Major League Soccer positional Top Tens: LEFT MIDFIELDERS

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So many of the league’s premier left-sided midfielders really aren’t midfielders in the strictest sense. It makes this list even more problematic than yesterday’s roster of the best and brightest right-sided MLS men.

Chris Pontius, Fabian Castillo and Mike Magee have found themselves deployed as much at forward as along the outside, for instance. Lee Nguyen and Bobby Convey are more prototypical wingers than true midfielders.

Brad Davis and Camilo could just as easily operate as central midfielders or as left-sided mids who lean considerably to the inside, the way Fulham used U.S. international Clint Dempsey for much of his time at Craven Cottage.

But never mind all that.

All of this is just for conversation anyway. Our next ordering of positional talent in Major League Soccer, the league’s top left-sided midfielders:

1. D.C. United’s Chris Pontius >

Let’s hope this guy can stay healthy, because the sky is truly the limit. Pontius (pictured above) has the brains, the pace, the desire and the finishing ability out of midfield. Let’s just go bold here and predict a giant breakout year, not just around RFK Stadium, but in finally getting a deserved shot at Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team. (Pontius gets ahead of Brad Davis on my list only because of his age, 25, and potential upside.)

2. Houston Dynamo’s Brad Davis

3. New England Revolution’s Lee Nguyen

4. FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo >

Someday the Colombian kid’s soccer brain will catch up with those 20-year-old feet. Signs were abundant that it was happening toward the end of 2012 around FC Dallas Stadium.

5. LA Galaxy’s Mike Magee >

LA Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane is wondering openly these days about why Magee can’t generate at least a wee little chatter about U.S. national team recognition. Ummm … that’s a good question!

6. Vancouver Whitecaps’s Camilo

7. Seattle’s Steve Zakuani >

The big question, obviously, is whether the Sounders pacey blazer along the outside can regain pre-injury form? He never gained full speed in 2012 – didn’t get close, really – so this is a big year in displaying a career fully back on track. If so, expect this list to look different at year’s end, because Zakuani could easily climb.

8. Montreal Impact’s Justin Mapp >

Mapp is fascinating in that he’s been at about the same place for years now. We’re talking about a guy who is only 28, but he’s been a starter in this league for 10 years now. He still has some game-breaking ability; if Mapp could apply it a little more often, he’d be a Best XI type and a national team regular, rather than someone relegated to the outer limits of the U.S. player pool.

9. Colorado Rapids’ Tony Cascio

10. Chicago Fire’s Dilly Duka >

This one is mostly about potential. The former U.S. under-23 was unhappy in Columbus but got the move he wanted and has apparently won the starting position in Chicago. It’s on you now, kid!

(MORE: full roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

American teen McKennie gets first Bundesliga start vs. Bayern

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A Tuesday quartet of Bundesliga matches features one of extreme interest to American soccer supporters.

Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with Christian Pulisic, nor Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, and Alfredo Morales.

[ MORE: PST talks with McKennie ]

Nope, that’s because Bayern Munich’s visit to Schalke will stand as the first Bundesliga start for 19-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie.

The youngster turned 19 a couple weeks behind his buddy Pulisic, and has four senior appearances for Schalke. He will certainly receive a USMNT call-up soon.

A central midfielder, McKennie is paired with prized asset Leon Goretzka. An even match through 20 minutes, Bayern has just got ahead through a Robert Lewandowski penalty kick given through VAR.

LIVE – Premier League big boys enter League Cup

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Buckle up. 11 League Cup games are coming your way on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Latest League Cup scores ] 

The third round of the League Cup (known as the Carabao Cup for sponsorship purposes) sees the seven Premier League teams in European competitions enter the tournament.

Three all-Premier League ties have been set up with Leicester hosting Liverpool, Crystal Palace clashing with Huddersfield and Bournemouth having another South Coast derby against Brighton just a few days after their first-ever top-flight meeting.

Four Premier League teams face teams from the Championship as West Ham host second-tier strugglers Bolton, Burnley welcome Championship leaders Leeds United, Swansea head to Reading and Stoke City head to second-tier Bristol City in some potential banana skin ties for PL clubs.

