Vancouver Whitecaps' Sebastian Fernandez leaps to knock the ball out of the air and gain control against the Montreal Impact during the second half of an MLS soccer game Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Seattle Sounders

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt96zfVDCLk]

 

One game, 100 words (or less): With a team depleted by absences, injuries, and suspensions, Seattle’ was in no shape to take a result out of Vancouver. With a 12th minute, 26-yard bomb from Sebastián Fernández, the Whitecaps had the only goal they’d need, holding the Sounders to two shots on target in a 1-0 win at B.C. Place.

Three Two moments that mattered:

1. 0′ – This is the Seattle team? – Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin are just returning from Brazil (and not about to be stressed on that Vancouver turf).  Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda were both suspended. Obafemi Martins and Djimi Traoré are hurt. Seven points clear in the Supporters Shield race, the Sounders had room for a night like this, but the lineups at kickoff still spoke to the imbalance:

Vancouver: Ousted; Beitashour, Mitchel, Leveron, Harevy; Laba, Koffie; Fernández, Morales, Manneh; Hurtado
Seattle: Frei; Anibaba, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez; Neagle, Azira, Evans, Pappa; Barrett, Cooper

Vancouver wasn’t perfect either, but if you are going to have absences against a team missing Dempsey and Martins, might as well be in central defense.

2. 12′ – The absence of Alonso and Pineda – When you have two midfielders who’ve rarely played together, these kinds of things happen. The Whitecaps break pressure on their right and find Sebastián Fernández alone above the arc. With the defense entrenched at the edge of the 18-yard box, the Uruguayan has room to take a touch before having a crack. With both sides of goal to choose from, he picks the right, finding net for the game’s only goal.

source: AP
Vancouver’s Sebastian Fernandez saw his 12th minute goal hold up as the Whitecaps defeated Seattle, 1-0. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

3. 13′ – 90′ – The one big moment – The rest of the match didn’t exactly blend together, but it was defined by the same story. Vancouver, having its one-goal lead, was never given an incentive to go in for the kill, though they had their chances (most notably, a remarkable Erik Hurtado breakaway in the second half where his attempted chip dribbled meekly to Stefan Frei). Without its danger men, the Sounders never gave Vancouver reason to believe a second goal was necessary.

Three lessons going forward:

1. Seattle should be well-rested for Portland – The upshot of these suspensions and absences: The Sounders will be in good shape for their upcoming matches with the Timbers. Mid-week, the rivals face-off in the U.S. Open Cup, while CenturyLink’s upper deck will be open when the teams leave Tukwila for Seattle.

2. Vancouver has a huge lead in the Cascadia Cup – The competition’s current standings, thanks to the updated Wikipedia page:

 

2014 results summary
Team Pts Pld W L D GF GA GD
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 7 3 2 0 1 7 5 +2
Seattle Sounders FC 2 3 0 1 2 6 7 -1
Portland Timbers 1 2 0 1 1 7 8 -1

 

The Whitecaps have one more home game against the Timbers (Aug. 20) before closing the informal competition at Portland (Sept. 20) and Seattle (Oct. 10).

The Timbers’ game-in-hand and two matches against the Whitecaps could swing the race, but Seattle’s in a tough spot. Even if they max out points (11), they’re at the mercy of the Whitecaps. As of now, it looks like Cascadia’s trophy will stay in British Columbia.

3. Erik Hurtado seems to be cooling off – After the former Santa Clara forward broke through earlier this season with his first MLS goal, he went on a four-game run that pushed Darren Mattocks to the bench. Tonight, however, made it clear that form is gone. Particularly on that failed breakaway, Hurtado looks like his 2013 self, and while the work rate that’s always earn him time is still there, the Whitecaps may yet need Mattocks.

Not that he’s necessarily a better option. Scoreless in his last six appearances, the Jamaican international has now gone two-and-a-half months without a goal.

Where this leaves them:

  • The win gives Vancouver a room on sixth place LA, having opened up a four-point gap thanks to this weekend’s results.
  • Seattle stays seven points up on Real Salt Lake and Colorado in the Western Conference. The Sounders lead the Supporters Shield race by the same margin.

Watford “Behind The Badge” airs third installment; Catch up on Episode 2 here

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Catch up on Watford’s look “Behind The Badge” ahead of Sunday’s third episode of the four-part glimpse into one of the Premier League’s promoted sides.

The Hornets sit 11th, currently 7 points clear of relegation danger, and are giving fans a better idea of what’s been going on at Vicarage Road.

