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Winners and losers from Friday’s NWSL Allocation

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Early reaction to Friday’s National Women’s Soccer League allocation made the Portland Thorns FC the subject of a lot of envy, and with good reason. The sister franchise of Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers not only got the league’s most marketable talent (Alex Morgan), Canada’s best player (Christine Sinclair), and arguably the most skilled player in the league (Tobin Heath), their “other players” include two parts who project as above average contributors at the back (Rachel Buehler, Karina LeBlanc).

Within the league, reaction varied. Some were shocked by the Thorns’ good fortune. For others, the excitement of a day seven weeks in the making overshadowed any perceived imbalance.

But if we’re talking winners and losers, we have to start with Portland. And unfortunately, since a number of teams were left without a marquee player, there are just as many losers as winners after the NWSL’s dispersal.

Winners

Portland Thorns FC – Rachel Buehler, (27, D, USA), Tobin Heath (24, M, USA), Karina LeBlanc (32, G, CAN), Alex Morgan (23, F, USA), Marlene Sandoval (28, D, MEX), Luz Saucedo (29, D, MEX), Christine Sinclair (29, F, CAN)

Portland’s clearly the best team coming out of allocation, perhaps unfairly so. Most people would put Morgan and Sinclair among the best three players in the world, and they’ll have one Tobin Heath providing for them. Buehler’s capable of anchoring an NWSL defense while Karina LeBlanc started for a WPS regular season champion in 2009. Thorns are stacked, have a strong spine, and are somewhat balanced. Opponents are right to be upset, even if the draw of Morgan and Sinclair is bound to make for good TV as the Timbers Army packs Jeld-Wen Field.

Seattle Reign FC – Kaylyn Kyle (24, M, CAN), Teresa Noyola (22, M, MEX), Megan Rapinoe (27, M, SEA), Amy Rodriguez (25, F, USA), Jenny Ruiz (29, D, MEX), Hope Solo (31, G, USA), Emily Zurrer (25, D, CAN)

With Solo and Rapinoe, there’s tons of star power on this team, and with Kyle and Zurrer, Laura Harvey and Amy Carnell got two quality players out of their Canadian allotment. Even if they didn’t get Alex Morgan, there’s a lot to like about this dispersal (after all, they did get the best goalkeeper in the world).

The key to whether this team can keep up with their Cascadia rivals is Rodriguez. If she can score like she did in her second WPS season (under Paul Riley in Philadelphia), Seattle’s results could match their ambition. If she’s the inconsistent player we saw in her first and third years (and recently with the national team)? Seattle will have to rely on Megan Rapinoe (when she returns), who was never the star in WPS she’s become internationally.

MORE: Seattle’s GM reacts to allocation, Morgan in Portland

FC Kansas City – Nicole Barnhart (31, G, USA), Lauren Cheney (25, M, USA), Renae Cuellar (24, F, MEX), Marylin Diaz (21, M, MEX), Becky Sauerbrunn (27, D, USA), Desiree Scott (25, M, CAN), Lauren Sesselmann (29, D, CAN)

Where are the goals going to come from? Free agency, you’d assume. Or, perhaps Lauren Cheney becomes a striker again (she’s only recently become a midfielder, and only for the national team). If Kansas City moves Cheney back to her natural position, this becomes one of the league’s better allocation classes, even if it lacks one of the true big names. If not, free agency becomes much more important.

Goal prevention, however, is where Kansas City appears particularly strong. Sauerbrunn could be one of the league’s best defenders, with Sesselmann, Barnhart, and midfielder Desiree Scott rounding out what should be a formidable defense.

Boston Breakers – Anisa Guajardo (21, F, MEX), Adriana Leon (20, F, CAN), Sydney Leroux (22, F, USA), Heather Mitts (34, D, USA), Heather O’Reilly (28, M, USA), Cecilia Santiago (18, G, MEX), Rhian Wilkinson (30, D, CAN)

Boston got a player they can build around in 22-year-old striker Sydney Leroux. She’s young, talented, and marketable. For a team that didn’t have a big name attached to them pre-draft, getting Leroux was quite a boon.

They also got Mexico’s No. 1 in Cecilia Santiago – a good young shot stopper whose decision-making will improve with consistent, higher level games. Until that trait’s developed, Santiago’s going to need help in defense, and it’s unclear this allocation gives her enough.

