushing Delbridge in the back off a Bethlehem goal kick.

53’ Quinn put a long ball up to Kadeem Dacres who coolly collected the ball and passed to a streaking Konig who slid it past the keeper to regain the lead.

64’ Ken Tribbet picks up a yellow for bringing down Dacres on the counter.

67’ Counter attack for Cincinnati is stopped by a great save from Bethlehem keeper McGuire. A long ball from the midfield up to Konig who collected and passed to a streaking McLaughlin whose shot was blocked by a diving McGuire.

86’ Quinn earned a yellow card after a hard challenge in the midfield.

90’ Andy Brown was given a yellow after stepping on the back Konig’s leg after he won the ball and was going to attempt to run into open space to wind down the clock. As Konig was down receiving treatment the match was stopped for an hour and 50 minutes due to lightening in the area until it was finally called. Four minutes of stoppage time was canceled.

Up Next

Cincinnati hosts Toronto FC II next Saturday May 27 at 5:00p.m. Toronto is currently in last place in the Eastern Conference. This will be the first meeting of the season between these teams. Last season Cincinnati won both matches 2-1.

The week after Cincinnati travels to play the Rochester Rhinos on June 3 at 6:05p.m. Rochester currently sits in 11 place in the East.

Final Thoughts

Cincinnati looked very good tonight in attack with the top three of Konig, McLaughlin, and Dacres. It will be a tough decision on who to drop when Djiby comes back from his suspension. All four look like possible starters.

Aodhan Quinn gave up the penalty tonight but also played the ball that resulted in the second goal. This is the second time he has had a bad defensive play and then followed up with a great offensive play. The first being against Louisville City when was beaten by Brian Ownby for a goal only to later score the equalizer late.

The rain and thunder was apparent tonight. We waited until 10:45 to decide to call off the final four minutes of stoppage time. Below is a picture of the rain from the press box during the hardest of the rain.

Rain during the delay of the match tonight.

Djiby Saves FC Cincinnati Late

FC Cincinnati beat AFC Cleveland 1-0 in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Djiby Fall scored the long goal in the 116 minute of extra time in front of 12,790 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

In a game heavily dominated by Cincinnati where they fired an incredible 44 shots putting 16 on target forcing the Cleveland keeper Alex Ivanov to make 15 saves in an outstanding performance. 16 of those shots were taken by Djiby, who put nine on target.

Cincinnati dominated the early part of the first half getting shots off and pressuring Cleveland. The Cleveland defense blocked a handful of shots early and won the headers in the box. But the longer the half went on the more comfortable Cleveland became creating a few chances but nothing to get a lead.

Early in the second half Cleveland created an early chance putting a shot off the crossbar and then minutes later a header off the corner had to be cleared off the line by keeper Dallas Jaye. Cincinnati regained control around the 70 minute barely letting the ball come back into their half of the field for the remainder of the 90 minutes. A few free kicks outside the box in dangerous positions all went harmlessly wide. Also a few shots late all went way wide from Corben Bone and Jimmy McLaughlin.

In extra time Cincinnati continued where they left off by possessing the ball and keeping in their attacking end. Djiby went down in the box but all appeals for a penalty were waved off by the referee much to the fans displeasure. Djiby was able to finally break the deadlock with a header in the 116 minute to send Cincinnati into the next round.

Head Coach Alan Koch commented on the game. “For 120 minutes we really took it to them. We should have finished the game earlier than we did. I’m going to give our players a lot of credit tonight. Other teams may go thought games like that and not win it.”

The win tonight moves Cincinnati into the third round of the U.S. Open Cup and will play Louisville City FC on May 31 home at Nippert. Louisville and Cincinnati last played on April 22 in feisty 1-1 draw. Djiby was given a red card that match for a flying challenge that took out a Louisville player and in a scuffle after receiving his red he bit one of the Louisville players in the face prompting a six game suspension (one for the red card and five for biting).

Djiby was allowed to play tonight, missing the last three, due to the suspension only being in USL matches. He will be eligible for the third round game but is still be out for the next three USL matches and will be eligible to return on June 10 against the Charlotte Independence.

Tonight Jaye, Derek Luke, Marco Dominguez, and Garrett Halfhill all made their first appearances of the season. Halfhill also made his team debut after being officially signed earlier in the day. Commenting on his performance coach Koch said, “That was brilliant, kid that played at Xavier, came in his first game and played like that.” His defensive partner Harrison Delbridge added, “Garrett played out of his skin.”