Five more League Cup games take place on Wednesday with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton all hosting lower-league opponents.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s League Cup games with all games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday’s League Cup schedule

Bournemouth vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Aston Villa vs. Middlesbrough
Brentford vs. Norwich City
Bristol City vs. Stoke City
Burnley vs. Leeds United
Crystal Palace vs. Huddersfield Town
Leicester City vs. Liverpool
West Ham United vs. Bolton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Bristol Rovers

Reading vs. Swansea City – 3 p.m. ET
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Barnsley – 3 p.m. ET

Ramos extends US deal as youth director, U20 coach

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Tab Ramos is one of the most influential people for U.S. Soccer.

It will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

[ MORE: Pulisic the Golden Boy? ]

Ramos, 50, has been in charge of the U.S. U-20 national team since Oct. 2011 and has held his role as the youth technical director since Nov. 2013.

In that time the U.S. has seen plenty of promising youngsters (Christian Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin, Kellyn Acosta and Jordan Morris to name a few) graduate to the USMNT and Ramos’ leadership has been integral to that pathway.

Speaking to U.S. Soccer about his decision to sign a new deal as both the youth technical director and the U-20 coach, Ramos believes he can now help to accelerate the development of youth players.

“I am very excited to continue my work at U.S. Soccer as Youth Technical Director and U-20 Men’s National Team head coach,” Ramos said. “I am pleased with the historic results we have achieved on the field over the last few years as we continue pushing to set higher standards. We have provided great experiences to players who are now beginning to make room for themselves on the Senior National Team. My Youth Technical Director role gives me the opportunity to continue the integration of all our Youth National Teams as well as helping with the implementation of our Player Development Initiatives nationwide which will help our youth players develop at a much faster rate for years to come.”

With the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown, Brooks Lennon, Tyler Adams and Josh Sargent all impressing for the U-20 side in both the CONCACAF Championship (which the U.S. won) and the U-20 World Cup (the U.S. reached the quarters) earlier this summer, it seems like Ramos is ready to push on the next crop of youngsters who can push for spot in Bruce Arena’s full national team.

Ramos’ resume as a player and coach is not only impressive but garners respect from every single person connected with U.S. Soccer. He played at three World Cups in a 13-year stint for the USMNT and was part of the coaching staff at the 2014 World Cup as well as leading numerous youth teams to their respective World Cups.

Very smart move from Sunil Gulati and Co.

Ander Herrera piles the pressure on Manchester City

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Ah, just five games into the Premier League season and the mind games have already started.

[ MORE: Pulisic the Golden Boy? ]

Manchester United’s midfield terrier Ander Herrera has been speaking about the pressure facing crosstown rivals Manchester City who are the Premier League favorites.

Herrera, United’s Player of the Season in 2016-17 as they won the Community Shield, League Cup and Europa League, believes that spending over $240 million means Pep Guardiola‘s side are “obligated” to deliver trophies this season.

“Man City have spent the biggest amount in the Premier League so they are the principle contenders for the title,” Herrera said. “We will try to be there as well, we have quality as well, and we will fight for every title. But I think because of the money they have spent they are the favorites. We will try to be there but they have spent the biggest money in the league.

“There is always pressure when you spend a lot but there is also pressure on us because we are the biggest club in England. We won three titles last season and City didn’t win anything. They are under pressure. They are obligated to win titles. We won three last season so they have more obligation than us. But you know when you play for Man United wining is an expectation and an obligation but I like that obligation to be honest.”

Does he have a point?

Last season City’s failure to win a trophy was put down to the “process” under Pep as they lost in the FA Cup semifinals, were knocked out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 and finished a distant third in the Premier League.

This season no silverware and a finish below second place in the table would constitute a massive disappointment for Guardiola’s side and pressure would perhaps start to build on the Spanish coach.

With City and United the only two teams in the Premier League who remain unbeaten (they have identical records with points, goals scored, goals against and points) the growing notion that the PL trophy will be in Manchester next May seems spot on.

Between now and then every single way United or City can gain an advantage over their rivals, that will take it.

Herrera has started the mind games ridiculously early and perhaps that shows just how scared United are of City as Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva rip teams apart and the deadly strike-partnership of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus deliver the goals.

Mark this date in your calendar: Manchester United vs. Manchester City on Dec. 9.