Premier League Team of the Week (Video)

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It was goals, goals and more goals this past weekend in the Premier League (34 in total), which provides a logical starting point for this round’s Team of the Week.

Goalkeeper – Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)

Begovic looks more and more like a keeper set for a move to a big club, possibly in the January transfer window, which would leave Stoke City in a precarious situation. This past weekend he was sensational for the Potters, keeping a clean sheet and deflecting notable attempts from Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano.

Defender – Dejan Lovren (Southampton)

Arguably the most important piece added in Southampton’s summer transfers, Lovren has been the glue in a Saints defense plagued by a leaky 2012-13 campaign. On Saturday it was his shot that Adam Lallana deflected to hand Southampton a share of the points against Manchester United.

Defender – Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion)

What Lovren is to Southampton, McAuley is to West Brom – a menacing physical presence in the defense that will be the key to the Baggies finishing in the top half of the table. On Saturday he and the rest of the West Brom defense kept their unbeaten streak alive with a clean sheet at Stoke.

Defender – Chico Flores (Swansea City)

Chico Flores stamped out any hope Sunderland had of finding its first win of the season, shutting down Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore. It was Flores’ 80th minute shot that Fletcher turned into the net for the Swans’ fourth goal of the match.

Midfielder – Jonathan De Guzman ( Swansea City)

De Guzman is one of the most underrated midfielders in the Premier League. Slick skills combined with tenacious fight and impressive fitness, De Guzman is the engine in the center of the park that keeps the Swans moving. On Saturday his calculated pluck from 20 yards out helped Swansea solidify its 4-0 win over Sunderland.

Midfielder – Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Ozil is a force to be reckoned with. His two goals led to Arsenal’s 4-1 trounce of Norwich City proving why he is worth every penny of the $69 million Arsene Wenger shelled out to acquire him.

Midfielder – Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

Gerrard calmly slotted home his 100th Premier League goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Newcastle. The Liverpool captain has had a been a bit subdued this season but a few quintessential Gerrard diagonal balls showed that he is still very much one of the best midfielders in the league.

Midfielder – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Hazard’s brace against Cardiff City showed that he is finally developing into the goal-scoring threat that was acquired from Lille in the summer of 2012. With blazing speed and swift foot skills, Hazard is one of Jose Mourinho’s mainstays in the Blues midfield.

Midfielder – Andros Townsend (Tottenham) 

Townsend has been all the rage the last few weeks and after his wonder goal for England this past week the Spurs man nabbed his club an early lead that provided some breathing room from a feisty Aston Villa team.

Midfielder – Kevin Mirallas (Everton)

Mirallas has endured a difficult start to the season but opened his scoring account for the season with a well-taken strike from distance to help the Toffees defeat Hull City 2-1.

Striker – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Along with Daniel Sturridge, Aguero looks the most likely to take down this season’s Premier League scoring title. Against West Ham the Argentine finished brilliantly on two occasions, once with his feet and once with his head.

FC Dallas extends the contract of Oscar Pareja

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After winning the club’s second-ever U.S. Open Cup title and first-ever Supporters’ Shield last season, plus a hot start to the new term, FC Dallas has extended the contract of manager Oscar Pareja.

Pareja, who was hired as FC Dallas manager in 2014, will be at FC Dallas “for years to come” according to the club, although the terms of the contract, including the length, were not released.

“We are excited to ensure Oscar will be our head coach for many years to come,” said FC Dallas chairman and CEO Clark Hunt in a statement by the club. “As a manager and a developer of talent, Oscar has proven himself to be among the elite in our sport, and we look forward to even greater success under his leadership in the future.”

As the former head of the FC Dallas academy, Pareja has been hailed not only for his tactical abilities, but as a cultivator of new talent. His most prized possession is young midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who made his U.S. national team debut on Tuesday, and young defender Walker Zimmerman cracked the roster but has yet to debut. The club also boasts homegrown players Victor Ulloa and Jesse Gonzalez, and the official club roster features a whopping 20 players 25 years old or younger, six of whom are teenagers. The nine homegrown players are the most on any roster in MLS.

Pareja, a former FC Dallas player who made 176 league appearances for the club, said he is loving life in the city he built his career. “On behalf of my family and the people who work with me, I would like to extend my gratitude to Clark and Dan Hunt and the entire FC Dallas family for having the confidence and belief in us,” Pareja said in the statement. “Our ultimate goal is to continue developing the model, with a commitment to young players, that makes FC Dallas so successful.”

“When I came [to the United States as a player] in ’98, after a few months I had the desire to go back home. I found it difficult for me, my wife and my daughter to adjust to the culture because we didn’t know the language and that creates a little bit of a gap,” Pareja said. “The people here in Dallas, they were terrific with us and made us feel very comfortable. I started growing into the culture and in that moment things started changing. I did not for one moment, though, think that I was going to be here this many years.”

The 48-year-old Colombian stated he still desires for an MLS Cup, something which evaded FC Dallas last year after losing to Seattle in the conference semifinals.

Top PL Storylines: Merseyside Derby, relegation special

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The international break is over and the Premier League is back.

[ MORE: What’s left for each PL club? ]

This stretch run begins now, as teams have around eight more matches left in league play with which to move up or down. Who will climb the table, and who will lose spots? The best picks are below:


Merseyside clubs clinging to European places

Liverpool vs. Everton — 7:30 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Everton and Liverpool doesn’t need any sideshows to hype up the heated rivalry, but a little added spice won’t hurt anything. Spice is what we have as the two teams clash at Anfield Saturday as both teams are battling for European places.

