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New order in NY? A closer look at Red Bulls, NYCFC

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It’s a rivalry that has already captivated Major League Soccer in just two short seasons, but with the 2017 campaign getting set to begin, it’s the first time that New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls are on a level playing field.

[ MORE: MLS 2017 schedule

Prior to entering MLS two seasons ago, NYCFC had lofty expectations largely due to the fact that the club plays at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, a venue that has become synonymous with winning over the years.

[ MORE: MLS 2017 Eastern Conference preview ]

The club has yet to have a great deal of success against their cross-river rivals, but 2017 could be the year that NYCFC breaks that trend.

While the Red Bulls have managed to keep a large portion of its squad together for yet another season, the club did undergo several disturbances during the offseason that could halt the squad’s success.

Below, PST makes the case for both New York-based teams and why each club will finish above the other in the final standings.

Reasons NYCFC will be better than Red Bulls

Two words; David Villa. The way things are shaping up, the former Barcelona attacker could go down as one of the best Designated Player in MLS history. In two seasons with NYCFC, Villa has scored 41 goals while adding 12 assists for the Eastern Conference side, and has additionally served as the club’s captain.

Manager Patrick Vieira made a promise heading into the offseason and he stuck to his word. The Frenchman sought a younger roster, and that’s exactly what he got. While there was a decent amount of turnover within the NYCFC squad this winter, losing the likes of Frank Lampard, Andoni Iraola and others, the club has found suitable options to fill those holes with younger selections.

Among these names are midfielders Miguel Camargo and Alex Ring, as well as attacking Designated Player Maxi Moralez, who joins the team from Liga MX side Club Leon.

It’s unclear who the starting goalkeeper will be ahead of the 2017 season, but Vieira has two pretty solid options at his disposal. Eirik Johansen showed well towards the tail end of the 2016 campaign, and his 6-foot-7 stature is surely beneficial. Meanwhile, adding a savvy, talented veteran like Sean Johnson gives NYCFC a capable first-team choice who could be the NYCFC keeper for years to come.

Villa has been the clear catalyst for the NYCFC attack in the club’s first two years, but the club has a plethora of youthful options that could very well explode this season. Jack Harrison is clearly the first name that comes to mind after taking the league by storm at times during his rookie campaign, while Khiry Shelton enters his third season in the Bronx.

The club also added reigning USL MVP Sean Okoli, first round SuperDraft pick Jonathan Lewis while bringing back Tommy McNamara, who has scored some of the team’s most brilliant goals in its brief history.

Although struggled at times to find their footing at home last season, NYCFC boasted the best road record in MLS at 7-7-3. NYCFC racked up 24 points on the road a season ago, and if the team can finish around .500 away from Yankee Stadium again in 2017 then Vieira’s group will be in a good position.

Reasons Red Bulls will be better than NYCFC

The most compelling argument the Red Bulls make is their brief history against NYCFC. Over six matches in the past two seasons, Jesse Marsch’s side has won five encounters against the Bronx side by a combined score of 18 to 5. Although their May 2016 meeting resulted in a lopsided 7-0 Red Bulls victory, the overall difference in form has been resounding when the two clubs get together.

At the center of it all has been goalscoring extraordinaire Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has notched eight finishes in the six clashes. Wright-Phillips is the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner, and the Englishman has shown no signs of slowing down after already bagging a goal for the Red Bulls in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Additionally, playmaker Sacha Kljestan is coming off of his most productive season ever in MLS after bagging six goals and leading the league in assists with 20. Kljestan has been a driving force for Marsch’s squad since joining the team in 2015, and his quick distribution fits the Red Bulls’ style of play.

The biggest storyline of the entire offseason was likely Dax McCarty’s blockbuster move to the Chicago Fire, and normally it would have been a major discussion because of the player that McCarty is, but luckily for the Red Bulls they have a suitable replacement.

Sean Davis has emerged over the past several seasons as a strong role player in the central midfield, but with McCarty gone, it’s his and Felipe’s midfield to control. Davis has shown he has the size, physicality and awareness to distribute the ball well enough to fill the void, and he’s a significantly younger option for Marsch.

The Red Bulls have benefitted from having a top-notch defense over recent years, but they also boast an elite goalkeeper. Since 2013, Luis Robles has started every single MLS match for the Harrison side, while making 400 regular season saves in that span. Not only is Robles durable, but he is the emotional leader of the backline, which may not appear on a stat sheet but is certainly a valuable asset to have.

Finally, Red Bull Arena may not always draw the crowds that Yankee Stadium does, but it’s been a fortress for the Red Bulls since the club adopted it as its home. Since 2012, the club has won 10 or more matches at home, including finishing with a record of 13-2-2 a season ago at the venue, which accounted for 41 of the team’s 57 total points.

Europa League preview: Arsenal in Serbia, Everton desperate vs. Lyon

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The twelve groups of the UEFA Europa League bring forth soccer on Thursday, with a bevy of matches dotting the continent.

