Premier League 2014-15 preview: Manchester City

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In a 2013-14 season where Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all enjoyed form blitzes that saw them go top of the table it was the steady approach of Manchester City that proved vital to their title hoist. That directive perfectly reflects the persona of manager Manuel Pellegrini – calm, pragmatic, calculating and unflappable.

But while most top squads set out each summer to inject new life into the squad and prevent the dreaded plateau, City have spent little in this transfer window. Part of that conservative stance has been due to the $82 million Financial Fair Play restriction imposed by UEFA but the other part is that this squad is already loaded. At least, that’s what City fans hope when talk of a title repeat surfaces.

[Related: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Fernando ($20 million from Porto), Willy Caballero ($11 million from Malaga), Bacary Sagna (free from Arsenal), Bruno Zuculini ($3.3 million from Racing Club), Frank Lampard (loan from NYCFC)

Transfers Out: Gareth Barry ($3 million to Everton), Costel Pantilimon (free to Sunderland), Jack Rodwell ($16 million to Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (free to West Brom)

Last Season: City rode the steady wave to the finish, outlasting challenges from Liverpool and Chelsea to claim their second title in three years. Repeats are never easy but City is a squad with few holes.

source: Getty ImagesStar Player: Yaya Toure

An absolute monster in the midfield, Toure’s fabulous career hit its highest point last season when he scored an incredible 20 league goals on the way to leading City to their third title in two years. A major reason for this landmark season was the added presence of Fernandinho as Toure’s partner in the holding role. With the Brazilian preferring to hang back and defend, Toure had the freedom to play in a more advanced role where his linkups with David Silva formed the playmaking moments that devastated opponents and helped City to score 102 league goals in 2013-14.

This season, the Citizens hopes will once again bank on the health and form of the Ivorian. North of 30 years old now, Toure is likely to be used more sparingly by the ever-wise Manuel Pellegrini. His presence in big league matches and Champions League contests is a must but against lesser league opponents and early round League and FA Cup matches, expect the Chilean manager to hand some reps to Javi Garcia and new boy Fernando.

Coach’s Corner: Manuel Pellegrini

The soundbites, mind-games and touchline actions of Jose Mourinho dominate the headlines but Pellegrini deserves massive credit for what he’s done at City. Claiming a title as a first year manager in the Premier League is unheard of but the Chilean did it with modesty and grace. In Year Two he’ll be handed an even greater challenge – trying to repeat. How he’ll do it remains a mystery but it’s time the rest of the league take more note of the man who holds his cards tight.

PST Predicts: No doubt City once again will challenge for the Premier League title but the club also will have its sites set on the Champions League. Dedication to one competition often means neglect to another but the die-hards in sky blue will feel this squad is built to do the double. Doubt them at your own peril.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”