England Training and Press Conference - Group D: UEFA EURO 2012

As it happened, Euro 2012: England holds France, Shevchenko lifts Ukraine


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Four teams have yet to play their first games of Euro 2012, but that changes today when Group D finally takes the field. I say finally because our England lean has kept the Three Lions on our radars throughout the weekend. Now, England’s openers with France is finally here.

That game kicks off at noon Eastern, with co-hosts Ukraine opening against Sweden in Kiev at 2:45 p.m. Eastern. For most, seeing those teams on the schedule will mean one thing: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is taking center stage. The Milan icon will be orchestrating Sweden’s attack opposite a former Milan icon, Andriy Shevchenko.

We’ll be updating you on the day’s significant events below. In the interim, here’s some pre-match reading:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Monday’s action:


(All times Eastern)

1640 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden, Final – And Ukraine goes top of Group D with a fairytale opening, their 35-year-old captain scoring twice as the co-hosts down Sweden.

1638 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Another great chance for Sweden as a ball is chipped into the box for Mellberg, who volleys it meekly over.

1635 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Elmander misses a golden chance to equalizer. Ibrahimovic chips a ball over the defense the bounces nicely 10 yards out. Elmander and Wilhemsson both are coming onto it, but Elmander takes it and blasts it wide or the left post. That should have been Sweden’s second.

1625 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Sweden has used their three subs, with Wilhelmsson and Elmander coming on some time ago (for Rosenberg and Larsson). They’re providing Sweden with a little boost over this last period of the game, though Ukraine’s now going to respond. Andriy Shevchenko’s off Artem Milevskiy’s on.

1620 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Somebody should tell the Swede they need a goal. Since Ukraine took the lead, this match has fallen flat. Ukraine’s got the score they want, and Sweden doesn’t seem willing to take it from them. There’s 15 minutes left, but unless Sweden wakes up, they’re going to pss pretty …

Just as I type, a chip to Ibra is flicked to Elmander, who knocks is back to Ibra for a shot whose thump rings through the arena. Pyatov saves.

1608 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Anders Svensson’s come on for Ola Toivonen, who did nothing on the left today. At the same time, that takes a goal scoring option off. Svensson will slot along side Kim Kallstrom. Elm goes out left.

1606 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Shevchenko again! Nazarenko whips in a near post corner – pretty typical stuff – and Shevchenko only has to burst from the middle of the six to lose Ibrahimovic, get to the ball, and hammer it home.

1600 – Ukraine 1-1 Sweden – Shevchenko! The old man get his goal! In his country’s opening game on home soil. Oleh Gusev carries the ball into attack, draws the left back and lays it off for Andriy Yarmolenko. He moves the ball onto his left, chips to the edge of the six where Shevchenko beats Olof Mellberg, heading the ball into the right of net. It’s all even.

1557 – Ukraine 0-1 Sweden – Ibrahimovic has his team in front. Sweden breaks through their right as a Ukraine player lies on the ground. Nobody slows up, and a cross goes far post. Andriy Yarmolenko’s clearing header clears nothing, allowed Kim Kallstrom to find Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the edge of the six for a redirected opener.

1551 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – We’re back, Ukraine kick off and going right to left.

1537 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – The half closes with Ukraine having had the better of the last 15 minutes, using their width to start shifting around a decently organized but still vulnerable Sweden defense. Ibrahimovic may not have touched the ball in the last 10 minutes, but Sweden gets to half time.

1527 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – Ibrahimovic has gone off the post. A cross from Mikael Lustig finds Ibra, having beaten Taras Mikhalik. From the left, Ibra puts it back across goal, hitting the post.

The announcer I’m listening to uses this as an example of Ibra’s failings. Yes, because nobody ever puts a header off a post.

1524 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – The game has opened up in the last coulpe of seconds. Andrei Voronin put a swerving shot on Andreas Isaksson from 23 yards. Sweden push back the other direction before Yevhhen Konoplyanka has a crack. A turnover by Sweden leaves to a Andriy Shevchenko chance, with the rebound calling for Andriy Yarmolenko, whose shot is blocked out for a corner. Ukraine looking very dangerous now that they’re playing a little more direct, pulling the trigger on some shots from distance.

1520 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – As UEFA just reminded us, we’re still without a shot on target 33 minutes into this match.

