David Beckham

In search of second title, Beckham providing glimpse of Bryant’s future

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Hopefully the coincidence wasn’t lost on David Beckham, in attendance with Robbie Keane Tuesday night at Staples Center. The LA Galaxy duo was on hand for the Lakers’ season opener against the Dallas Mavericks – what was supposed to be the beginning of LA’s romp through the NBA’s Western Conference. After the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the hype’s been incredible.

So have the expectations. When the Lakers lost to Dallas on Tuesday, one media outlet noted the team wouldn’t go 82-0. There was a tinge of irony in the caption, an irony that played to the jaws that have remained dropped after Los Angeles acquired Howard.

Eight months ago, the Galaxy were in a similar situation. Major League Soccer media openly debated whether the Galaxy would be the best team of all-time. After capping a championship season in November, the Galaxy added Edson Buddle, Marcelo Sarvas, and extended Juninho’s loan from Sao Paulo. How many trophies? was the question before LA crashed out of the Champions League. If wasn’t a word until Torsten Frings and Toronto FC brought LA back down to earth. The defending champs would win only three of their first 13 games.

With their loss to the Mavs, the Lakers did their part to preserve the parallel, reinforcing the coincidence by stumbling badly in Portland Wednesday night. But as their 0-2 start sees the front page pundits baiting their egos, the Lakers can look west to Staples Center and draw inspiration from the LA Galaxy, who recovered to make the MLS playoffs. Winning nine out of 12 during a mid-season surge, were as good as anybody before locking up their playoff spot. You don’t have to look long to find somebody picking the defending champions to upset Supporters’ Shield-winning San Jose in the semifinals (should they beat Vancouver on Thursday).

MORE: Previewing Thursday’s Galaxy-Whitecap elimination match | Will Steve Nash be there?

If the Lakers manage a similar turnaround, it will only add to a list of parallels between the two teams. Like their NBA counterparts, the Galaxy have become the marquee team in their league. It’s a stature that’s fueled by their success, media affinity, and their ability to spend more than their competition, ensuring the roster always features recognizable names. On the basketball side, there’s Nash, Howard and Pau Gasol, while Home Depot Center has Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.

And of course, then there’s Kobe and Becks, the franchises’ figureheads. While nobody approaches Kobe Bryant’s stature in Los Angeles, the one Galaxy player oblivious Angelinos are likely to know is soccer’s global icon. Even if most of Los Angeles doesn’t know what makes him so great, they know that the great David Beckham plays in their city.

But to continue to call Beckham great could be an exaggeration. While he put in his best Major League Soccer season in 2011 (earning many media members’ votes for MVP of the MLS Cup final), this year age has make up time on the 37-year-old. For years people asked how Beckham could maintain himself at such an advanced age. You don’t hear those questions anymore. In the first year of his new, two-year contract, David Beckham finally looks like he’s inching toward retirement.

Now, after making his name on the right, Beckham’s fully converted to a central midfielder’s role, where he continues to be a fulcrum in LA’s attack. But if his range of passing has not suffered, his range of movement has. The fitness that helped define his ability to patrol the right now only appears in spurts. The circle of influence you can draw around Beckham’s central position is much smaller this year than last, part of the reason he was omitted from Team Great Britian’s Olympic team this summer. Dependent on the work of Juninho and Sarvas, Beckham’s effectiveness is limited to the middle-third, where his ability to read the game often provides Los Angeles’s main creative spark.

MORE: Beckham discusses his future … kinda

On rare occassions, Beckham can transcend those limitations. This year’s best example came in mid-July, when Beckham turned back the clock in Portland. He struck early from just inside the final-third, scoring from distance as opponents paused, as if watching a highlight from a YouTube clip. Five minutes later, it was too easy to give the league its second goal-of-the-week nominee, finding the tiny fault in the Timbers’ wall that gave him an early double.

But like Bryant, the moments of true dominance are becoming rare. Although the 34-year-old Laker is still among the best in his sport, Beckham’s mid-30s regression may foreshadow what’s to come for LA’s other sports icon. As the world saw at this summer’s Olympics, Bryant now has to pace himself. He can’t be brilliant every minute, every night. Like Michael Jordan before him, the last part of his career has forced him to swap drives for fallaways. As much as Bryant’s lucky to have Nash, Howard, and Gasol, he needs that caliber of player if the Lakers are going to maintain their title hopes.

Three years older than Bryant, Beckham’s dependence on his teammates isn’t so surprising. He’s always depended on others. It’s the nature of his position. As much as he’s made his name for his ability over a dead ball, more often than not, he’s needed people on the other end of those crosses. For LA, he needs Donovan’s speed to run into passes. He needs Keane’s movement to open up space. He needs Sarvas and Juninho to provide outlets when the Hollywood ball isn’t there.

MORE: Landon Donovan acknowledges damage to USMNT relationships

With both Bryant and Beckham, we have to wait to see if they can still raise their game on the biggest stage. With Kobe, we’ll have to wait until spring, though if the Olympics are any indication, he’ll be there when it counts.

With Beckham, the time is now. The playoffs start tonight with a must-win against Vancouver, and although LA can beat the Whitecaps without Beckham at his best, it would be a mistake to assume he can’t get there anymore. It was just one year ago that he was one of the best players in the field as his team won a title.

Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool: High-press derby ends all square

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Danny Rose of Tottenham Hotspur scores his sides first goal past Simon Mignolet of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool battled it out in a breathtaking encounter on Saturday at White Hart Lane as they drew 1-1.

James Milner‘s penalty kick gave Liverpool a lead they deserved but to their credit Spurs responded well in the second half and equalized through Danny Rose.

With the draw Spurs remain unbeaten through their opening three games and have five points, while Liverpool has four points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool should’ve been 1-0 up inside the opening five minutes as Roberto Firmino teed up Philippe Coutinho at the back post but his shot was saved superbly by Michel Vorm down low.

