AT&T MLS All Star Game - Chelsea v MLS All Stars

The changing identity of … Major League Soccer

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In time, Saturday night will be seen as a watershed moment in Major League Soccer, the first time the 17-year-old league was able to convince both a prominent player and his club to play ball on a big transfer from Europe. That the player happened to be the captain of the U.S. Men’s National Team makes the occasion more memorable (and Seattle’s circumstances are certainly different from almost every other team’s in Major League Soccer), but luring any player of renown who is still capable of dressing for one of England’s top teams would be celebrated as a league-wide victory.

Euro-centric fans will downplay the significance, and not without  reason, but within the scope of the league, Dempsey’s acquisition is undeniable progress. This is a milestone many fans have wanted to hit for some time. In addition to keeping the Omar Gonzalez-types from jumping once their first contracts play out, fans want to be able to compete for European-caliber talent; specifically, U.S. internationals. That the U.S international is the first to be reeled in makes this a boon.

It’s worth asking whether Major League Soccer, considered by many as more of a selling league, is now a buyer. Put another way, is the immediate future that of an importer, not an exporter? Given MLS’s structure, there’s no single answer to that. Even though they sold Fredy Montero earlier this year, Seattle’s clearly a buyer. When the LA Galaxy (seemingly inevitably) join Seattle and spend big for a third DP, they’ll affirm their status as heavy hitters. But the vast majority of MLS clubs still can’t compete with strong bids from clubs from even mid-tier European leagues. Still, between the established powers, the Pacific Northwest teams, and the two Eastern Canada clubs, more and more MLS clubs are capable of being players, not spectators.

[MORE: The changing identity of … Seattle Sounders FC]

But not everything is sunshine and roses in MLS Land. Seattle’s spending is worrisome for some in the league, particularly those concerned that the growth of a few clubs threatens to dwarf the capabilities of others. Between expanding the Designated Player rules and instituting retention funds, the league’s affluent teams have more avenues to distance themselves from the pack. The extent to which that (as opposed to Seattle’s unique circumstances) influenced the Dempsey deal is debatable, but as part of the overall landscape, some see it as cause for concern.

Then there’s fan frustration, most present in Portland, who not only are Seattle’s chief rivals but sat on top of the allocation order when Dempsey rejoined the league. Many’s readings of the rules assumed the Timbers should get the rights to the returning U.S. international, even though those rules conflicted with the Designated Player guidelines. The Claudio Reyna precedent of 2007 seemed to solve that matter (the former U.S. captain returned straight to Red Bull on a DP deal), but for those suspicious of the league’s motives, the conflict was enough to fuel ire …

Ire that was on display Saturday night at JELD-WEN Field:

Infuriated by their rival’s coup, Timbers fans may be taking an excessively literal, inflexible view of the rules, which is not to say they don’t have a point. The written rules available on MLS’s web site do conflict, so much so that the league felt the need to issue a clarification after Dempsey was signed. The explanation was clear, consistent, and may have answered many’s questions, but for those who’d already decided the Dempsey deal was shaky, there was no tearing the tin foil from their heads.

[MORE: In pictures, Clint Dempsey is unveiled in Seattle.]

If Major League Soccer really is in that adolescence we discussed in the Seattle post, this is their teenage naivete. And like all mistakes of our high school days, this is mostly innocent – something to learn from. It is, however, a small reminder that it’s time to grow up. There are responsibilities and expectations that come with adulthood, and any hint that you’re making things up as you go along will lead people to question your maturity.

But this isn’t a matter of two steps forward, one step back for MLS. The Dempsey capture is a decided leap forward, even if there’s a stubbed toe on the landing. For all the confusion people found in MLS’s rules, the league is in a notably better place today than they were two days ago. That’s almost the definition of progress.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 14

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Week 14 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 14 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Stoke City 2-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 3-1 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Man City 1-2 Chelsea – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

West Ham 2-3 Arsenal – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

West Brom 1-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-0 Hull City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Everton 2-2 Man United – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Conte, Guardiola share thoughts on each other ahead of Chelsea-Man City

COBHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Chelsea Manager, Antonio Conte watches on during the Premier League 2 match between Chelsea and Southampton at Chelsea Training Ground on November 21, 2016 in Cobham, England.  (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images
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It’s no surprise that the managers are in focus as tactical wizards Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola prepare to face off for the first time.

The Etihad Stadium will be the scene for Saturday’s 7:30 a.m. EDT kickoff, and pur own Joe Prince-Wright was on the scene for Friday’s prematch presser.

He shared the sentiments of the Stamford Bridge boss, who was — no surprise — asked about Guardiola.

