Major League Soccer team previews: COLUMBUS CREW

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Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. MLS first kick is March 2.

No. 7 in the East is the Columbus Crew:

Significant additions and subtractions: Three important South Americans will help strengthen the Crew’s first XI. Brazilian center back Gláuber gives longtime Crew backline cop Chad Marshall a stronger partner.

New midfielders Matías Sánchez and Agustín Viana means solid roster holdovers like Tony Tchani or Danny O’Rourke are now in reserve roles rather than starting roles, which makes Columbus a stronger team.

The departures are notable not in their production around Crew Stadium, but because so much had been expected of players like midfielders Milovan Mirosevic and Dilly Duka, and forward Olman Vargas.

Duka left in a huff; he’s now with Chicago, which offered up speedy Dominic Oduro in exchange.

Rich Balchan, Julius James, Chris Birchall, Carlos Mendes and Sebastian Miranda were all starters at some point who had their options declined.  Also gone is William Hesmer, the longtime starter in Crew goal who has now retired.

Strengths: Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuaín were two of Major League Soccer’s top summer signings last year, in tandem generating 14 goals and 11 assists in 31 matches. Get that over an entire season and Columbus probably cruises into this year’s playoffs.

A new 4-2-3-1 look should give Higuain opportunity to “think” his way around the game, freer to freelance thanks to two defensive screeners behind him.

Generally, the roster is stronger, with a little less “average” spread around the field.

Under Warzycha, the team has always been well organized and tough to oppose. Arrieta and Higuain, plus underrated two-way man Eddie Gaven, provide the offense-defense balance that had been missing for some time in Ohio.

Pressure points: It’s time for manager Robert Warzycha to take a settled roster and move the team beyond makeover mode, where the Crew have hovered since 2010. The core is there to build around in Higuain, Arrieta, Marshall (still an above-average center back, now in his 10th professional season) and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.

Speaking of Gruenebaum, the pressure may feel a little different this year. Last year he could ride in heroically as Hesmer’s replacement. Now, everyone expects Gruenebaum to don the super hero’s cape – and that’s a whole other level of pressure.

The soft spots are at outside back, on either side. There’s some talent, but one of the lesser tested types needs to put a stranglehold on the position. Also along the back line, strong as Marshall can be, remaining healthy and available tends to be an issue.

Is the club past all the emotional undertow from popular midfielder Kirk Urso’s shocking death in 2012? Who could blame them if difficult moments still linger? The rookie from the University of North Carolina died from complications of a heart defect on Aug. 5.source: Getty Images

Difference maker: Higuain was so productive over his initial 8-10 matches upon arrival in Ohio last year that he kicked up some league Most Valuable Player chatter. (Higuain did claim league Newcomer of the Year honors.)

An injury crunched the momentum and slowed the Crew’s creator for the season’s final month, tamping down a playoff push that had looked so promising through August and September. The Argentine attacker (pictured right) has all the technical tools, all the know-how and all the desire to be a premier MLS man, and to be everything that the beloved Guillermo Barros Schelotto was for so long around Crew Stadium.

Potential breakout player: Talented young attacker Justin Meram will presumably get his chances around Crew Stadium; Arrieta figures to miss quite a few matches (and probably need resting here and there) due to Costa Rican international duty in World Cup qualifiers and in this summer’s Gold Cup.

Bottom line: You have to look at Columbus as one of the truly interesting teams in 2013, if only for the tremendous potential of the Arrieta-Higuain combo. Crew president Mark McCullers is certainly optimistic, stopping just short of predicting an Eastern Conference and the MLS Cup final being played in Ohio. Honestly, on paper, it’s really not such a stretch.

(MORE: the entire roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

LIVE, League Cup: Man United, Man City in action

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Ten League Cup games take place on Tuesday, with the third round of the competition kicking off.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ] 

There is one all-Premier League clash as Wolves host Leicester City, while Manchester City, Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Burnley and Fulham all face lower league opposition.

Jose Mourinho’s United side host Frank Lampard‘s Derby Country at Old Trafford, while reigning League Cup champions Man City head to Oxford United in a real David vs. Goliath battle.