1515 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – Sweden continues to being Zlatan Ibrahimovic into the game, perhaps deferring to him too much. On one counterattack Seb Larsson had a chance to hit Markus Rosenberg wide left yet decided to roll a safe ball to Ibra. Ukraine’s most threatening moments have come trying to play passes over Sweden’s line for Andriy Shevchenko and Andrei Vorinin.

1504 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – And just as I say that, Ibrahimovic makes his first mark on the match. He does left of the area to claim a ball, easily gets away from Mikhalik and puts a dangerous ball into the six. Pyatov coe to punch but whiffs a bit. Seb Larsson’s there but his back’s to goal. He can’t turn quickly enough.

1503 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – Fifteen minutes in, and there’s not much to tell. Neither team has meaningfully tested the other, though Ukraine seems the lost likely to do so.

1447 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – We’re off, and this is going to be confusing. Ukraine’s wearing yellow.

1443 – Anthems are being played. Ukraine is in full voice supporting their team. Kickoff’s moments away.

1429 – Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine finish the day’s action. Here are the lineups:

Sweden: Isaksson, Lustig, Mellberg, Granqvist, M. Olsson, Elm, Larsson, Källström, Ibrahimović, Toivonen, Rosenberg SUBS: Wiland, Hansson, J. Olsson, Antonsson, Safari, Svensson, Wernbloom, Holmén, Bajrami, Wilhelmsson, Elmander, Hysén.

Ukraine: Pyatov, Selin, Khacheridi, Mikhalik, Tymoshchuk, Gusev, Yarmolenko, Nazarenko, Konoplyanka, Shevchenko, Voronin SUBS: Koval, Goryainov, Kucher, Shevchuk, Rakitskiy, Butko, Garmash, Aliyev, Rotan, Milevskiy, Seleznyov, Dević.

Erik Hamrén goes with the defense he used in the last friendly, having shaken up his four. Markus Rosenberg gets the start up top in place of Johan Elmander.

For Ukraine, Andriy Shevchenko starts along with Andrei Voronin, two names English Premier League fans will be very familiar with. Like every other team in the tournament, Ukraine’s biggest questions are at the back.

1427 – Here’s our post match report as well as Steve’s thoughts on the Nasri goal discussion.

1350 – France 1-1 England, Final – England’s defending with nine at the end, and a long shot from Karim Benzema (handled by Hart) ends the match. A Wayne Rooney-less England have to be happy with the result, though France won’t be too disappointed, either.

When you look back on the game and examine the numbers, you wonder if France won’t regret not getting three. England didn’t have a lot of answers for Samir Naris and Franck Ribery, but France never really played with any urgency. Ultimately, they had a 61-39 possession advantage, outshot England 19-3 (15-1 shots on target), but were rightly drawn.

1347 – France 1-1 England – Theo Walcott is coming on. Danny Welbeck is coming off.

1342 – France 1-1 England – After forcing another corner, Frnace makes two chances. Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin are on. Yoann Cabaye and Florent Malouda are off. Something that’s happened over the last five minutes: Franck Ribery is coming in from the left more. For most of the match, it’s been Nasri playing behind Benzema in the attacking phase, but he seems to be staying right a little more. Ribery, who still has plenty of energy, just forced a corner by running at Joleon Lescott.

1336 – France 1-1 England – Hodgson makes his first change, bringing on Jordan Henderson for Scott Parker. England fans may not like that, but the central midfield was looking ragged for England. Granted, Gerrard seems to be the player having the most trouble maintaining his positioning, but there was some speculation Parker’s Achilles isn’t 100 percent. Perhaps that’s motivated the move.

France has just forced two corners, with Yoann Cabaye nearly putting a hard shot on goal (where it not for a partial block from Welbeck). England hasn’t found that second win, they’re relying more on Oxlade-Chamberlain to get them into attack (and playing some long balls), and you can’t help but wonder whether a draw is looking pretty good.

But now Ox is also out. Jermaine Defoe is on.

1325 – France 1-1 England – Another offside call against England. Augmenting the previous update, Gerrard and Parket, in particular, seem to be fading.

1321 – France 1-1 England – England’s starting to look a little tired. France is holding a lot of the possession (after England’s early second half spell), and the effort getting back into the defensive shape isn’t the same for England. When France runs at people (be it Ribery, Evra, Nasri), the defense seems a step slower reacting. Benzema just put a thumping shot on Hart (saved), but we’ll have to see where this is going. Perhaps they just need a second wind.