Liverpool comes into the game in fourth, four points ahead of Manchester United for the final Champions League spot. A return to Europe’s top competition is overdue for Jurgen Klopp and the Reds, having made the tournament just once since 2010. It’s been a dogfight all year at the top of the table (aside from Chelsea, of course), and Liverpool is right in the mix. A misstep here would give Manchester United the chance to climb just one point back, really putting on the pressure. For Everton, they sit in seventh, level with Arsenal on points and just two behind Manchester United. They still have a good shot at Europa League play, and any spot in a European competition is a welcome moment for an Everton team that has appeared just once since 2010.

Both teams have to contend with injuries suffered over the international break. Everton’s Seamus Coleman is out at least for the rest of the season after his nasty leg break, while Liverpool will miss Adam Lallana who aggravated a muscle injury while on duty with England and will likely be out a month.

Will Arsenal or City turn their season around?

Arsenal vs. Manchester City — 11:00 a.m. EDT Sunday online via NBCSports.com

Arsene Wenger continues to find himself under more and more pressure. It seems Pep Guardiola takes one step back for every one step forward. As the two managers meet at the Emirates on Sunday, will either man manage to get a high-profile win to boost its season’s fortunes?

The Gunners are in serious peril. Wenger has never missed the Champions League in his 20 seasons in charge, but that could all change this year as Arsenal sits in 6th on 50 points, six back of fourth position. There is little to no room for error the rest of the way, and even against a strong opponent, the Gunners cannot afford to drop more points. For Pep Guardiola, City still sits in an envious position in third place and five points clear of dropping off the top four, but it’s not been without bumps and bruises. City is without a win in its last three matches, having dumped out of the Champions League and drawn a pair in league play over that time. Both managers are struggling. Will either turn things around?

A relegation special

Swansea City vs. Middlesbrough — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday online via NBCSports.com

Middlesbrough is in the relegation zone. Swansea City isn’t out of the weeds yet. Premier League status could be on the line.

As the two teams meet at the Liberty Stadium, Middlesbrough can go a long way towards climbing out of the bottom 3, while Swansea City can build space from it. Boro sits in 19th place, on 22 points, five back of safety. In that final safe spot is Swansea, on 27 points, and depending on the results of this match, things could get hairy for the loser. A draw helps nobody, so expect both sides to go all out.

Spurs with a tough road test

Burnley vs. Tottenham — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Spurs sit in second, 10 points off the top but in control of the tight Champions League battle. Yet, they face a difficult challenge on Sunday. Burnley has lost just twice all season long at home, the latest coming January 2nd. Their away form has been miserable, but at home, they’re a completely different team.

Enter Tottenham, who has won three Premier League games in a row, but it’s not all rosy for the title contenders. They’re still without Harry Kane, who has returned to light training but still remains sidelined with his ankle injury. Sean Dyche can coach with the best of them in the English top flight, and it remains to be seen if Mauricio Pochettino can break down a strong Clarets defense. Spurs managed a 2-1 home win over Burnley, but a similar performance won’t get it done at the fortress of Turf Moor.

Former DC United keeper sues club plus Espindola, Olsen

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Former DC United goalkeeper Charlie Horton has filed a lawsuit naming D.C. United and Major League Soccer defendants along with Fabian Espindola and manager Ben Olsen.

The lawsuit alleges assault by Espindola which left Horton with career-ending concussion symptoms which he claims still haunt him today. Horton, born in London, was on D.C. United’s roster in 2016, but never saw the field as he failed to crack the pecking order which boasted Bill Hamid, Tally Hall, and Andrew Worra. Eventually, Horton was sent on loan to the Richmond Kickers to gain playing time.

According to the lawsuit, Espindola attacked Horton at the team training facility in late March of 2016 after an argument involving an incident in training weeks earlier. Horton did indeed officially miss seven weeks with a concussion that season, the first of two injuries he suffered that year (a broken hand ended his season).

However, the lawsuit states that Horton was not entered into MLS concussion protocol immediately, instead allowed to practice that day and only entering protocol and missing time when he reported his symptoms the following day. Horton was cleared to play in May, and was then sent on loan to Richmond.

The lawsuit states that the lingering concussion symptoms caused the end of Horton’s career. “Due to the severity of his ongoing post-concussive neurological symptoms, which directly inhibited his ability to perform at a level necessary to continue his professional career, Mr. Horton was forced to officially retire from professional soccer.”

Horton claims that Espindola’s attack was a blindsided attack, an elbow to the temple after Horton had turned to walk away from the altercation.

Manuel Neuer injured, will miss two games

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A long streak will come to an end on Saturday when Bayern Munich hosts Augsburg at Allianz Arena.

Manuel Neuer, who has started 65 straight Bundesliga matches for Bayern, will be forced to the bench after injuring his foot in training on Wednesday. That means a streak of 5,850 straight minutes played will be snapped.

The injury required minor surgery, which was performed by club doctor Markus Walther, and a club release said it “went optimally.”

The injury will see Neuer miss at least the Augsburg match plus the midweek visit to Hoffenheim. That leaves the two big matches up in the air, with Bayern set to travel to Westfalenstadion to take on Borussia Dortmund on April 8th, followed closely by the first leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals the following Tuesday. There was no mention of either game in the club release.

The last time Neuer missed minutes in a Bundesliga game was a home game against Eintract Frankfurt on April 11, 2015. The last time the 31-year-old missed more than three league games in a season was 2008/09 when he played for Schalke and missed the first six games of the year with a broken foot.

With the club 13 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table, the injury is likely to have little effect on the final league standings, but should Neuer end up out for either the Dortmund game or, more importantly, the match against Real Madrid, it could affect the club’s position in the Champions League.