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MLS Draft warnings, caveats and context: Looking at those 2010 top selections

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Denizens of the American sports scene recognize the imprecise nature of drafting college talent. Clearly it’s more art than science – otherwise, we would not have the notorious Jordan Oversight to consider:

Michael Jordan was selected No. 3 in the 1984 draft, but went on to more or less rule the kingdom with Chicago, claiming six NBA championships and 10 scoring titles as perhaps the game’s all-time all-timer. Ahem … No. 3.

So if elements as studied, filtered and fretted over as the NBA draft or the NFL draft cannot be folded into something more predictable, does the lesser known world of domestic soccer draft eligibles really stand a chance?

We don’t have to go much further than 2010, exactly three years ago, to see the imperfection at work. (Today is the exact anniversary of the 2010 MLS draft, so it seemed handy to start here.)

The top three picks were Danny Mwanga (pictured),Tony Tchani and Ike Opara. If you built a team around those three today – a forward, a midfielder and a defender now ostensibly be growing into their veteran leadership years – you might have something that looked like Toronto FC last year.

Note, if you will, that Toronto FC is picking first in 2013. There’s a reason: TFC was awful in 2012.

This is not to pick on Mwanga, Tchani and Opara, each of whom has struggled for reasons not entirely of their own creation. None of them are bad players – but they are walking, talking illustrations of the difficulty inherent in this process. Because they simply have not been what we might have reasonably expected of the top draft trio; shouldn’t one of the top three draft picks be strutting into star territory?

Rather, the trio’s combined average starts over three MLS seasons stands at an underwhelming 12.

Tchani launched his pro career in New York before moving to Toronto and then Columbus; all totaled he has 45 starts in three seasons.

New York was a tough place to start, as then-manager Hans Backe quickly assessed that products of the American system “are just missing something,” he once told me, unable to place exactly what, but probably referring to that extra little sixth sense of the game. It is probably the same something that Jurgen Klinsmann famously assessed was missing when Ghana dismissed the United States from World Cup 2010.

(MORE: a quickie MLS draft primer)

Backe once, somewhat infamously, I suppose, imposed a temporary rule in practice demanding that Tchani passed balls forward rather than backward or laterally. Clearly, the manager was something this side of impressed.

Tchani was traded to Toronto, where almost no one succeeds. Since then he’s moved to Columbus, where the central midfielder is a polarizing figure for fans around Crew Stadium. Again, he’s not a bad player – he’s just not storming the castles of success, either.

Opara has started even few games over three years (22), although some of that is down to injury misfortune. Either way, San Jose just let him go, and Opara – once seen as a shoe-in as the next great U.S. center back – now hopes to provide depth along Sporting Kansas City’s back line.

The circumstances around Mwanga, who has 42 starts, are even more muddy and tangled.  He was the Union’s original draft pick, taken No. 1 by the expansion club that day in Philadelphia – coincidentally, the draft was held right there in Philly. And he looked like a “can’t miss” type.

Well, he missed. Or the system missed. Or his deteriorating relationship with former Union manager Peter Nowak missed. Or something.

Bottom line here:  when a “can’t miss” No. 1 overall draft pick moves to Portland for Jorge Perlaza and allocation money, something has gone badly wrong.

Or, maybe we just say it again: it’s all more art than science.

By the way, the Nos. 4 and 5 draft picks that day in 2010, Teal Bunbury and Zach Loyd, have combined for seven full international appearances. That’s seven more than the combined number for the three men chosen above them with far greater acclaim on draft day exactly three years ago.

STREAM: Every 10am game; Premier League “Goal Rush”

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With four games coming your way on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET you have plenty of options as to how you watch them.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

First up, you can stream every game live online via the links below as Arsenal host Stoke City, Swansea and Sunderland clash in a relegation battle, Burnley welcome Bournemouth and Hull host Crystal Palace at 10 a.m. ET.

All the action will also be available via “Premier League Goal Rush” in a RedZone-like format which you can watch on the NBC Sports App, on NBCSports.com and on a dedicated Premier League Extratime channel as goals from all four matches in the 10 a.m. ET window will be shown simultaneously as live look-ins occur around all the grounds in the Premier League.

[ 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 very similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.

The feature game this weekend on “Goal Rush” will be Arsenal vs. Stoke City and as goals and incidents occur around the league, you will be transported to the action as it happens.

More info is available here, plus the schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below. You can stream each game live by clicking on the links below or above.


