Pro Soccer Talk’s Premier League Team of the Week

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I think I speak for most of us when I say, thank the Gods of Football that this weekend is over.

Even as a ginormous fan of the Premier League, I couldn’t escape the feeling that the build-up to the August 17th kickoff had become so immense that it started to feel like we were expecting the birth of a child.

By early August we couldn’t help but discuss our excitement at having a kid.

Kids are cool,’ we thought. ‘This is gonna be fun.’

By the second week into the month, tension began to build and suddenly it felt it we were having twins.

Hmm, twins. Ok. We can deal with twins.’

But by the third week the anticipation became so overwhelming that our tension turned to anxiety like we’d just been informed we were the victim of a fertility drug gone wrong. We weren’t having twins, we were having septuplets.

Gulp.

So when the matches finally kicked off and the goals began to flow like Four Loko’s at frat parties, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Our over-anticipated minds had played a trick on us. We weren’t going to be changing seven diapers after all – we were just waiting for the most competitive soccer league in the world to commence.

Over the course of 10 matches we saw many a brilliant performance. For Pro Soccer Talk’s Premier League Team of the Week, we select 11 starters and an 11 man honorable mention. So here they are, in all their glory.

Goalkeeper – Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)

Before Simon Mignolet’s fantastic double save off of the Jon Walters penalty, Asmir Begovic had Liverpool supporters thinking they’d made the wrong summer purchase. The Bosnian netminder was sensational in his 2013-14 debut, sprawling out to make a number of mind-blowing saves, the best being his finger-tip parry on Jordan Henderson’s 63rd minute rip. Mignolet was great, but Begovic deserved his Man of the Match award making more saves (10) than any other match he’s had in a Stoke City kit.

Defender – Luke Shaw (Southampton)

Luke Shaw enjoyed a fantastic match on Saturday, helping anchor a Saints defense that kept a clean sheet. In addition to shutting down the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Shane Long, the 18 year old academy product changed the scope of the game when his 89th minute dribble into the West Brom box drew the penalty that Rickie Lambert converted for the 1-0 win.

Defender – Brede Hangeland (Fulham)

Most had Sunderland rolling through this match but the Black Cats attack was consistently thwarted by Brede Hangeland and the Fulham defense. The center-back marshalled the surprising defensive setup of Sasha Reither, Kieran Richardson and Aaron Hughes to a clean sheet.

Defender – Seamus Coleman (Everton)

For all the buzz that Leighton Baines earns as an attacking full-back it’s time people started giving Seamus Coleman his due. The Irishman has bags of pace, cheeky skills and an eye for goal. His clever cut-in set up Ross Barkley for his 60th minute golazo and five minutes later Coleman’s insatiable hunger was rewarded when he pounded home John Ruddy’s parry of Nikica Jelavic’s shot.

Midfielder – Fernandinho (Manchester City)

Welcome to the Premier League, Fernandinho. The Brazilian was everywhere in yesterday’s destruction of the Magpies, linking short passes from defense to attack and pinging an array of precise diagonal passes to his speedy wingers. Defensively, the 28 year old strangled any opportunity the Magpies had at getting in on City’s goal with perfect positioning and impressive sliding challenges off the back-track.

Midfielder – Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

Philippe Coutinho is the definition of a playmaker. The Brazilian fit in perfectly behind Daniel Sturridge, slipping perfectly weighted passes through the Stoke City defense and into the path of the Reds onrushing attackers. In Coutinho, Brendan Rodgers has found a key balance to Steven Gerrard’s long balls and a player who initiates a tricky intermix between the midfield and forwards. He arguably faded a bit in the second half but the 21 year old was simply too effective to be denied a place in the Team of the Week.

Midfielder – Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)

Christian Benteke earned much of the praise for his brace but the Belgian wouldn’t have had the opportunity to capitalize if it weren’t for Gabby Agbonlahor. After an injury-riddled season Agbonlahor was a nightmare for Arsenal, using his speed and trickery to draw both of the Villains penalties. After the match, manager Paul Lambert called it the greatest performance he’d seen by Agbonlahor.

Midfielder – Ross Barkley (Everton)

After three years of David Moyes tempting Evertonians with small injections of Ross Barkley it now appears that the Liverpool-born midfielder has a firm spot under new boss Roberto Martinez. Barkley was sensational on Saturday, busting a lung to offer his services all over the park and providing a creative link between the midfield and forwards. His greatest acheivement, however, was unleashing a left-footed howitzer to bring the Toffees level at one apiece. Which raises the question, has there been a better first Premier League goal?

