Rooney

Premier League Top 5 Forwards heading into 2014/15 season

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Goals, goals, and more goals. That’s why we watch the game, right?

Well, not always, but here we give love to the part of the game that returns the most glory for a player’s effort – and sometimes the most heat when things go bad.

Even with last year’s leading scorer Luis Suarez gone to the Spanish league, there’s still oodles of firepower in the English top flight and they are sure to dazzle crowds both in the stands and on the television.

Last year’s champions Manchester City have gobs of attackers, but we’ll spread the wealth around the league since there’s enough of it to go around.

1. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool

Liverpool last year owned the league’s two highest goalscorers. With one of them shipped off to Barcelona, Daniel Sturridge is now the man at Liverpool. If you don’t think things will go well without Suarez, just look back to last season when the Uruguayan missed the first six matches of the year thanks to his 2nd biting suspension. Sturridge scored five goals in those six matches, including one in each of the first four. He’s entirely capable of not only taking over the Liverpool attack as the head man but also taking over the Premier League. This team is poised for another top-four finish, and the 24-year-old will lead the way.

2. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

Kün Aguero would be the outright best striker in the Premier League if it weren’t for his spotty health.  While Sturridge and Suarez were lighting up the back of the net at Anfield, Aguero cashed in a cool 17 times last year, good enough for third on the overall list and with a better goals-per-minute number than both the star Liverpool strikers. As skillful as he is, and benefiting for a Manchester City attack bursting at the seams with talent and pace, the 26-year-old is no use to his club on the sidelines. If he wants to be the best in the league, he has to do better than the 23 appearances he made last Premier League season. He also will want to make sure he’s on the pitch for a Champions League run, considering he missed the first leg of City’s eventual defeat to Barcelona.

3. Robin van Persie – Manchester United

Another one who struggled mightily with injuries last year, the former League top scorer is over the 31-year-old mark now and it’s showing. But when healthy, we were reminded in the World Cup just how dangerous he can be.  Unfortunately, the biggest knock to van Persie’s game when he’s on the pitch is he requires service and struggles to create his own chances.  But in the new Louis van Gaal system that promises to be heavy on the attacking play, the Flying Dutchman

will absolutely get his service, and it could more than likely lead to a rise back up the table for the Red Devils.  If van Persie can keep his legs intact, United fans are sure to be delighted with his return.

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Costa is a safe bet to be Chelsea’s leading scorer this season with plenty of service.

4. Diego Costa – Chelsea

The lone new boy on the list, Diego Costa has arrived at Chelsea after a torrid season at Atletico Madrid. Making it all the way to the Champions League final and winning La Liga outright, Costa was on top of the world…until the World Cup, wherein he inexplicably came hurtling back down to Earth as Spain was eradicated from the tournament in the group stage.

Costa is now tasked with revitalizing the Chelsea attack, which last year featured plenty of midfield and wing play but was devoid of a true striker.

With Eden Hazard to his left, Andre Schurrle to his right, and the combination of Oscar, Willian, and Cesc Fabregas behind him, Costa has no excuses if he isn’t able to repeat his 27-goal tally from last year’s La Liga play.

Some have said he will fail, arguing that Chelsea plays more of Spain’s style of passing build-up rather than the free-flowing Atletico Madrid or Costa’s home country of Brazil.  Time will tell, but as of now, he is one of the most dangerous finishers in the Premier League, able to create chances both on and off the ball, and finish with lethal accuracy.

5. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United

A Premier League staple since 2002, Wayne Rooney has a new accessory to add to his wardrobe this season – the captain’s armband. Newly dubbed the on-field skipper by incoming boss van Gaal, Rooney has arguably more pressure to succeed this season than he’s ever faced before. Tasked with captaining his side to a Champions League return, Rooney will have to lead by example.  Last year he was Manchester United’s best player by far, and he’ll need much more help than he got from his teammates in the most recent campaign.  But if he can put his mental lapses and occasional moping behind him and put the team on his back, he can be the star of the season.  He’s good for at least a few highlight reels a year, so it’s almost a guarantee we’ll be seeing plenty of Mr. Rooney this campaign.