[ MORE: Full Europa schedule ]

Here are the top five matches to keep an eye on.

Everton vs. Lyon — 3:05 p.m. ET

If you would’ve told Ronald Koeman his Toffees would walk into this match with just one point but sit only another behind Lyon, he’d probably tell you to take a hike. But Lyon drew 1-1 at Apollon Limassol and 1-1 at home to Atalanta, opening the door for Everton to finish the day in Group E’s top two slots.

Nabil Fekir and Real Madrid loanee Mariano Diaz have seven goals each for Lyon, while ex-Premier Leaguers Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore are also key components of the French outfit’s attack.

Red Star Belgrade vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET

Arsenal in Europa has been pretty thrilling, with 3-1 and 4-2 wins under Arsene Wenger‘s belt ahead of the first of two with the 1991 European Cup winners. It’s a nice challenge for Canadian national team backstop Milan Borjan, who should be the man to try to thwart the Gunners in Serbia.

Hoffenheim vs. Istanbul Basaksehir — 3:05 p.m. ET

The favorites to win the group are dead last in the group as they welcome the perceived group underdogs from Turkey. The Super Lig runners-up have some familiar names on the roster with Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Eljero Elia, Mevlut Erdinc, Gokhan Inler, Aurelien Chedjou, and Emre Belozoglu.

AC Milan vs. AEK Athens — 3:05 p.m. ET

Milan has been burying goals in Europa play, with five at Austria Wien and three in a home win over Rijeka. Enter Athens, which has scooped up four points in group play and will look for a win to put them ahead of the group-leading Rossoneri.

Nice vs. Lazio — 1 p.m. ET

The only group with a pair of 2-0 teams. Mario Balotelli is plenty familiar with his Roman opposition from his time in Serie A.

Probe finds racial discrimination by England women’s coach

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LONDON (AP) Former England women’s team coach Mark Sampson racially discriminated against two of his players, a fresh Football Association investigation has concluded after initially dismissing allegations of wrongdoing and prompting a damaging public row with striker Eni Aluko.

Sampson was cleared of discrimination by earlier FA investigations but was fired last month because of an unrelated case of inappropriate conduct toward players in a previous job.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Only now has a barrister considered new evidence about Sampson’s conduct toward England internationals Aluko and Drew Spence, with the details being released ahead of a parliamentary hearing.

“I have concluded that on two separate occasions, MS (Sampson) has made ill-judged attempts at humor, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on grounds of race,” barrister Katharine Newton wrote in the report.

One racially discriminatory comment by Sampson in 2014 toward Aluko requested her family members from Nigeria didn’t come to a game because of Ebola.

“MS (Sampson) did treat EA (Aluko) less favorably than he would have treated a player who was not of African descent,” Newton wrote. “MS had therefore subjected EA to less favorable treatment because of her ethnicity.”

During a team meeting in 2015, Sampson also asked Spence if she had been to prison, and then suggested she had been arrested four times. Newton concluded that the comment was made “because of her ethnicity.”

[ MORE: Hamid leaving DC United ]

FA chief executive Martin Glenn apologized to Aluko and Spence before the hearing. But Aluko told legislators that Glenn’s earlier conduct toward her was “bordering on blackmail” after he threatened to withhold payments from an 80,000 pound ($105,000) financial settlement unless she published a statement saying the FA “was not institutionally racist.”

With Aluko sitting behind him, Glenn later told the hearing that the player had not been blackmailed.

Instead Glenn said that an August tweet by Aluko – “at least we now know the FA’s stance on derogatory racial remarks by an England manager. Ignore, deny, endorse” – was a “clear breach of the agreement.”

Aluko, who was part of the team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, has not played for England since making her 102nd appearance in April 2016.

There was a more apologetic tone from Glenn in his written statement on Wednesday, saying that Sampson’s conduct was “not acceptable” and he “would like to sincerely apologize” to Aluko and Spence.

“Our ambition has always been to find the truth and take swift and appropriate action if needed,” Glenn said. “It was our decision to have the original, second and final investigation to ensure that due diligence was taken. It is regrettable that Eniola did not participate in the first external investigation as this would have enabled Katharine Newton to conduct and complete her investigation sooner.”

Report: Hamid leaving DC United to “push himself” elsewhere

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Bill Hamid is taking his talents elsewhere.

The 26-year-old has been with DC United since 2007, making an even 200 appearances across all competitions.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Hamid is thrice capped by the United States and widely considering to be one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, but the Washington Post’s Steven Goff says Hamid wants to showcase himself on a new stage.

“I want to push myself and see how far I can go because I know I have the work ethic and the hunger to take myself very far in this game. I know I can make it to the next level.”

Hamid is likely to wind up in Europe, and Goff said Danish club Midtjylland is the favorite. He’s also been scouted by Eintracht Frankfurt.