Playing 120 minutes was the last thing Cincinnati needed due to being on a short week playing the Bethlehem Steel this Saturday in what is as close to a must win game for Cincinnati due to being in 9 place today, one out of the playoffs, and having the expectations of being in the top four and getting a home playoff game coming into the season. The only starter to go the full 120 was Delbridge but other players who will most likely start Saturday are Kadeem Dacres, Bone, and Jimmy McLaughlin who all played over 50 minutes. Coach Koch joked, “For the guys who played a lot we are going to be working to develop the next Michael Phelps,” in response to how training will be for the next two days.

Moment by Moment

Cincinnati had a goal disallowed due to a foul on Victor Mansaray. The cross from Andrew Wiedeman was too close to the keeper who was able to get his hands on it and Mansaray collided with the keeper for a foul in the seventh minute.

Cleveland’s Ryan Ware gets a pass off a quick free kick and runs down the left side of the field getting into the six-yard box and puts the shot into the side netting for a goal kick in the 24 minute.

Harrison Delbridge chased down a Cleveland attacker and puts in a last second challenge at the top of the box to stop any chance of a shot in the 32 minute. A good play by Delbridge that would have resulted in a chance.

Eric Stevenson shot just wide from the top of the box after a great back pass from Fall in the 35 minute. One of the few shots that was not blocked.

A shot from Derek Luke is tipped by the keeper into the path of Fall who has his shot blocked by a desperate sliding challenge from a Cleveland defender. Fall was called for a foul due to kicking the Cleveland defender in the 37 minute. Fall was given a yellow card either for dissent or for the foul.

Cincinnati drew a foul about 23 yards out dead center from the goal. The shot from Wiedeman curled just wide in the 52 minute.

Dallas Jaye came up big in the 59 minute after a corner for Cleveland was headed on target and saved off the line. The ball was luckily cleared by Cincinnati to keep the game scoreless.

Delbridge made a fantastic run into the midfield splitting two Cleveland defenders and drawing a foul from a third defender after a hard collision about 20 yards out and left of goal in the 72 minute. The free kick from Wiedeman went harmlessly wide of goal.

Kadeem Dacres picked up a yellow card in the 90 minute after pulling back a Cleveland player on a counter.

In the four minutes of first half stoppage time Cincinnati kept up the pressure but a poor corner which failed to beat the first man and shots from Bone and McLaughlin go way wide.

Dacres has the first real chance of extra time for Cincinnati after cutting in from the right and unleashing a low shot that is just tipped wide by the keeper in the 95 minute.

Djiby Fall goes down in the box and the referee waves off penalty appeals in the 97 minute. He looked to be fouled and the crowd voiced their displeasure.

Djiby heads one home to break the stalemate in the 116 minute to give Cincinnati the lead. Assisted by Wiedeman who crossed in a perfect ball from the left as Djiby nods the ball into the lower corner.

After the goal Djiby had a pair of chances to double the lead, first he put a shot inside the six-yard box directly at the keeper and a few minutes later he fired a shot off the bottom of the crossbar.

Up Next

This Saturday May 20 Cincinnati hosts the Bethlehem Steel at 7:00 p.m. Their last match was a 1-0 defeat on a late goal off a corner in a match Cincinnati dominated but couldn’t get the goal after all of their chances. Bethlehem is currently in 8 in the Eastern Conference, one spot ahead of Cincinnati.

The following Saturday, May 27, Cincinnati hosts Toronto FC II at 5:00 p.m. and the following Wednesday, May 31, will be the Third round of the U.S. Open Cup against Louisville City FC at 7:00 p.m.

Final Thoughts

Even though tonight was a tough match you have to give credit to Cleveland for sitting back and not letting Cincinnati have anything easy. Ivanov played an incredible game with the saves becoming more acrobatic as the game went on. Fans will be concerned that it was a team from the fourth tier NPSL but Cleveland played extremely well and cut out chances and blocked shots all night. When the vast majority of shots are being taken outside the box with players closing the shooter down it will always be a tough night.

