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MLS Season Preview: New York Red Bulls

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Whenever a team reaches new heights, the next year is defined by whether it falls back to earth. For the New York Red Bulls, 2013 featured unprecedented heights, with the club claiming its first major honor: the Supporters’ Shield. Now, with Mike Petke entering his second season on the sidelines, the question is whether the team can offset a series of indicators that hint they’ll decline.

The big one is age. Thierry Henry, who took a small step back last year, is staring at the grind of a Major League Soccer season as a 36-year-old. Tim Cahill, so crucial to the team’s surge to first in the East, is now 34. Jamison Olave, indispensable at the back, turns 33 in April. If any of these veterans slip, New York may not have enough to hold of Sporting Kansas City. If they fall flat, the Red Bulls may have to completely rethink how they approach the 2014 season.

Right now, three days away from the team’s season opener in Vancouver, a team that eschewed changes in the offseason looks primed to compete for another Shield. Spanish important Armando has joined former Toronto FC fullback Richard Eckersley as reinforcements at the back. A midfield built on the ethic of Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander, and Jonny Steele is capable of out-working most teams – effort that will create chances for Cahill and Henry.

It’s a formula that worked in 2013. Short of another contender surging past the field, it’s one that should allow New York to compete in 2014. Though another year on some worn wheels means there’s an increased chance of a blowout, the Red Bulls could also roll to another successful season.

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Players in: Armando (signed, Cordoba (Spain)), Bobby Convey (trade, Toronto), Richard Eckersley (trade, Toronto)

Players out: Brandon Barklage (option declined, San Jose), Fabian Espindola (re-entry draft, D.C. United), Markus Holgersson (contract terminated), Rafhinha (released), Amando Moreno (signed in Mexico), David Carney (signed in Australia)

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Jamison Olave will carry New York’s defense this season.

Key Player: Eckersley. Miller. Armando. On paper, New York’s defensive doesn’t seem too impressive, but if you add Jamison Olave’s name to the mix, all of a sudden the back line looks workable. With a center back capable of playing like one of the league’s best over long stretches of time, Olave is capable of raising the level of over an otherwise unspectacular group.

Henry and Cahill grab the headlines, and they are undeniably important pieces, but if Jamison Olave doesn’t give another borderline Best XI performance, it’s difficult to see this defense holding up. He is as “key” as either of his more famous teammates.

Manager: Mike Petke’s 2013 success earned him Coach of the Year votes, carving a place for him among a growing class of young, recently ex-MLS players who are making an impact on the sidelines. Relying almost exclusively a conventional 4-4-2 formation, Petke opted for simplicity over sophistication. In the process, he did what good coaches do best: Give his most influential players a platform to succeed.

Even amid a drop of in production from Henry (2012: 15 goals, 12 assists; 2013: 10 and 9), Petke produced historic results. If he can keep his team focused and humble, Petke should be able to maintain his 2013 results, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean another Supporters’ Shield.

Outlook: Given how Sporting Kansas City finished the season (raising MLS Cup), it’s difficult to call New York favorites in the East, and with Toronto FC assembling a sold (and star-studded) lineup up north, the conference looks more competitive than last season. Whereas last season saw New York and Kansas City fight it out (after a fade from Montréal), this year the Reds and Houston could also factor into the equation.

But in a managerial world where coaches prefer to focus on their own teams, Petke has is own internal obstacles. The threat of further regression from Henry is real, and with Cahill set to miss a large chunk of the season at the World Cup, the team could find itself short on scoring options. If Olave starts experiencing some of the same injury concerns that defined his last years in Salt Lake, New York suddenly looks like a candidate to collapse.

That would require a lot of ifs to fall in line; then again, when things go south, the negatives often start complementing each other (see San Jose, 2013). New York is capable of competing near the top of the East once more, but in 2014, Petke’s likely to see a new set of problems.

VIDEO: David Beckham stars in new Sky Sports commercial

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12:  UNICEF GWA Honoree David Beckham speaks onstage during the Sixth Biennial UNICEF Ball Honoring David Beckham and C. L. Max Nikias presented by Louis Vuitton at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on January 12, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for U.S. Fund for UNICEF)
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David Beckham will forever be in the hearts and minds of soccer fans across the globe.

It’s just the way it works.

[ MORE: Mourinho wields the axe ]  

Ahead of the new 2016-17 Premier League season, Becks is front and center in Sky Sports’ commercial to promote the new season.

Take a look at the video below to see the former Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain star take a bizarre jog…

[ MORE: Zelalem in Arsenal squad for U.S. tour ]

You’ll see what I mean shortly.


Transfer Rumor Roundup: Stones to Man City, Chilwell to Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: John Stones of Everton clears during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on September 12, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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Manchester City is continuing to push hard to seal a move for John Stones.

Stones, 22, is still said to be keen on a move away from Everton, despite new manager Ronald Koeman arriving at Goodison Park this summer.

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Stones wants to work with Pep Guardiola, according to a report from the Daily Mail, and he failed to play for Everton at Barnsley at the weekend after going down with a slight knock.

The same report states that the former Barnsley defender has made it known he wants to leave Everton and City will kick off the bidding at $65 million. Stones has been consistently linked with a move to Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona since bursting onto the scene during the 2013-14 season.

The England international defender had a down year last year as Roberto Martinez lost his job at Everton largely due to several inept defensive displays from his side. Stones made multiple individual errors and was said to have been upset that Martinez blocked a move to Chelsea last summer. He hasn’t been the same player since but with his silky skills on the ball and Guardiola’s penchant for having defenders carrying the ball out of defense, it is believed Stones could kick on under the Spanish coach.