Below is the schedule in full for Tuesday’s games, while we will keep you up to date with the action here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s EFL Cup schedule (all games 2:45 p.m. ET, unless noted)

Manchester United vs. Derby County — 3 p.m. ET
Oxford United vs. Manchester City
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Leicester City
West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace — 3 p.m. ET
Bournemouth vs. Blackburn Rovers
Burton vs. Burnley
Millwall vs. Fulham
Blackpool vs. Queens Park Rangers
Wycombe vs. Norwich City
Preston North End vs. Middlesbrough

Report: Mourinho tells Pogba he will not captain Man United again

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Reports are circulating that Jose Mourinho has told Paul Pogba he will not captain Manchester United again.

After United’s 1-1 draw against Wolves on Saturday, Pogba approached reporters in the mixed zone at Old Trafford and told them United must “attack, attack, attack” when playing at home.

He set up United’s goal against Wolves but was at fault for the equalizer.

Pogba has worn the captains armband for several games this season (mostly due to Antonio Valencia’s ongoing injury problems) despite his outspoken nature in the media and reports of a rift between himself and Mourinho over the past 12 months.

The BBC claim that Mourinho has told Pogba he will not wear the captains armband again, as the French superstar appeared to undermine his authority when it came to tactics. A separate report from The Times states that Mourinho told his entire squad that Pogba would no longer captain the team on Tuesday ahead of their League Cup clash with Derby County at Old Trafford, as he addressed the team at the training ground and dropped Pogba from the matchdsy squad.

Mourinho is said to have reminded his players that nobody is bigger than the club and was furious with Pogba’s attitude in recent games.

Speaking in his programme notes ahead of their clash with Derby on Tuesday, Mourinho said the following about his players.

“[The game against Wolves was] an important lesson; a lesson that I repeat week after week after week, a lesson that some boys are not learning,” Mourinho said. “Every team that play Manchester United are playing the game of their lives, and we need to match that level of aggression, motivation and desire – 95% isn’t enough when others give 101%.”

Rumors persisted all summer long about Pogba leaving United to move to Barcelona or going back to Juventus.

Those reports will now intensify ahead of the January transfer window as Mourinho seems to have finally lost his patience with the enigmatic midfielder. Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has had plenty to say about his client and will no doubt be talking in the coming days.

Since his then world-record transfer of $120 million from Juve in the summer of 2016, Pogba has struggled to find cosistency at United under Mourinho and was dropped last season and his attitude was questioned.

Even though his form for France in their 2018 World Cup win was much improved and he won many plaudits, Mourinho was hardly complimentary of Pogba’s displays, further fuelling the fire of a significant rift between the duo.

It seems that the relationship between Mourinho and Pogba has now hit rock bottom. Where do they go from here? What a mess.

Details for free NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass

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A free preview of the NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass is now available to sign up for.

[ SIGN UP: Get NBC Sports Gold free ]

The deal will begin on Sept. 26 and run until Oct. 1, with access to a huge range of exclusive live Premier League games online, plus plenty of other shows and features from around the PL.

If you can’t get enough from the Premier League, Gold’s Premier League Pass is for you.

Click on the link above to sign up for the deal.

 

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are back after Week 6 of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

The cream usually rises to the top but this week we have quite a few surprise inclusions into the upper echelons of our rankings.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Ilkay Gundogan (Man City) – New entry
  2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – New entry
  3. Aaron Lennon (Burnley) – New entry
  4. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – New entry
  5. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – Up 7
  6. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
  7. David De Gea (Man United ) – Up 11
  8. Jorginho (Chelsea) – Even
  9. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 3
  10. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – New entry
  11. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
  12. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Down 12
  13. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) – New entry
  14. Joao Moutinho (Wolves) – New entry
  15. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – New entry
  16. James Madisson (Leicester City) – New entry
  17. Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham) – New entry
  18. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 2
  19. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) – New entry
  20. Joe Hart (Burnley) – New entry