Takeaway from Friday’s game: New York unfortunately needs Rafa Marquez

source: Getty Images
HOUSTON – AUGUST 03: Boniek Garcia #27 of the Houston Dynamo is taken down hard from behind by Victor Palsson #44 of the New York Red Bulls in the second half at BBVA Compass Stadium on August 3, 2012 in Houston, Texas. The Houston Dynamo defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Most Talented Team Ever era of Red Bulls soccer opened with a cold shower. Houston dominated New York on Friday, posting a 2-0 victory which played more lopsided than the final score. The Dynamo took the lead in the second minute and never allowed Hans Backe’s high powered attack a decent look on goal. Even the attempts on target, one-sided as they were (16-5, Houston), exaggerated New York’s presence at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Red Bulls entered the weekend leading the East but, thanks to the result, could be sitting third come Monday.

(MORE: Drilling down on Houston’s Friday win)

It was an eye-opening night for Houston (who played like an MLS Cup favorite), but given how much space New York’s potential has occupied on this blog, it’s worth noting the Dynamo exposed a major flaw in Red Bulls’ set-up. No, they didn’t expose the defense, which has been exposed for some time. Like Montreal last week, Houston’s ability to consistently play behind the New York’s fullbacks was a key, but this is nothing new. You get behind the New York defense, and the organization falls apart too quickly. They don’t seem to know if the center halves are going to come help, if the line should be playing higher (or farther back), or if the fullbacks should be making adjustments. They’re far too vulnerable to build up no more innovative than what you’d see at a local varsity soccer game. “Just kick it over there” shouldn’t be a winning tactic in Major League Soccer.

Even with the addition of Heath Pearce, the Red Bulls’ defense needs help. They need a midfield that’s capable of holding more of the ball and, when not in possession, breaking up play before New York’s defense can be exploited. While NBC’s broadcast noted those qualities were lacking because of Dax McCarty’s suspension, McCarty didn’t help in Montréal. While McCarty’s effort can never be questioned, too often he’s all effort and no results.

source: Getty Images
HOUSTON – AUGUST 03: Boniek Garcia #27 of the Houston Dynamo eludes a tackle from Tim Cahill #17 of the New York Red Bulls at BBVA Compass Stadium on August 3, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Houston Dynamo defeat the New York Red Bulls 2-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(MORE: How the Red Bulls were taken apart in Montreal)

A central midfield of McCarty and Tim Cahill sounds encouraging, but it’s unlikely to offer much improvement on Friday’s duo. Teemu Tainio had a good night breaking up play (there was just too much, in too many places for him to handle). McCarty (if he even starts) can’t be expected to do more, nor will he be expected to offer an improvement in possession. New York will still be left with a duo that doesn’t do enough preventing, doesn’t do enough retaining.

This is the difference between “most talented” and “best” team. It’s a line Steve and I carefully walked throughout the week. Is New York the most talented team Major League Soccer’s ever seen? Probably, we said. Is it the best team? Way, way too early to tell.

Hans Backe has to get all the pieces to gel together, and based on Friday’s returns, he has a major problem. How can Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper, Sebastien La Toux and Tim Cahill be effective if New York can’t win or keep the ball? The lack of an answer is forcing Henry to drop deeper and deeper, earlier and earlier in games, to the point on Friday he often had to drop to Tainio’s level to pick up the ball.

(MORE: New York, 2012, versus D.C. United … 1998)

This is the part where we need to pause and give Houston credit, because they played better than almost anybody New York will face this season. If the Red Bulls have a problem, it’s a relative one. Normally that would be a mitigating factor, but at this point of the season, it’s a major problem. If Houston keeps playing like this, there’s little chance New York’s path of MLS Cup won’t involve the Dynamo, be it in Harrison or Houston. If New York’s midfield is fine against the rest of the league, it could prove a meaningless consolation. Their midfield needs to beat Houston’s. If they can’t control the game against a Dynamo team that has no love of possession, the Red Bulls are in trouble.

source: Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 23: Rafa Marquez of the New York Red Bulls poses for a photo at the Empire State Building on March 23, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for the New York Red Bulls)
All of which leads us to the elephant in the locker room, the skeleton in the New York closet, the man whose disappearance has become more clichéd than compelling. Almost all of the problems New York’s experiencing would be addressed if Rafa Marquez were in the team. Currently out with a calf problem, the league’s second highest paid player is the type of midfield anchor that could free teammates to apply the pressure New York needs through midfield. With an ability to read the game that is as good as anybody’s in the league, Marquez could break up and distribute in ways Red Bulls will desperately need if they’re to fulfill their payroll’s promise.