[ MAN UTD: Schweinsteiger could stay ]

“I have great respect (for Guardiola),” Conte said. “I think he is a fantastic manager and is doing fantastic work with Manchester City.”

One terrific little run from Conte had to do with the differences between him and Guardiola… as players. The Chelsea and Man City bosses both played in Serie A during the early part of this century.

“He was a fantastic midfielder and we had different characteristics. He was more of a pivot in front of the defensive line. I was more offensive, with penetration. I think I ran more than him, but he thought more than me with the ball.”

It wasn’t long before Guardiola was asked for his thoughts on Conte. Here they are, courtesy Sky Sports:

“He (Antonio Conte) made an exceptional job in Turin and in the national job. It doesn’t matter if it is Serie A or the national team, you realise his strengths.

“He has started here with maybe not good results, but they have won last seven games, conceding one goal. That says a lot about how good they are. They were contenders to win the Premier League from the beginning.

“Now, maybe more than before. It’s a good test for us.”

Who’s excited for Saturday’s early kickoff?

Follow @NicholasMendola

Chapecoense tragedy survivor could recover to play again

ADDS NAMES - In this Nov. 2, 2016 photo, players of Brazil's Chapecoense team pose before a Copa Sudamericana soccer match against Argentina's San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Top row from left, goalkeeper Marcos Danilo Padilha, Bruno Rangel Domingues, Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, Cleber Santana Loureiro, Willian Thiago. Bottom row from left, Guilherme Gimenez de Souza, Ananias Eloi Castro Monteiro, Tiago "Tiaguinho" Da Rocha Vieira, Matheus Bitencourt da Silva, Dener Assuncao Braz and Jose "Gil" Gildeixon Clemente de Paiva. A plane carrying the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense team that was on it's way for a Copa Sudamericana final match against Colombia's Atletico Nacional crashed in a mountainous area outside Medellin, Colombian officials said Tuesday, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
AP Photo/Gustavo Garello
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Remarkably, one of the Chapecoense players who survived the deadly plane crash in Colombia may yet take the field again.

Remarkable? Maybe that’s too tame. Astonishing, perhaps.

Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, 31, needed knee, lung, wrist, and head surgery following the crash that killed 71 people.

[ USMNT: Moyes updates Gooch injury ]

It’s a comeback story that will be followed by many, and Neto’s father says it’s very real. The center back bounced between Brazil’s Serie A and B, even going on loan at a Serie D side before finding his place at Chape.

From the BBC:

Neto’s father, Helam, said on Facebook that news of his recovery was giving the family “renewed hope and faith”.

“My son is getting better and better. He has just undergone surgery on his leg and doctors say he will return to football,” he said.

“We shall continue praying because we still need his discharge from hospital to see him closely.”

Forca Chape.

Follow @NicholasMendola

WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule – Week 14

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Week 14 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Manchester City host Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) as two title contenders collide. Pep Guardiola vs. Antonio Conte. Sergio Aguero vs. Diego Costa. It will be a mammoth clash as first plays third.

Then Tottenham Hotspur look to bounce back from their first defeat of the season as they host Swansea City (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN andonline via NBC Sports.com) at White Hart Lane. Bob Bradley‘s Swansea got their first win under his stewardship last week and they’ll look to build on that and drag themselves out of the relegation zone.

As the same time struggling Crystal Palace welcome Southampton to Selhurst Park (10 a.m. ET live CNBC and online via NBC Sports.com) with Alan Pardew looking to avoid a seventh-straight defeat which could mean the end for him in south London. Saints are on a good run after wins against Everton and Arsenal in their last two game.s

Rounding things off on Saturday we have a big London derby between West Ham and Arsenal (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) at the London Stadium with Arsene Wenger‘s side looking to go 13 games unbeaten in the PL. West Ham have shored things up at the back in recent weeks and Slaven Bilic will look to Dimtri Payet and a hostile atmosphere to try and get past the Gunners.

On Sunday Bournemouth host Liverpool (8:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with Jurgen Klopp‘s side looking to stay in touch at the top and get through a spell of injuries impacting their forwards. The Cherries have a young, hungry team and will be eager to take a big scalp and grab a first-ever win against Liverpool. Later on Sunday Everton welcome Manchester United to Goodison Park (11 a.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with both teams so far failing to live up to lofty preseason expectations as they’re losing ground with the top four.

On Monday Middlesbrough welcome Hull City to the Riverside Stadium (3 p.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) in a big battle in the north east with both teams eager to move up to the table and edge towards 40 points as quickly as possible.

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App, plus you can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City  vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Swansea City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Southampton – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Watford – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sunderland vs. Leicester City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Burnley  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET:  West Ham vs. Arsenal – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
8:30 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Man United – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Middlesbrough vs. Hull City – NBCSN [STREAM]