Manning the MLS preview and prediction watchtower

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Secret to life: You should take what you do in this world seriously … but never take yourself too seriously.

I’d say the talented pranksters over at The Shinguardian get it about right.

Great site. Some good laughs. Glorious pop culture references. All built on a sturdy and bountiful foundation of thoughtful analysis when it comes to the beautiful game.

I won’t go so far as to say that “If you only read one MLS preview, make it this one.”  Then again, if I had said that, it would hardly qualify as my worst moment in life.

Oh, if you like a little more meat in your stew, there’s plenty of “the serious” out there. You can find solid sentence structure and ample info (facts, figures, predictions, the whole nine analytical yards) at all the usual soccer stops along the Cyber Express.  You know where they are.  If you don’t have time to digest a Hungry Man’s portion of online material before tomorrow’s MLS first kick (#CantWait!) may I suggest you have a listen to MLS Extra Time (click the March 5 edition).

But for a perfectly balanced cocktail of entertaining enlightenment, you could do a lot worse than the gentlemen of Shinguardian and what they have cooked up. It’s clever stuff – but, again, not merely comic relief. For instance:

The “I should’ve been a DP” award

Jay Bell: Joel Lindpere. New York’s talisman will vastly outshine Marquez yet again, proving that $6 million more per year does not make someone a better player.

Biggerstaff: Javi Morales, who I am least 51% convinced is not a DP and am at least 51% convinced should be a DP. RSL will do some work this year in all competitions.

JRodius: Edson Buddle – by the end of the season he will look a steal at $200k.

Price: This is the Joel Lindpere story.

TSG: Taylor Twellman? So last decade. Andrew Wenger.  1st draft pick. Duke education. Montreal strip joints? Wait, son, you ARE a designated player. Big, big, big And again, it’s not just

Couldn’t. Agree. More. On Joel Lindpere that is. Talk about the straw that stirs the Red Bulls midfield, and someone who has every right to have his soccer shorts in a twist about the club’s raging salary inequities. Lindpere earns so much less money, and yet does more work for the Red Bulls midfield during pregame warmups than Marquez does over all 90 minutes. (I know I promised to lay off Marquez already, but I retain the right to hammer away at his on-field quality.) Heck, when it comes to tracking and tackling and doing the dirty work in the center of the park, Teemu Tainio looks like Michael freakin’ Essien compared to Marquez. (Marquez also earned a couple of panel votes as Most Overrated; I’ll have a quiet word with the three panelists who aimed their poison pens elsewhere in that category.)

I can’t quite get on board with Jay Bell’s choice of Benny Feilhaber as Best American this year in MLS. He’s gonna leave a mark on some teams, for sure. But won’t a certain Landon “Toffeeman” Donovan have something to say about that?

And one other little nitpicky thing: I was slightly surprised there wasn’t just a little more love in the Shinguardian preseason opus for Seattle Sounder mighty mite Osvaldo Alonso. Just when I thought I was making some headway on my one-man mission to get people to stop calling the Sounders’ midfield destroyer “underrated,” evidence drops that he might actually still be a little … nah, never mind.  He’s not underrated. Forget I even went there.

VIDEO: Sporting KC’s Medranda scores wonder goal in win over Vancouver

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Sporting KC showed again on Friday night why they’re the rightful leaders at the top of the Western Conference, pulling four points ahead of the LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps with a dominating 6-0 win over the Whitecaps at home.

Scottish forward Johnny Russell bagged a hat-trick in the game, all by the 48th minute, but the highlight of the night came off the foot of 24-year-old Jimmy Medranda. The Colombian scored an absolute worldie from a ridiculous angle, taking the space given to him outside the top-left corner of the box and sailing it over the head of Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.

It was, of course, massively beneficial to Sporting KC that Vancouver went two men down in the 40th minute after a huge skirmish that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both sent off. Reyna earned his marching orders for throwing Russell to the ground, while Juarez reportedly used unacceptable language.

Still, KC was already up 3-0 when the incident occurred, and credit must go to teams that take advantage of what has been handed to them. Sporting KC certainly did that as Russell becomes the first Scotsman to score an MLS hat-trick since Colorado’s John Spencer in 2001, and Medranda’s wonder goal sealed the deal past the half-hour mark.

Jurgen Klopp already wants a piece of Man City next season

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Manchester City may have run away with the Premier League title this year, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can’t wait for a clean slate to try and challenge City’s title defense next season.

The Reds are into the Champions League semifinals and also looking to finish the Premier League season strong in a battle for positioning in the top four, but when asked about next year, Klopp was giddy.

“Of course I don’t fear the challenge,” Klopp said in his prematch press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League visit to West Brom on Saturday morning.

The German made it clear he wants a piece of Manchester City next season. “This year, if City plays a normal season – which they didn’t do – then it would have been really close until the end because we are now all close together.”

“United is four points ahead [of Liverpool], Tottenham is two points behind. It’s a real fight for these positions. All big six pretty much delivered this year but City delivered the best. We will see. It’s difficult to deal with success as it is difficult to deal with other things in football but I’m pretty sure they will be strong again.”

Liverpool is one of only two teams to beat City in league play this year, with Manchester United being the other. Klopp and company torched the City back line in a wild 4-3 victory that ended City’s 22-match unbeaten run. Ultimately, though, Klopp knows they have to look at the entire season as a whole to best the defending champs next year, not just their matches against each other.

“It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points, plus the points we got so far again,” he said. “That’s the job to do. That is why it is always possible that it is closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending and all that stuff so I don’t know.”

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

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Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.

Dortmund admits interest in signing Batshuayi permanently

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Michy Batshuayi might be out for the season with a serious ankle injury, but he may have already done enough to earn a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund.

The Chelsea striker moved on loan to the Bundesliga side in January and made an immediate impact, scoring two goals on his debut, and ultimately wound up with seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games before his ankle injury brought his season to a close. Now, the Dortmund front office is speaking very highly of the Belgian goalscorer, not so subtly hinting that they will take an aggressive approach this summer.

The interest to sign him is there,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. “But first we have to wait and see who will be Chelsea’s coach next season. Then we’ll start looking.”

Chelsea has Antonio Conte currently at the helm, but there are strong rumors that the Italian will depart at the end of the season as the Blues sit comfortably outside the Champions League places. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known for his quick trigger, and despite Conte winning the Premier League just last season, this year’s disappointment will likely not be tolerated.

That yet-to-be-determined future has a significant impact on Batshuayi’s future, as Watzke mentions. The new Chelsea boss could take a liking to Batshuayi, which could complicate his permanent move. In addition, it’s possible that current players on the Blues roster could depart, like Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud, or Willian, making Batshuayi’s place at Chelsea more tenable.

There’s plenty to be sorted out in the coming months, but with Batshuayi’s 10-game performance at Westfalenstadion at the forefront of Watzke’s mind, it’s clear there will be potential here as the summer draws near.