There’s a similar story in midfield. O’Reilly only plays wide right, which means if the Breakers plan on connecting with Leroux and their two other young attackers, free agency and next week’s college draft will be key.

Losers

Western New York Flash – Carli Lloyd (30, M, USA), Bryana McCarthy (21, D, CAN), Veronica Perez (24, F, MEX), Jo-Ann Robinson (23, F, CAN), Pamela Tajonar (28, G, MEX), Abby Wambach (32, F, USA)

The Flash were the team short-changed by allocation, getting only six players. They did, however, get the one player they coveted: Abby Wambach. The financial impact of getting the local hero is huge. They also get Olympic hero Carli Lloyd and a Mexican attacker (Perez) who should partner well with Wambach.

Unfortunately, the Flash got little else. They may have received the worst Canadian allocation, and it remains to be seen if Pamela Tajonar will be up to the task in goal.

The Flash may have gotten one of the marquee players, but if Wambach’s ankles can’t hold up over the course of a full season, this dispersal could look terrible at year’s end.

Sky Blue FC – Melanie Booth (29, D, CAN), Jill Loyden (27, G, USA), Monica Ocampo (26, F, MEX), Kelley O’Hara (24, D, USA), Christine Rampone (37, D, USA), Lydia Rangel (21, M, MEX), Sophie Schmidt (24, M, CAN)

Rampone gives the organization a face to build around, but without one of the brighter stars from the national team, this allocation has to be seen as a disappointment. Ocampo is a decent attacker, and Schmidt gives them a quality player in midfield, but the New Jersey-based team got short-changed on U.S. national teamers without getting enough to make up for it.

Chicago Red Stars – Shannon Boxx (35, M, USA), Maribel Dominguez (34, F, MEX), Dinora Garza (24, M, MEX), Amy LePeilbet (30, D, USA), Erin McLeod (25, G, CAN), Carmelina Moscato (28, D, CAN), Keelin Winters (24, M, USA)

It’s a very balanced allocation for Chicago, but one that relies heavily on two players in their mid-30s. With LePeilbet, Moscato, and McLeod, the defense has a strong core, while Turbine Potsdam’s Keelin Winters could help the group transcend its lack of name value.

But despite getting seven solid players, the group is still without one of the marquee U.S. players. As a result, Chicago lack the high-end talent you see in other teams’ dispersals.

Dominguez will need help, and with LePeilbet unlikely to be healthy to start the season (knee), the roster is full of question marks. There are a lot of ways this can go wrong.

Washington Spirit – Ashlyn Harris, (27, G, USA), Alina Garciamendez (21, D, MEX), Robin Gayle (27, D, CAN), Ali Krieger (28, D, USA), Lori Lindsey (32, M, USA), Diana Matheson (28, M, CAN), Teresa Worbis (29, M, MEX)

Curiously, Washington gets three U.S. national team players who didn’t feature at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Krieger was injured, Harris didn’t make the team, while Lindsey was only an alternate. Each player, however has ties to D.C., all having played for the Washington Freedom.

While decent at the back, this group looks weak, particularly going forward. Worbis has a decent goal rate for the Mexican national team, but she’s unlikely to be a major goal producer in this league. Washington’s ability to acquire a goal scorer in free agency (or the draft) might make-or-break their first season.

Final verdict

It’s tempting to be overly critical of these types of ventures, mostly because we tend to adopt our own standards in lieu of some other unambiguous goals. While the days before dispersal saw quotes from U.S. Soccer laud the value of competitive balance, there were clearly other factors at play. Team and player preferences played a big part and are likely one of the biggest reasons Portland and Seattle sit so pretty today.

As for the other teams, Chicago, Sky Blue and Washington have enough history in their communities to make their teams work, particularly given the subsidies the federations are providing with player salaries. Western New York and Boston each got a marketable star, while Kansas City was given a competitive team with two players (Cheney, Sauerbrunn) capable of being faces for their fanbase.

Could the results have been better? Perhaps, but that gets us back to standards. Are you judging this based on parity or other considerations, considerations U.S. Soccer made clear were going to be a factor from the onset. Ultimately, no teams were left far behind, even if the apparent desire to put high profile players (Morgan, Solo, Rapinoe) in marketable situations created some imbalance.