Honorable mention: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Loic Remy (Queens Park Rangers).

Watch Live: Chelsea vs. West Brom (Lineups, Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22:  Diego Costa of Chelsea and Joleon Lescott of West Brom battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge on November 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea hosts West Bromwich Albion from Stamford Bridge (Watch live, 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Blues look to extend their eight-match win streak.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

The Blues make one change from last weekend’s 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Manchester City as Cesc Fabregas makes way in the starting XI for Nemanja Matic.

Antonio Conte‘s side will be opposed by a West Brom side that is unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches. The Baggies remain unchanged from last week’s 3-1 win over Watford as the side looks to move above eighth in the table.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard. Subs: Begovic, Aina, Ivanovic, Chalobah, Fabregas, Willian, Batshuayi.

West Brom: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Yacob, Fletcher (c); Brunt, Morrison, Phillips; Rondon. Subs: Palmer; Olsson, Robson-Kanu, Gardner, McClean, Galloway, Chadli.

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

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TORONTO — Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

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Bradley lauds “fearless” teammates after heart-wrenching MLS Cup loss

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TORONTO — Michael Bradley paused to collect himself, several times actually, before apologizing to Toronto FC’s supporters.

The game of football, with its soaring highs and gutting lows, was the latter now. TFC had dominated Seattle over a lackluster 120 minutes, Bradley engineered several big interventions and some delightful balls that didn’t have an end product.

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

Much of that won’t be remembered, though, because Bradley passed his penalty kick right into the path of a waiting Stefan Frei. Surrounded by reporters in the TFC locker room, Bradley chose his words carefully.

“When you put everything you have into something, when you come in every day ready to pour your heart and soul into something, the highs are amazing and emotional and incredible in a positive ways,” Bradley said. “And the setbacks… hit you hard. Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.

“It’s not for the weak, and you see that on nights like tonight.”

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

Bradley was one of the final men to emerge from the showers at BMO Field, and he answered every question with brutal honesty.

“On behalf of the team, we can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this, together with us,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach that we couldn’t reward them with the biggest trophy tonight.”

In defeat, it was easy to see why TFC’s locker room is drawn to its captain. Bradley shirked nothing, answering the tough questions and humoring those who would lob softballs about his family.

Among the former was this response, one of those quotes that moves a team into formation.

“The margins are so small, and on nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” he said. “We talked about having a group of guy who were gonna, on the biggest of nights, be fearless and go after things in an aggressive way. And we did that. We were strong, brave, and went after the game in a really, really hard away from the first minute right up until the 120th minute.”

That Bradley missed a PK will howl to the moon in Toronto to the wee hours of this Sunday morning, and his critics will be happy to join in. But as the 29-year-old prepares for a winter that could see him head across an ocean before returning for World Cup qualifying and another MLS season, Toronto can be happy to put its faith — and its backbone — in No. 4.

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Altidore, Frei react to “that save” after Sounders claim MLS Cup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 10:  Stefan Frei #24 of the Seattle Sounders stops Michael Bradley #4 of the Toronto FC during the penalty kick phase during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — When it came down to it, Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC were inches away from becoming MLS Cup champions.

The man who walked away with MLS Cup MVP was the reason they didn’t land the title.

[ WATCH: Frei’s big save ]

Deep in extra time, Altidore leapt high to loft a header toward the far post. Frei adjusted his body for one dramatic lunge, just slapping the ball toward Roman Torres for a clearance.

“(Altidore) does the right thing because he goes against the way that I’m coming from, and that point you just move your feet as quick as you can see what’s possible,” Frei said.

Altidore thought it was in.

“I thought so,” he said. “It was a tough ball to begin with. … It was a hell of a save. At the end of the day you’ve got to pull off something special.”

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