NWSL Game of the Week: FC Kansas City vs. Portland Thorns FC

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FC Kansas City hosts the opening match of the NWSL’s inaugural season on Saturday when the star-laden Thorns FC visit Shawnee Mission North High School Stadium. The 8:35 p.m. ET kickoff, which will be streamed on YouTube, is the first PST NWSL Game of the Week.

Three things you need to know

1. Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan may as well be Lebron James and Dwyane Wade

The Miami Heat may not win the NBA title every year, but they’re going to be the favorites. Sure, a team like the Dallas Mavericks can upset them, but when they do, expect a lot of people to ask what went wrong. With Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat not only have two of the NBA’s singularly brilliant talents, they have two unselfish players who complement each other exquisitely – the reason why they’ll be title favorites for the next three years.

Now if you can forgive the patronizing metaphor, the NWSL have their own Miami Heat. In Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, Portland Thorns FC — the Paulson family’s sister organization to Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers — may have the two best players in the league. Canada’s captain and the U.S.’s main goal scorer form as good an attacking tandem as you could imagine, a partnership whose members perfectly complement each other. In general, Morgan will push the line and threaten in more advanced areas while Sinclair drops into space to take the ball from midfield, often turning to try and craft a final ball.

“Having two players of that caliber on a team, you find that happen on all professional levels,” FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn said when asked about the potential competitive issues of allocating Sinclair and Morgan to the same team. “Our backline has been working on playing against players who are athletic and quick and good at finishing.

“We just have to train the way you want to play. We’ve trained against boys, and we talk tactically about how you want to play defensively. I think [Portland’s strikers are just] something you have to deal with.”

Both Morgan and “Sinc” will score goals. They’ll also get their far share of assists, though we can’t take it for granted they’ll duplicate the Heat’s success. While some tandems end up being Dwyane and Lebron, others end up being Kobe and Dwight. This may be one time Merritt Paulson won’t his team compared with the Lakers.

2. Expect mistakes

Over the last 10 days, U.S. and Canadian internationals have barely been with their teams. Canadians returned to practice on Tuesday, while the U.S.’s stars just returned to training on Thursday. Over four weeks of NWSL preseason, top internationals were only with their teams for eight-to-ten days.

In this league, that’s huge. With exception of one or two teams, the four-to-five U.S. and Canadian internationals allocated to each team form the cornerstones of each club’s lineup. Thanks to various international commitments that pulled stars away from their clubs though preseason, coaches will spend the season’s first weeks trying to fit their best players into systems formed from speculation: What will my best team when I actually get all my players?

Portland head coach Cindy Parlow Cone:

“There [are] going to be some mishaps and some miscommunications. There’s no way around [the mistakes] because we been playing together for four weeks, not six months, which is what you’d like to have for a preseason.

But every team’s in the same situation. [Kansas City are] just getting their national team players back. We’ve got to over-communicate everything and be ready for anything.”

Sinclair was more blunt in her assessment: “There are going to be some things that go so wrong, it’s not even funny.”

source: Getty Images3. One versus two

If there was an Associated Press, college sports-style poll of soccer writers before the season, Portland would be the preseason number one. They’d get about 75 percent of the vote while a handful of skeptics would look at Kansas City’s less star-struck, more well-rounded squad and cast their vote with the Blues.

And as with any poll for a sport that has a playoff, the rankings wouldn’t mean a thing. They would, however, provide some context for Saturday’s opener, a matchup that could very well be repeated in Aug. 31’s final.

What makes Saturday’s game so interesting are not just the talents but how they match up. With one of the best spines in the league, Kansas City is particularly threatening to Portland is through the middle, a problem considering how narrow Parlow Cone looks to be setting up her team. Against the University of Portland, she used a 4-4-2/4-1-3-2 formation with its wide midfielders pulled in.

That could play to the strengths of a team that may feature Cheney (pictured), Mewis, Canadian destroyer Desiree Scott, talented attacker Casey Loyd, and all-arounder Sinead Farrelly in midfield.

Quick hits – Kansas City

Star to Watch: Lauren Cheney is FCKC’s best player. The question is where Vlatko Andonovski will use her. It looks like Andonovski plans to leverage her versatility, moving her between the midfield role she plays with the national team and her natural striker’s position.

Still important: Desiree Scott will be tasked with cutting off access Sinclair and Morgan. Here’s Sinclair’s scouting report on her Canada teammate:

“Des is a player on the national team that has really come into her own over the last two years. Our coach sort of threw her in to defensive mid one game, and I think she’s started every game there since. I think of her in the Olympics and she was just incredible and did so much for our team.