That’s the good news. If New York does have these two major flaws, one player could help both. And, that player’s already under contract.

But you know the bad news. Rafa Marquez has been under contract for two years, and aside from a great spell to open his tenure in Major League Soccer, he’s been more distraction than attraction. Two controversial suspensions, dalliances with moves away from the league, and the ever nebulous ‘attitude problems’ define Marquez’s time in New York. If Marquez is the solution, you have a problem. A different problem, but a problem nonetheless.

That may be the biggest issue for New York. Last night’s final was disappointing, as was the drop to second in the East. The midfield needs to start keeping the ball and protecting the defense, but that only touches on the real problem. New York, in the way they’ve constructed this team, may have put themselves in the unfortunate situation of needing Rafa Marquez. Red Bulls may now be relying on the unreliable.

There are other possibilities. New York’s current midfield may provide something we can’t currently envision. Or perhaps Hans Backe will shift hisformation to bulk up the midfield. Maybe that was the problem on Friday – New York’s 4-4-2 against Houston’s 4-3-3 – but this isn’t a one night issue. This has been a small problem all year, one that’s going to be a major issue now that Tim Cahill – more attacking midfielder (or forward) than central mid – has to play in the middle. The problem may not be as big when they’re not playing Houston, but at some point, this Red Bull team’s going to have to beat the Dynamo.

Manchester City vs Liverpool, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos


Manchester City host Liverpool in a huge game for both teams as they battle for the title and a top four finish respectively.


Pep Guardiola’s Man City can momentarily cut the gap to leaders Arsenal to five points but they are without goalscoring machine Erling Haaland for this game after he suffered a groin injury before the international break. City are looking for a three-peat of Premier League titles and five in the last six seasons, but Arsenal don’t look like they’re going to slip up anytime soon. So City can’t afford to either. They’ve won six in a row in all competitions, scoring 23 and conceding once in that run. We all know they love to kick on at this point of the campaign, so let’s see if they can do it again.

As for Liverpool, well, it has been one step forward and one step back pretty much all season long for Jurgen Klopp’s side. After their 7-0 shellacking of Manchester United, they then lost at Bournemouth to infuriate Klopp and their fans further. The front three of Salah, Nunez and Gakpo are all clicking through the gears nicely but Liverpool have to become more consistent and dominant games in midfield if they’re going to close the gap to the current top four. They’ve had success against City in recent years as their contrasting style of play match up well but this seems like a different, more fragile, Liverpool this season.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

Here’s everything you need for Manchester City vs Liverpool.

How to watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium

Manchester City vs Liverpool live analysis! – By Joe Prince-Wright at the Etihad Stadium

Alisson saves from Jack Grealish, as his volley is straight at the Liverpool goalkeeper. City are just messing around now. Liverpool in full damage limitation mode with their trip to Chelsea coming up in midweek.

GOALLL! Manchester City 4-1 Liverpool. Jack Grealish slots home after a lovely pass from Kevin de Bruyne. Erling Haaland may struggle to get back into this Man City team…

Liverpool having a bit of go here to see if they can make it interesting but City are keeping the ball extremely well.

SAVE! Jack Grealish looks to bend one into the far corner but Alisson tips it away. Great effort from Grealish, who has been really good today.

CLOSE! Gakpo’s shot deflects just wide. Liverpool aren’t giving up here.

GOALLL! Manchester City 3-1 Liverpool. That should be that. Julian Alvarez with so much time in the box. His shot is blocked and the rebound falls straight to Ilkay Gundogan who slots home.

Liverpool still have a threat as Gakpo just can’t beat the offside trap after a nice ball over the top. City ominously cranking through the gears.

GOALLL! Seconds after the second half starts Kevin de Bruyne puts Manchester City 2-1 up. Poor defensive mistakes from Liverpool and Mahrez crosses for KDB to poke home. Liverpool and Klopp can’t believe it.

HALF TIME: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool – A hugely entertaining first half. Liverpool a real threat on the counter, while Man City have been a little clunky but are still carving out plenty of chances sans Haaland. Intriguing second half coming up.

Moments after being shown a yellow card, Rodri takes down Cody Gakpo cynically as he goes to start a counter. That should be another yellow card. Liverpool players and Jurgen Klopp incensed. And rightly so. Getting spicy out there as TAA catches Grealish unintentionally. Grealish is then taken out by Trent moments later.