With a new United States men’s national team coach set to be appointed and Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando all on the back end of their time with the USMNT, Hamid has to look at himself as competing with Ethan Horvath and any number of young prospects.

Horvath is 22 and starting for Club Brugge. If their season continues on its pace, he’ll have a Belgian title and a Norwegian title under his belt.

U-20 players Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), Brady Scott (Koln), and Justin Vom Steeg (Fortuna Dusseldorf) are in German systems, while U-17 World Cup starters CJ dos Santos is at Benfica.

Age when making European debut and club
Tim Howard, 24, Manchester United
Brad Friedel, 23, Newcastle United
Brad Guzan, 23, Aston Villa
Kasey Keller, 23, Millwall
Tony Meola, 21, Brighton and Hove Albion
Ethan Horvath, 19, Molde

Surprises, disappointments halfway through Champions League group stage

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Clubs have met each of their group mates once, giving us an imperfect but workable sample size for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Five groups have a side boasting a 3-0 record, while four clubs have yet to seize a single point.

[ CHAMPS LEAGUE: Tuesday | Weds. ]

Some of the strugglers, like 0-1-2 Maribor and 0-1-2 APOEL, are not surprises. And it’s no shock to see Manchester United at perfect 3-0 given its draw.

Others? Well, that’s not the case.

Status down 

While Manchester United is a perfect 3-0 in Group A, raise your hand if you figured Benfica would have just one goal and zero points through three matches. Benfica’s also played two of its three home ties, making the knockout rounds a dream.

Atletico Madrid has found the UEFA Champions League Final in two of the last four seasons, but finds itself with work to do moving forward. Atleti’s Wednesday draw at Qarabag leaves it three points behind Roma and five back of leaders Chelsea. Diego Simeone’s men still host Roma and Qarabag, so points are out there.

Serie A play has been gorgeous for Napoli, who has failed to bring that momentum to Group F. It’s worth noting that a missed penalty by red-hot Dries Mertens could’ve earned the Neapolitans a point at Man City on Tuesday, but as it stands Napoli is three points back of Shakhtar and could be six back before the Ukrainians visit on Nov. 21.

It turns out you can’t sell everyone and expect the youth to come through shining. Monaco is at the bottom of a very winnable group, having lost at home to Porto and Besiktas. Still just three points behind RB Leipzig, they’ll need to win at Monaco and/or Besiktas to have any hope of the knockout rounds.

Borussia Dortmund got a rough deal from officials when it visited Wembley Stadium, but losses to Spurs and Real Madrid can happen in a group stage. Tuesday’s draw at APOEL Nicosia, however, is close to a backbreaker.

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Status up

Spurs draw at Real Madrid may have been aided by a huge performance from Hugo Lloris, but goalkeepers — as you know — are actual components of a team. This is in fact a group of death, but the North Londoners are holding a scythe. If Mauricio Pochettino can lead a home win over Real Madrid at a raucous Wembley on All Saints Day, well, look out!

Cenk Tosun has gone from sleepy transfer target to the tip of many gossipers’ tongues, as Besiktas is a perfect 3-0 including wins at Monaco and Porto. Anderson Talisca and… wait for it… Ryan Babel (!!) have also starred for the Turkish powers who will almost certainly see the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Pep Guardiola‘s done this Champions League dance, you know, and Manchester City has weathered all storms. That includes conceded two penalties — one was saved by Ederson — as a down performance versus Napoli still ended with a home win. If City can win at the Stadio San Paolo on Nov. 1, Pep can sleepwalk into the final two matches (though that’s not his style).

Roma has a classy draw at Chelsea and has gathered five points including four away from home. Mimic that mark and i Lupi will be a challenge in the knockout rounds.

Neymar was best pals with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez last season at Barcelona, but having a less-than-perfect relationship with Edinson Cavani hasn’t hurt a thing in Paris. Paris Saint-Germain is for real, scoring 12 times and yet to concede in wins over Bayern Munich, Celtic, and Anderlecht.

Grey area

Liverpool leads its group and advancing is really the only goal, but there’s something off-putting about the home draw against Sevilla. The 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow looks better now that the Russians hammered Sevilla 5-1, but a return visit from Maribor next should help the Reds buttress their stock.

Be careful how finely you analyze a club as accomplished as two-time reigning champs Real Madrid, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s men don’t look so hot. Still well-positioned to move on, keep a close eye on how they look at Wembley in a few weeks.

Holding pattern

Chelsea‘s 3-3 draw versus Roma today was its first real stumble of the UCL, but there shouldn’t be too many alarm bells considering their injury problems and Roma’s desperation. Consider their status even, especially given their clever win at Atletico Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is doing a fine job with Manchester United, but it’s really hard to praise the club too much for doing what’s expected in a glorified Europa League group. Clearly Sir Alex Ferguson was involved in the icing some of the draw balls again…