San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers

MLS playoff preview: San Jose at Los Angeles

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San Jose’s 2012 success has been so thorough that we forget – they’re not supposed to be here. A few ambitious prognosticators picked Frank Yallop’s team to content for the playoffs, but nobody expected a near start-to-finish run to the Supporters’ Shield. Along the way, the Earthquakes have received individual performances worthy of the league’s best player, defender, and coach awards. It’s been a truly magical season.

So far, at least. One of the harsh realities of a playoff system is the perspective it puts on the regular season. If San Jose goes on a playoff run, it will an ultimate, validating context to the team’s incredible season. If, however, San Jose is derailed, 2012 will live in the polite reminders of weary-hearted supporters. Exiting at the round of eight would be too sooner, even for a team that’s shrugged off modest expectations.

Against that back drop enters the LA Galaxy – defending MLS champions, the league’s best team over the last four years, with a squad that’s narrowed its eyes on the `Quakes after the teams’ most recent, highly volatile encounter.

Among MLS quartet of captivating conference semifinals, a two-legged California Clasico may be the round’s headline matchup.

Kickoff: 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday, Home Depot Center, ESPN

The last time LA took the field | And the last time we saw San Jose

On the LA Galaxy:

  • What to make of LA’s struggles against Vancouver? On one hand, they had unexpected trouble with a team that was among the league’s worst in the second half. But one-off goals can happen to the best of teams. When they come early enough to put a favorite behind, random goals can take-on undo importance. If Matt Watson beat Hector Jimenez after LA had already scored, no alarms would have ever been sound.
  • The main thing to take from Thursday’s match may not be any Galaxy weakness but the potential effect on their fitness. The early goal forced the veteran team to chase a match for near-70 minutes. Now the ywelcome the league’s best team – a notoriously physical one – on only two days’ rest. It’s a bad set of circumstances for a team whose three main players (David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane) are a combined 99 years old.
  • More trouble in LaLa Land: Injuries are mounting. A.J. DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin missed Thursday’s game, forcing Jimenez to play right back. Franklin may return. DeLaGarza won’t. Meanwhile, LA’s best midfielder, Juninho, got kicked in an Achilles against Vancouver and, as of Friday, was still feeling pain.
  • Last meeting in San Jose (on Oct. 21) left LA with a bad taste in their mouths, the defending champions giving up two leads en route to a 2-2 draw. The headlines post-match centered on Galaxy criticisms of San Jose’s style of play, with one prominent LA player calling the Earthquakes “a bunch of jokes.”
  • That player was defender Omar Gonzalez, the man who has to deal with the likes of Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon. The 24-year-old defender has been a key part of the Galaxy’s mid-season about face, solidifying the defense after returning mid-season from knee injury. With others’ injuries leaving Bruce Arena’s defense in disrepair, it’s hard to imagine LA advancing without a big series from from the reigning Defender of the Year.

On the San Jose Earthquakes:

  • San Jose finished the regular season with the league’s best record, no small feat considering the depth at the top of the West. You’d expect four title contenders to take points off each other, but the Earthquakes avoided that peril, posting a 8-0-1 record against Real Salt Lake, Seattle, and the LA Galaxy (San Jose did lose in U.S. Open Cup play to a largely second-choice Sounders).
  • The basis of that success was stellar attack, led by new (joint) single-season goal-scoring champion Chris Wondolowski. Wondo’s 27 goals were nine more than the league’s second most-prolific scorer, though the team’s league-leading 72 goals (13 more than the next-best team, LA) were helped by 14 goals from Alan Gordon, 10 from Steven Lenhart, and eight from Simon Dawkins.
  • A big part of that production is San Jose’s late game efficiency, the ‘Goonies’ having developed a flare for the dramatic. Against a LA team that’s being thinned out by accumulated miles and persisting knocks, the Earthquakes could be in for more late match success.
  • In-game attrition will be a factor, also, no matter Gonzalez’s disdain for the tactic. The physicality of Lenhart and Gordon always stresses a defense, as does Frank Yallop’s willingness to play so heavily into a direct tactic. San Jose’s battlers free up Wondolowski, one of the league’s best poachers, and with the service of Martin Chavez, the forwards are sure to be delivered a dangerous ball.
  • Adding to opposition difficulties is San Jose’s depth, a collection of talent that allows the team to assume a completely (but equally effective) look while chasing games. Yallop’s bench will likely feature Shea Salinas, Khari Stephenson, Ramiro Corrales, Ike Opara and Gordon, though the new U.S. international is questionable with an ankle problem.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 14

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Week 14 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 14 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Stoke City 2-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 3-1 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Man City 1-2 Chelsea – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

West Ham 2-3 Arsenal – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

West Brom 1-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-0 Hull City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Everton 2-2 Man United – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Conte, Guardiola share thoughts on each other ahead of Chelsea-Man City

COBHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Chelsea Manager, Antonio Conte watches on during the Premier League 2 match between Chelsea and Southampton at Chelsea Training Ground on November 21, 2016 in Cobham, England.  (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images
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It’s no surprise that the managers are in focus as tactical wizards Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola prepare to face off for the first time.