1310 – France 1-1 England – >England has their first prolonged spell of possession, holding the ball for well over a minute before a long ball from Lescott’s met with a whistle. Ashley Young is offside for the third time tonight.

1402 – France 1-1 England – Whistle blows. No changes for either side.

1302 – France 1-1 England, Halftime – Teams are coming back out. Stats: Possession: France 58-42; Shots: France 8-2; Shots on goal: France 6-1.

1247 – France 1-1 England, Halftime – Intermission, and the score is fair, even if the numbers say France controlled the period. By halftime, France was certainly on the front foot, but this is the type of game England would have been happy with before the opening whistle. Roy Hodgson needs to find one other way to get his team into attack if three points is a possibility, but for now, England’s given a good account of themselves.

1240 – France 1-1 England – England’s midfield is too deep and can’t get out to contest a Samir Nasri shot from 20 yards out. As Steven Gerrard is trying, he may have screened Joe Hart, because this isn’t a shot that normally gets past the Manchester City `keeper. Near post, hard but savable shot, it’s in the back of the net. Nasri, one of France’s best players thus far, has equalized.

1236 – France 0-1 England – France nearly pulls it back. Dead ball on their right flank sees Nasri whip a cross to just short of the penalty sopt. Alou Diarra heads a powerful shot on goal, but Joe Hart blocks it up. It falls to Diarra who, rushed, puts it wide. England stays in front.

1231 – France 0-1 England – Steve Gerrard, from a dead ball, puts a ball in from the right to the middle fo the six, and Joleon Lescott puts it home. It’s 1-0.

A number of France errors led to a goal that was very preventable. Patrice Evra’s cheap foul gave up the kick. Lescott was able to separate himself too easily from Alou Diarra, who shouldn’t have had the assignment of marking Lescott. The ball was too close to goal not to be caught – the cross floated enough for Lloris to come get it. All of those errors combined to give England the lead.

1223 – France 0-0 England – Danny Welbeck is down, getting some treatment. He had an ankle problem at the beginning of camp, but he seems fine now. The match has settled in as you’ expect it. England’s letting France come onto them (particularly in the middle), and the pressure on France comes in those first moments of transition. We saw Steven Gerrard hit a nice long ball for Young in the 14th minute. That was encouraging for England. France … England’s going to let them shoot from 22-24 yards all day. Beyond that, Nasri seems like he’ll have to create something.

1216 – France 0-0 England – England just generated their first chance of the match, and James Milner should have scored. Ashley Young has time on the ball 30 yards out, six yards from the defense. Milner makes a run in from the right, and Patrice Evra never breaks out of a trot. A through ball puts Milner in, Hugo Lloris takes a bad angle, and one touch from the England winger leaves him with an empty net. His legs fail him, though, and he’s left lunging for a ball he puts into the outside of the side netting. Ruined chance.

1211 – France 0-0 England – France has forced a couple of corner kicks, and thanks to a nice diagonal pass from Yoann Cabaye, have generated the one moment of danger. France looks to be the better side thus far and are holding much more of the ball. Bringing Samir Nasri in from the right, they have a lot of attackers toward the center and left, creating a numbers problem for England.

1201 – Countdown is done and they’ve kicked off in a Donetsk that’s said to be very warm. England’s moving from right to left.

1155 – Teams are finally walking out on the field in Donetsk in that beautiful new stadium. England’s in all whit. France wears blue. Next update will be at kickoff.

1124 – Your lineups for England-France:

England: Hart, Johnson, Cole, Terry, Lescott, Gerrard, Young, Milner, Parker, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck SUBS: Green, Butland, Baines, Jones, Jagielka, Walcott, Henderson, Downing, Carroll, Defoe.

France: Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Rami, Mexès, Cabaye, Ribéry, Nasri, Malouda, Diarra, Benzema SUBS: Mandanda, Carrasso, Réveillère, Koscielny, Clichy, Valbuena, Matuidi, Ménez, M’Vila, Martin, Ben Arfa, Giroud.

Big news? As Steve told you about earlier, Ox starts for England. It’s not entirely unpredictable given he started against Belgium. It just runs counter to our image of Roy Hodgson.

For France, no surprises.

My picks for today: 2-1 for France, though I don’t feel great about that one, and Sweden by the same score.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Biggest omissions from the Ballon d’Or shortlist

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (R) is chased by N'Golo Kante of Chelsea (L)  during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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France Football released the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or award given to the world’s best player.

As expected in a EURO year, there are several Portuguese standouts to go with the usual suspects.