Forward – Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

Robin van Persie is the fine wine of the Premier League – he just keeps getting better. His first goal was an acrobatic feat that Olympians would admire and his second was a deak and smash that left everyone’s jaw on the floor. Think United aren’t capable of duplicating last year’s championship run? RVP says otherwise.

Forward – Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)

Making his case for Manchester United to forget about the brooding Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck put in an eye-opening performance in the South Wales rain. His first goal displayed an intricate reading of the game and his second finish was straight class. What would’ve normally been a rip on goal, Welbeck surprised everyone by thoughtfully dinking his effort over the head of Michel Vorm and into the far post.

Honorable Mention: GK Simon Mignolet (Liverpool); D Antonio Luna (Aston Villa); D Kolo Toure (Liverpool); D Steven Whittaker (Norwich City); M Frank Lampard (Chelsea); M Joe Cole (West Ham); M Mohamed Diame (West Ham); M Oscar (Chelsea); F Edin Dzeko (Manchester City); F Sergio Aguero (Manchester City); F Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”

MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker: Rounds 3 & 4

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Newcomers Los Angeles FC made some serious waves during the opening rounds of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and other clubs will be looking to follow in their footsteps on Day 2.

Bob Bradley‘s side came up with a pair of defensive picks inside the top 3 on Friday, nabbing Joao Moutinho and Tristan Blackmon to help solidify a growing roster for the Western Conference side.

[ SOURCES: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison likely to join PL side Stoke City ]

Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire were active early and often, which benefitted Veljko Paunovic’s club in a big way. The playoff side from a season ago managed to get two of the draft’s most talented attacking players in Wake Forest forward Jon Bakero and Syracuse product Mo Adams.

Which players slipped through the cracks on Day 1 and will help provide relief to MLS rosters on Day 2?

Follow along on PST as we track the day’s transactions, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Third round

47. Los Angeles FC — Jordan Jones — Forward (Oregon State)
48. LA Galaxy — Nate Schultz — Defender (Akron)
49. D.C. United (traded to Fire) — Elliot Collier — Forward (Loyola)
50. Colorado Rapids — Thomas Olsen — Goalkeeper (San Diego)
51. Real Salt Lake — Pass
52. New York City FC — Alex Bumpus — Defender (Kentucky)
53. Montreal Impact — Ken Krolicki — Midfielder (Michigan State)
54. Philadelphia Union — Mike Catalano — Midfielder (Wisconsin)
55. Philadelphia Union — Aidan Apodaca — (Cal Baptist)
56. Real Salt Lake — Pass
57. FC Dallas — Amer Sasivarevic — Midfielder (Grand Canyon)
58. San Jose Earthquakes — Kevin Partida — (UNLV)
59. Houston Dynamo — Pablo Aguilar — Midfielder (Virginia)
60. Montreal Impact — Pass
61. Portland Timbers — Caleb Duvernay — Defender (NC State)
62. Vancouver Whitecaps — Cory Brown — Defender (Xavier)
63. Portland Timbers — Timmy Mueller — Forward (Oregon State)
64. Portland Timbers  — Stuart Holthusen — Forward (Akron)
65. New York City FC — Pass
66. Houston Dynamo —  Sheldon Sullivan — Defender (Virginia)
67. Columbus Crew — Luis Argudo — Midfielder (Wake Forest)
68. Seattle Sounders — Chris Bared — Defender (Villanova)
69. Toronto FC — Andre Morrison — Defender (Hartford)

——

Fourth round

70. Atlanta United — Paul Christensen — Goalkeeper (Portland)
71. D.C. United — Afonso Pinheiro — Forward (Albany)
72. Colorado Rapids –Brian Iloski — (UCLA)
73. Colorado Rapids — Niki Jackson — Forward (Grand Canyon)
74. D.C. United — Rafael Andrade Santos — Midfielder (VCU)
75. Sporting KC — Will Bagrou — Forward (Mercer)
76. Montreal Impact — Pass
77. Philadelphia Union –Matt Danilack — Midfielder (Dartmouth)
78. New England Revolution — Nicolas Samayoa — Defender (Florida Gulf Coast)
79. Real Salt Lake — Pass
80. FC Dallas — Noah Franke — Defender (Creighton)
81. San Jose Earthquakes — Pass
82. Sporting KC –Wilfred Williams — Defender (Oakland)
83. New York Red Bulls — Jared Stroud — (Colgate)
84. Chicago Fire — Josh Morton — Defender (California)
85. New York Red Bulls — Jose Aguinaga — (Rider)
86. Vancouver Whitecaps — Pass
87. Portland Timbers — Mamadou Guirassy — Forward (NJIT)
88. New York City FC — Pass
89. Houston Dynamo — Manny Padilla — Defender (San Francisco)
90. LA Galaxy — Pass
91. D.C. United — Pass
92. Toronto FC — Ben White — Defender (Gonzaga)

Below is a recap of the action from Day 1, which featured the first two rounds of the draft on Friday.