GOALLLL! Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool. Julian Alvarez taps home. Great play from Mahrez and Gundogan to set up Grealish and he finds Alvarez to finish. The TV screens here at the Etihad show Erling Haaland going crazy up in the stands as he celebrates. Minutes later Mahrez almost finds Alvarez but his pass is just too heavy. It is all City now.

A bad giveaway from John Stones and Salah and Liverpool are away again, but Jack Grealish works so hard to get back and stops Salah in City’s penalty box. Great defending from Grealish.

OVER! A flurry of chances arrive for City as they can’t convert a cross and then Mahrez smashes over from inside the box. Great opportunity wasted.

GOALLLL! The goal stands. Mohamed Salah puts Liverpool 1-0 up at Manchester City. A wonderful ball over the top to Jota, who just stayed onside, and Salah finishes superbly. What a goal! I was right in the line with that in the press box here at the Etihad and thought that was offside. Akanji just kept Jota onside.

Mohamed Salah puts Liverpool ahead but it looked like Diogo Jota was offside when the initial ball came over the top. VAR check for offside now…

Now a counter attack as Salah and Elliott both have shots blocked. Lively start, this.

CLOSE! Riyad Mahrez whips a free kick inches wide of the far post. Most of the stadium through that was in. Great effort.

CHANCE! A few decent efforts from City now. Gundogan almost finishes at the back post, then Alisson saves a shot from the edge of the box. Liverpool opened up a few times with long balls over the top.

City look a little rattled early on. Liverpool pressing them high and it is working.

KICK OFF! We are underway here in Manchester. Salah has started up top with Gakpo underneath him. Very attacking lineup from Liverpool and they are pressing very high up the pitch. Extremely similar tactics to when they played against City in their 1-0 win at Anfield earlier this season.

The atmosphere is bubbling up very nicely here. The warmups are done and the star attackers from both City and Liverpool were spanking in shots galore. The music is pumping over the PA system here. It is go time. This rivalry has delivered so much drama over the years, let’s see if there are even more twists and turns. I’m sure there will be…

Big, big, big (did I mention big!?) team news is that Erling Haaland is OUT for Manchester City. He has not recovered from his groin injury and Julian Alvarez starts up top. It will be intriguing to see how City cope without their main man who was absolutely on fire before the international break. The rest of the team news is as expected. Jota, Salah and Gakpo up top for Liverpool with Darwin Nunez fit enough for the bench.

Hello and welcome to Manchester for this huge game! It has been a glorious sunny morning here, but the clouds are bubbling up just as the action is about to on the pitch at the Etihad. Buckle up. Sparks always fly when these two meet.

Key storylines & in-form players to watch

The loss of Haaland is obviously a huge concern for City as he suffered a groin issue and did not play for Norway over the international break and returned to Manchester for treatment. Julian Alvarez comes in, which is a pretty good back-up option. Elsewhere, City are flying with Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gunodgan having a big role to play with Phil Foden out following his appendix issue. As always, Kevin de Bruyne is the main man and will relish this chance to cut Arsenal’s lead atop the table.

Liverpool just can’t find consistency right now. They have improved defensively but they are a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of that and showed his frustration after their defeat at Bournemouth, which was their last Premier League game and was way back on March 11. He’s had a few weeks to stew over that loss and it will be intriguing to see what plan he has come up with. For this game as earlier this season Liverpool beat Man City 1-0 at Anfield by playing a front four which pinned City in.

Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Phil Foden (appendix removed), Erling Haaland (groin)

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Calvin Ramsay (knee), Stefan Bajcetic (groin), Luis Diaz (knee), Thiago Alcantara (hip), Naby Keita (muscle)

Crystal Palace vs Leicester, live! Score, updates, how to watch, videos


Roy Hodgson is set to make his re-debut as Crystal Palace manager when the Eagles host Leicester at Selhurst Park on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium). 


Patrick Vieira was fired on March 17 after going 11 games without a win (0W-5D-6L) after the calendar turned over to 23, leaving Crystal Palace (27 points – 12th place) closer to the relegation battle than they have any business being. Speaking of having no business being in the relegation battle, Leicester (25 points – 17th place) sit just one point and one place above the bottom-three ahead of Saturday’s trip to south London.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace vs Leicester

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

How to watch Crystal Palace vs Leicester live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium

Key storylines & star players

Hodgson came out of retirement to take over until the end of the season, at which point Vieira’s (still to-be-chosen) permanent replacement will take charge with another summer of squad turnover to come. Though they sit nearer to mid-table than the bottom-three heading into matchweek 29, the gap between Crystal Palace and 18th-place West Ham is only three points, meaning they could tumble as far as 17th with another defeat (pending results elsewhere). Wilfried Zaha’s six Premier League goals lead the way for Crystal Palace this season, but the Ivorian international hasn’t scored since Nov. 6 (11 appearances, all starts). Since Zaha’s last league goal, Palace have scored just seven goals in 15 games (1W-5D-7L).

