What we learned from Saturday’s LA Galaxy-Seattle draw (video)

5 Comments

Saturday’s 1-1 draw in Los Angeles was a better result for Seattle beyond the obvious (that L.A. was playing at home).

Seattle, in first place and with a game or two in hand over the pursuers, can be OK with holding serve, especially in this one.

The Galaxy had more of the ball but didn’t necessarily have many more clear-cut scoring chances in a match with a helter-skelter pace. So, Sigi Schmid’s team can and will be far more pleased with Saturday’s outcome at the StubHub Center. In fact, about the only thing that went truly wrong for Seattle was Obafemi Martin’s hotheaded reaction when removed late in the match. That’s something Schmid may need to deal with.

A few more things we learned from this one:

  • The Galaxy missed Landon Donovan more than Seattle missed Clint Dempsey

With Seattle’s good defensive work on Robbie Keane, the Galaxy attack was steady and marginally dangerous, but lacking in sharp edges.

That’s Landon Donovan, whose quick wits and quicker feet provide that added bit of spice around the penalty area, that added ability to combine in meaningful ways with Keane, the interplay that can break down the organized defenses.

(Remember late in the week when L.A. coach Bruce Arena said he expected Donovan to play against the Sounders? Yeah … well, Donovan didn’t even dress for Saturday’s contest.)

On the other side, Dempsey’s experience in these big games could possibly have helped the visitors, but Eddie Johnson and Martins have been in big games, too. And since Dempsey has yet to score for the Sounders, it’s hard to make a case that the U.S. international was sorely missed Saturday.

The Sounders can walk away from this one saying “We can get a result in a big one without Clint Dempsey.” Can L.A. say the same right now? Hmmmm…

  • Eddie Johnson is stating his case

If Eddie Johnson (pictured above) wants a big, fat contract – he does, as we know, and Seattle management says the man deserves it – he is sure stating his case the right way.

Credit Sounders teammate Jhon Kennedy Hurtado with a great pick (illegal … but it happens) to help free up Johnson from his marker, U.S. international teammate Omar Gonzalez, on Seattle’s goal. But Johnson did his part, too, heading home with authority against the two-time champs.

In five starts since Dempsey was announced as the Sounders latest and greatest, Johnson has four goals. That’s a rate of production that says “Pay me!” See, if you score like that, you don’t have to actually say it.

  • The Galaxy can still score on free kicks, after all

David Beckham is surely missed in many ways around the StubHub Center, starting in wow-wow factor, which has been significantly diminished around Galaxy Valley this year.

But they also miss his ability to swing that golden right foot on restarts. Landon Donovan can reliably deliver corner kicks, but the U.S. international doesn’t specialize in free kick shooting opportunities the way Beckham did. (Heck, no one does, really.)

So when Galaxy midfielder Juninho hit a beauty at the end of Saturday’s first half, getting the ball up and down over the Sounders wall just so, it was the first goal off a free kick for L.A. this year. (Lamar Neagle might have been just a wee bit late on his jump in the wall, but it was a still a highlight-worthy free kick.)

By the way, seeing as Juninho did hit such a sweet free kick, why did he defer twice in the second half to lesser restart takers? Left-footed free kicks from the right side make sense – but so does going with the best free kick striker of the moment, right?

  • Steve Zakuani dresses for Seattle

Hard to say whether Sigi Schmid’s decision to dress winger Steve Zakuani had anything to do with Dempsey’s absence (due to a hamstring injury picked up in practice this week.) Either way, this was the first time Zakuani has made the game-day roster since April, when he underwent surgery to correct a sports hernia.

Premier League preview: Man United vs. Newcastle United

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 31 of last 32 home fixtures vs. Newcastle
  • Newcastle winless in its last six PL matches
  • Lukaku hasn’t scored in United’s last seven games

Manchester United hosts Newcastle United on Saturday from Old Trafford (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) as the Red Devils could potentially welcome back several of it biggest stars for the match.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo could return for Jose Mourinho’s side this weekend, as Man United looks to bounce back from its 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Nov. 5.

The ex-Sweden international Ibrahimovic hasn’t appeared in a match since April 2017, after being United’s top goalscorer a season ago.

The Red Devils will have to deal with the absence of Phil Jones at the back, though, as the England international misses out on the match with a thigh injury.

Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles, which certainly hurts the squad’s attack, while Mikel Merino and Paul Dummett remain sidelined with respective injuries.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho, on Paul Pogba’s status:  “I can say now because he’s back – I don’t like to speak while he’s injured – you can clearly see there is a Manchester United this season before Paul’s injury and after Paul’s injury. There are qualities in our football, qualities that influence our approach in matches, with Pogba and without Pogba. Simple as that.”