Hopefully highlights of Alex Morgan shooting into Portland’s north end will make it worthwhile.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fabinho to Manchester United, Chelsea in for Alonso

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - AUGUST 17:  Fabinho (R) of Monaco scores his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League play-off first leg match between Villarreal CF and AS Monaco at El Madrigal on August 17, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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Manchester United has looked strong at times during its opening two matches of the Premier League season, however, Jose Mourinho is still looking to bring in help.

The Red Devils are reportedly looking to add Monaco fullback Fabinho, but the reported move won’t come cheap, according to the Sun.

[ MORE: Bravo signs for City ]

The 22-year-old will command over $32 million, but it remains to be seen how desperate United is to meet Monaco’s fee. Two seasons ago, Manchester City was reportedly in the running to sign the Brazilian defender, but the price tag scared the club off after bringing Fabinho in to watch a match.


Marcos Alonso has become the latest target for Antonio Conte and Chelsea.

According to Sky Italy, the Blues have made an offer of over $22 million for the Fiorentina left back, as the Premier League side continues to chase defensive help before the end of the transfer window.

[ MORE: Solo ban about more than comments ]

Alonso has had a great deal of experience in England prior to landing in Serie A. The 25-year-old previously spent time with Bolton before joining Sunderland on loan in 2014.

Meanwhile, Chelsea continues to monitor centerback Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli, who has been seen as one of the team’s biggest targets during the transfer window since John Stones signed with Manchester City.


Sunderland looks set to bolster its midfield as the Guardian is reporting the Black Cats are closing in on a deal for Sevilla’s Vicente Iborra.

The 28-year-old has played a key role for Sevilla during its impressive run in the UEFA Europa League over the last three seasons, all of which the Spanish side has claimed the trophy.

Additionally, David Moyes and the Black Cats are reportedly interested in bringing back Yann M'Vila from Rubin Kazan. The French midfielder spent last season on loan at the Stadium of Light, and the combination of M’Vila and Iborra would certainly provide Sunderland with much needed help in Moyes’ first season in charge.

Premier League projected lineups, stats – Week 3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City with his players during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here and below you will find projected lineups for each team, plus some quick stats on the encounter.

[ MORE: “Goal Rush” to debut ]

With two weeks off after this weekend, it is time to make the most of the action.

[ MORE: Full TV schedule ]

Let’s take a look at the 10 games on Saturday on Sunday.


Hull City vs. Manchester United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

  • 49 of Jose Mourinho’s 58 league defeats as a manager have come away from home (84%).
  • Mike Phelan was Manchester United assistant manager between September 2008 and May 2013 – during this time, United won three Premier League titles.

Projected lineups
Hull City: Jakupovic; Robertson, Davies, Livermore, Elmohamady; Snodgrass, Huddlestone, Clucas, Meyler; Diomande, Hernandez
Man United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Pogba, Fellaini; Martial, Rooney, Mata; Ibrahimovic


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

  • Chelsea have won the Premier League title in both of the previous seasons Burnley were in the division.
  • Burnley have picked up just two points from 11 previous visits to London in the Premier League (W0 D2 L9), scoring six times and conceding 28 goals.

Projected lineups
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Kante; Hazard, Costa, Oscar, Batshuayi
Burnley: Heaton; Lowton, Mee, Keane, Ward; Boyd, Defour, Arfield, Marney; Vokes, Gray


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

  • Watford have lost all six of their games against Arsenal in the Premier League, although they did beat the Gunners last season in an FA Cup quarter final match (2-1).
  • Watford have had the fewest shots on target (3), fewest total shots (11) and lowest number of touches in the opposition box (20) so far in the 2016-17 Premier League.

Projected lineups
Watford: Gomes; Britos, Prodl, Cathcart; Amrabat, Capoue, Geudioura, Behrami, Holebas; Ighalo, Deeney
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud


Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • This fixture has seen 136 goals scored in Premier League history, only three fixtures have seen more: Newcastle v Tottenham (138), Liverpool v Newcastle (138) and Tottenham v Arsenal (137).
  • Harry Kane has never scored a Premier League goal in the month of August, despite playing nine games and 545 minutes on the pitch in this month.

Projected lineups
Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier; Lamela, Alli, Kane, Eriksen; Janssen
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Mane, Firmino; Strurridge


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

  • Sunderland have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last seven Premier League matches against Southampton (15 conceded).
  • Southampton have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 14 Premier League matches; a run stretching back to February. Before this run, they’d kept six in a row.