There are also some odd omissions.

[ MLS: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

Alexis Sanchez was Arsenal’s second-leading scorer as the Gunners finished second in the Premier League, and the South American attacker scored three goals as Chile won its second-straight Copa America, this one on American soil. It’s baffling that he’s not on the list.

N'Golo Kante enjoyed a season as the engine of the best story in Premier League history, manning the midfield for Leicester, and followed it up by helping France reach the EURO 2016 final. Pretty good, right?

Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic were key pieces in Barcelona’s run to the La Liga crown despite being limited by the transfer ban. Mascherano followed it up by captaining Argentina to the Copa America Centenario final, while Rakitic starred alongside Ivan Perisic as Croatia won a tricky EURO 2016 group before falling to eventual winners Portugal.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 11: Fernando Torres of Club Atletico de Madrid is surrounded by (L-R) Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on January 11, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Mascherano (far left) and Rakitic (second from right) are among several Barcelona players who didn’t make the cut (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images).

Harry Kane may’ve not been a good choice to take corner for England, but he also was one of the best all-around attackers in the world as Tottenham surged into the Top Four of the Premier League.

With four goalkeepers making the cut, it shows that club success is more important than performance. David De Gea‘s season was certainly on the same plane as Buffon, though the latter won the league with Juventus and edged Spain at EURO 2016.

Marcelo, Leonardo Bonucci, and David Silva were also players who succeeded for both club and country and could’ve found their way onto the 30.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Finally, let’s see how I fared in projecting the 30 men back in mid-September:

— I got 24 on the nose, wrongly guessing that Kante, Kane, Alexis, Mascherano, Rakitic, and Olivier Giroud would make the cut. Giroud led Arsenal and France in scoring, but if Alexis wasn’t going to make it the coiffed Frenchman had no hope.

— Of the six I didn’t get, only one brings me great shame: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should’ve been in the first 15 names on any list, not missing the post entirely. Paulo Dybala is a bit of a shocker from the crew, and Koke is a tricky miss. Luka Modric was our No. 31, while Rui Patricio was our 35. Diego Godin was a bad miss.

— What to learn from this: Atletico Madrid was obviously credited for its return to the UCL final, so Godin and Koke prove that carried a bit more weight than Kante and Giroud making the final with France, and Alexis thriving at the Copa America.

Whose historic hiccup was worse: Portland or Columbus?

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 6: Kei Kamara #23 of Columbus Crew and Liam Ridgewell #24 of Portland Timbers go after a ball during the second half of the game at Providence Park on March 6, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. The Timbers won the match 2-1. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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It’s been less than a year since we discussed who was best suited to return to the MLS Cup Final following Portland’s 2-1 win over Columbus in the 2015 title match.

Now we’re wondering who’s fall was more shameful, the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew each missed the playoffs, just over 11 months after contesting the final. That’s never happened before.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

We asked our staff to take a stand on the matter of who flubbed worse: Gregg Berhalter’s Crew or Caleb Porter’s Timbers.

Andy Edwards

Columbus: 2016 was Gregg Berhalter’s third season in charge in Columbus, and in each of his first two years, Crew SC took a gigantic step forward — from non-playoff side to in the playoffs in 2014; from young, naive playoff team to MLS Cup hosts in 2015 — which meant 2016 was supposed to be the culmination of a truly great revolution in Columbus.

They started the season slow, with no wins in their first five games. But they had done the same thing just 12 months earlier and there they were playing for the Cup in December. The Crew looked to be slowly turning this season’s corner when the Kei Kamara/Federico Higuain thing exploded and effectively ended their season in May.

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The big knock on Crew SC last year, at least for me, was that they never seemed to figure out a Plan B — if “hit it long for Kei, he’ll knock it down, and Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram will run onto it and toss the alley-oop back to him inside the six” wasn’t working, you’d already beaten them.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

2016 exposed Berhalter, perhaps more than any player on the roster, because of the elongated nature of those struggles — literally the entire season. Finlay (6 goals, 9 assists) and Meram (5 goals, 13 assists) put up fine numbers once again, but they rang hollow for a losing team going nowhere all season long.

Wil Trapp’s age-23 season was completely wasted — he’s no longer “a young player” — and I’d take a long, hard look at Europe this winter if I were him. The defense has been an unmitigated disaster the last two season (53 and 58 goals conceded), mostly due to the all-out attacking nature of Berhalter’s game plans — hint: defending 2-on-4 against counter-attacks almost never ends well. The “other” Kamara, Ola, actually panning out was the saving grace that kept them within a mile of the playoff race.

