ProSoccerTalk’s Top 5 Goals – English Premier League (Matchweek 31)

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It was yet another mind-blowing weekend for goals in the Premier League.

While some clubs fought for spots in Europe, others challenged to get themselves in the Top 10 while others battled to avoid the dreaded relegation zone. Regardless of the motive, there’s little doubt that the final-stretch intensity has set in across the Premier League. The result was goals, goals and more goals – many so fantastic in nature that to do them justice we’re reviewing the Top 5 of Matchweek 31.

The list is so good that it’s worth mentioning who didn’t make it. You won’t see Jan Vertonghen’s silky finish against Swansea, or Jay Rodriguez’ clinical opener that turned the Chelsea defense inside out. You won’t see Jordan Henderson’s relaxed poke against Aston Villa or Hal Robson Kanu’s suicidal diving header against Arsenal. You won’t see Gary O’Neill’s incredible swerving game-winner against West Brom or Christian Benteke’s first-time rip that cut open the Liverpool defense like a Ginsu. And you won’t see Michu’s snap header to the far post or Yaya Toure’s bust-through the box and near-post finish from next to no angle.

All of those were fantastic goals – but these are the best.

5. ANDY CARROLL – WEST HAM UNITED

Welcome back, Andy Carroll! The West Ham striker was an absolute beast in his club’s 3-1 destruction of West Brom on Saturday, hitting a sensational brace for the first time in nearly two years. He opened the scoring in the 20th minute when he slipped his defender and pounded a frightening header past Ben Foster. He outdid himself in the 80th minute when James Collins lofted a free-kick from half field into the box. Carroll took his run from the top of the 18 yard box to the right side of goal, let the ball float over his right shoulder and slammed a first-time volley into the far corner to seal the Hammers’ victory.

4. GARETH BALE – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 

Gareth Bale’s been getting so much press lately that I tried to avoid putting the Spurs dynamo into this list, keep the boy’s ego in check a bit. But to do so would be an injustice to football and an unreasonable denial of the truth – that Gareth Bale is a truly remarkable footballer capable of truly remarkable feats. On Saturday his 17th goal of the season was not only another game-winner but it marked his seventh Premier League goal scored from outside the 18 yard box. Seven? That’s just plain silly. The strike was unlike any goal I’d witnessed in a long time. After receiving Jan Vertonghen’s pass with his right foot, the Welshman rabbit-hopped into an outside of the left foot shot that corkscrewed into the top corner, leaving Swansea keeper Michel Vorm helpless and fans breathless.

3. RICKIE LAMBERT – SOUTHAMPTON 

If you’ve watched Rickie Lambert play then you already know why so many people (myself included) are busting vocal chords over Roy Hodgson’s repeated refusal to call him into the England squad. The 6’1″ striker is not only lethal in the air and in front of goal but he’s making quite a name for himself from 25 yard spot kicks. One match removed from his strike that found the back of the net against Liverpool, Lambert was at it again on Saturday. Merely two minutes after John Terry leveled the match for Chelsea, Lambert stepped to the free-kick and unleashed a calculated pill that dipped over the Blues wall and bulged the net. The goal handed Southampton a crucial 2-1 victory and confirmed Lambert’s status atop the charts for English goal-scorers with 14.

2. AROUNA KONE – WIGAN ATHELTIC

The Ivorian was mentioned in the Narratives leading up to Matchweek 31 and he didn’t disappoint. With the match locked in a 0-0 stalemate in the 80th minute, Kone burst past his marker and latched on to Jordi Gomez’ through-ball to smash home the game-winner from the top of the box. With the goal Wigan grabbed all three points and wiggled itself out of the relegation zone.

1. KEVIN MIRALLAS – EVERTON 

Ask any Evertonian and he will tell you the same thing – Kevin Mirallas is the next great footballer at Everton. With Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini out for the Stoke clash, it was up to Mirallas to bring home the points and the Belgian did so in fantastic fashion. Stoke’s Marc Wilson lofted in a free-kick in the 28th minute that Everton keeper Tim Howard punched out to Mirallas, standing about 20 yards outside the box. The winger collected the ball, fought off Steven N’Zonzi, and torched Stoke’s defense with eight touches across 70 yards before slotting the ball home with aplumb.

Bobby Wood looks forward to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann

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A back injury kept Bobby Wood from United States men’s national team camp, but the Hamburg striker has been feeling good about the side’s World Cup fortunes since before the big win over Honduras.