Rafa Benitez, on growing pains of being a young side“We are a newly-promoted club that has to settle down in the Premier League. We have a young squad, so it’s a learning process for everyone and losing some games is part of the process. Hopefully we can stop that this weekend, but we know it has to be like this. We have to think that the target is to stay in the Premier League, then after try to go as high as we can in the table.”

Prediction

Newcastle has had its share of struggles this season, and running into a Man United side that is gaining full fitness is a dangerous task. The Red Devils are a tough squad to beat at home, so Rafa Benitez and Co. have their hands full. Man United 2-0 Newcastle

Luiz back in Chelsea squad after being dropped by Conte

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

David Luiz‘s pair of stints at Chelsea have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride of emotions — joyous highs and painful lows.

[ MORE: Pogba, Zlatan back form injuries; available this weekend ]

After returning to the club for a second time in the summer of 2016, Luiz instantly slotted into Antonio Conte‘s three-man backline and was a pivotal part of the Blues’ title-winning team last season.

Much like the second half of his first four seasons at Chelsea, Luiz’s second season (the second time around) has started so hotly. After playing eight of the first 10 games during Chelsea’s ongoing title defense, Luiz was unexpectedly dropped from the squad for the victory over Manchester United.

Now, two weeks later, Conte has announced that Luiz has rejoined the squad and is available for selection when his side visits West Brom on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) — quotes from the Guardian:

“David Luiz is in the squad, yes. [His exclusion] was a technical decision. When it’s a technical decision every player has to react well and accept my decision. It’s normal, this.

“I like to speak about the team and the next game that we have to pay attention to. This is the most important thing, not speaking about a single player. I repeat: I don’t like to speak about a single player.”

Pogba, Zlatan, Rojo return from injuries for Man Utd-Newcastle

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The only saving grace when it comes to injuries is that, eventually (usually), players recover from them and return to the team.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Power Rankings — who comes out on top? ]

It’s been a long seven months for the soccer world to be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic (torn ACL on April 20), just as it’s been a painfully long 10 weeks for Manchester United fans following Paul Pogba‘s hamstring injury on Sept. 12. Man United have dropped eight points during the latter’s absence and now coincidentally sit eight points behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

A bit of good news on this Friday: United manager Jose Mourinho announced today that the dynamic duo, along with defender Marcos Rojo (knee ligament damage on April 20) have returned to full fitness and will be available for selection during Saturday’s home clash with Newcastle United (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) — quotes from ManUtd.com:

“The players that stayed here and [were] recovering from injuries, even the ones that are recovering from big injuries, they are ready to play — Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.”

“[Ibrahimovic] made a full recovery. Now you cannot expect him to be ready to play 90 minutes or to be ready to play consecutive matches like he did all his career.

“Now he needs time to be back to his level, his fitness, his confidence, his sharpness, his everything. But, from the clinical point of view, to be good and ready is fantastic.”

2018 World Cup Power Rankings — 7 months B.W.C.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

209 days — that’s how long the world is still being made to wait for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup. It’s close, in that all 32 berths have been secured, but still so far, in that the draw is still two weeks away.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2018 World Cup coverage | USMNT | Premier League ]

Perhaps then, and only then, will it begin to feel really real.

According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-Wright, Nicholas Mendola, Kyle Bonn, Matt Reed, Dan Karell and yours truly — four clear-cut favorites for the semifinals have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, followed by another six or eight sides with one half of their squad firing on all cylinders but some serious kinks to work out elsewhere.

[ MORE: Round 1 of the WC power rankings | Round 2 ]

Finally, the latest edition of PST’s 2018 World Cup Power Rankings, now featuring all 32 teams qualified for Russia…

Team Points Best Worst
1 (1) Germany 189 1 2
2 (2) Brazil 188 1 3
3 (4) Spain 177 3 5
4 (3) France 176 3 5
5 (8) Argentina 158 4 10
6 (5) Belgium 156 4 10
7 (7) Portugal 153 6 10
8 (11) England 150 5 12
9 (6) Uruguay 141 6 14
10 (9) Colombia 140 7 12
11 (10) Mexico 129 8 14
12 (12) Poland 125 10 14
13 (20) Croatia 118 7 20
14 (17) Switzerland 115 12 16
15 (NR) Sweden 92 16 19
16 (NR) Denmark 86 13 23
17 (NR) Serbia 83 9 28
18 (NR) Peru 80 15 25
19 (15) Iceland 79 15 24
20 (16) Japan 71 16 27
21 (NR) Egypt 66 18 27
22 (NR) South Korea 64 13 32
23 (NR) Senegal 63 17 26
24 (18) Nigeria 58 15 27
25 (19) Costa Rica 57 14 29
26 (NR) Morocco 48 18 29
27 (NR) Australia 45 22 30
28 (NR) Russia 36 20 32
29 (NR) Iran 34 22 31
30 (NR) Tunisia 30 23 31
31 (NR) Panama 19 28 32
32 (NR) Saudi Arabia 9 31 32