Is it just me or does Stones remind you of a young Gerard Pique? He, of course, was nurtured by Guardiola at Barcelona.


Sunderland could make a move for winger Adnan Januzaj from Manchester United. Januzaj, 21, was a favorite of new Sunderland manager David Moyes while he was in charge of Manchester United and the Belgian youngster has struggled at Old Trafford since Moyes was fired in 2014.

[ MORE: Zelalem in Arsenal squad ]

With a report suggesting that Januzaj has been told he won’t be a regular under Jose Mourinho, the Daily Mail claims that Moyes and Sunderland want to take the talented winger on loan to the Stadium of Light. Januzaj spent the first half of last season on loan at Borussia Dortmund but was recalled in January after playing in just 12 games for the Bundesliga outfit. His skill and pace cause defenses problems but his lightweight frame has often led to him being overpowered in the Premier League.

The Black Cats haven’t made many moves this summer due to Sam Allardyce‘s departure for the English national team but they do have decent options out wide with Duncan Watmore, Jeremain Lens, Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini all able to play there.


Liverpool are making a final attempt to sign Leicester City’s talented youngster Ben Chilwell.

Chilwell, 19, made three appearances for Claudio Ranieri‘s side last season and the left back impressed with mature, attacking displays. Jurgen Klopp has earmarked Chilwell as his top target for the left back position as it is believed Liverpool’s manager in unsure about Alberto Moreno‘s defensive abilities.

The Sun claims that Liverpool has offered $11 million for Chilwell and to try and counter the offer, Leicester have offered the England U-21 international a new five-year deal. Liverpool is said to be willing to also offer the youngster a five-year contract with better wages and Klopp has heard good things about the left back who played for his old assistant at Borussia Dortmund, David Wagner, on loan at Huddersfield Town last season.

Chilwell played for Leicester in their International Champions Cup game at Celtic last weekend.

PHOTOS: Tottenham release new images of stadium development

Photo credit: TottenhamHotspur.com
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Tottenham Hotspur is cracking on with work at White Hart Lane.

Big time.

[ MORE: Mourinho wields the axe

Spurs have already demolished part of their current home as they continue to construct their new $570 million stadium next to the footings of the original stadium which has stood for nearly 117 years.

Check out the dramatic images below to see a large chunk of White Hart Lane missing as part of the redevelopment which will see a brand new 61,000 seater stadium built on land adjacent to the current White Hart Lane stadium, with the their old home to be demolished next summer.

[ MORE: Manchester derby cancelled ]

Next season Tottenham’s home will have a reduced capacity of just under 30,000 and they will have to move away to another stadium for at least the 2017-18 campaign as work to demolish the original WHL continues.

Wembley Stadium is said to be the favorite to house Spurs for at least a season with the English Football Association confirming talks had taken place between the two organizations.

All being well, Spurs plan to move into their new home for the start of the 2018-19 season with a whole new area created around the stadium with schools, housing, shops and more included in the Northumberland development project.

I know they won’t enjoy comparisons to Arsenal but their new digs — check them out in full here — looks very similar to the Emirates Stadium but, crucially, it will have an extra 740 seats to make it the biggest club stadium in London…


USMNT youngster Zelalem in Arsenal squad for US tour

Gedion Zelalem, USMNT U-23s
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Gedion Zelalem, 19, is heading to the United States of America with Arsenal.

[ MORE: Mourinho wields the axe ]

On Monday Arsene Wenger and his squad — he named 23 players to the roster which included teenager Zelalem — flew to the U.S. ahead of their game against the MLS All-Stars in San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday.

The Gunners will also play Chivas Guadalajara at StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. on Sunday to round off their two-game tour of the U.S.

[ MORE: Allardyce bullish on England ]

Wenger has named a strong squad for the tour, with the full list below.

The only major absentees are players who made a deep run in major tournaments with their countries this summer.

Arsenal’s French contingent who reached the final of EURO 2016 — Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud — aren’t in the squad, while Alexis Sanchez is omitted after winning Copa America Centenario with Chile and suffering an ankle injury plus Aaron Ramsey hasn’t been named in the squad after reaching the semifinals of the European Championships with Wales.

Mesut Ozil is also left out after reaching the final four of EURO 2016 with Germany but the likes of Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla, Petr Cech, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla all make the trip.

As for Zelalem, Arsenal boss Wenger thinks highly of the youngster who was born in Germany but spent his formative years in Maryland, hence why he was able to obtain U.S. citizenship and play for the U.S. national team. The fluid two-way midfielder has silky skills on the ball but is still young and his body is yet to develop into a powerful unit.

That perhaps explains why Zelalem is yet to make his debut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s full national team but he did play a starring role in Tab Ramos’ U-20 side during the World Cup in 2015. His progress with the U-23 side has somewhat stalled in recent months after Zelalem was loaned out to Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish second-tier last season. After a good start to the campaign with Rangers he found minutes hard to come by in the second half of last season.

ProSoccerTalk spoke to Wenger about Zelalem in the summer of 2015 and he said he will always give him, and other youngsters, a chance to impress in preseason before either including him in the first team squad of loaning him out.

With Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Xhaka in front of him in the pecking order for a midfield spot, it seems likely that the young U.S. national team prospect will again spend time away from the Emirates Stadium in the upcoming season.

A few strong performances in preseason could change that though.