Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Gerald Pique, Victor Valdes, Pedro, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, David Villa, Xavi, Jordi Alba

Three Talking Points: Spain 2 Ireland 0

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It may have been just a friendly but the match between Spain and Ireland on Tuesday night still provided plenty of interesting talking points. Here are three thoughts from the clash in the Bronx.

Gerard Pique Fancies Himself

One thing about Gerard Pique, the man really fancies himself an offensive weapon. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t, as we’ve all witnessed the Barcelona man’s quality going forward, but it is quite remarkable how frequently he leaves the Spanish defense exposed.

In last night’s match Pique spent the first half slipping into positions high on the right wing where he sought to collaborate with David Silva in giving Ireland right-back Paul McShane a nightmare. Pique’s advancements resulted in numerous headers that provided Spain a handful of second ball opportunities and a volley that required a goal-line clearance by the Irish.

In the second half Pique took a more proactive approach to his advancements, dribbling out of the back with a flair and panache remniscent of Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer. At one point, in the 66th minute, Pique literally danced around two defenders in his defensive third before throwing a Cruyff move that luckily earned him a free-kick. It was an Olé-worthy display but also a reckless act of self-promotion that, had he lost possession, would have seen Ireland through on goal.

Granted, it was a friendly match so perhaps Gerry was being a tad bit more aggressive than normal. But keep a keen eye on his movements during the Confederations Cup, where punishment is certain to be swift and costly.

Giovanni Trapattoni Had A Plan

At the tender age of 74, Giovanni Trapattoni remains a cheeky manager. Knowing his Ireland squad would be facing Spain’s first-string, he deployed a young Starting XI in a 4-4-2 formation that likely had La Furia Roja thinking the match would be a walk in the park. But as Spain would soon find out, breaking down Ireland was anything but easy.

Utilizing Seamus Coleman, a lung-busting full-back, and Andy Keogh, a forward with searing pace, as outside midfielders, Trapattoni was able to get eight players behind the ball and compact within the 18 yard box. It was a tactic that Spain had seen on numerous occasions but one that Ireland executed well, consistently forcing the Champions into outside shots or poor passes through non-existent holes.

Once they recovered possession, Trapattoni’s men looked for Coleman and Keogh on quick outlets or Conor Sammon through the air. The result was two marquee chances that Ireland failed to capitalize on. But give credit to the Italian gaffer – he had a plan and it nearly foiled Spain.

Final Pass Still Spain’s Downfall

For all the possession they enjoyed on the night, Spain still had difficulty un-locking the Irish defense. The final entry pass remains the Achilles heel of the tiki-taka specialists.

As they inch up the pitch, one and two-touch passing through the quadrants, Spain are particularly comfortable. David Villa interchanges with David Silva, Silva with Pedro, Pedro with Andres Iniesta, and Iniesta with Xavi, and so on and so forth. It’s a mesmerizing display until they reach the top of their opponents’ box where suddenly, the number of defenders doubles and the space shrinks from a 70×40 yard grid to 40×15.

At this point, Spain (or, Barcelona, however you want to look at it) typically utilizes one of two options – slip a low pass through defenders or scoop a lofted pass over their heads. Problem is, a compact defense and a goalkeeper who is good at reading the game and quick off his line can sniff these passes out.

That’s when things get interesting. What to do? Outside shots are not Spain’s forté and relying on set-pieces can be a risky move.

Perhaps it’s time to reinvent?

Contest to crown “Best American Bar” for Premier League fans

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For most of the weekend mornings, bars across the United States of America turn into places filled with jerseys of every color imaginable and either screams of despair or yelps of delight fill the air.

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Fans of the Premier League in the U.S. flock to plenty of pubs and bars across the nation to watch all the action and now NBC Sports wants to crown the “Best Premier League Bar in America” with your help.

Below are the details on how to get involved in the contest, as you can submit a nomination by visiting

Oh, and by the way, the winning bar will receive $50,000 and an exclusive viewing party hosted by NBC Sports, plus be featured in a national commercial.

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Also, hit play in the video above to get a flavor of the competition.

STAMFORD, Conn. – October, 2015 – This week, NBC Sports Group introduced a contest searching for the best Premier League bar in America.

From now through December 6, NBC Sports Group is asking fans to “show their pub some love” by submitting nominations  to help their bar take the throne at Additionally, fans can support their pub by:

  • Checking in on the NBC Sports Matchmaker App
  • Sharing stories, images and videos by tagging their bar and using #BestPLBarContest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Describing how much their Premier League pub means to them here.

The contest site also features a full list of participating bars, a list of trending bars, a social media feed with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts with the hashtag #BestPLBarContest, and a schedule of upcoming Premier League fixtures.

Following are the 10 bars currently trending:

  • The Londoner, Dallas, TX
  • Maggie McGarrys, San Francisco, CA
  • Irish Channel, Washington, DC
  • Carragher’s, New York, NY
  • Lucky Bar, Washington, DC
  • Boston Beer Garden, Boston, MA
  • 11th Street Bar, New York, NY
  • Beef & Barley, Chicago, Ill.
  • George and Dragon Pub, Seattle, WA
  • The Blind Pig, New York, NY

2015 MLS playoff scenarios heading into penultimate week

Michael Bradley, Toronto FC
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This is it, we have arrived at the penultimate week of the 2015 Major League Soccer season and there is still a lot to be decided.

[ MORE: Update on Beckham in MIA ]

Only five teams, the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps have booked their spot in the postseason so far and the regular season Western and Eastern Conference titles are still up for grabs.

That, coupled with teams on the bubble (Orlando, Houston, Portland and RSL, I’m looking at you) for the playoffs is adding up to an enthralling final few games of the season as teams currently in the playoffs are only separated by a few points here and there.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ] 

Below, courtesy of the league office, are the scenarios for each MLS team to clinch a berth in the playoffs. Study. Worry. Repeat.

We will have an updated list of the scenarios later this week after the next batch of games are played on Wednesday.


Columbus Crew SC will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • Columbus Crew SC win or tie vs. Toronto FC on Saturday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

New England Revolution will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • New England Revolution win or tie vs. Montreal Impact on Saturday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

Toronto FC will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • Toronto FC win or tie vs. New York Red Bulls on Wednesday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

Montreal Impact will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • Montreal Impact win vs. New England Revolution on Saturday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

New York Red Bulls will clinch first place in the Eastern Conference IF

  • New York Red Bulls win or tie vs. Toronto FC on Wednesday