The Red Devils are back on form and unbeaten in five, can Cardiff upset the apple cart?

Premier League Power Rankings: Manchester United on the up, Spurs slipping – Week 11

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Well folks, it’s been almost two weeks since we had any Premier League action to chat about…. it’s back!

And now seems like a good time to reflect on the Power Rankings before we start up again in Week 12.

Cast your minds back to before the international break and there were some big upsets with both Manchester City and Tottenham tasting defeat. Manchester United put Arsenal in their place and the likes of Liverpool and Southampton recorded big wins.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

By now you should know the drill. We put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team, forget about the official league standings (here they are in case you actually do want them) that doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-D-L bracket shows each PL team’s current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

Let’s get to it!

RANKING
Up/Down

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1
Arsenal: The Gunners gave it their best shot against United at Old Trafford but came up short as RVP came back to haunt them with the games only goal. Wenger’s men pushed hard in the second half, but when Giroud isn’t at his clinical best I worry that they have no plan B. Big game vs. Southampton this weekend. (8-1-2)
source:  2 UP 3
Liverpool: A resounding 4-0 win over Fulham sent the Reds back to second spot in the standings and in our rankings too. Luis Suarez is unstoppable and Brendan Rodgers’ side are bouncing back from that defeat to Arsenal. Can they win the Merseyside derby vs. Everton to rule the city? Of course they can. (7-2-2)
source:  3
Chelsea: Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten PL record at home is intact… just. A controversial penalty saved Chelsea’s skin against West Brom and the Blues were hardly convincing in the 2-2 draw. Until he gets a settled line up, expect these struggles to continue. West Ham away this week. Tricky. (6-3-2)
source:  4  DOWN 2 Manchester City: Dear oh dear. City’s extremely poor form on the road continues as they lost 1-0 at lowly Sunderland and put in a tepid display. At home they look a completely different team and have won all 6 games this season, away from the Etihad they’ve won just once. Massive clash vs. Spurs on Sunday. (6-1-4)

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5 UP 1
Manchester United: The Red Devils are starting to get some momentum going and that mammoth win over Arsenal should get their season up and running. They’re now just five points away from the Gunners in top spot despite all their struggles. A win away at Cardiff could see them make a big move into the op four. (6-2-3)
source:  6 DOWN 2
Tottenham: Spurs just can’t score can they? Roberto Soldado’s movement is okay, but they’re just so predictable when they get the ball wide and midfielders aren’t getting into the box. At the back they’re solid but one small lapse cost them against Newcastle as the Magpies handed Spurs another unexpected home defeat. Negative tactics won’t win titles. (6-2-3)
source:  7 UP 1 Southampton: The Saints smashed four goals past Hull and dominated the Tigers at St. Mary’s. All of their young players are dazzling and sitting in third spot is testament to their terrific start. Biggest test of the season so far awaits away at Arsenal on Saturday. How serious are the Saints’ top four hopes? Very if they can sneak a win at the Emirates. (6-4-1)
source:  8 DOWN 1
Everton: The Toffees couldn’t break down a resilient Crystal Palace side and were lucky to leave Selhurst Park with a point. That said it’s still just one defeat for Everton and a win at home against fierce rivals Liverpool should see them climb into the top four. Martinez’ men have a 240 minute shutout streak going, but can they bag the goals to finish teams off? (5-5-1)
source:  9 UP 2

Newcastle United: What a superb away win from the Magpies, Alan Pardew must be one happy man as his side comfortably climb into midtable. When they have a fully-fit team to choose from, Newcastle are capable of beating teams like Spurs. Norwich at home this weekend is a home banker, surely? (5-2-4)
source:  10 DOWN 1
Hull City: A bit of a pasting for Steve Bruce’s boys, who held their hands up after Southampton battered them in the first half. It’s still been a great start to their PL campaign since promotion, but will the wheels fall of the Tigers express? Perfect opportunity to pick themselves up with a home game against Crystal Palace on Saturday. 1-0 home win? (4-2-5)
source:  11 DOWN 1
Swansea City: The Swans are leaking late goals all over the place and the sicking late equalizer against Stoke, after their tremendous rally to be 3-2 up, showed what their season is all about: Inconsistency. Michael Laudrup’s side need a win away at Fulham this weekend. (3-3-5)
source:  12  – West Brom: Perhaps they should be higher in these rankings, I’m sure the Baggies are feeling very hard done by of later. They had a famous win snatched away from them against Chelsea and Steve Clarke’s men are looking great going forward. Few questions marks at the back. A Midlands derby at the Hawthorns vs. Villa will be an incredible atmosphere on Monday night.  (3-5-3)

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13  – Aston Villa: Speaking of Villa, they dispatched Cardiff with two late goals at home to boost them into midtable. The Villans are doing well without the goals of Benteke and Agbonlahor. If those two keep firing, a top 10 finish could be in the cards. Tough trip to WBA this week though. (4-2-5)
source:  14 UP 2 Norwich City: Buoyed by a deserved win over West Ham before the break, Chris Hughton’s Canaries face a daunting trip up the East Coast to square off with Newcastle. A point would be a good result here, but can Hooper and Snodgrass grab them all three? (3-2-6)
source:  15
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds came soaring back down to earth after their South Wales derby success, as Villa dominated them in a poor display. Mystery still surrounds manager Malkay Mackay and his relationship with owner Vincent Tan… a big win against Man Utd in the Welsh capital would go down a treat. They need to keep it 0-0 for as long as possible and make set-pieces count. (3-3-5)
source:  16 UP 2
Sunderland: Gus Poyet has got the Black Cats playing, and a superb home win over Man City has instilled belief in his squad. Although question marks over the transfer policy has been raised and the new manager could walk out. Two wins in four games… the Mackems would be mad to let the Uruguayan go. Stoke away will be a bruising game. (2-1-8)
source:  17 DOWN 3
Stoke City:  The Potters were 2-0 up away at Swansea and blew it. Speaking with Geoff Cameron this week, he said it was a mentality thing. Stoke snatched a late 3-3 draw courtesy of a PK, but they should have won. Mark Hughes side need a big win at home to struggling Sunderland. Moans and groans around the Britannia. (2-4-5)
source:  18 DOWN 1
West Ham: The Hammers are not happy, and they still haven’t added any firepower. Cole and Petric should start vs. Chelsea… but Allardyce will most likely carry on with a 4-6 formation that has seen his side fire blanks in 6 of last 11 games. (2-4-5)
source:  19
Fulham: Back to normal for Fulham as Martin Jol’s men were destroyed by a rampant Liverpool side. The appointment of Rene Meulensteen as coach may liven the place up, but I think it’s going to be a long season for the Cottagers. Three points hugely necessary against Swansea. (3-1-7)
source:  20
Crystal Palace: The Eagles are still without a permanent manager, but caretaker Keith Millen saw his side battle to an impressive point at home vs. Everton. Tony Pulis is said to be on his way in, massive reinforcements are needed. That said, a game away at Hull is very winnable this weekend. Can the South London side pull it off? (1-1-9)

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

NYCFC
New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.