Louisville won 9-0 against their NPSL opponent but two USL teams and two NASL team lost tonight against NPSL opponents showing it is not easy to win a game you should win. Those teams are the Pittsburgh River hounds, Richmond Kickers, New York Cosmos, and Indy Eleven.

On a more humorous side note we found out tonight that the game clock at Nippert can’t go above 100 minutes.

Clock at Nippert in the 115 minute of extra time only showing 14:15

Alec’s Premier League XI of the 2016-17 Season

With Chelsea clinching the title and Hull claiming the final relegation spot, the dust has mostly settled in the Premier League this season. The time has come to reflect on the most outstanding performances of the season and determine who were the eleven best. In honor of Antonio Conte’s successful three back formation, the team of the season will be the 3-5-2 with which the Blues won thirteen straight matches during the season.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea, Manchester United

In a mostly underwhelming season for the Red Devils, De Gea has been a bright spot. He has made crucial plays to save United several points throughout the season. Most recently, De Gea guided an undermanned and outmatched United to a draw at rivals Man City by keeping a clean sheet despite an assault on his goal throughout the match.

Consistently rated among the top three keepers in the world, the Spaniard is said to have an eye for Real Madrid and his potential departure would leave a massive hole to fill in goal for Jose Mourinho.

 

Centre Back: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

Before this season, the Spaniard typically played left back for the Blues. But under new boss Conte, he has thrived as a central defender in the Italian’s three back system. Azpilicueta has earned an excellent 7.29 match rating on WhoScored.com in the 28 matches he has played centrally.

The Spaniard’s rise was a major reason why Conte’s formation was able to be a success and why Chelsea are champions of England. Azpilicueta figures to continue to be a major part of the club’s plans next season.

Cesar Azpilicueta thrived in Antonio Conte’s three back formation at Chelsea this season.

 

Centre Back: Eric Bailly, Manchester United

Moving to Old Trafford last summer from Valencia, Bailly was a bit of an underrated signing as the media focused on the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, the Ivorian has arguably been the Red Devils’ most productive signing this season. With the United back line being plagued by injury and inconsistency, Bailly has been a constant and has shown his quality, as well as his potential, as he is only 23 years old.

Bailly certainly looks to be following in the footsteps of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and other legendary United defenders as his future looks bright and United plan on him being a defensive cornerstone for years to come.

 

Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

The best defender on the best defensive team this season, Alderweireld has been everything Spurs could have hoped for and more since moving to the club from Southampton his summer. Alderweireld was at the center of a back four that conceded just 24 times in the league this season, eight less than anyone else. Alderweireld is a very smart player who doesn’t make mistakes at the back and can provide an occasional goal from a set piece header.

Although there are a few reports suggesting the Belgian international is hesitant to sign a new contract at Tottenham, there is no concrete evidence to believe he won’t be spearheading Spurs’ back line at the start of next season as well.

 

Centre Midfielder: N’Golo Kante, Chelsea

Voted PFA player of the year, no player has had a greater impact on the Premier League in the past two seasons than Kante. A central piece of Leicester’s title winning side a year ago, Kante’s high energy has put less pressure on his Chelsea teammates this season. As of May 8th, Kante had covered the fifth most distance in the Premier League this season. Kante became the first outfield player to win back to back league titles with two different squads since Eric Cantona with Manchester United in 1993.

Kante figures to be a key player in Antonio Conte’s midfield next season. The Frenchman will seek to follow in his countryman Cantona’s footsteps with a third consecutive triumph.

 

Centre Midfielder: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

In his second season at White Hart Lane, the young England international has continued his ascent towards stardom with 17 league goals, which leads all midfielders. The 21 year old came up big during important games. Including scoring both goals in a must-win 2-0 victory over Chelsea. Dele provides an extra dimension to his arsenal with his ability to be a threat in the air.

While he has been linked with Real Madrid. It is hard to envision Spurs letting their budding superstar leave at the tender age of 21. Expect Alli to continue to flourish next season as he looks to lead Tottenham to their first Premier League title.

 

Right Midfielder: Sadio Mane, Liverpool

Looking back on last summer, Mane was arguably the best signing made by any Prem side in 2016. The former Southampton standout scored 13 goals for the Reds in 26 matches before going down injured in April. When he was in the side, Mane’s pace was electric and freed up space for fellow attackers Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. Mane’s impact on Liverpool has shown when he is not on the pitch. Liverpool earned 59 points in the 26 matches Mane featured (2.3 ppg). In the 11 that he missed, the Reds managed only 14 (1.3 ppg).

