Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake thoughts: How important can Bobby Convey be?

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Bobby Convey made his first major contribution to Sporting Kansas City last weekend, providing the assist on Kei Kamara’s winning goal against LA Galaxy. When Western Conference-leading Real Salt Lake visits Livestrong Park this weekend, Convey’s wide play and service could again be influential, if we can read anything from how the two teams play.

Thankfully, as we try to do that, we’re dealing with two of the more predictable sides in Major League Soccer. Peter Vermes is going to toss out three attackers and three midfielders, with Graham Zusi playing midfield in advance of Roger Espinoza and Julio César. Jason Kreis always plays two forwards on top of a four-midfielder diamond – Kyle Beckerman at the base, and (when healthy) Javier Morales at the tip.

For RSL, their formation makes width is a constant issue. Whether it’s Will Johnson, Ned Grabavoy, or Sebastián Velásquez starting between Beckerman and Morales, Kreis eschews a traditional flank players, meaningsomeone like Chance Myers can do some damage as he gets forward from KC’s right fullback position to combine with Kei Karama. I’m sure that’s a comforting thought for Chris Wingert.

If RSL maintains enough pressure on Sporting, Myers’ chances to get forward could be managed. On KC’s left, however, Sporting’s most effective wide player, Convey, is already forward.

While I keep mentioning how Convey is probably out of place as a left-sided attacker in Vermes’s 4-3-3, on Saturday, it can be used to Kansas City’s advantage. With Sporting likely to have their hands full through the midfield (out-numbered four against three in the middle of the park), Convey can serve as a needed relief valve. If KC plays him as more of a left midfielder – a natural role for Convey – they can exploit the space on their left and use their best crosser to target C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara.

It should go without saying that RSL isn’t helpless in this battle. Don’t put it past Will Johnson to do yeoman’s work to pressure Convey. And then there’s PST (and emerging MLS community) favorite Tony Beltran at right back, who could be given the freedom to come forward and mark Convey should the KC wingman’s crosses present a significant problem.

But there are costs: Johnson’s help mitigates RSL’s advantage in the middle, while Beltran’s marking provides space for Kamara and Graham Zusi to exploit.

Every game has these little tactical conflicts, but on Saturday, the match ups are particularly in interesting. Where teams often have to pick and choose their battles, Jason Kreis may be willing to take his chances with Convey rather than open up space for one of KC’s more dangerous players. If he does, Kreis will be giving Convey a chance to make his second big contribution.

VIDEO: Pedro scores stunning goal for Chelsea

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Not a bad way to start the Premier League weekend…

12 minutes into the first game of Matchweek 9, Chelsea’s Pedro curled home a stunning effort into the far corner and off the far post after a corner was played short to him.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A simply stunning goal from the Spaniard which you can watch in the video above.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Watford in top five clash

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Chelsea host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as fifth and fourth clash.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea are without a win in three games in all competitions and some pressure is starting to build on the Blues as they’ve fallen further behind the two Manchester clubs atop the PL table.

As for Watford, Marco Silva‘s men are in fourth place and aiming to keep up their impressive away form in the PL this season with three of their four wins coming on the road.

In team news Chelsea’s injuries are piling up with Victor Moses and N'Golo Kante missing but Alvaro Morata does start after recovering from his hamstring injury, while Watford start Troy Deeney up top after his impressive cameo against Arsenal last week.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Rudiger, David Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Ampadu, Zappacosta, Musonda, Willian, Batshuayi

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenia, Cleverley, Doucoure, Holebas; Pereyra, Deeney, Richarlison. Subs:

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!