Mike Magee as MLS Player of the Month … let’s talk about it

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LA Galaxy striker Mike Magee has been named Major League Soccer’s Player of the Month for March; he is certainly a worthy choice.

It’s not just the five goals he scored for the champs, it’s about “stepping up,” filling the void left when two (and sometimes all three) of the Designated Players that helped the club win consecutive championships were not available.

On the other hand …

Patrice Bernier (pictured) had a great case, too. The Montreal Impact central midfielder had his footprints all over the Impact’s surprising 4-0 start. His one goal and three assists may not illuminate as well as Magee’s five-spot for March, but as a central midfielder he was a busy, busy man going both ways.

It undercores something that still bothers me a little about our game and the way we see it: Scorers remain the default choice on these things.

I have often lamented that a defensive midfielder (like Montreal’s Bernier) would never win a league MVP award here, no matter how influential he was. (Perhaps not a defender, either, although Omar Gonzalez may just be the one to crack that legacy.)

A few years ago, Shalrie Joseph was probably the most dominant midfielder in MLS, a true two-way force. And yet the award always found its way to a man with big goals or assists totals. Tony Meola, who won league MVP for 2000, was the only non-attacker to claim the honor.

I won’t argue too much with Magee; but I wouldn’t have had a problem with Bernier, either. Mostly, I just wish we’d did a little deeper on these things, leaning just a little less on statistical comfort, a little more on our eyes and ears.

Europa League: How to watch Tottenham-Maccabi Haifa, schedule, start time, odds

Tottenham - Maccabi Haifa
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Jose Mourinho’s insane September in three competitions continues with a Thursday’s Tottenham-Maccabi Haifa fixture in the Europa League, the final playoff match coming exactly three weeks before the first matchday of the group stahe.

The visitors head into North London on a five-match unbeaten run and if they manage a show-stopping upset it will likely star an American.

California native Josh Cohen, 28, has started all five of those matches between the sticks for Maccabi Haifa. The ex-USL and UC San Diego goalkeeper has been with the club since leaving the Sacramento Republic in 2019.

[ MORE: Europa League scoreboard ]

Ukraine-born Australian striker Nikita Rukavytsya is the key man for Maccabi Haifa’s attack, boasting seven goals and three assists in five appearances this season.

Spurs should have a pretty strong group despite their fixture weariness as Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Matt Doherty started on the bench for Tuesday’s League Cup fourth-round win over Chelsea.

 

 

In other action, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers certainly would’ve loved to have drawn any number of opponents rather than Turkish powers Galatasaray.

Rangers - Galatasaray
Rangers boss Gerrard (left) was teammates with Galatasaray striker Ryan Babel while at Liverpool  (Photo by Peter Byrne – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

While there’s been good humor online regarding Gerrard managing while former teammate Ryan Babel hits the pitch for Gala, the Turkish side arrives in Glasgow in a foul mood.

Here’s manager Faith Terim, who is upset that his side drew derby rivals Fenerbahce 0-0 at home.

“I will turn all my attention to Rangers now,” Terim said, via the Daily Record. “The Europa League is very important to us in many ways and of course, we will play our strongest team. At the moment, we are playing every three or four days and that can be a factor. But we just have to deal with it. It always hurts when you don’t win a derby game and we have a chance to put it right this week in Glasgow.”

Rangers are favorites in the match, which shows how far Gerrard has brought Scotland’s second-best side in points-per-game. Watch out for Babel, who’s scored six times in 25 matches for Gala after his 2018-19 star turn in Fulham’s relegation season.

Which brings us to Celtic, who is a point behind their eternal rivals but has a match-in-hand.

Neil Lennon’s men have disappointed in Europe this season and are heavy favorites going into Sarajevo, as they were when needed almost every minute to get past Riga 1-0 in Latvia last week after being bounced from the Champions League by Ferencvaros.

Elsewhere, AC Milan won’t have Zlatan Ibrahimovic when it visits Portugal’s Rio Ave.


How to watch Tottenham – Maccabi Haifa + Europa League playoff round streams, start times

When: Thursday
Online: Bleacher Report Live


Thursday’s Europa League playoff round ties

All times ET

Thursday
CFR Cluk v KuPS — 11:30 am ET
Malmo v Granada — 1 pm ET
Charleroi v Lech Poznan — 1 pm ET
Rosenborg v PSV Eindhoven — 1 pm ET
Dinamo Zagreb v Flora — 1 pm ET
Ararat-Armenia v Red Star Belgrade — 1 pm ET
Liberec v APOEL Nicosia — 1 pm ET
Hapo’el Beer-Sheva v Viktoria Plzen — 1:30 pm ET
Sarajevo v Celtic — 2pm ET
Standard Liege v Fehervar — 2pm ET
Dinamo Brest v Ludogorets Razgrad — 2pm ET
Copenhagen v Rijeka — 2pm ET
Legia Warsaw v Qarabag — 2pm ET
Dundalk v KI — 2:30 pm ET
Young Boys v Tirana — 2:30 pm ET
Basel v CSKA Sofia — 2:30 pm ET
AEK Athens v Wolfsburg — 2:45 pm ET
Rangers v Galatasaray — 2:45 pm ET
Rio Ave v AC Milan — 3 pm ET
Tottenham Hotspur v Maccabi Haifa — 3 pm ET
Sporting Lisbon v LASK — 3 pm ET


Select Europa League odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Sarajevo (+800) v Celtic (-358) | Draw (+400)
AEK Athens (+235) v Wolfsburg (-103) | Draw (+235)
Rangers (+108) v Galatasaray (+220) | Draw (+225)
Rio Ave (+300) v AC Milan (-125) | Draw (+240)
Tottenham Hotspur (-667) v Maccabi Haifa (+1200) | Draw (+550)
Sporting Lisbon (+115) v LASK (+215) | Draw (+215)

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.