The Etihad Stadium will be the scene for Saturday’s 7:30 a.m. EDT kickoff, and pur own Joe Prince-Wright was on the scene for Friday’s prematch presser.

He shared the sentiments of the Stamford Bridge boss, who was — no surprise — asked about Guardiola.

[ MAN UTD: Schweinsteiger could stay ]

“I have great respect (for Guardiola),” Conte said. “I think he is a fantastic manager and is doing fantastic work with Manchester City.”

One terrific little run from Conte had to do with the differences between him and Guardiola… as players. The Chelsea and Man City bosses both played in Serie A during the early part of this century.

“He was a fantastic midfielder and we had different characteristics. He was more of a pivot in front of the defensive line. I was more offensive, with penetration. I think I ran more than him, but he thought more than me with the ball.”

It wasn’t long before Guardiola was asked for his thoughts on Conte. Here they are, courtesy Sky Sports:

“He (Antonio Conte) made an exceptional job in Turin and in the national job. It doesn’t matter if it is Serie A or the national team, you realise his strengths.

“He has started here with maybe not good results, but they have won last seven games, conceding one goal. That says a lot about how good they are. They were contenders to win the Premier League from the beginning.

“Now, maybe more than before. It’s a good test for us.”

Who’s excited for Saturday’s early kickoff?

Follow @NicholasMendola

Chapecoense tragedy survivor could recover to play again

ADDS NAMES - In this Nov. 2, 2016 photo, players of Brazil's Chapecoense team pose before a Copa Sudamericana soccer match against Argentina's San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Top row from left, goalkeeper Marcos Danilo Padilha, Bruno Rangel Domingues, Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, Cleber Santana Loureiro, Willian Thiago. Bottom row from left, Guilherme Gimenez de Souza, Ananias Eloi Castro Monteiro, Tiago "Tiaguinho" Da Rocha Vieira, Matheus Bitencourt da Silva, Dener Assuncao Braz and Jose "Gil" Gildeixon Clemente de Paiva. A plane carrying the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense team that was on it's way for a Copa Sudamericana final match against Colombia's Atletico Nacional crashed in a mountainous area outside Medellin, Colombian officials said Tuesday, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
AP Photo/Gustavo Garello
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Remarkably, one of the Chapecoense players who survived the deadly plane crash in Colombia may yet take the field again.

Remarkable? Maybe that’s too tame. Astonishing, perhaps.

Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, 31, needed knee, lung, wrist, and head surgery following the crash that killed 71 people.

[ USMNT: Moyes updates Gooch injury ]

It’s a comeback story that will be followed by many, and Neto’s father says it’s very real. The center back bounced between Brazil’s Serie A and B, even going on loan at a Serie D side before finding his place at Chape.

From the BBC:

Neto’s father, Helam, said on Facebook that news of his recovery was giving the family “renewed hope and faith”.

“My son is getting better and better. He has just undergone surgery on his leg and doctors say he will return to football,” he said.

“We shall continue praying because we still need his discharge from hospital to see him closely.”

Forca Chape.

Follow @NicholasMendola

WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule – Week 14

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Week 14 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Manchester City host Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) as two title contenders collide. Pep Guardiola vs. Antonio Conte. Sergio Aguero vs. Diego Costa. It will be a mammoth clash as first plays third.

Then Tottenham Hotspur look to bounce back from their first defeat of the season as they host Swansea City (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN andonline via NBC Sports.com) at White Hart Lane. Bob Bradley‘s Swansea got their first win under his stewardship last week and they’ll look to build on that and drag themselves out of the relegation zone.

As the same time struggling Crystal Palace welcome Southampton to Selhurst Park (10 a.m. ET live CNBC and online via NBC Sports.com) with Alan Pardew looking to avoid a seventh-straight defeat which could mean the end for him in south London. Saints are on a good run after wins against Everton and Arsenal in their last two game.s

Rounding things off on Saturday we have a big London derby between West Ham and Arsenal (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) at the London Stadium with Arsene Wenger‘s side looking to go 13 games unbeaten in the PL. West Ham have shored things up at the back in recent weeks and Slaven Bilic will look to Dimtri Payet and a hostile atmosphere to try and get past the Gunners.

On Sunday Bournemouth host Liverpool (8:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with Jurgen Klopp‘s side looking to stay in touch at the top and get through a spell of injuries impacting their forwards. The Cherries have a young, hungry team and will be eager to take a big scalp and grab a first-ever win against Liverpool. Later on Sunday Everton welcome Manchester United to Goodison Park (11 a.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with both teams so far failing to live up to lofty preseason expectations as they’re losing ground with the top four.

On Monday Middlesbrough welcome Hull City to the Riverside Stadium (3 p.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) in a big battle in the north east with both teams eager to move up to the table and edge towards 40 points as quickly as possible.

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App, plus you can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City  vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Swansea City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Southampton – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Watford – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sunderland vs. Leicester City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Burnley  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET:  West Ham vs. Arsenal – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
8:30 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Man United – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Middlesbrough vs. Hull City – NBCSN [STREAM]