ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions

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Major League Soccer’s 18th season kicks off March 2, and we have the nourishment for your MLS-hungry soul.

Can Los Angeles and a wishy-washy Landon Donovan capture an unprecedented third straight MLS Cup? Can fab Frenchman Thierry Henry finally lead the Red Bulls into a more accomplished universe? Where are the breakout men of 2013? Who are the standard bearers at their positions?

It’s all ahead (plus lots more) at ProSoccerTalk as we drop the MLS preseason knowledge:

  • PST Eastern Conference Previews

Feb. 20: Toronto FC

Feb. 21: Montreal Impact

Feb. 22: New England Revolution

Feb. 23: Columbus Crew

Feb. 24: Philadelphia Union

Feb. 25: Houston Dynamo

Feb. 26: Chicago Fire

Feb. 27: New York Red Bulls

Feb. 28: Sporting Kansas City

March 1: D.C. United

  • PST Western Conference Previews

Feb. 20: Chivas USA

Feb. 21: Colorado Rapids

Feb. 22: FC Dallas

Feb. 23: Vancouver Whitecaps

Feb. 24: Portland Timbers

Feb. 25: Seattle

Feb. 26: Real Salt Lake

Feb. 27: LA Galaxy

Feb. 28: San Jose Earthquakes

  • PST Positional rankings:

Feb. 21: Goalkeepers

Feb. 22: Right backs

Feb. 23: Left backs

Feb. 24: Center backs

Feb. 25: Right midfielders

Feb. 26: Left midfielders

Feb. 27: Central midfielders/holding midfielders

Feb. 28: Attacking midfielders

March 1: Strikers

  • Critical preseason knowledge

Feb. 28: PST All-United States Best XI

March 1: PST’s Major League Soccer Best XI, 2013 preseason version

  • PST preseason predictions

Feb. 26: Our predictions for Rookie of the Year

Feb. 27: Our predictions for Most Valuable Player

Feb. 28: Our predictions for 2013 leading scorer

March 1: Our conference champions and big winner

  • Good MLS preseason reads

No goal line technology for MLS in 2013

Major League Soccer IS a seller’s league … and that’s OK

Three Good Questions for: New York Red Bulls manager Mike Petke

Portland, Porter confident heading into new season

New setup leaves FC Dallas looking for answers in midfield

Three Good Questions for: San Jose head coach Frank Yallop

Dominic Kinnear, the dean of MLS coaches (and then some)

Three Good Questions for: Portland’s Diego Valeri

Two sides of the coin with Obafemi Martins

Are we headed for a highly unpredictable MLS season?

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).

After the swap: Alexis, Mkhi-infused XIs for Man Utd, Arsenal

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The deal is done: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has moved to Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez going the other way in a monumental January move.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

How will it look for each side once the shape’s settled?

Arsenal

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at his very best — for Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 — he was deployed as a left or right wing. He contributed 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 matches during his final season at the Westfalenstadion, and predictably saw those numbers drop as Jose Mourinho consistently moved him toward an attacking center midfield role.

He’ll get the chance to go out wide again at the Emirates Stadium, though perhaps not always to the extreme flanks. Expect Alexandre Lacazette‘s numbers to explode with this move.

Arsene Wenger used a 4-3-3 to batter Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend, with Ozil on the right wing and Alex Iwobi on the left. The club still needs better at center defensive mid while Aaron Ramsey is out, so that will likely keep the lineup similar until he returns (at a minimum):

Cech

Bellerin — Mustafi — Koscielny — Montreal

Elneny (Ramsey, eventually)

Xhaka — Wilshere

Ozil — Lacazette — Mkhitaryan

By the way, a lot of Arsenal supporters aren’t feeling great about this (understatement alert):

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez prefers left wing, too, and Mourinho has a trio of in-form players who like that side of the field. Anthony Martial is red hot but plays wider than Jesse Lingard, and it seems one of them will take the slot of Juan Mata to the right of Paul Pogba in a 4-1-4-1. Marcus Rashford could also see the far right positioning.

But against top competition — continued apologies to Burnley — it’s usually a 4-2-3-1 for Mourinho with Pogba dropping next to Nemanja Matic a little deeper in the formation. Lingard has been getting the run as CAM here, usually to the detriment of Juan Mata. With Alexis as the clear-cut left wing in this formation, it causes real combat for the two other slots between Mata, Lingard, Rashford, and Martial.

So while it’s likely we’d see something like this in a big game for Manchester United…

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Pogba

Martial — Lingard —  Sanchez

Lukaku

… We’d love to see something more like this:

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Herrera

Pogba

Martial — Lukaku — Sanchez

How do you think Wenger and Mou will run ’em out?

Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap official (video)

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Arsenal and Manchester United have completed their American-style trade, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining the Gunners and Alexis Sanchez on board the Red Devils’ train.

Both 29 years old, the playmakers arrive at their new homes with plenty to prove.

More to come…