That extra day of rest afforded when FIFA began playing World Cup qualifiers over a Friday-Tuesday window (rather than the more traditional Saturday-Wednesday) was apparently just enough for some of the important, returning MLS men.
The LA Galaxy was affected as much as anyone, but it appears the damage was limited to last week’s match (which a very young version of the Galaxy lost to the visiting Colorado Rapids.)
The starting lineups are out for Saturday’s afternoon kickoff against D.C. United and Bruce Arena’s team has Landon Donovan (pictured), Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez all in the starting 11. Donovan and Gonzalez, of course, started and went the entire way on a warm, muggy evening in Columbus on Tuesday as the United States booked its spot for World Cup 2014 with a win over Mexico. (You probably heard a little about all that.)
Keane went the full 90 twice for Ireland in a pair of World Cup qualifiers abroad.
The schedule worked in LA’s favor here. Last night in Seattle, Sigi Schmid chose to leave fellow U.S. national team starters Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey on the bench to start its important league match with Real Salt Lake. Both players came on in the second half as Seattle turned back the visitors, 2-0.
Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman, by the way, did start in that one, even though he had been a busy man in the U.S. midfield against Mexico.
Say it again, folks: Leicester City isn’t going away.
The Foxes went into the Etihad Stadium and battered Manchester City on Saturday, and now lead the table by five points. Leicester is ahead of fifth place Manchester United by 13 after a 3-1 win over City.
Robert Hugh scored two goals and Riyad Mahrez had one sandwiched in between as the Foxes continued their surprising run at the top of the league with a comprehensive win over Man City. Sergio Aguero pulled one back late because, well, he’s Sergio Aguero. City blew a big chance to state their title claim.
Mark Hughes has watched his Potters give up three goals for the third-straight match, and the Potters fell to 1W-1D-3L during the most recent injury absence for Geoff Cameron. Meanwhile, the Toffees got goals from three different players in the first half in moving up the table.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Hennessey were the stars here, though the first bested the latter on an early free kick to make it 1-0. Scott Dann tied it up, and Hennessey made several saves to make sure Palace picked up a point for the first time in six PL matches.
Maya Yoshida put Saints up early, and Southampton was able to hold off the Irons despite going down to 10 men thanks to Victor Wanyama‘s sliding takedown of Dimitri Payet in the 53rd minute. Southampton has pulled to within a pair of points of sixth-place West Ham.
Nothing’s easy for the Magpies, who dominated possession and shot attempts but only beat the Baggies once. The goal belonged to Aleksandar Mitrovic off another slick feed from reenergized Jonjo Shelvey, and the Magpies are one point clear of the drop zone.
Jamie Vardy has been handsomely rewarded for his stellar 2015-16 Premier League season, in the form of a brand new three-and-a-half-year contract that will keep the 29-year-old striker at Leicester City until the summer of 2019, the club announced on Saturday.
Ranieri, 64, is refusing to accept his team are the title favorites — bookmakers have slashed their odds on winning the title and now make them the favorites at 13/8 — despite having a sizable lead with 13 games to go.
“I don’t believe them,” Ranieri said. “They said I was first to be sacked! But I hope they are right.”
Up next for Leicester is the small matter of a trip to Arsenal next Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), who will be five points behind the Foxes if they beat Bournemouth on Sunday.
“We know it’s a crazy league. We have to try in this crazy league but there are some big teams who have to win. We enjoy of course and we want to fight, but without pressure. For us it’s important to play and continue in this way because it’s a strange league,” Ranieri said. “We are alive and we want to fight. We go to Arsenal next and I hope we will concentrate as well as we have in the last two matches and continue our dream.”
With a 13-point gap over fifth-placed Manchester United as things stand, Leicester look almost nailed on to at least qualify for the UEFA Champions League which is something they’ve never done before.
A quick reminder of Leicester’s odds of winning the PL title at the start of the season: 5,000/1. If they manage to stay the course and pull this off it would be the biggest shock in PL history. Period.
While all the other title contenders have to play in the Champions League, Europa League and domestic cup competitions, Leicester only has 13 more games this season and that means their players will stay fresh and focused. They have no pressure and are playing with the freedom of a team who have no worries. They ere expected to battle against relegation this season and last year they only escaped the drop with a remarkable run of seven wins in their final nine games. This season it is so completely different.
Don’t listen to Ranieri. They can do this and given City’s stumbling form and Arsenal’s erratic finishing of late, they should be the favorites.