Nick Mendola

Portland: Maybe it’s an odd year thing; Portland won the 2015 MLS Cup after claiming the West’s best record in 2013.

Or maybe, just maybe, the Timbers ran out of luck under newly-extended Caleb Porter in his fourth season on the job. This time, no one bailed them out.

Portland came out of nowhere to claim the West’s No. 1 seed in 2013, as Porter engineered an astounding 15 draws including 10 on the road. The tactics and lineup selection helped, but so did the arrivals of Diego Valeri and Will Johnson (pretty important, no?).

The Timbers missed the playoffs by a point in 2014, a 3W-1D end to the season not enough to make up for a horrible start to the season.

The next season saw the Timbers win it all, but not without needing a three-match winning streak to leap ahead of four teams and claim the third-seed (Seattle, LA, and KC all finished two points back). Six games later, they went from almost out to on top of the MLS world.

So what happened this year, with many falling all over ourselves to praise the long-term prospects of a Timbers dynasty? A giant failure. The Timbers failed to win a single road game, tossing aside their strong home field advantage (Portland was 12W-3L-2T at Providence Park).

SANDY, UT - APRIL 19: Head coach Caleb Porter of the Portland Timbers encourages his team during their game against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium April 19, 2014 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

The Timbers scored the second-most penalties in the league this year, with five, so it’s not like fortune avoided them (The Red Bulls didn’t score one).

But, oh, this was ugly.

Portland took three of its the final 12 points available to it. The Timbers lost big in Vancouver and Houston, two non-playoff destinations. In its last 13 games, Portland lost nine and won four.

[ MORE: Yedlin on Newcastle, EFL Cup ]

The Timbers completed the fewest passes in Major League Soccer, 400 less than the closest competitor and 4,300 behind the league-leading Revs. Portland couldn’t take the ball away, either, with the second-fewest interceptions in the league.

You could even argue that losing 4-1 in Vancouver on Decision Day — a loss to a knocked-out Cascadia Cup rival — makes it worse than Columbus’ season alone. This was awful stuff, albeit schadenfreude for the anti-Porter brigade.

Oh, and they bombed out of a poor CONCACAF Champions League group without a Liga MX or MLS opponent in it.

Alright, so Andy tabbed Columbus and Nick took Portland. Let’s get a tiebreaker in here.

Matt Reed

Every champion has a target on its back but the Timbers managed to essentially bring back all of its key starters from a season ago, despite losing Maxi Urruti. The Timbers were involved in 22 games separated by one goal or less in 2016, with Caleb Porter’s side winning only seven of those contests. Had one more game gone in their favor the Timbers would likely be back in the postseason. 

The case for (and against) every Eastern Conference playoff team

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Benoit Cheyrou #8 of Toronto FC defends Andrea Pirlo #21 of New York City FC free kick at Yankee Stadium on March 13, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Of the six teams remaining in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, you could argue there are three distinct pairings.

You have red-hot traditional sides in DC United and the New York Red Bulls; There are the big-name driven, deep squads from Toronto FC and New York City FC, and finally the two relative unknowns truly deserving of “wildcard” status in the Philadelphia Union Montreal Impact.

[ MORE: Yedlin on Newcastle, EFL Cup ]

Sure the table tends to tell us who’s who in the pecking order. It’s hard to bet against the Red Bulls seeing they haven’t lost since July 3, and Frank Lampard has somehow quietly been a wrecking ball thanks to dynamite performances from captain David Villa and world-class maestro Andrea Pirlo.

But there are reasons those teams may not be the true favorite to advance to the MLS Cup final, just as there are ways to imagine Philly can punch their way through the East. We’re here to give you both.

Philadelphia Union (6)

Why they’ll win: The young unit might be too green to know it isn’t expected to knock off Toronto in Toronto, or a New York team in New York or New Jersey. Chris Pontius and Tranquillo Barnetta add veteran skill and savvy, while Andre Blake is capable of stealing some of the league’s more terrific strikes.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Why they won’t: Their last win was Aug. 27, and we’re supposed to expect the Union to win on the road at Toronto, RBNY, and then either NYCFC or DC. Nah, dog (though it’d be quite a story and we’d be happy to watch it).