Just 25 years old, the Senegalese international is only just hitting his prime. With Jurgen Klopp set to spend in the summer, Mane will enjoy plenty of help in the attack if he manages to stay healthy.

Liverpool has struggled mightily without the presence of Sadio Mane on the wing.

Left Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Although his teammate N’Golo Kante claimed the honor of PFA player of the year, Hazard made a strong case for the award as well. Following a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, the Belgian has bounced back to the tune of 15 goals and five assists in the league. The threat he provides when he is on the ball forces extra attention from opposing defenses. Hazard made a habit of scoring in key matches throughout the season and none was more spectacular than his solo goal to clinch a vital three points against Arsenal in April.

Antonio Conte will surely fight hard to keep his playmaker, but Real Madrid lurks. If Hazard stays, it will be interesting to see if he can stay motivated or if he will drop off as he did last season.

 

Attacking Midfielder: Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City

Despite an overall disappointing season for Man City, de Bruyne’s second season in Manchester has been anything but. The Belgian has been among the Premier League’s most unlucky players when it comes to finishing, but has still managed six goals. Where he has really contributed is with his 16 assists, tops in the league.

Next season, the pressure will be building for Pep Guardiola at the Etihad and he will look to de Bruyne to be one of the key contributors.

 

Right Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Despite having less talent around him than his peers on this list, Lukaku has still amassed 24 goals in the league. With one game to go, he is in the driver’s seat to win the Golden Boot for most goals. Perhaps the most physical player in England, Lukaku’s blend of size, strength and speed make it nearly impossible for opposing defenders to stop him when he gets moving with the ball.

While he is clearly a level above Everton, questions remain regarding whether Ronald Koeman and the Toffees will let the 24 year old Belgian leave in the summer. Lukaku played at Chelsea in the past and could potentially replace Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge if the former decides to leave.

Romelu Lukaku’s physicality makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders.

Left Striker: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

In the past, Sanchez has featured at wing for the Gunners. However, Arsene Wenger utilized the Chilean this season at striker and Sanchez responded. He is the only player to have double digit goals (23) and assists (10) this season. His brace in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland kept Arsenal’s top four aspirations alive and showed how important he is to the side. Sanchez will have a shot at the Golden Boot on Sunday when he faces off with Lukaku’s Everton.

Sanchez is said to be quite unhappy at Arsenal and a summer exit looks imminent. Chelsea, Juventus and Paris-St. Germain are said to be monitoring the situation. Wherever he ends up next season, Alexis will make a major impact.

 

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MLS logo

MLS TV Ratings: Why are viewers missing the net?

Last week Major League Soccer revealed a new plan to Sports Business Daily that involved boosting TV ratings. As we all know, soccer is a sport that is still growing in popularity year by year here in the United States. Hopes are that one day soccer will be just as popular in the U.S. as it is in other regions of the world.

Game attendance has been at record highs this year, with new expansion team Atlanta United having amazing turnouts for their first few home games. However, the TV ratings just do not seem to match.

Parts of this new plan is to replicate the television production values of other major sports in the country. Some of the things listed in this new plan include:

  • microphones on coaches for listen ins
  • cameras in locker rooms pregame
  • allowing access to team huddles

These things all sound interesting and will give viewers a lot more to look forward to when watching their favorite clubs go head to head each weekend, but will they be enough?

Take a look at some of the broadcasts of games from other leagues around the world. Let’s use the English Premier League as an example. None of these things are necessary, yet the viewers and ratings are always high on gameday. Fans know the competition is fierce and the league is challenging the players. Could there be underlying factors that may stop people from showing too much interest to the games on television as compared to just going to support your club on the pitch on gameday?

 

MLS

Photo by Deadspin

 

Let’s take a look at the general format of the MLS and think about the excitement factor for a second compared to other leagues. The MLS season lasts about 8 months, and just over half of the teams qualify for the playoffs. This does not make the competition as fierce as compared to other leagues.

I will use the example of the English Premier League again to compare. The EPL season is the same length, but there is way more at stake based on where you place in the league once it is all said and done. There is also no playoff tournament to figure out who the winner of the league is. First place in the standings is the winner of the league.