Leicester’s winless run isn’t quite as long as Palace’s (only five games – 0W-1D-4L) since the Foxes inexplicably scored four goals in back-to-back victories over Aston Villa and Tottenham at the start of February. Since then, two goals in five games and three clean sheets against. In fairness, they have faced Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Brentford during the slide, which is perhaps the reason that Brendan Rodgers is still in the job through the recent international break. The other defeat, by the way? It was to last-place Southampton. James Maddison and Harvey Barnes are level on nine goals each, while forwards Patson Daka, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy have combined to score eight PL goals this season.

Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Sam Johnstone (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Vicente Guaita (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), James McArthur (illness), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed)

Leicester team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Ryan Bertrand (knee), James Justin (achilles), Youri Tielemans (ankle), Jannik Vestergaard (undisclosed) | QUESTIONABLE: Harry Souttar (ankle), Victor Kristiansen (ankle), Jonny Evans (undisclosed)

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Nottingham Forest vs Wolves, live! Score, updates, how to watch, videos


Nottingham Forest will try to end their winless skid at six games when they host fellow Premier League relegation battlers Wolves at the City Ground on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium). 


Before those six games of anguish (and injuries) began, Nottingham Forest (now, 26 points – 16th place) sat 13th in the table, on 24 points, after going five games unbeaten, including three wins. Wolves (27 points – 13th place), meanwhile, have struggled to score enough goals to string together winning runs once again this season.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Nottingham Forest vs Wolves

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

How to watch Nottingham Forest vs Wolves live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium

Key storylines & star players

No side in the Premier League has scored fewer goals than Forest (or Wolves – 22 each), and only Bournemouth (54) have conceded more than Steve Cooper’s newly promoted side (49). All of which is to say, the Reds are in the thick of the relegation scrap based on merit. Injuries have certainly played their part, though, with as many as 14 players either confirmed out for the weekend, or an injury doubt. 21-year-old Brennan Johnson (7 goals, 2 assists) has been something of a revelation in his first PL season and Taiwo Awoniyi has four goals of his own, but no one else has more than two on the season (Morgan Gibbs-White and Emmanuel Dennis).

Once again this season, Wolves have gone for the “defensively solid, but offensively deficient” approach, only this time their defensive record is nearly as poor as the goal-scoring output. Like Forest, only two players (Daniel Podence and Ruben Neves) have scored more than two goals (Adama Traore) en route to 22 goals scored in 28 games.

Nottingham Forest team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Taiwo Awoniyi (groin), Scott McKenna (thigh), Willy Boly (thigh), Dean Henderson (thigh), Giulian Biancone (knee), Omar Richards (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Brennan Johnson (groin), Chris Wood (thigh), Cheickou Kouyate (thigh), Andre Ayew (knee), Serge Aurier (knock), Wayne Hennessey (knee), Ryan Yates (shoulder)

Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Hugo Bueno (hamstring), Matheus Nunes (suspension), Diego Costa (knee), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Jonny (suspension), Hee-Chan Hwang (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Boubacar Traore (groin)

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Brighton vs Brentford, live! Score, updates, stream link, video highlights


Brighton and Brentford stage a big if surprising fight for a European place during a Saturday affair at the Amex Stadium. (watch live, 10am ET online via Peacock Premium).

The Seagulls and the visiting Bees both enter the match with 42 points, five points off the Premier League’s fifth-place spot and seven away from fourth.


Brighton has played a Premier League-low 25 matches and will like its chances of putting the Bees in the deep rear view by winning on Saturday.

But Brentford’s been the total package and good at finding results, losing just five Premier League matches this season.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brighton vs Brentford.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

How to watch Brighton vs Brentford live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10apm ET, Saturday
TV Channel/Online: Stream via Peacock Premium

Key storylines & star players

Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton is driven by Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo, a midfield pairing envied by most teams of their ilk.

And Brentford has had lovely contributions from Mathias Jensen and complete center forward play from Ivan Toney.

Brighton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Adam Lallana (thigh), Jakub Moder (knee), Tariq Lamptey (knee)

Brentford team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Keane Lewis-Potter (knee), Shandon Baptiste (suspended), Vitaly Janelt (knee), Kristoffer Ajer (calf).