[ MORE: Behind the Badge archive

In an exclusive series, NBC Sports followed around the Hornets in a very similar fashion to HBO’s Hard Knocks which joins the preseason camp of one NFL team each summer.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining episodes on Watford, which you can watch on NBCSN and live online via NBCSports.com in the coming weeks, plus a link to watch episode one in full from last week.


First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Embedded above
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Follow @NicholasMendola

MLS Cup Final preview: Seattle, Toronto battle subzero temps for first Cup

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley walks off the field after a training session, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Toronto, for the MLS Cup soccer championship. Toronto hosts the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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  • First MLS Cup Final for both
  • Sounders all-time 7W-2L-2T
  • TFC joined in 2007, Seattle 2009

It’ll be in the high twenties (-1 Celsius) when Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders kick off the MLS Cup Final on Saturday night in Ontario (Kickoff is Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT).

Combine the visible breath and slight chance of snow with a BMO Field which has been relentlessly loud throughut TFC’s playoff run, and we have the makings of an all-timer.

[ MORE: PST’s MLS Cup roundtable ]

Toronto and Seattle met up at the same venue on July 2, the 1-1 draw perhaps a bit deflated by the absence of Clint Dempsey for Seattle and TFC’s American duo of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

Seattle superstar Nicolas Lodeiro wasn’t there, either, still weeks away from arriving from Boca Juniors.

This is the second MLS Cup Final at BMO Field, after Colorado defeated FC Dallas in 2010. TFC men Drew Moor and Clint Irwin were part of the championship-winning Rapids in that one.

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris greets fans who gathered to send off the team after MLS soccer training, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Tukwila, Wash. The Sounders were scheduled to travel to Toronto later Wednesday to prepare to face Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle’s Jordan Morris (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

[ MORE: PST’s Michael Bradley interview ]

Toronto will bring star power to go with a challenging formation; While accolades rightly go to Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco, the Reds’ 3-5-2 under Greg Vanney features versatile wide men in Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow.

Seattle is powered through Nicolas Lodeiro, the ex-Boca Juniors playmaker who has been nearly as effective as Giovinco (albeit with a smaller MLS sample size). Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the ex-TFC man, has been very good at the back, but can the Sounders’ back line handle Altidore and Giovinco?

The metronomes could be the difference. Bradley’s been good for TFC, but Osvaldo Alonso gave an MLS MVP caliber performance this season.

[ MORE: PST talks with Ozzie Alonso ]

What they’re saying

Toronto FC keeper Irwin on the weather: “It’s probably the most difficult part. As a field player, you can move around. You’re warmer, more active. At this point, there’s not much we can do other than bundle up, and I’ll stay moving back there.”

Seattle forward Jordan Morris on Lodeiro“The first thing Lodeiro said to me is, ‘When I get the ball, you just run.’ I think of him like a quarterback.”

Prediction

Look to the engine rooms here. Alonso is a handful and a magnificent passer of the ball. On his day, Bradley is even better. Will it be? Neither player will shirk from pressure. We’re thinking extra time after a 1-1 match. And Toronto’s depth and home field will propel it to a 2-1 win.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Manchester City

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Bacary Sagna of Manchester City clears the ball from Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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  • Man City leads all-time 53W-29D-28L
  • Leicester took 4 of 6 pts last season
  • MCFC won previous four

To cure what ails, Leicester City has to knock off one of the top contenders to its Premier League throne: Manchester City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBC and NBCSports.com).

There are some advantages for Leicester, though, as Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are suspended for their red cards picked up the loss to Chelsea. Pep Guardiola used Pablo Zabaleta next to Fernando in the UCL draw with Celtic, and looks set for the same come Saturday.

Leicester rested the majority of its starters in a 5-0 loss at Porto this week, following up a 2-1 setback at Sunderland that left the champs just two points ahead of the 18th and 19th placed clubs in the PL.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri on the task at hand: “I was waiting for a period like this. Now it’s important to react with a big effort together from the team. That is my focus now. We have to be focused on these matches until Christmas Day. We have to get points. We need points and we have to fight. This part of the season is our key moment. I think every match gives us an opportunity. We have to fight. I repeat, we have to fight.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola on Zabaleta’s positional change“But I think Pablo Zabaleta can play in the middle – he is very experienced and he can play there as he did very well against Celtic. I think in the last years of his career he’ll play more in the middle and it gives us another option.”

Prediction

As much as the injuries hurt Man City, there’s certain harm in the wounded unit that fell 3-1 to Chelsea. We believe the Foxes will strike, but Kelechi Iheanacho has proven more than a suitable fill-in for Aguero. Man City 2-1.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 15

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Week 15 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 15 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-3 Man City – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Swansea City 2-3 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-1 Everton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Man United 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Hull City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]