This does not stop the other teams from working towards placing well though. The top four teams qualify for the Champions League while the fifth through seventh place teams can battle for Europa League contention.

All of these are still very sought after and commendable titles to go after. Knowing where your team places and what is at stake is definitely something that will make fans want to sit down every week and catch these matches. The fans now feel as if every game counts towards an end goal of trying to either win the league or at least qualify for one of these tournaments.

 

Premier League Tables

Image by www.premierleague.com

 

The MLS should also look into partnering up with some of the lower-tier leagues to enforce a promotion or relegation type of system. In the EPL, the bottom three teams in the league face relegation down to a lower league. They then get replaced by the top three teams from the league below it. This brings the pressure to perform.

People will support their clubs in any way possible to ensure the players are performing well enough to avoid relegation. This also gives teams with great potential in areas where there may not be an MLS team the opportunity to grow in to a top contender at some point.

All of these factors will raise the amount of support and viewership. You will have new people in new areas watching. People who are already watching will be more inclined to watch due to the extra entertainment value of the added pressures of these new systems put in to place.

The MLS has done a lot for American soccer and will continue to do so. These are the changes that I feel are necessary to further the growth of American soccer and gain more support.

What are some things you would like to see added or changed by the MLS to promote ratings and growth? Feel free to comment below and let’s talk about it.

 

Featured Image by World Soccer Talk

If you want to contact Maurice directly feel free to send him an email at: maurice.barton.tgh@gmail.com

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FC Cincinnati Loses Physical Match Amid Inconsistent Refereeing Decisions

FC Cincinnati lost 2-0 in an extremely physical match against Orlando City B. Orlando’s Pierre Da Silva converted a penalty he earned for the winning goal in the 75 minute. The attendance at Nippert Stadium was 19,310 on a warm evening in Cincinnati.

Kadeem Dacres conceded the penalty unfortunately due to him having a solid match on the right flank for Cincinnati. The second goal at the start of stoppage time from Richie Laryea sealed the three points for Orlando. He was able to cut down the right side of the field with the ball banking it off Mitch Hildebrandt’s inside post and in.

A very physical match that had nine bookings and 36 fouls meant the referee was a huge presence in match and the way it was played. Both benches were warned inside the first 30 minutes and from then on cards seemed to come flying with both teams trading fouls. When the referees left the field at the half and end of the game, it was to a chorus of boos from the home crowd.

Cincinnati’s Head Coach Alan Koch said after the match, “We have a group of players who are very frustrated with how the game went.” Then immediately talked about the referee saying, “I guess I’m not allowed to speak about the referee so I won’t speak about the ref.” But later elaborated when pressed, “Yellows that are handed out inconsistently… Sometimes it was a foul, sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes it was just play on.” Adding, “We preach to our players consistently to take care of the details, I as a coach has to take care of the details. I think we expect the same from officials.”

Cincinnati captain commented on the officiating, “Continuous disrespect to me as a captain, of not speaking to me and them yelling at my players before coming to me,” adding, “If you blow up on my player before talking to me that is kind of disrespectful.”

There were only 14 shots in the game from both teams with most of them being easy to handle for the respective keepers. Cincinnati’s best chances came from Aodhan Quinn whose shot just rolled wide of the post in the 57 minute and then forced a pretty acrobatic save late in stoppage time.

The unsung hero of today’s match for Cincinnati is Jimmy McLaughlin who was all over the field and was able to carry the ball into dangerous positions as well as getting back and defending. He had a chance to put Cincinnati up early in the match after he fired in a shot from the top of the box after a pass from Danni Konig.

Konig made his debut after being acquired on Thursday this week in a trade for Andy Craven from the OKC Energy. He is a forward very similar to suspended Djiby Fall who holds play up and can change a match in an instant. Look for him to be the starter until Djiby gets back in June. Coach Koch commented on his match today saying, “Training for two days and being asked to lead a line is very difficult. He is a quality player and a professional.”

Cincinnati dropped to eighth place in the Eastern Conference with the loss today getting nine points in nine matches. For comparison Cincinnati had nine points in five matches last year.

Harrison Delbridge commented on the recent results, “It’s time for this group to start getting results, we have to many good players not to be.” Cincinnati has not won since Fall’s four goal performance against St. Louis FC on April 15.

Moments of the Match

Jimmy McLaughlin puts a rifle in the top corner, but Danni Konig passed back to him from an offside position in the third minute. It was Konig’s second touch as a Cincinnati player.

Cincinnati’s Matt Bahner picked up the first yellow card of the match after pulling back Pierre Da Silva on a counter in the 15 minute. It was the end of a handful of fouls from Cincinnati, which is probably why the yellow was given.

Seb Hines had a very hard challenge on Kadeem Dacres in the center of the field. Play was allowed to go on and a ball was played to McLaughlin who couldn’t get on the end of it in the 33 minute. A yellow was given to Hines for the challenge.

Aodhan Quinn picked up a yellow for a hard foul in his defending third in the 35 minute.

Danni Konig picked up a yellow as well after mimicking the referee, or better known as talking back but a booking nonetheless in the 39 minute.

Quinn puts a shot just wide of the post after a good back header from Konig and a cross from Baher in the 58 minute. The first real chance on the first half.

McLaughlin got a questionable yellow what may have not been a foul in the middle of the field in the 59 minute.

Cincinnati’s Corben Bone received a yellow card for dissent after walking by the referee with his head in the 67 minute.

Pierre Da Silva was brought down on the in the box by Dacres for a penalty. Da Silva steps up and buries it from the spot to give Orlando the lead in the 75 minute.

Another yellow for Orlando’s Richie Laryea after a sliding challenge on Berry in the center of the field in the 80 minute.

Harrison Delbridge went in for a rough challenge on Laryea . Play was allowed to continue and a great double save from Mitch Hildebrandt kept Cincinnati from going down by two goals in the 85 minute.

Orlando’s lead was doubled after Laryea puts one off the near post at the start of stoppage time to ice the match.

Cincinnati tried to get a consolation goal late but two shots were blocked and a very good shot from Quinn was saved by the Orlando keeper.

Up Next

Cincinnati hosts AFC Cleveland this Wed May 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup at Nippert Stadium. Cleveland is in the National Premier Soccer League in the fourth tier. A win could see Cincinnati face off again with rivals Louisville City FC. This is a match that is not going to be televised or streamed so the only way to watch is in the stadium.

This Saturday May 20 at 7:00 p.m. Bethlehem Steel FC comes to town. Bethlehem beat Cincinnati on a late header the last time they met on April 29 in Bethlehem. Currently in ninth place Cincinnati needs a win to get back on track.

Final Thoughts

Cincinnati did not play very well tonight regardless of the refereeing. They did not deserve to win but should have had a draw. The need to get some results is key because five matches without a win is not a good look for a team that came into the season looking to hoist the USL Cup at the end of the year.

But today the refereeing was horrendous and some of the bookings were questionable. For Jimmy McLaughlin’s card for dissent, he only put his hands on his head walked past the official after a foul was called he didn’t agree with.

In the press conference after the game Coach Koch, Austin Berry and Harrison Delbridge all commented on how frustrated and disappointed they were after today’s match. Cincinnati needs to get back to scoring goals and winning. Look for some fire on Wednesday but, June 3 when Djiby Fall comes back cannot come soon enough.

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What Next Season’s Contenders Need to do to Improve in the Summer (Part 2)

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s second season in Manchester will be highly anticipated and expectations will be massive. With a year of experience in England under his belt, a title and run in the Champions League (assuming City make top four) will be expected.

City have perhaps the least amount of work to do as far as improving personnel. One storyline will be whether Sergio Aguero departs the club following the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. In Jesus and Kelechi Iheanacho, Guardiola has two young strikers with massive potential to develop. Aguero is nearing the end of his prime and may fancy a move back to Spain or Argentina in order to get more play time.

When City do go shopping in the summer, it will be mostly geared towards their defense. City’s deficiency at full back could be solved by signing Tottenham right back Kyle Walker. At left back, Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia would be a massive improvement over the departing Gael Clichy. Finally at goalkeeper, Guardiola needs to find an alternative to the horror show that has been Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero this season.

 

Arsenal

The most uncertain future among England’s top clubs is that of Arsenal. The Gunners could very well lose their manager and two best players at the end of the season.

The club has been pretty mum on whether Arsene Wenger will still be at the Emirates next season. A split fanbase has made this story one of the most talked about in recent months. If Wenger ends his 21 year run at the club, two rumored candidates are Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.

Alexis Sanchez looks to be on his way out of the Emirates this summer. The Chilean leads the club with 25 goals in all competitions this season.

On the field, the team’s leading scorer this season, Alexis Sanchez, is all but guaranteed to be leaving in the summer. His list of possible suitors contain Chelsea, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Midfielder Mesut Ozil also faces an uncertain future.

If either Sanchez or Ozil leave the club, it will leave a massive gap. However, the massive transfer fee Arsenal will collect will give them options in the replacement process. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Everton’s Ross Barkley are the latest rumored targets to replace Sanchez and Ozil respectively.

 

Manchester United

Much of what United is able to accomplish in the summer will be dependent on their result in the Europa League final May 24 vs Ajax. A victory would boost the Red Devils into next season’s Champions League, and equally importantly, it would make Old Trafford a very attractive destination in the summer.

Uncertainty over the striker position is first and foremost on Jose Mourinho’s mind. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 and just sustained a serious knee injury. Marcus Rashford, while equipped with serious talent and potential, is still raw. Mourinho could look to the transfer market at that position. Antoine Griezmann has long been linked with a move to Man U and his addition would certainly make United quicker and more creative in the final third, an area they lacked in Mourinho’s first year with the club.

Two familiar faces could potentially depart the club this summer. Wayne Rooney has struggled to break into the first team under Mourinho and has been linked with a move back to his boyhood club Everton after an illustrious 13 year career for United. Goalkeeper David de Gea was close to moving to Real Madrid two summers ago and Los Blancos could come knocking again this season.

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EPL: What Next Season’s Contenders Need to Do to Improve in the Summer (Part 1)

With Chelsea having one hand on the Premier League trophy, those who fell short are already looking to new hope next season. A highly anticipated transfer window awaits in the summer, and there are improvements to be made for all the top clubs.

Chelsea

Romelu Lukaku is seen as a potential replacement for Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge. (Photo by Goal.com)

For presumed champions, Chelsea faces quite a bit of uncertainty heading into next season. Rifts between manager Antonio Conte and striker Diego Costa have caused the latter to be linked with a move to China. Real Madrid is also reportedly interested in superstar Eden Hazard.

 

It is paramount that the Blues hang on to Hazard and find an adequate replacement for Costa if he leaves. Two options are Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. Both are quick, strong and left-footed handfuls for defenders. Lukaku once played with Chelsea and a deal featuring Hazard for Morata and money has been rumored as a possibility.

Chelsea will also want to make sure they hang onto goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is seemingly always linked to leaving Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino will be searching for the final piece to his Spurs title puzzle. After likely coming up short back to back seasons, the Spurs need to sign players to upgrade the wing and midfield positions.

Despite a great second half to the season, Son Heung-Min is not a true winger, and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who has been linked to Tottenham, would be a great fit. He would add a pacy threat and could cross the ball into Harry Kane.

In the midfield, Moussa Dembele will turn 30 this summer. A young, dominant midfield presence alongside Dele Alli would boost the Spurs. The Monaco duo of Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko are options, as well as Nice’s Wylan Cyprien.

As far as departures, Kyle Walker has been linked to a move to Man City. While his departure would be a blow, the Spurs should be fine as long as they retain Kane, Alli, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has continued to deliver results despite what many consider to be an underwhelming squad. Liverpool can perhaps improve more than any of their competitors with a good transfer window this summer.

Signing Virgil Van Dijk would sure up Liverpool’s woes at the back. (Photo by Sports Mole)

Klopp’s most glaring issue is at the back where Liverpool was repeatedly vulnerable. Alberto Moreno is not a true left back, and the Reds could use a solid center-back to pair with Joel Matip. Klopp is looking at Southampton duo Ryan Bertrand and Virgil van Dijk to fill the void. He also has his eyes on Burnley center-back Michael Keane.

Liverpool could also target a true striker this summer. While Roberto Firmino is great, he is not a true striker. Daniel Sturridge can’t stay healthy, and Divock Origi has been inconsistent. Romelu Lukaku or Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette could work in Klopp’s system.

The good news for Liverpool is that they aren’t expected to lose anyone major in the summer. If Klopp can be smart with his buying, the Reds could be really improved ahead of a likely Champions League campaign.

 

(Featured Image by Sportskeeda.com)

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