Fearless MLS predictions: Champ, MVP, top Rookie and more

4 Comments

I’ve managed to tiptoe right up the edge of Major League Soccer’s 17th season without actually proffering my picks for high-profile awards and honors.

So let’s get these on the record:

MLS Cup Champion

Los Angeles Galaxy: I know, I know, nothing new here. But I’m not about to overthink this one. The Galaxy in a word: loaded. Defense will be an issue, of course. Bless Andrew Boyens, but he’s no Omar Gonzalez, and L.A.’s central defense will suffer. But in the end, it won’t matter. Until somebody shows they can dethrone Bruce Arena’s men, the champs are still the champs.

Next best in the West

Seattle Sounders: Sigi Schmid’s team has two solid league MVP candidates (Mauro Rosales and Fredy Montero) and another who probably should get more consideration for it, but probably won’t (Osvaldo Alonso).

Eastern Conference champion

Sporting Kansas City: Things just keep ticking along at Livestrong Sporting Park. Our friends at The Daily Wiz blog said it best: it’s been a long off-season around SKC, too much time to ponder what might have been but for 45 minutes against Houston in last year’s conference final.

MVP

Mauro Rosales: Remember how David Ferreira was really good in his first year at Dallas – and then got even better in his sophomore MLS season? Well, same deal with the Sounders smooth, right-sided attacking midfielder. By the way, he’s already been everything that Freddie Ljungberg wanted to be but couldn’t be at CenturyLink Field.

Golden Boot

Fredy Montero: I do believe I have already said a few words about this. Exactly 998 of them, if I’m being precise.

Goalkeeper of the Year

Nick Rimando: He started the calendar year with a mighty bang, standing tall in the U.S. shirt against a hellacious barrage down in Panama. He was among Major League Soccer’s best last year; no reason to see things changing now.

Defender of the Year

Geoff Cameron: Dominic Kinnear has declared the long-legged fellow is a center back now. For sure. No more “take backs” or anything.  So Cameron has a chance to firmly establish himself as The Man in terms of MLS center backs.

Rookie of the Year

Kelyn Rowe: The New England Revolution midfielder (and third pick in 2012 draft) collected his share of bright preseason reviews. It looks like he’ll get plenty of minutes along the outside spots at Gillette Stadium this year.

Comeback player

David Ferreira: He’s still suffering after-effects of last year’s broken ankle, unable to play tomorrow against the Red Bulls. But there were glimpses of the former league MVP’s qualities in preseason, and there’s plenty of time over the long MLS season – longest yet, in fact, with the final set for Dec. 1 – for the Colombian playmaker to become the old Ferreira again. (I also expect D.C. United DP Branko Boskociv to have a big year in his return from a lengthy injury absence.)

Breakout player

Joao Plata: Toronto’s tiny dancer of a winger was becoming a force last year as a rookie, never mind that the team around him was absolutely awful for about two-thirds of the season. Now he’s got DP forward Danny Koevermans alongside on the front line at BMO Field, and that could really help un-muddle the offensive puddle in Ontario. He had three goals and five assists last year; don’t be shocked if Plata doubles those totals this year.

Top Defense

Houston Dynamo: Cameron gets plenty of (deserved) praise, but all the attention sometimes obscures the fact that Andrew Hainault has established himself as a quality MLS defender, too. There’s nothing wrong with Tally Hall in goal, although you rarely hear his name mentioned among the league’s top back-stoppers. That may change this year, especially if the Dynamo “D” looks as strong as I expect it will.

US Open Cup winner

Chicago Fire: There’s a bunch of U.S. Open Cup pride around Toyota Park; the Fire has a record four trophies, most recently in 2006. They’ll fight hard for another one. (So will three-time U.S. Open Cup champ Seattle, of course? But the Sounders have CONCACAF Champions League and a tougher conference to simultaneously contend with.)

USMNT to meet Canada, 2 others in 2021 Gold Cup group stage

2021 Gold Cup draw
Photo by Roy Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The United States men’s national team learned its path to reclaiming the Gold Cup on Monday.

Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks will meet Canada and Martinique in the group stage, as well as one of the Gold Cup prelim winner that will come from the group of Haiti, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Bermuda, or Barbados.

“It’s a good group,” Berhalter said. “Canada has a great generation coming through and the other opponents we’ll see who gets in the four spot but it’s definitely a good group.”

[ MORE: Latest USMNT and Americans abroad news ]

The 2021 Gold Cup will be held July 10 – Aug. 1 in the United States.

Mexico, who beat the U.S. 1-0 in the 2019 Gold Cup Final to take back the trophy from the U.S., will face El Salvador and Curacao plus the nation that survives the prelims between Cuba, French Guyana, Montserrat, and Trinidad and Tobago.

No team has repeated as Gold Cup champion since El Tri beat the United States in 2009 and 2011.

Mexico has won eight Gold Cups and the United States has claimed six. Canada is the only other nation to win the Gold Cup, doing so in 1999.

Tournament invitee Qatar will join Group D with Honduras, Panama, and Grenada.

Group A

Mexico
El Salvador
Curacao
Cuba, French Guyana, Montserrat, Trinidad and Tobago

Group B

United States
Canada
Martinique
Haiti, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Bermuda, or Barbados

Group C

Costa Rica
Jamaica
Suriname
Guadeloupe, Bahamas, Guatemala, or Guyana

Group D

Honduras
Panama
Grenada
Qatar

UEFA Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

Champions League qualifying
Photo by Raddad Jebarah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

American defender Henry Wingo and manager Jesse Marsch face big weeks as the second legs of the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoffs take center stage Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wingo’s Molde drew Ferencvaros 3-3 in the first leg but those three away goals loom large as the American and his Norwegian club head to Hungary.