First round

1. Los Angeles FC — Joao Moutinho — Defender (Akron)*
2.LA Galaxy — Tomas Hilliard-Arce — Defender (Stanford)*
3.DC United (traded to LAFC) — Tristan Blackmon — Defender (Pacific University)
4. Montreal Impact (traded to FC Dallas) — Francis Atuahene — Forward (Michigan)
5. Minnesota United (traded to Fire) — Jon Bakero — Forward (Wake Forest)
6. Orlando City — Chris Mueller — Forward (Wisconsin)
7. Montreal Impact (traded to Minnesota) — Mason Toye — Forward (Indiana)*
8. New England Revolution — Brandon Bye — Defender (Western Michigan)
9. New England Revolution — Mark Segbers — Defender (Wisconsin)
10. Real Salt Lake (traded to Fire) — Mo Adams — Midfielder (Syracuse)*
11. FC Dallas — Ema Twumasi — Midfielder (Wake Forest)*
12. San Jose Earthquakes — Paul Marie — Midfielder/Defender (FIU)
13. Sporting KC — Eric Dick — Goalkeeper (Butler)
14. Atlanta United — Jon Gallagher — Forward (Notre Dame)
15. Chicago Fire (traded to Minnesota) — Wyatt Omsberg — Defender (Dartmouth)
16. New York Red Bulls — Brian White — Forward (Duke)
17. Vancouver Whitecaps — Justin Fiddes — Defender (Washingt0n)
18. Sporting KC — Graham Smith — Defender (Denver)
19. New York City FC — Jeff Caldwell — Goalkeeper (Virginia)
20. Houston Dynamo — Michael Nelson — Goalkeeper (SMU)
21. Columbus Crew — Ben Lungaard — Goalkeeper (Virginia Tech)
22. Seattle Sounders — Alex Roldan — Midfielder (Univ. of Seattle)
23. Toronto FC (traded to Minnesota) — Carter Manley — Defender (Duke)

——

Second round

24. LAFC — Pol Calvet Planellas — Midfielder (Pittsburgh)
25. Colorado Rapids — Alan Winn — Forward (North Carolina)
26. Vancouver Whitecaps — Lucas Stauffer — Defender (Creighton)
27. Colorado Rapids — Frantzdy Pierrot — Forward (Coastal Carolina)
28. Minnesota United (traded to Toronto FC) — Tim Kubel — Defender (Louisville)
29. FC Dallas — Mauro Cichero — Forward (SMU)
30. San Jose Earthquakes — Danny Musovski — Forward (UNLV)
31. New York Red Bulls — Niko De Vera — Defender (Akron)
32. Columbus Crew — Edward Opoku — Forward (Virginia)
33. Real Salt Lake — Ricky Lopez-Espin — Midfielder (Creighton)
34. FC Dallas — Chris Lema — Midfield (Georgetown)
35. San Jose Earthquakes — Mohamed Thiaw — Forward (Louisville)
36. Atlanta United — Oliver Shannon — Midfielder (Clemson)
37. Atlanta United — Gordon Wild — Forward (Maryland)*
38. Chicago Fire — Diego Campos — Midfielder (Clemson)
39. New York Red Bulls — Tom Barlow — Forward (Wisconsin)
40. LA Galaxy — Drew Skundrich — Midfielder (Stanford)
41. Minnesota United — Xavier Gomez — Midfielder (Nebraska-Omaha)
42. New York City FC — AJ Paterson — Defender (Wright St.)
43. Houston Dynamo — Mac Steeves — Forward (Providence)
44. Columbus Crew — Jake Rozhansky — Midfielder (Maryland)
45. Seattle Sounders — Markus Fjortoft — Defender (Duke)
46. Toronto FC — Drew Shepherd — Goalkeeper (Western Michigan)

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