10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Stoke City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Sunderland – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Bournemouth – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Crystal Palace – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]

Watford 3-2 Everton: Hornets win pulsating clash

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  • Four-straight PL away defeats for Everton
  • First Watford win vs. Everton since March 1987
  • Okaka scores first two PL goals
  • Watford move on to 21 points

Watford fought back from 1-0 down to secure a well-deserved 3-2 win over Everton at Vicarage Road on Saturday, as Ronald Koeman continues to struggle with the Toffees winning just one of their last 10 Premier League games.

Romelu Lukaku put Everton ahead with a calm finish but Watford came roaring back and Stefano Okaka made it 1-1 at the break thanks to his fine back heel finish. In the second half Walter Mazzarri‘s side cranked up the pressure and made the most of some poor Everton defending from set pieces as Sebastian Prodl and then Okaka scored from headers to make it 3-1.

Lukaku headed home with five minutes to go to make it 3-2 and set up a nervy finish but the Hornets held on for a big win.

The victory moves Watford onto 21 points for the season and momentarily up to seventh, while Everton remain on 20 points and have now lost three of their last five games.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Early on Everton looked lively and they almost went ahead as a corner from the right was played short to Gerard Deulofeu and his dipping cross almost caught out Heurelho Gomes at the near post but the Watford goalkeeper hooked the ball off the line.

Watford began to come into the game with Etienne Capoue causing problems but soon Everton were ahead. A clipped ball over the top from Gareth Barry caught out Watford’s entire backline and Lukaku latched onto the loose ball and slotted home his first goal in five games and his eighth in the Premier League this season. 1-0 to the Toffees.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Soon after Troy Deeney was found in the box by Nordin Amrabat but a heavy touch saw the chance for him come and go. Watford huffed and puffed and eventually they were level through a wonderful finish from Okaka.

Amrabat’s cross from the right was met by the Italian striker at the near post and he sent in a beautiful back heel effort to score his first goal for Watford. 1-1. Before half time the Hornets had a great chance but Deeney didn’t anticipate Seamus Coleman missing the ball at the back post and the teams went in level.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Everton started the better of the two teams and at the other end Prodl headed over from a good position inside the box but soon he would make up for that miss. Jose Holebas’ free kick from the left was nodded home by Prodl as he made it 2-1 and was completely unchallenged.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Watford were flying as Miguel Britos then forced Maarten Stekelenburg into a magnificent save as his header at the back post was tipped over and from the resulting corner the Hornets went further ahead.

Okaka sent a flicked header at the near post towards the back post and the ball crossed the line with Leighton Baines trying to clear it. 3-1.

Everton brought on Ross Barkley, Enner Valencia and Aaron Lennon with the latter crossing for Lukaku who headed home to make it 3-2 and then Gomes spilled a cross but no Everton player reacted with the clock ticking down.

The Hornets held on, and put back-to-back defeats behind them with an important three points.

Atletico Nacional to honor Chapecoense at Club World Cup

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30: A detailed view of the Chapecoense badge during a minutes silence ahead of the EFL Cup quarter final match between Arsenal and Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on November 30, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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OSAKA, Japan (AP) Colombia’s Atletico Nacional arrived in Japan for the Club World Cup on Saturday still dealing with the trauma of the recent airplane crash that caused the cancellation of the Copa Sudamericana final.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]

Atletico was to play Brazilian club Chapecoense in the final but the plane carrying the Brazilian team to the game crashed, killing almost all on board.

Nacional qualified for the Club World Cup by winning the Copa Liberdatores in July and vowed to honor the memory of their rivals when they face either South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns or Japanese champions Kashima Antlers on Wednesday.

The directors of Atletico asked the governing body of South American football to award Chapecoense the Copa Sudamericana championship.

Atletico is hoping to advance to a final against Spanish giants Real Madrid on Dec. 18.

VIDEO: Stefano Okaka scores stunning flicked back heel goal

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Stefano Okaka of Watford (33) scores their first and equalising goal during the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
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Stefano Okaka has arrived in the Premier League.

The Watford striker, 27, scored his first goal for the club and in England with a majestic back heel flick to draw the Hornets level against Everton at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports

Okaka started the play as he put the ball out wide to Nordin Amrabat and then got himself in the box as he converted the cross with a delightful back heel finish on the turn.

Watch the video below to see Okaka get off the mark in the Premier League.

Not a bad way to do it, Stefano…