Drilling down on: New York 0, D.C. United 0

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New York surely hates to be winless after three matches in 2013, especially since these are Mike Petke’s first matches as a head coach.

On the other hand, it’s should be hard to feel too badly about the performance in a 0-0 draw with D.C. United. The Red Bulls were absolutely dominant. They needed to be a little sharper inside United’s 18, but otherwise there was so much to like about how the team approached and executed in its home opener.

The Red Bulls outshot their visitors from down the coast, 24-5.

(MORE: Match report from Jeff Kassouf, reporting from Harrison, N.J.)

Man of the Match

Brandon Barklage’s stoppage-time header, saved wonderfully by DCU goalkeeper Bill Hamid, will be the next poster moment for goal-like technology. It was awfully close. Either way, it was a quick-reaction swat away that earned a point for his team, preserving the draw dramatically. That was one of six saves for  United’s young goalkeeper. Oh, Hamid insists Barklage’s header never crossed the line: “No, it didn’t. I got there right before it went over.”

 Threesome of knowledge: what we learned

  • New York’s Olave is The Man 

United’s attack was a mess all the way around Saturday, but when the visitors did  manage to establish some possession, Jamison Olave was always in the way.

Olave is such a big fellow that it’s easy to forget how fast the Red Bulls commanding center back really is. (It’s that combo of speed and size, with the attached tenacity and smarts, that make Olave one of the league’s premier center backs.) That ability to close space quickly comes in handy for cleaning up messes, too, which we saw a lot of during Olave’s years at Rio Tinto with Real Salt Lake.

  • Fabian Espindola is working out great

All three of New York’s trio of top attackers were feeling it Saturday. But it was Fabian Espindola who came so close to making the moment that mattered. Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill certainly helped, but the newest striking weapon around Red Bull Arena hit the crossbar twice, once on a very difficult and quite athletic twisting header, and once on a big blast that punctuated some tricky dribbling through two flummoxed United defenders.

Red Bull management’s choice to jettison Kenny Cooper and Sebastien Le Toux, effectively swapping out those two for Espindola, who was scooped up in a big trade with Real Salt Lake, is looking like a good one. He has more chemistry with Henry after three matches than Cooper or Le Toux ever developed over an entire season. (Well, half a season in Le Toux’s case … but same difference.)

  • D.C. United passing in a word: yuk

DC just isn’t going to be the same with Saragosa in the lineup as with the more skillful John Thorrington, who is out for at least two months with a knee injury. Saragosa adds midfield bite, but he just doesn’t have the passing and receiving skill to operate smoothly alongside Perry Kitchen when United gets the ball.

Along with a defense that’s average at best in distribution, DCU struggled much of the day to get the ball into attacking positions.  And without the ability to mount much attack, it was mostly defend, defend and defend all day for the visitors.

Packaged for take-away

  • What is it about these two teams meeting at Red  Bull Arena that makes it want to snow so badly? Flurries throughout the afternoon framed the NBC pictures nicely.
  • New York’s Juninho has recovered well enough from a Week 1 injury to get back on the field, entering in the second half for Johnny Steele.
  • Lionard Pajoy in his 70 minutes for DCU? Absolutely invisible.
  • Dwayne De Rosario wasn’t seen much more; missing those first two matches due to suspension for a preseason incident seems to have left the former league MVP behind for now.

Full match highlights are here:

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Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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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

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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…