[ MORE: Champions League qualifying scores ]

Meanwhile, Marsch saw his Red Bull Salzburg come back from an early deficit in Israel to take a 2-1 advantage over Maccabi Tel-Aviv back to Austria.

Salzburg are very heavy favorites to win and advance to the Champions League group stage for another year.

Marsch has also been linked with an impending transfer for USMNT teen Brenden Aaronson, one of at least eight Americans to watch as the European transfer window reaches its conclusion next month.


How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)


UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.

First legs (Roundup)

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK
Gent 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Molde 3-3 Ferencvaros
Olympiakos 2-0 Omonia

Tuesday

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Wednesday

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv


UCL second leg odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Ferencvaros (+108) v Molde (+215) | Draw (+230)
Dynamo Kiev (-118) v Gent (+280) | Draw (+235)
Omonia (+325) v Olympiakos (-130) | Draw (+235)
Midtjylland (+170) v Slavia Prague (+155) | Draw (+195)
PAOK (+105) v Krasnodar (+220) | Draw (+235)
Red Bull Salzburg (-834) v Maccabi Tel-Aviv (+1300) | Draw (+600)

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

League Cup: How to watch, start times, odds, predictions

Leave a comment

The League Cup’s fourth round features two interesting tactical duels in that the tournament gives us rematches of a pair of Premier League matches from the weekend, right down to the locations.

Brighton will hope Manchester United’s Wednesday trip to the Amex Stadium isn’t as lucky as the Red Devils’ 3-2 triumph over the Seagulls, while Arsenal heads back to Anfield on Thursday with designs on a measure of revenge for Monday’s 3-1 loss in league play.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

While Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United are built a bit deeper — easy, Red Devils fans — due to squad necessity for European competition, Graham Potter’s Seagulls don’t have it as simple as chopping and changing (though Brighton has looked plenty good with its depth so far in this tournament.

How will the tactician plot his overthrow of United? And will Mikel Arteta do anything different with Arsenal to help thwart the high line Liverpool used to limit Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on Monday (if the Gabonese star even plays)?

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things from Liverpool-Arsenal ]

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho thinks that schedule congestion is going to cost Spurs on Tuesday against Chelsea as well as in the treatment room.

The Portuguese boss says he will not be able to give the League Cup the respect he’d like because of Thursday’s Europa League visit from Maccabi Haifa is a match the club needs to make the UEL group stage.

Mourinho lost Heung-min Son to injury in Sunday’s controversial draw against Newcastle and he’s worried about what’s next.

“I think Sonny was just the first [injury],” Mourinho said, via Football.London. “More will come. So he was the first, but more will come.”

Edouard Mendy and Ben Chilwell could make their first Chelsea starts in the match, which comes too soon for Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech.

Three lower league remain and will be playing their fourth League Cup matches of the month compared to the PL’s three outings. Those who win this week will have a lot longer to wait for the quarterfinals, which won’t be held until December.


League Cup fourth round kickoff times and odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Tottenham (+420) v Chelsea (-180) | Draw (+360) — 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Newport County (+560) v Newcastle (-230)  | Draw (+340)— 12:30 pm ET Weds
Burnley (+625) v Manchester City (-275) | Draw (+375) — 2 pm ET Weds
Brighton (+300) v Manchester United (-120) | Draw (+250)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Everton (-145) v West Ham (+350) | Draw (+280)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Brentford (+135) v Fulham (+185) | Draw (+225)— 12:30 pm ET Thursday
Aston Villa (-150) v Stoke City (+360) | Draw (+275)— 2 pm ET Thursday
Liverpool (-105) v Arsenal (+230) | Draw (+270)— 2:45 pm ET Thursday

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


League Cup fourth round predictions

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Chelsea
Newport County 1-3 Newcastle United
Burnley 0-3 Manchester City
Brighton 2-1 Manchester United
Everton 2-2 (EFC wins in penalties) West Ham United
Brentford 1-1 (Brentford wins in penalties) Fulham
Aston Villa 2-0 Stoke City
Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal


How to watch League Cup fourth round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Arteta rues missed chances in Arsenal loss to Liverpool

Leave a comment

Mikel Arteta knows his Arsenal team has a long way to go to be as fearsome as reigning Premier League champions Liverpool.

He also knows the Gunners could’ve easily taken a point off the Reds in place of the 3-1 loss on the scoreboard after Monday’s match at Anfield.

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things | Player ratings ]

“Really tough place to come for anybody in the world,” Arteta said. “They set incredible standards. They dominate every aspect of the game. … They’ve been together five years. We are at a different moment of our journey.”

Alexandre Lacazette gave Arsenal an early lead in the game and was stymied by Alisson Becker in a second-half bid to make it 2-2.

But the Reds had so many chances before substitute Diogo Jota salted away the points, out-attempting Arsenal 21-4 and holding 66 percent possession.

[ MORE: Klopp’s animated post-match reaction ]

“Taking the lead put us in a really strong position to believe we could get something out of the game but we conceded too early,” Arteta said. “We had some problems with the ball and we had the best chances in the game and when it comes to Anfield you’re not going to get 10 chances. When you get through 1-against-1 against the keeper you have to score if you want to get something out of the game.”

Lacazette won’t love reading that, but Arteta is right. And Alisson also stopped a Lacazette chip on a breakaway goal bid that wouldn’t have counted because the Frenchman was offside.

Arsenal lost its first Premier League match of the season after winning its first two. The two sides meet again at the same venue in League Cup fourth round action on Thursday.

Arsenal’s next PL match is home to Sheffield United on Sunday.