Montreal Impact (5)

Why they’ll win: Didier Drogba may not be mentally in it, but he’s still a fierce competitor who can score with the best of them. By the way, the “best of them” definitely includes Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine has been one of the top players in the league this season, and can take over any game (Yes, even three on the bounce).

Why they won’t: The dysfunction and fall-out from Drogba’s benching permeates the room before match against red-hot DC United, and an average road team fails to meet expectations.

Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba heads the ball in front of D.C. United midfielder Marcelo Sarvas during the second half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

DC United (4)

Why they’ll win: A four-match win streak earned most of DC’s starters a well-deserved rest on Decision Day, and there will be a “Why not us?” cry coming from the DC dressing room. Patrick Nyarko has been a lot of fun to watch. Luciano Acosta is legit as well. Bill Hamid is an excellent shot stopper, and the four-time champion Black-and-Red is overdue for a final, having been absent since beating KC in 2004.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

Why they won’t: Let’s be honest, most arguments against DC sound quite political. “Well, they can’t win because of the other guys being so good.” DC doesn’t have the firepower of TFC, NYCFC, and RBNY; Would you bet on them beating two of the above, which they likely would have to? (Actually, kinda).

Toronto FC (3)

Why they’ll win: Frankly, this is the best defensive team in the East, with a minimum of three game attacking breakers in Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. Imports Drew Moor and Clint Irwin aren’t scared of the spotlight, and Will Johnson will be putting on for his city. And they’re good away from BMO Field. This could be TFC’s season, y’all.

Why they won’t: This is Toronto’s 10th season, and happens to be the first one in which it won more matches than it lost. TFC’s debut home match comes on Wednesday evening, and there’s something to be said for experience. While some of its players have plenty, the club does not possess much at all.

New York City FC (2)

Why they’ll win: One of only two teams (Toronto) to finish their road schedule with a .500 record, Patrick Vieira has been able to get the best out of the superstars and the lesser-known members of NYC’s squad. Tactically, we’re not sure there’s another coach in the East with his acumen.

Why they won’t: It’s also Vieira’s first playoffs as a manager, and the whole franchise hasn’t done that dance, either. They have one win in five combined matches against RBNY and TFC.

New York Red Bulls

Why they’ll win: Frankly, as stated above, because they don’t lose. Jesse Marsch hasn’t overseen a loss in three-and-a-half months, has two legit claimants to MVP honors in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, and have been reinforced by one of the deepest Academy production lines in MLS.

Why they won’t: New York won just three road matches all year, even if it managed 7 draws away from Red Bull Arena. On top of that, this is year No. 20 of MLS, and founding members RBNY have zero titles and one final appearance. Those ghosts could come creeping up to the door.

USMNT’s Yedlin talks Newcastle challenge, EFL Cup quarters

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26:  DeAndre Yedlin of Tottenham Hotspur controls the ball during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Juventus FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 26, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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USMNT standout DeAndre Yedlin is gaining valuable experience fighting for promotion with Championship-leading Newcastle United, and will likely get the chance to help the Magpies into the EFL Cup quarterfinals this week.

Newcastle hosts Preston North End on Tuesday at St. James Park, and the 23-year-old Yedlin has been providing plenty to the Magpies under Rafa Benitez.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tuesday preview ]

Yedlin has appeared four times at right mid and four more at right back as Newcastle sits atop the Championship through 14 matches. He’s been in the 18 for every match since he arrived from Tottenham.

Manager Rafa Benitez has employed a lot of rotation in his squad given the congested schedule, and Yedlin has competed for time at the back with Magpies veteran Vurnon Anita and ex-Atleti back Jesus Gamez. The club’s right-sided attackers include even more options, headlined by the electric Matt Ritchie.

From The Chronicle:

“If you aren’t in form there’s always one guy will step in. They could take your place,” Yedlin said.

“That means every opportunity you get you must take and make the best of it.”

That’s the sort of competition we like to see abroad, and the reason players like Perry Kitchen (Hearts) and Matt Miazga (Vitesse via Chelsea) are lauded for taking steps out of their insta-starter status domestically (and again, I hate having to repoint out that it’s okay to feel this way and love MLS).

As for Tuesday’s match against Preston, here are Yedlin’s thoughts on being in the final 16 of the EFL Cup:

“It’s an important game. We are getting to the final stages of the cup now and obviously we want to win everything we can.

“It’s important to us. Like I’ve said the depth in this team is unbelievable. So I am sure whatever team goes out there will be extremely strong.”