Adam Johnson

Premier League Preview: Sunderland v. Southampton

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  • Sunderland haven’t lost to Southampton since 2003.
  • The clubs drew opening day at St. Mary’s.
  • Black Cats worse at home (2W-1D-7L) than on road

Really, it’s a tale of two teams who’ve dealt with controversy this week and this year to varying degrees  (Watch at 7:45am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra).. Sunderland are coming off a 4-1 win, have nearly escaped the drop zone and have League Cup success under their belts, but have already endured a manager change in addition to firing their director of football today.

Southampton started off a movie-like run in this year’s Premier League season only to have this week’s controversial departure of Nicola Cortese put a cap on recent on-field struggles. He left amidst a power struggle with the team owner, leaving Saints supporters terrified that Mauricio Pochettino would fulfill his promise to leave if Cortese departed (He didn’t).

Thanks the huddled masses at the bottom half of the table, Southampton’s recent struggles still see them in ninth place. The Saints are seven points ahead of No. 10 Hull City and just three behind Newcastle. Yes, they’re just 2-1-3 in their last six, but the losses have come against Spurs, Everton and Everton.

The controversial owner, by the way, is Katherine Liebherr and she’s said no one’s leaving in the transfer window. Wonder how much comfort that is to supporters as Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana’s names continue to be bandied about on a daily basis in the rumor mill?

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How trying has this year been for Sunderland? Poyet joked that the three-goal win over Fulham was the only time he’s not worried about stoppage time since he’s gotten the job. Adam Johnson provided the hat trick and is starting to get England talk again. Surely a strong showing against Lallana and company would go a long way for Roy Hodgson.

Sunderland’s 9 points in their last six games give them Top 8 form, and the Stadium of Light should be rocking for the Black Cats opportunity to say “Peace” to the relegation zone, at least for a week.

Look out for Southampton after the break, as Sunderland has a dreadful minus-6 goal differential from the 46th-60th minute of matches this season.

The Saints haven’t beaten Sunderland since seizing the season series in 2002/03. Sunderland went 1-1-0 when both teams were in the Championship in 2006/07, while they have a win and two draws in PL play since Southampton were promoted in 2012. Sunderland also knocked the Saints out of the League Cup on Nov. 6 at the Stadium of Light.

What They’re Saying

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet on Southampton: “ It’s a difficult game against a difficult team. They have a solid system of play, quick, technical players and some power. It is one of those games where we need to be really spot on. We need a little bit more than normal. Saying that there’s no excuses, we are in a situation where we can go and put on another good performance and get another victory, which would be amazing.”

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino on dealing with Cortese’s departure: “It’s hard to predict what is going to be the effect on the players. It’s clear that it may affect the players as they all have varying degrees of relationship with Nicola Cortese, and of course his leaving may affect us in some way. In those situations it’s clear that maybe some minds will be focused on what happened yesterday [Wednesday] rather than on Sunderland on Saturday, but we have to be professional. We have to be fully focused on the game on Saturday and as always, to try and get a positive result.”

Prediction

Look for the Saints to give their supporters a lift at the Stadium of Light. I’m not buying Poyet’s charges just yet and Lallana has been a devastating force to oppositions in recent weeks (Imagine those fantasy footballers who bought him at 6.0 pounds to see his value at 7.5 now. Who would be so smart, so deft?). Southampton 3, Sunderland 1.

Frei leads Sounders to first MLS Cup title in penalty kicks

Seattle Sounders forward Nelson Valdez, left, and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley challenge for the ball during first-half MLS Cup final soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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TORONTO — With tackles that matched the bitter temperature, Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders had little trouble providing intensity.

Goals were another story.

In a game only its champion could love, XXXX defeated XXXX in penalty kicks at BMO Field on Saturday after 120 minutes of 0-0 play with precious few threats on goal.

After the teams traded goals to start PKs, Michael Bradley flubbed his shot right to Stefan Frei. But Clint Irwin stopped Alvaro Fernandez’s shot, Seattle’s third attempt, to keep things 2-2.

It went to bonus kicks, and Justin Morrow hit the bar to set the table for Roman Torres. Yes, the big man, and he nailed it.

The first chance belonged to Altidore, who took a classy ball from Giovinco and had his far post shot deflected off Roman Torres for a corner.

Giovinco had trouble with his service in the cold, and a fifth minute offering was returned by Joevin Jones on a long counter which finished in the hands of Clint Irwin.

