James Collins

West Ham’s resurgence epitomizes crazy Premier League season, as Big Sam lauds latest win

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Following West Ham’s third-successive 2-0 victory, a win on Tuesday over Norwich at Upton Park courtesy of two late goals, the Hammers have moved from the relegation zone to the top half of the Premier League table in the blink of an eye.

That’s just the way the PL standings are this season, as a campaign of unpredictability at both ends of the table has us all guessing with 12 games to go.

West Ham have been good defensively all season, keeping a league high 13 clean sheets, and have now added some crucial goals at the other end to spearhead manager Sam Allardyce’s masterful turnaround at the Boleyn Ground. They weren’t fantastic against Norwich but they got the job done, which is vital at this time of the season.

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The latest win marked three-straight PL victories for the first-time since 2007 for West Ham, and Allardyce was over the moon.

“I’m delighted, it was a hell of a game Norwich gave us tonight. I had the chairman ringing me up to say we had not won under lights this season or last and that was in my mind. Our goalkeeper kept us in the game and we scored late, when it is hard for anybody to come back into it. It’s a great end to an important run of fixtures.”

With 2-0 wins against Swansea City, Aston Villa and now Norwich in the last 10 days, this stretch was always going to be a pivotal one for West Ham. Add to that the 0-0 draw that grabbed away at Chelsea before their winning run and you could look at that as the catalyst for their upturn in results.

The Hammers now sit in 10th spot on 28 points, but are only four points off the relegation zone. That, right there, sums up the PL season in a nutshell.

MORE: West Ham United 2-0 Norwich City – Late goals delight ‘Happy Hammers’

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Click to enlarge: Latest PL Standings

With Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Stoke City all going on recent good runs with plenty of wins and clean sheets, you’d think they are out of danger. But no, they are all piling up at the bottom of the standings with nobody able to pull clear of the bottom three. With just four points separating 10th spot from 18th, the relegation battle has many more twists and turns between now and May 11. Examine how tight the PL standings are, by clicking on the image, left.

West Ham showcased why they should steer clear of danger, as their team is built on solid defense and now they are grabbing the vital goals they need in order to finish teams off and push up the table. But it is still a ‘should’ with West Ham and every other team from 10th downwards, there are no guarantees and the tension is bubbling up nicely.

The Hammers ‘defense first’ model is one other teams at the bottom should follow. Whether or not they can do it is another matter.

Regardless, let’s have some fun watching this topsy-turvy season play out…

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton extend unbeaten run in Saturday’s PL play ]

Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Whitecaps acquire U.S. defender Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City

Toronto FC v Orlando City SC
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With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.

[ MORE: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018 ]

The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.

“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”

Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.

Report: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen & Mexico
AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.

Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.

Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.

ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.

In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.

PL Sunday: Spurs look to regain second against Stoke

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Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.

Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.