Speaking with Hamburg’s team magazine, Wood gave a sprawling interview on his career and time with the national team. Wood praised Arena for scouting in Germany, saying the USMNT boss is a quiet coach who has his own style of playing, one that will prod the Yanks into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Complete USMNT-Panama preview ]

But the 24-year-old Hawaii-born striker saved his fondest words for ex-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, essentially calling him a career-saver. From HSV live (translated from German):

He’s very important to me. I believe if Jürgen had not been U.S. coach, then I might have stopped playing football or would have played somewhere in the fourth league.

That is why I am very, very grateful to him. At that time I was in a deep hole – it was real heavy. … He has believed in my quality. We are still in contact, he texts me.

Wood was a part-time player for 1860 Munich when Klinsmann first called him up to the national team side, and now he’s a Bundesliga striker who will be in demand if the club is relegated. Wood has also been mentioned as a target for Premier League clubs.

That’s a pretty good career jump. Klinsmann may have failed to deliver much of what he promised to the national team, but talent mining was done quite well.

USMNT-Panama preview: World Cup calm at stake

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Still wounded from the first two matches of the Hex but buoyed by its demolition of Honduras, the United States men’s national team faces an inspired Panama on Tuesday night in Panama City.

The Yanks arose from the ashes of losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to bury Honduras 6-0 Friday behind a Clint Dempsey hat trick and a goal and two assists from Christian Pulisic.

A win on Tuesday in Panama gives the U.S. something that can only soothe the nerves ahead of two summer qualifiers and the Gold Cup: Top Three status in the Hex (as is always expected).

Now the resurgent Americans face a Panama side which sits above them on the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table, having narrowed the gap on a Los Canaleros side who itself has narrowed its sights on a USMNT which burned them nearly four years ago.

[ USMNT-HONDURAS: Player ratings | Three things ]

Panama looked set to earn an interconfederation playoff berth with a 2-1 lead over the already-advanced U.S. when Graham “San” Zusi and Aron Johannsson led a shocking comeback at the Estadio Rommel Fernández to give Mexico the Hex’s fourth-place.

Los Canaleros shot out of the Hex gates with a win at Honduras and a 0-0 draw at home against Mexico, but fell 1-0 at Trinidad and Tobago on Friday thanks to Minnesota United star Kevin Molino.

Now licking its wounds while eyeing revenge, Panama will hope its pair of draws with the U.S. at the 2015 Gold Cup are the start they need to pick up a first home World Cup qualifying win over the States. Panama won the third-place match over the USMNT via shootout at the that tournament.

Boss Hernán Darío Gómez is no stranger to international battles having led Ecuador, Colombia, and Guatemala. He deployed a 4-5-1 against T&T, and could opt for that again but has usually used either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 with two holding mids against deeper sides than the Soca Warriors.

The former has worked better, and the personnel sometimes serves as a surprise. Last time out, in a 0-0 draw against Mexico, Gomez kept Anibal Godoy and Luis Tejada on the bench in what looks like a 4-2-2-2 at times.

[ MORE: Making sense out of the 6-0 win ]

Bruce Arena faces his own issues. In addition to the absences of Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson, the USMNT lost Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks in the win over Honduras.

Lletget’s absence is quickly remedied by either Alejandro Bedoya or, more likely, Jermaine Jones, but Brooks is a bigger problem. The Hertha Berlin man cleaned up several messes made by Omar Gonzalez, the ex-LA Galaxy man who — for better or worse — may not have shaken Arena’s confidence thanks to their long relationship.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron is his best option at CB, and could serve a similar purpose to Brooks. Still, he’s not 100 percent.

Gonzalez and Matt Besler worked well together a long time ago, but Tim Ream was Arena’s first choice when Brooks hit the turf with dehydration on Friday. There’s also wild card Walker Zimmerman, who would be taking the field in his highest-profile match yet.

Arena will want to take the match to Panama, even on the road. How will it look in front of Tim Howard? This is an option for Arena, though not one we expect:

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Ream — Villafana

Jones — Bradley — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

Instead, Arena will probably roll the bones with Gonzalez again, and keep things close to the Honduras win. It would be silly to break up the Villafana-Nagbe partnership on the left, and the top three isn’t changing one bit.

The question is whether Arena ruffles Jones, who is both combustible and not part of the long-term future. But Jones, like all of us, would’ve seen 6-0. So, probably, this:

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Ream — Villafana

Bradley

Bedoya — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

If Bradley provides the same picture-perfect cover for the back four and Pulisic continues to hum off the veteran big bodies of Dempsey and Altidore, the latter of which who is due a goal or two, the Yanks win. At worst, they’re beaten for pace by Alberto Quintero and stymied by Jaime Penedo. But the former can be covered by an in-form Howard, and the latter can only hold out for so long.

A draw puts the U.S. behind Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico ahead of two months off and the knowledge that both Mexico and Costa Rica are home for both June qualifiers.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.