Photo credit: @NYCFC

Three (final) things we learned from MLS’s opening weekend

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The opening weekend of MLS 2018 is in the books.

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PST’s Joe Prince-Wright talked us through the first three lessons of the newborn season yesterday, followed by three more later in the evening, and three more earlier today…

[ MORE: MLS 2018 season previews ]

Throw NYCFC into the “incredibly well-coached” category

It’s time to put Patrick Vieira into the “best coach in MLS” conversation. It’s one thing to swarm and press and overwhelm teams with numbers, but it’s another thing to do so with the discipline and the tidal wave of energy that have become synonymous with New York City FC.

Starting with David Villa up top and all the way back to Yangel Herrera and Alexander Ring in central midfield, NYCFC are simply relentless and forever in sync with one another. The way they rotate and step into passing lanes is not only impressive, but it’s also exhausting to watch. For nearly an hour of Sunday’s 2-0 victory away to Sporting Kansas City — until they had their two goals and called off the dogs — they squeezed the life out of a side that’s done precisely that to so many opponents over the last decade.

The sheer number of defensive actions from the front six — again, spearheaded by Villa (7) and made possible by Ring (8) — will make NYCFC one of the toughest teams to break down and fashion more than a handful of decent chances against this season, whether at home or on the road.

Creative hub (still) required in KC

The (presumed) idea behind Sporting KC’s offseason roster moves — trading away Benny Feilhaber, after trading away Dom Dwyer last summer; replacing them with Yohan Croizet, Johnny Russell and Felipe Gutierrez — was that the former two additions would wreak havoc on the wings and serve as the primary danger men, while the latter teams up with Roger Espinoza and presses teams to death all over the field, thus putting Croizet and Russell into counter-attacking chances aplenty.

Against a team that presses as frequently and effectively as NYCFC — which is to say just as well, if not better than, Sporting — that all falls apart rather quickly when you’ve no one with the patience to dwell on the ball and open the field up (that was Feilhaber), nor a striker with the size, strength and aerial presence to serve as a totally different type of outlet altogether.

That sounds an awful lot like the struggles of Sporting foes from years gone by, only this time the shoe was on the other foot.

Croizet struggled terribly and lasted just 57 minutes before he was subbed off; striker Diego Rubio offered very little in terms of hold-up play to rescue a suffocating midfield; Russell being heavily involved was a promising sign, even if the final ball was always lacking; and Gutierrez was the most effective of the newcomers, but expecting no. 10-type playmaking from an all-action box-to-boxer isn’t going to lead to a ton of, if any, quality chances.

If your highest value chance of the game is an extremely difficult scissor kick to finish a chipped through ball over the defense, I’m still of the mind that you don’t have a striker problem, so much as you’ve got a chance-creation problem for the fifth year running.

Having a midfield makes a difference

The LA Galaxy spent each of the last three seasons — and even prolonged periods of 2014, en route to winning MLS Cup on David Beckham’s swan song — attempting to play the game of soccer without a functioning midfield. Neither Steven Gerrard nor Jermaine Jones — shockingly — proved to be the cure to what ailed Bruce Arena in his final two-plus seasons in LA, nor Curt Onalfo and Sigi Schmid in 2017.

Then, the Galaxy tried something truly whacky and zany this winter: they signed Perry Kitchen, a well above-average MLS defensive midfielder. We’re only one game into the 2018 season, but if Sunday’s 2-1 home victory over the Portland Timbers is any indication whatsoever, Kitchen makes the Galaxy a real-life, functioning, professional soccer team again.

Not only was his final stat line of defensive actions (5 recoveries, 2 interceptions, 2 clearances, 1 tackle won and 1 block) far in excess of any Galaxy d-mid in recent memory, the majority of his contributions are done on the front foot, as he reads the game and snuffs out chances before they come to pass. There are still plenty of questions to be asked about who’ll ultimately start at center back for this team, but regardless of who it is in the end, they’ll be infinitely better protected with Kitchen patrolling the midfield in front of them.

Surely there’s someone on this team that wants to drop deep into midfield, get their foot on the ball and drive the attack forward. Once they get that (significant) kink worked out, they’re pretty easily a playoff team.

Relegation rivals react to big day at the bottom

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It was another big day at the bottom of the Premier League table.

Crystal Palace moved out of relegation zone with a win at relegation rivals Huddersfield, while Stoke City suffered a damaging defeat at home to Everton in the snow and Bournemouth fought back late on to seal a dramatic win against basement boys West Brom.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Below is a look at the contrasting emotions of the relegation rivals after Saturday’s three early games in the Premier League.

West Brom led 1-0 at Bournemouth but Alan Pardew‘s side conceded two late goals from outside the box to lose 2-1 and they’re now 10 points from safety with seven games to go. The Baggies are all but certain of being relegated.

