Osvaldo Alonso wins third straight Sounders MVP honor

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For the third year in a row, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso has been chosen as the Seattle Sounders’ Most Valuable Player, no mean feat on a team that includes three designated players (none of which are him), Eddie Johnson and Michael Gspurning. Yet it’s no surprise that Alonso, who finally broke into MLS’s Best XI this season, took the honor voted on by his teammates.

I say finally broke into the Best XI because although Alonso does seem to become more comfortable going forward with each passing season, he has basically been the same player over the last two or three seasons. Yet this year’s honor was his first. Hmm …

Whereas his 2009 introduction to MLS may have included more mistakes and destruction than the player we see now, since 2010 (when he started winning team MVP awards), he’s basically been this game-defining wrecking ball that allows the Sounders to have one of the league’s best defenses despite average defenders. He allows Sigi Schmid to abandon him in the middle knowing Alonso will go land mine whenever comes too close. He’s a badass.

Making comparisons to players who never played in MLS often obfuscated these types of conversations, but in terms of the impact Alonso has on games, he’s as influential as former Real Madrid/Chelsea/France destroyer Claude Makelélé. Only he’s started to provide more going forward.

So how has he not become a staple in the Best XI when he’s perpetually the league’s best at his position? I brought this up to a few people at MLS Cup, who put forth the following ideas:

  • Midfield has suddenly become deep, as evidenced by Kyle Beckerman (among others) not making the team.
  • Best XI isn’t for the best players. It’s for the best attackers with a few defenders thrown in for credibility.
  • Unless you’re a numbers guy, you can’t get into the Best XI playing for a West Coast team. There are too many start times (and, too many simultaneous start times) that are too late for East Coast voters to develop an affinity for a more nuanced performance.
  • Osvaldo Alonso has actually become overrated.

There’s some truth in all of these except number four. Perhaps Alonso’s biggest fans are louder than ever, but there’s still a deep underappreciation for what he brings to Seattle. The farther I get from Seattle, the less likely I am to find somebody who can articulate Alonso’s importance to Seattle (whether they agree on his quality or not).

Perhaps that’s because the raw numbers aren’t there. Perhaps it’s because (like any soccer player) it takes more than one game to gauge his impact. And perhaps it’s because Seattle’s games aren’t as accessible to most of the countries as, say, Dax McCarty’s.

But Alonso’s teammates know how valuable he is. That’s why he’s always team MVP.

WATCH LIVE: U.S. vs. England in U-17 World Cup quarters

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The United States are three wins from the U-17 World Cup title, and look to beat traditional power to set up a semifinal against another (Watch live at 10:30 a.m. ET online via Telemundo En Vivo).

England is on the docket Saturday in Margao, India, and the winner gets the winner of Germany and Brazil. Those two play Sunday in Kolkata.

[ WATCH LIVE: U.S. U-17s vs. England ]

The Americans are widely considered the best U-17 group to come through the ranks, especially in attack, and have a chance to make a big statement against an England side with a bevy of Premier League Academy stars, heavily drawn from Chelsea and Man City.

LINEUPS

USMNT: Garces (Atlanta United), Gloster (New York Red Bulls), Durkin (DC United), Booth (Real Salt Lake), Watts (Portland Timbers), Sands (New York City FC), Ferri (Solar Chelsea SC), Carleton (Atlanta United), Akinola (Toronto FC), Weah (PSG), Sargent (c, Werder Bremen)

England: Anderson (Man City), Sessegnon (Fulham), Latibeaudiere (c, Man City), Guehi (Chelsea), Panzo (Chelsea), McEachran (Chelsea), Oakley-Boothe (Tottenham), Foden (Man City), Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton), Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Brewster (Liverpool).

Watch Live: Five Premier League games at 10am ET

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Five Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Huddersfield host Man United, Burnley head to Man City, Stoke welcome Bournemouth, Crystal Palace are off to Newcastle and Swansea do battle with Leicester.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Huddersfield vs. Man United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Man City vs. Burnley – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]

Chelsea 4-2 Watford: Blues launch superb comeback

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  • Chelsea score two late goals towin
  • Watford led 2-1 with 71 minutes gone
  • Azpilicueta grabs winner in 87th minute

The pressure eased slightly on Antonio Conte as Chelsea fought back from 2-1 down to beat Watford 4-2 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Chelsea took the lead through Pedro but Watford came surging back with Abdoulaye Doucoure equalizing and Roberto Pereyra putting them ahead either side of half time.

Richarlison had two glorious chances to extend Watford’s lead further but Michy Batshuayi jumped off the bench to make it 2-2 and Cesar Azpilicueta made it 3-2 late on before Batshuayi added another in stoppage time.

Cue relief around Stamford Bridge as Conte  jumped in with the fans to celebrate as for most of the game his team looked like they were heading for three-straight PL defeats for the first time since October 2015.

With the win Chelsea move on to 16 points for the season and jump ahead of Marco Silva‘s Watford into fourth place.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]  

After an even start where Watford threatened on the break, Chelsea started to look dangerous down their right and Eden Hazard won a controversial corner kick which shouldn’t have been awarded as the ball came off his heel last.

From that corner it was played short to Pedro on the edge of the box and the Spaniard curled home a stunning effort off the far post and into the far corner. 1-0 to Chelsea as relief spread around Stamford Bridge.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Chelsea then wasted a glorious chance as Hazard danced free of Tom Cleverley and played in Alvaro Morata who found Cesc Fabregas in acres of space but his chipped effort was tame and Heurelho Gomes saved easily.

Richarlison was causing problems down the left flank as Watford tried to get back into the game but it was Chelsea who came close to going 2-0 up as Pedro flashed a low effort just wide of the post. Fabregas smashed a shot on goal which Gomes saved well but right on half time Watford equalized through Doucoure.

Jose Holebas’ long throw caused havoc and the ball dropped to Doucoure who squeezed home his effort at the near post. 1-1.

Game on.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

A lively start to the second half saw both Chelsea and Watford go close with crosses flying into the box and Watford should have gone 2-1 up with Richarlison somehow missing from a few yards out. A true miss of the season contender.

The Brazilian winger made amends for his miss moments later as he played in Pereyra to slot home. 2-1 to Watford.

With Chelsea’s defense all over the place it should have been 3-1 to Watford as Richarlison sent a header horribly wide from close range with the goal gaping.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

The chances kept coming for Watford as Richarlison was a nuisance and the Hornets looked more likely to extend their lead than Chelsea grabbing an equalizer.

Batshuayi was then introduced off the bench and he flicked home a header from Pedro’s cross to make it 2-2 and the Belgian went close on two other occasions as Chelsea pushed for a winner. Conte got his substitutions spot on as another sub, Davide Zappacosta, helped set up two attacks and the latter saw the home side seal victory.

Azpilicueta was the hero for Chelsea a few minutes from normal time as he arrived at the back post to nod home to make it 3-2 and then Batshuayi scored again in stoppage time to complete a hugely impressive comeback.

Some of the pressure on Conte is dissipating.

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.