Question to answer in MLS preseason camp: D.C. United

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(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)

Some clubs use preseason to build or rebuild. Some are down to adjusting and tweaking.

The luckiest (Hello, D.C. United!) can use winter rehearsals to refine, fine tune and generally keep things pointed in the right direction.

That isn’t to say that D.C. United manager Ben Olsen and his club don’t have work ahead. They do, especially on defense.

But given the upward trend around RFK and all the talented young players, there’s a lot to be excited about for a club that came quite close to safe arrival into last year’s MLS Cup final.

In the first of 18 preseasons without longtime club staple Kevin Payne at the top of the organizational chart, here are the questions Olsen and Co. need to answer:

  • Are the right pieces present to build a better back line?

It’s a tough call. Major League Soccer’s restrictive salary policies mean clubs can seldom be strong all over the field. Center backs Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald aren’t bad, but they aren’t MLS elite class. Nor are the outside backs Daniel Woolard, Robbie Russell and Chris Korb.

There’s plenty of “pretty good,” but is that enough? Consider that last year’s defense was 7th among 10 playoffs teams in goals allowed in the regular season (43). Again, not bad … but nothing special.

A big piece of the back line preseason puzzle will be unwrapped when United finds out once and for all about Andy Najar, whose extended loan to Belgium power Anderlecht looks more and more like a transfer in the making.

  • Just exactly what is the best spot for Chris Pontius?

Let’s be clear about this: Pontius can be successful as an attacking presence out of midfield or as a striker. But in his fifth year as a pro, it should now be about getting the very best out of Pontius. (By the way, now that Omar Gonzalez has finally found his way into an extended U.S. national team camp, Pontius officially replaces the Galaxy center back for most U.S. supporters as the talented man who most needs to be recognized internationally for his, you know, talent.)

It’s all tied, of course, to where Olsen uses De Rosario in 2013.  Whatever the arrangement, the club should get Pontius into a spot and let him be the best that he can be – which is surely a lot.

  • What’s the best preseason approach for a hectic year ahead?

There is so much attacking talent around RFK, but several of the critical pieces come with their own set of 2013 challenges. May as well begin dealing with them now, in the preseason.

Dwayne De Rosario turns 35 in May, and he’ll presumably be part of Canada’s Gold Cup squad in the summer. He’ll need proper pacing.

Pontius is coming off injury and doesn’t need any preseason setbacks. Bet on seeing him in the U.S. assembly for Gold Cup, by the way.

Nick DeLeon slumped in the middle of the year, and it’s fair to speculate that the dreaded “rookie wall” had something to do with it. He needs the right kind of long-term conditioning during preseason.

MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:

Up Next: F.C. Dallas

VIDEO: Top 10 goals in 2018 World Cup

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Missing the 2018 World Cup already? Yeah, me too.

But it’s okay, only 1,588 days until the 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar kicks off…

[ MORE: Review of 2018 World Cup ]

With that in mind, now seems like the best time to go back through the 169 goals scored at the World Cup this summer and pick out the top 10.

It was ridiculously hard to do that given the extreme quality of strikes, but here it goes as you can watch the top goals in the videos below.

Enjoy.


Nacho: Portugal v Spain, June 15, 2018


Cristiano Ronaldo: Portugal v Spain, June 15, 2018


Toni Kroos: Germany v Sweden, June 23, 2018


Jesse Lingard: England v Panama, June 24, 2018


Ricardo Quaresma: Iran v Portugal, June 25, 2018


Lionel Messi: Nigeria v Argentina, June 26, 2018


Angel di Maria: France v Argentina, June 30, 2018


Benjamin Pavard: France v Argentina, June 30, 2018


Kevin De Bruyne: Brazil v Belgium, July 6, 2018

Denis Cheyshev: Russia v Croatia, July 7, 2018

The 2 Robbies Podcast: 2018 World Cup final review

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In the final instalment of The 2 Robbies podcast during the 2018 World Cup, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe break down an intriguing World Cup final.

With France victorious over Croatia, it was anything but a straightforward win for Les Bleus despite the 4-2 scoreline suggesting so.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ] 

Listen to the pod in full below as the lads analyze the key themes from a drama packed final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

https://art19.com/shows/the-2-robbies/episodes/10ae6a3c-01c4-4929-af62-63b730c84b49

Alexis Sanchez to miss start of Man United’s US tour

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Alexis Sanchez did not fly out to the United States of America with Manchester United on Sunday.

[ MORE: Review of 2018 World Cup

The Chilean star, 29, may end up linking up with the Red Devils further down the line but he will miss the first chunk of their 15-day tour Stateside as Jose Mourinho’s men return to the U.S. after a hugely successful batch of summer games and training camps in LA last year.

Manchester United released a statement via a spokesman which read: “Alexis Sanchez did not travel due to a personal administrative issue.”

Speculation suggests that Sanchez was unable to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. after he accepted a 16-month suspended jail sentence in Spain after being found guilty of tax evasion with regards to a $1.17 million image rights issue.

It is believed that Sanchez and his agents are working on trying to secure a visa waiver but the process is taking longer than expected.

The former Barcelona and Arsenal star last played in the USA in the summer of 2016 as he starred for Chile who won the Copa America Centenario by beating Argentina in the final at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

United have a busy preseason schedule coming up as they play against Club America in Phoenix on Thursday, then against the San Jose Earthquakes in Santa Clara on Sunday.

Mourinho’s men end their tour with three huge International Champions Cup matches against AC Milan in LA (July 25), Liverpool at Michigan Stadium (July 28) and then Real Madrid in Miami (July 31) before heading back to Europe for the final days of preseason.

With so many of their star players not due back until the first week of the 2018/19 campaign due to the World Cup, Mourinho will have been hoping to use Sanchez often during preseason as the Chilean forward took advantage of a rare summer off as his country failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.

VIDEO: What do Liverpool, Spurs need this summer?

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There are just 25 days until the 2018/19 Premier League season kicks off.

With that in mind, it is time to focus on what the big boys need to do in order to challenge for the title.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game

We’ve already focused on the top two from last season and what each of Manchester City and Manchester United need to do to get better, but what about the third and fourth place teams from 2017/18?

Both Mauricio Pochettino‘s Tottenham and Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool had a fine campaign but silverware still evades them.

Below we look at how Liverpool have, and can continue, to strengthen their squad, while we also take a look at the key things Pochettino must do to keep Spurs on track for another top four finish.


Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool