New York Red Bulls Eye Elusive Trophy

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Then again, if coaches (i.e. George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Vinny Del Negro) can get the ax after leading their respective franchises to historic seasons, why shouldn’t GMs “enjoy” that same “privilege?” Remember, Grunwald’s the guy who brought Tyson Chandler to New York. He’s been responsible for digging up bargain-bin gems left and right, from Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak to Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni. He may not have been the chief architect behind the Carmelo Anthony tradethe credit for that belongs to Donnie Walshbut he certainly had a hand in the matter. This isn’t to suggest that Grunwald was in any way the perfect GM. To bring Chandler on, he had to use the team’s one-time amnesty provision on Chauncey Billups. That left then-coach Mike D’Antoni without an experienced floor general to run his point-guard-heavy system and the Knicks without an easy means of clearing Stoudemire’s onerous contract from their cap sheet. And if we’re going to give Grunwald credit for greasing the wheels on the ‘Melo deal, we’d also have to apportion some blame to him for New York’s decision to give $100 million to a player, in Amar’e, whose knees were uninsurable. Last year, Grunwald neglected to make an actual contract offer to Jeremy Lin before the MSG fan favorite signed off on a “poison pill” pact to take his “Linsanity” act to the Houston Rockets . This summer wasn’t exactly Glen’s finest hour on the job, either. On July 10th, Grunwald traded three players (Marcus Camby, Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson), a first-round pick and two second-round picks to the Toronto Raptors (i.e. his former employer) in exchange for Andrea Bargnani. That’s the same Andrea Bargnani who’s missed a whopping 98 games over the past three seasons while shooting a subpar 32.3 percent from three. The same guy who, at seven feet tall, has pulled down just 4.8 rebounds per game and has never averaged more than 6.2 boards over the course of a given season.

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(Photo: Jim O’Connor USA TODAY Sports) Story Highlights Red Bulls have best record in MLS with 51 points They’ll play without Henry on Sunday because of injury Sounders will draw more than 50,000 fans SHARECONNECT TWEET COMMENTEMAILMORE The New York Red Bulls opened the season under a shroud of uncertainty, with rookie coach Mike Petke and a new front office at the helm. But with one month remaining in Major League Soccer’s regular season, the Red Bulls have shown change can be a good thing. The team sits atop the MLS regular-season standings with 51 points (15-9-6). And Sunday, New York faces the league’s second-place team, the Seattle Sounders (15-8-5, 50 points), in a match that could decide who claims the Supporters Shield, given to the team with the best regular-season record. But the Red Bulls enter the match at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) nursing wounds. Team captain Thierry Henry is out with a chronic Achilles injury, and key defender Jamison Olave, who has a nagging knee injury, is questionable because of the field’s artificial turf. Petke said the team was siding with caution, even with the Supporters Shield on the line. “If the doctors weren’t telling me certain things, of course I would step in and have serious conversations with these players, saying, ‘Listen, we need you this weekend,'” Petke said. “But that’s not the reality. The reality is that it really is a health risk.” A victory Sunday matched with a loss or tie by the Philadelphia Union or a loss or tie by the Chicago Fire would put the Red Bulls in the playoffs. An early postseason berth would help validate Petke’s rookie season, which started with the team winning five of its first 15 games before going on a tear in July and August. The success has not brought smooth sailing for Petke or the team, however. On Aug.

New York City native buys Panthers

— Vincent Viola grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from West Point, is a former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and after the Sept. 11 attacks founded a center devoted to combating terrorism. He’s now the new owner of the Florida Panthers , a source confirmed to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. Viola will be introduced in that role Friday after paying $250 million to buy the NHL franchise, said a person familiar with the situation, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms have not been made public. “I know the parties are working very hard on a transaction and they’re going to try to consummate it as quickly as possible,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this week. Viola will replace Cliff Viner, a longtime Panthers fan who became a co-general partner of the team in 2009 and took over as general partner, chairman and CEO the following year. Viola is the chairman and CEO of Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm with offices in the U.S., Singapore and Ireland. He’s buying a team that has been to the playoffs only once since 2000 and finished with the fewest points in the league last season. Viola graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1977, was a major in the U.S. Army Reserves and is a graduate of New York Law School. He’s also long been involved with philanthropic projects and is a past winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2003, he founded and helped fund the creation of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Completing the sale has had an immediate effect on the on-ice product, at least in one respect. The move cleared the way for the team to complete the signing of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas , a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender who took last season off before deciding that he wanted to return.

2013-14 New York Rangers Preview

In the playoffs, however, he had only goal over 10 games and was demoted to the fourth line by Tortorella before being scratched for the club’s final two games against the Bruins. While many people thought the Rangers would use a compliance buyout to rid themselves of Richards’ annual cap hit of $6.7 million this summer, they obviously believe he can rebound under Vigneault. Richards’ production is a topic of conversation heading into this season, but Derek Stepan’s contract dispute could loom even larger. Stepan, who led the Rangers with 44 points (18G, 26A) in 48 regular-season games and also paced the club with four playoff goals, cost New York just $875,000 against the cap hit in 2013, but the 23-year-old restricted free agent is holding out for a much bigger number this time around. Like last season’s holdouts from Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Dallas’ Jamie Benn, it seems unlikely Stepan’s dispute will linger too deep into the season, but there is a strong chance he could miss the start of the 2013-14 campaign. Stepan, who could battle Richards for the right to center Nash’s top line, isn’t the only Ranger forward who could be missing come opening night, as captain Ryan Callahan and speedster Carl Hagelin are expected to miss the first 1-to-2 months of the season after both underwent offseason shoulder surgery. Hagelin could be an option to play the left wing on the top line and is coming off a 10-goal, 24-point season in 2013. He was one of New York’s better offensive players in the postseason, recording three goals and three assists in 12 games. Callahan, meanwhile, is the heart and soul of the Rangers and a solid two-way winger. He had 16 goals and 31 points in 45 games with New York last year, finishing fourth on the team in scoring. Callahan also led all Rangers forwards in average ice time during the regular season and playoffs. With New York’s offense expected to be short-handed at the start of the season, the club hope guys like Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider can help pick up the slack.