Seattle gained its footing and held the ball deep in Toronto’s end, but wasn’t able to trouble Irwin. Jonathan Osorio was next to trouble a keeper, though ex-Reds backstop Frei collected his effort.

A scary moment arrived in the 27th minute, as Giovinco ripped a left-footed effort into Roman Torres’ face just inside the 18. The Sounders defender fell hard (and surely the 25 degree weather didn’t help the impact).

Justin Morrow then supplied a lofted cross from the left fringe that Altidore headed down to a sliding Frei. Still 0-0, 30′

Service left a lot to be desired on set pieces, and Giovinco earned a free kick before firing it off the wall in the 39th minute.

Giovinco teed one up right after the break, but hit it off the outside of the net with the outside of his boot and it remained scoreless.

Though the chances remained scarce, the hosts had a few. Bradley picked out Giovinco with a diagonal ball that the Italian slid square for Altidore. The striker was held from getting to the ball, but no call came and Toronto won a corner that came to nothing.

The chippy play continued, and the chances remained few. Seattle called upon Andreas Ivanschitz  and Toronto turned to Will Johnson and ECF hero Benoit Cheyrou. Extra time seemed predestined, and so it came to pass.

Cheyrou won a corner with a left-footed shot just after play resumed. Giovinco teed him up for a similar chance three minutes later, but Frei collected the low offering. That was about it for the first 15 of ET.

Toronto’s third sub was Tosaint Ricketts, and he took a ball out of the air from 15 yards only to miss wide of the right post. Kicks were looming. Ricketts then picked out Altidore in the center of the box, but Frei flew to palm the headed ball off the line.

Seattle nearly went on top via a deep throw-in, as Lodeiro spied Torres at the back post and Beitashour whiffed on his attempted clearance. Irwin grabbed the loose ball first.

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WATCH: Stefan Frei made the most amazing, unbelievable save in ET

Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei reacts as time runs out in the second half of the second leg of an MLS Western Conference soccer finals game Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Commerce City, Colo. Seattle won 1-0 to advance to the MLS championship game. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Words simply fail at at a time like this.

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Stefan Frei made the best save you’ll see for quite some time, 108 minutes into MLS Cup 2016, to deny Jozy Altidore on the doorstep. The distance covered across the face of goal, the leap, the stretch, the strong hand underneath the ball … it’s all straight out of a Hollywood film which you’d question its legitimacy.

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MLS Cup 2016 will be decided on penalty kicks.

FT — MLS Cup 2016: TFC, Sounders headed to extra time

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco, left, battles Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan during second-half MLS Cup final soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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After 90 minutes of knock-down-drag-out soccer, MLS Cup 2016 is headed to extra time.

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The score, just as it was when proceedings kicked off at BMO Field nearly two hours ago, is 0-0. Toronto FC have had the majority of the game’s chances, but never really threatened Stefan Frei and the Seattle Sounders’ superbly organized defense. Seattle, on the other hand, managed all of three shots in the first and second halves combined, the first of which didn’t come until the 76th minute.

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PST’s very own Nicholas Mendola is reporting live from a frigid, frozen BMO Field (gametime temperatures in the low-20s), so make sure you follow him on Twitter, right here, and check back to PST for live updates, full-match recap, and post-game reaction from every angle.

FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup 2016 — Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders

KANSAS CITY, KS - DECEMBER 07:  The Philip F. Anschutz trophy is seen on the field before the start of the match between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup at Sporting Park on December 7, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
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279 days after First Kick, it’s all come down to this: MLS Cup 2016, between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, a pair of first-timers in MLS’s postseason title decider.

[ FOLLOW: Live score and updates from MLS Cup 2016 ]

Fighting out of the red corner, it’s Sebastian Giovinco (4 goals, 4 assists in five playoff games in 2016), Jozy Altidore (5 goals, 4 assists) and Michael Bradley. Fighting out of the blue (and Rave Green) corner, it’s Nicolas Lodeiro (4 goals), Jordan Morris (2 goals, 1 assist) and a suddenly stout Sounders defense (3 goals conceded).

[ MORE: TFC, Sounders present unique tactical challenges for each other ]

PST’s very own Nicholas Mendola will be reporting live from a frigid, frozen BMO Field (gametime temperatures expected to be in the low-20s), so make sure you follow him on Twitter, right here, and check back to PST for live updates, full-match recap, and post-game reaction from every angle.

Who: Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders
What: MLS Cup 2016
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
Why: To crown a champion