“It is just tough for us, we have had one of those seasons when nothing has gone right for us. The players have worked so hard, it is hard to look them in the eye when they haven’t got anything for it. They are walking out of here injured animals because they didn’t deserve it,” Pardew said. “We are not getting the results and that is the business we are in. I have to take responsibility for that. It is more and more difficult [to stay up] as the games tick by. It is just galling. It was a really committed effort to get something.”

Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace won 2-0 at Huddersfield to move out of of the bottom three as the Eagles ended a run of seven games without a win. Wilfried Zaha‘s return made a big difference and Hodgson believes the away win at Huddersfield was a big moment in their season.

“It is vitally important. All the points teams get down near the bottom are vitally appoint. We have had a difficult run of games and not got any points but to get something here at least puts us back in some sort of equilibrium,” Hodgson said. “I don’t think I have ever had a feeling we are on a slide. We are getting players back to fitness and our squad is looking like what it was when we were getting results.”

Everton moved onto the magic 40-point marker after winning at 10-man Stoke City and Sam Allardyce believes they’re now safe from relegation and he can start planning for next season as Cenk Tosun made it four goals in his last three games.

“Under the circumstances we are extremely pleased. Considering the elements both teams competed with today they’ve given everything – even Stoke after they went down to 10 men,” Allardyce said. “It looked a bit iffy for us again but Cenk popped up with a super goal and that’s why we bought him. It’s paid dividends for us and it puts us on the 40-point mark, and even though mathematically we are not safe I don’t think anyone can catch us now and we can start to prepare for next season.”

Huddersfield boss David Wagner didn’t seem too worried about his team moving just two points above the relegation zone with seven games to go and other teams have games in hand around them.

“Credit to Crystal Palace; they deserved this win. We were below par, particularly with the ball. There’s no doubt about our attitude and effort – we fought – but in ball possession, we were not good enough,” Wagner said. “We were two steps too late today. It’s important how you manage defeats and a disappointment like today. The good thing is that we know what we have done wrong and what we need to put right.”

Stoke City manager Paul Lambert didn’t have any complaints about Charlie Adam being sent off in the first half of their defeat against Everton.

The Potters now have an incredibly tough run of games coming up and time is running out as they second from bottom in the PL table.

“I couldn’t ask more for the effort. We had 10-men for most of the game and got ourselves back into it. It’s a disappointing result but effort, I couldn’t have asked for anymore,” Lambert added.

VIDEO: Salah scores sublime goal for Liverpool

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Mohamed Salah is at it again.

After two games without a goal (a serious drought by his standards) it took Salah less than four minutes to give Liverpool the lead against Watford at Anfield.

The Egyptian wizard danced past multiple Watford defenders before slotting home a cool finish for his 25th goal in the Premier League this season.

Salah has now scored 33 goals in 41 games for Liverpool and his incredible season continue.

Watch his latest moment of magic, here.

Bournemouth 2-1 West Brom: Cherries fight back

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  • Late goals from Ibe, Stanislas seal comeback
  • West Brom 1 win in last 28 games
  • Baggies 10 points from safety

Bournemouth launched a late comeback to beat West Brom 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

West Brom led through Jay Rodriguez but two spectacular goals late on from Jordon Ibe and Junior Stanislas sparked a dramatic comeback.

With the win Bournemouth move into 11th on 36 points, while West Brom stay bottom on 20 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

West Brom started well and Salomon Rondon’s header was saved by Asmir Begovic after good work down the right from Allan Nyom.

Rodriguez then forced Begovic into another save and Bournemouth were forced into a defensive change as Simon Francis was replaced by Charlie Daniels.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Some hefty challenges flew in as both sets of players were fired up and ready for battle, with Josh King going down in the box at one end and Rondon at the other end as the Venezuelan also forced Begovic into another save.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Early in the second half West Brom went ahead as Kieran Gibbs‘ cross found Rondon who nodded down and Rodriguez finished to breath new life into the Baggies’ survival hopes. Or so they thought…

Junior Stanislas put a free kick just over as Bournemouth started to turn the key and soon they were level. Ibe spanked a shot in from distance which skipped into the far corner to make it 1-1, then came Stanislas’ heroics.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

The winger curled home a sumptuous free kick to make it 2-1 and send the home fans wild as Bournemouth’s Premier League status was all but secured for another season.

Watch Live: Liverpool v. Watford

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Liverpool host Watford at Anfield on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via with Jurgen Klopp‘s men aiming to go third in the Premier League table.


With Liverpool’s other top four rivals Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea all in FA Cup action this weekend, this is a chance for the Reds to give themselves some breathing space.

Javi Gracia and Watford know the pressure is off as they sit in 10th place in the table and they will see this game as a free hit.

In team news Liverpool bring in Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Georginio Wijnaldum come into the starting lineup.

Watford bring in Britos for Janmaat.