Projected lineups
Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Fonte, Van Dijk, Targett; Hojbjerg, Davis, Clasie, Tadic; Long, Redmond
Sunderland: Pickford; Love, Djilobodji, McNair, Van Aanholt; Januzaj, Gooch, Rodwell, Pienaar; Defoe, Watmore


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

  • Lukaku has not scored or assisted a single goal in any of his last 10 Premier League appearances for Everton, a run stretching back to March 19th.
  •  Stoke have scored just one first half goal in their last seven Premier League matches, with five of their six goals in this period coming after half-time.

Projected lineups
Everton: Stekelenburg; Holgate, Funes Mori, Williams, Baines; Barry, Gueye, Barkley, Deulofeu; Bolasie, Lukaku
Stoke City: Given; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Imbula, Allen; Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic; Crouch


West Brom vs. Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM ]

  • Alvaro Negredo has been involved in all three of Middlesbrough’s Premier League goals so far this season (one goal, two assists).
  • Saido Berahino has just one goal and no assists in his last 26 Premier League appearances for WBA (1420 mins played).

Projected lineups
West Brom: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Olsson; Gardner, Yacob, Fletcher, Phillips; Rondon, Berahino
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Barragan, Friend, Gibson, Nsue; Downing, Clayton, Forshaw, Ramirez; Stuani, Negredo


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

  • Swansea are winless in their last 12 games away to Leicester in all competitions (D3 L9), losing the last six in a row.
  • If Leicester City lose this match, they’ll be only the sixth defending top-flight champions to win just one point in their first three games of the following season (no sides have 0 points).

Projected lineups
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Hernandez, Fuchs; Mahrez, King, Drinkwater, Albrighton; Vardy, Musa
Swansea: Fabianski; Kingsley, Fernandez, Amat, Naughton; Cork, Fer; Routledge, Barrow, Sigurdsson; Llorente


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

  • Crystal Palace have won just two of their 21 Premier League games in 2016 (W2 D5 L14).
  • Eddie Howe’s side have won three of their six away trips to London in the Premier League (W3 D0 L3).

Projected lineups
Crystal Palace: Mandanda; Ward, Tomkins, Dann, Souare; Townsend, Cabaye, Puncheon, Ledley, Zaha; Benteke
Bournemouth: Boruc; Franics, Cook, Smith, Daniels; Ibe, Cook, Surman, Fraser; King, Wilson


Man City vs. West Ham – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • Manchester City have lost only one of their last 10 Premier League meetings with West Ham on home soil (W8 D1), though it did come last time out in September 2015 (1-2).
  • Aguero has scored 37 goals in 47 Premier League games against London teams and six in eight league apps against West Ham United.

Projected lineups
Man City: Caballero; Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Silva; De Bruyne, Sterling, Nolito; Aguero
West Ham United: Adrian; Byram, Reid, Collins, Masuaku; Nordtveit, Kouyate; Antonio, Noble, Payet; Valencia


Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys in business

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 15:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here. Let’s keep rolling before the international break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ] 

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.

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

Hull City 1-3 Manchester United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Chelsea 4-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-3 Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

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

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

West Brom 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

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

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

Crystal Palace 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 West Ham – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule for 2016-17 – Week 3

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur and Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur celebrate during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane on August 20, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season as we prepare for a two week break following this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

It all kicks off with Tottenham Hotspur hosting Liverpool (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) at White Hart Lane in a eagerly anticipated clash between two to four contenders.

Then Chelsea welcome Burnley to Stamford Bridge (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with the Blues eager to not draw with the Clarets like they did at home two years ago as Antonio Conte‘s men aim to make it three wins from three to open up the season.

Rounding things off on Saturday, Hull City and Manchester United clash at the KCOM Stadium (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) with both teams looking to maintain their perfect record so far. Jose Mourinho’s men will be the heavy favorites but can beleaguered Hull shock everyone once again?

On Sunday West Bromwich Albion host Middlesbrough at the Hawthorns (8:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with newly-promoted ‘Boro aiming to stay unbeaten. Rounding off the weekend, Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City welcome injury-hit West Ham United to the Etihad (11 a.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) as the Citizens aim to keep their 100 percent record intact.

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: Tottenham vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Burnley – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Arsenal – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Stoke City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Swansea City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Sunderland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Hull City vs. Manchester United – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday

8:30 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Middlesbrough – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. West Ham United – NBCSN [STREAM]