Newcastle – Burnley: How to watch, stream link, start time, odds, prediction

Newcastle - Burnley
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images
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Newcastle – Burnley: Two injury-hit sides on two-match winless runs try to get their seasons pointed in a better direction when Newcastle United hosts Burnley at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live at 3 pm ET online via Peacock Premium).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Burnley has lost 1-0 to Southampton and 4-2 to Leicester City so far this season, while Newcastle beat West Ham before losing to Brighton and drawing Tottenham.

Sean Dyche will hope his undermanned and well-drilled side can get a big win against Steve Bruce’s Newcastle, who have either looked remarkably good or bad this season. Newcastle – Burnley is the final match on Saturday’s Premier League docket.


Team news for Newcastle – Burnley (INJURY REPORT)

Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin and Emil Krafth have picked up minor injuries and are questionable for Saturday, while Martin Dubravka, Matt Ritchie, and Matty Longstaff remain out.

Burnley got Ashley Barnes and James Tarkowski back in midweek League Cup action but saw another injury as Matthew Lowton is being assessed and could join a list with Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Robbie Brady, Jack Cork, Ben Mee, and Jay Rodriguez.


What they’re saying

Steve Bruce on laboring to beat Newport County in the League Cup: “I agree, fully, that we didn’t play well enough. All of a sudden, now, it’s questioning tactics. I just find the whole thing disappointing. I understand we didn’t play well. You know, we don’t go out there and not want to play well. Unfortunately, we haven’t, and for large parts of the game we didn’t tonight, but we stuck at it, and, towards the end, the last 35-40 minutes I thought we, and rightly so, dominated possession, and just had to take one of the chances we created.”

Sean Dyche on transfer and injury problems at Burnley: “When you’ve had seven key injuries, that’s a lot in any club’s world, but it certainly is in ours. The way the club works financially I can only carry so many players. If we try and carry competitive players in every position, quite obviously you’re looking at 20 outfield players. … I certainly don’t want to be bringing in players for the sake of it, if we can get one or two that’s bound to be helpful, just that competitive element for the squad. Whether we can or not is yet to be seen.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

The host Magpies have slightly better odds for a win at +145, while a draw (+215) and Burnley win (+205) are nearly identical.

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


Newcastle – Burnley prediction

Burnley took four of six points from the Magpies last season as Chris Wood scored the lone goal in 180 minutes of football. Injuries to both sides indicate we might see the Clarets and Magpies make amends for the 2019-20 paucity of goals. Newcastle 2-1 at home.


How to watch Newcastle – Burnley stream and start time

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Saturday
Online: Peacock Premium

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

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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 saw Spurs on beat Chelsea on penalties on Tuesday.

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 results, kickoff times, and odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Tottenham 1-1 (5-4 pens) Chelsea
Burnley 0-3 Manchester City 
Brighton 0-3 Manchester United
Everton 4-1 West Ham United
Newport County 1-1 (4-5 pens) Newcastle United
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

Champions League groups drawn for Premier League sides, USMNT stars

Champions League draw
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
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The UEFA Champions League draw was held Thursday, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United learning their foes for the group stage.

[ MORE: Champions League playoff round recaps ]

Manchester United found itself drawn into a brutal Group H led by Paris Saint-Germain and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have plenty to prove in matching wits and talents.

Juventus and Barcelona were drawn together, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will duel again under the eyes of new managers Andrea Pirlo and Ronald Koeman.

Real Madrid has a tricky Group C with Marseille, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Inter Milan.


Premier League teams

PL champions Liverpool dodged the Pot 2 challenge but will meet sides who want to entertain in a younger Ajax and Italian wizards Atalanta. Midtjylland completes the group.

Pep Guardiola’s quest to finally reach a UCL final with Man City was greeted by Porto out of Pot 1 as well as Olympiakos and Marseille.

Manchester United’s path has big roadblocks in Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzip, two top teams with top managers. It was a group of death before being completed by Demba Ba’s Istanbul Basaksehir.

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard will match wits Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui and also square off with group stage debutants Krasnodar and French side Stade Rennes.

Americans Abroad

As for American connections, Christian Pulisic is with Chelsea and Zack Steffen at Man City but there are plenty more USMNT connections in play.

Red Bull Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch has his hands full with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in addition to Lokomotiv Moscow.

Marsch’s former New York Red Bulls charge Tyler Adams is with RB Leipzig, who drew PSG, Manchester United, and Istanbul Basaksehir

Giovanni Reyna and Borussia Dortmund avoided a tough Pot 1 pull by getting Zenit Saint-Petersburg but took Lazio out of Pot 3. The final team in Group F is Club Brugge, currently the home of American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath.

Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie sees his seeded team lead Group G against the newest member of Barcelona in fellow USMNT star Sergino Dest. Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros are also in the group.

NYCFC youngster Joe Scally will join Borussia Monchengladbach after the MLS season. The Foals will meet

Weston McKennie Juventus
TURIN, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 20: Weston Mckennie  (Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images)

2020-21 UEFA Champions League group stage

Group A

Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid
Red Bull Salzburg
Lokomotiv Moscow

Group B

Real Madrid
Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan
Borussia Monchengladbach

Group C

Porto
Manchester City
Olympiakos
Marseille

Group D

Liverpool
Ajax
Atalanta
Midtjylland

Group E

Sevilla
Chelsea
Krasnodar
Stade Rennes

Group F

Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund
Lazio
Club Brugge

Group G

Juventus
Barcelona
Dynamo Kiev
Ferencvaros

Group H

Paris Saint-Germain
Manchester United
RB Leipzig
Istanbul Basaksehir