Looking at Tuesday’s Benny Feilhaber trade to Sporting KC

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Sporting Kansas City is becoming quite the refuge for talented players on the outs with the U.S. national team program.

A year ago coach Peter Vermes picked up Bobby Convey on the cheap. The former left-sided U.S. national team attacker (who never made much of an imprint at Livestrong Sporting Park) had worn out his welcome at San Jose.

Now Vermes and Sporting KC have added New England Revolution playmaker Benny Feilhaber, who has become one of the truly mercurial figures around domestic soccer. New England received a 2014 first-round draft pick, a 2015 second round selection plus allocation money.

Few would question Feilhaber’s ability; he has passing skills and vision that almost every MLS club would find useful. So why was New England willing to part with the 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran? And why did he fall so decisively out of the Revolution picture? (He wasn’t even a starter for much of the 2012 stretch, and that for a non-playoff team.)

While his technical skills are more than sufficient, his ability to assimilate – whether that’s on the field or in the locker room or some combination thereof – can now be fairly and openly called into question. Combined with Feilhaber’s estrangement from the national team, there’s no other conclusion to be reached.

Convey had some of the same problems, although his shortcomings were more transparent. Convey went public, for instance, with expressions of displeasure over former national team coach Bob Bradley and later over San Jose boss Frank Yallop.

Feilhaber has never been guilty of the same kind of public venting; his issues of discontent or failure to blend have been more internal and harder to pinpoint – although whispers have always existed that he’s just not the easiest of teammates to be around.

Around Livestrong, Feilhaber could be a swell replacement for Roger Espinoza, who will leave for Wigan in January. Feilhaber is not the same player; he’s more technical, slightly less box-to-box and surely less ferocious in the tackle. But Vermes can always tweak the midfield mix around Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, and the 4-3-3 around Livestrong can flourish anew.

On the other side, New England and manager Jay Heaps got quite a bit for a player they didn’t want around Gillette Stadium, anyway.

SKC could get a lot from the relationship if Vermes can tame Feilhaber’s less desirable properties. If not, the first Feilhaber-Convey-Vermes drama cannot be far away.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.