At the other end Christian Eriksen had a free kick pushed away by Simon Mignolet as the game began at a frantic pace.

[ MORE: Premier League standings ]

Dele Alli skewed a shot wide from the edge of the box and then Sadio Mane broke and his deflected effort caused havoc with Coutinho flicking it goalwards and Vorm clawed it out, but the offside flag was raised against Coutinho.

Vorm then made two telling tackles as Mane raced clear behind Tottenham’s defense and the Dutch goalkeeper twice slid in to make tremendous last-ditch tackles and clear the danger.

Kyle Walker was then forced off injured and Spurs brought on Vincent Janssen as a major reshuffle saw Eric Dier move to right back, Alli back into central midfield with Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane dropping underneath Janssen in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Spurs looked disjointed after that change and in the 43rd minute Liverpool took full advantage as Firmino raced in down the left and Lamela clipped his heels to give away a penalty kick. Milner slammed the spot kick home and Liverpool led 1-0 at half time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

In the second half Liverpool continued to look dangerous on the break as Lovren flashed a header wide and Mane thought he had made it 2-0 but Adam Lallana was flagged for offside in the build up just before Mane slotted the ball home.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

Spurs pushed hard late on for the equalizer but Eriksen sidefooted over from a glorious position in the center of the box, Lamela had a free kick tipped over and then Toby Alderweireld‘s header was tipped around the post by Mignolet.

However, Tottenham’s equalizer finally arrived in the 72nd minute as Dier’s cross from the right was flicked on by Lamela and Rose took one touch to settle himself before slamming home. 1-1.

Despite both teams pushing for a winner, they canceled each other in the dying stages and a frantic game ended all square.

STREAM: Chelsea vs. Burnley, Watford vs. Arsenal; every 10am ET game

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea is challenged by Michael Keane of Burnley during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Six games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday with Chelsea hosting Burnley and Arsenal heading to Watford.

[ STREAM: Watch live online here

Crystal Palace welcome Bournemouth to Selhurst Park, while Southampton and Sunderland clash as they both aim to grab their first win of the new season. Reining champs Leicester City host Swansea City and Everton welcome Stoke City to Goodison Park at 10 a.m. ET as the PL action comes thick and fast.

[ STREAM: Watch “Goal Rush” ]

There is also a new feature during this 10 a.m. ET games as Premier League “Goal Rush” debuts this weekend. You can see every goal from all six games on NBCSports.com or via the app. All the details you need to stream that are above.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

So, here is your one-stop streaming shop for every PL game kicking off at 10 a.m. ET.


Saturday, 10 a.m. ET kick offs

Chelsea vs. Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Watford vs. Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton vs. Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –[STREAM]

Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –[STREAM]

Everton vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Leicester City vs. Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Arsene Wenger vehemently denies panic buying at Arsenal

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 25:  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is seen in the stand prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes on June 25, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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With Arsenal about to spend close to $70 million on two new players in the final days of the window, Arsene Wenger has been accused by many of “panic buying” to help quell fan unrest.

Seriously, can this guy win?

[ MORE: Pulisic to Liverpool? ]

So often the subject of discontent for Arsenal not spending enough cash, now Wenger is being slatted for lining up deals for center back Shkodran Mustafi and striker Lucas Perez.

Speaking to the media ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Watford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Wenger smiled as he delivered this opening comment when asked if the imminent arrival of Mustafi and Lucas were a result of panic late in the transfer window.

“Look at my face. Is this the face of someone who tends to panic buy?” Wenger said. “No, it is the case that everybody is waiting to get the deals done. When a [foreign] club wants to sell to an English club today they ask for a huge amount of money. So it takes a long time to settle [on a price]. In the next two or three days everybody will find agreements.”

Wenger is right.

With the huge influx of cash across the PL, teams across Europe know the PL has a lot more money to spend this summer and the prices are going through the roof.

In fairness to Wenger, the deal for Mustafi has been rumbling on all summer long with Valencia driving a hard bargain and Arsenal finally agreeing to pay $46.2 million for the 24-year-old German international.

Perez seems  like more of a panic buy with the Deportivo La Coruna striker costing $22.5 million after scoring 17 times in La Liga last season. The 27-year-old Spaniard has had a nomadic career to date but with Everton interested in his services, Arsenal have jumped in at the last minute with concerns around the long-term fitness of Danny Welbeck and only Olivier Giroud around.

If these two deals do go through then Arsenal and Wenger will have spent the third-highest amount in the PL this summer behind Manchester City and Manchester United who have completely obliterated the transfer market.

Even if these are “panic buys” from Wenger, you can no longer accuse Arsenal of not spending money. Arsenal’s fans will have to find something else to moan about now as Wenger enters the final year of his contract.

Watch Live: Tottenham vs. Liverpool (Lineups, Live Stream)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool and Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on April 2, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Tottenham Hotspur host Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Saturday  (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports) as two teams with title aspirations collide in north London.

Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp are two of the brightest minds in the game and both teams will press high to cause mistakes from the other. Expect a rambunctious and passionate encounter.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Last season both games ended in draws — 0-0 at the Lane and 1-1 at Anfield — between these teams but heading into the international break, both will be going for broke to grab another three points.

In team news Tottenham bring back Dele Alli and drop Vincent Janssen to the bench.

Liverpool start with Matip in central defense and Milner at left back.

LINEUPS

Tottenham: Vorm; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Wanyama, Dier; Lamela, Alli, Eriksen; Kane. Subs: McGee, Son, Janssen, Onoma, Winks, Davies, Carter-Vickers

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho. Subs: Manninger, Sturridge, Grujic, Moreno, Leiva, Origi, Stewart