She’s a difficult player to play against. She’s quick. She’s feisty. She always seems to be in the right spots. As a holding midfielder her job is to cut off the supply into Alex and I. Hopefully she doesn’t do too good of a job at that this weekend.”

Wins if ,.. They win the midfield battle and can take advantage of a Portland central defense likely to feature tryout success Emilee O’Neil next to her former Stanford teammate (Buehler).

Quick hits – Portland

Star to Watch: Christine Sinclair may need to be the game-breaker, especially with the former Portland Pilot having two more days at practice than Morgan.

Still important: Angie Kerr will be the most attacking of Portland’s four midfielders and the player whose relationship with Sinclair will be most important. If Scott puts in a strong performance, Kerr’s presence in the space in front of the defense could help tilt the battle back in Portland’s favor.

Wins if … Sinclair or Morgan have a big day. That will be true most days this season, but in Kansas City, that may be all Thorns FC have. This is going to be one of their toughest tests of the year.

Other Games, Week 1

Sunday, 5 p.m. Eastern – Chicago Red Stars vs. Seattle Reign – Two midfield-heavy teams with potential problems in attack, this could end up 0-0 if Seattle’s midfield can protect their defense. Laura Harvey would take that result. (Link to stream.)

Sunday, 6 p.m. Eastern – Sky Blue FC vs. Western New York Flash – Abby Wambach and her home town team go to New Jersey to face Sky Blue, a team hoping U.S. national team defender Kelley O’Hara still has the attacker’s instincts she showed before her conversion to left back. If O’Hara and Lisa De Vanna have good days, Sky Blue wins. (Link to stream.)

Sunday, 6 p.m. Eastern – Boston Breakers vs. Washington Spirit – Boston’s all attack with problems in defense. Washington’s the opposite: Strong at the back with questions going forward. Boston’s the safe bet here, but if Stephanie Ochs can capitalize on the promise she showed coming out of San Diego two years ago, the Spirit could surprise their hosts. (Link to pay stream.)

More NWSL previews:

And more:

West Brom – Chelsea: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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West Brom – Chelsea: The Blues are in desperate need of a strong rebound when they visit The Hawthorns on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET, on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WEST BROM – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

The Baggies, on the other hand, are simply hoping to collect their first point of the season after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Leicester City on the opening day of the 2020-21 season and following that up with a 5-2 beatdown at the hands of Everton last weekend.

As far as favorable matchups go, facing the 20th-place side a week after losing to defending champions Liverpool is quite timely for Chelsea.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of West Brom – Chelsea this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: West Brom – Chelsea (INJURY REPORT)

West Brom – QUESTIONABLE: Ahmed Hegazi (thigh), Kamil Grosicki (back), Hal Robson-Kanu (leg) | OUT: Kieran Gibbs (suspension), Conor Gallagher (loan rules), Kenneth Zohore (calf)

Chelsea – QUESTIONABLE: Christian Pulisic (hamstring), Cesar Azpilicueta (thigh) | OUT: Hakim Ziyech (knee), Andrea Christensen (suspension)


What they’re saying: West Brom – Chelsea

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on struggling to sign players: “We don’t have a huge budget, that is why we are trying to be creative and lucky. That’s not easy but we are trying. … We have to do it to maintain a good chance.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, on Thiago Silva: “It is exciting for us because he has had just over a week training with us. It was a perfect 60 minutes for him tonight. He will show the qualities he has. Of course, he will get fitter and better. He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others. He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight.”


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

West Brom (+750) represent one of the biggest underdogs — or, opportunities, depending on how you look at it — of the still-young PL season. There’s not much to be won by betting on Chelsea (-280). Even the draw (+400) is pretty far out there.

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


Prediction: West Brom – Chelsea

Barring some unforeseen circumstances — for example, a 12th-minute red card — it’s virtually impossible to see West Brom getting anything from this game. They’ve been incredibly poor defensively through two games, and they’re yet to face a side with anything close to the firepower which the Blues possess. West Brom 1-3 Chelsea.


How to watch West Brom – Chelsea stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Premier League injuries, 2020-21

Premier League injuries
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
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Premier League injuries: With the 2020-21 Premier League season set to kick off this weekend, it’s time to take a look at the players who might be unavailable for the opening weekend.

[ MORE: How to watch PLTV on Peacock ]

Prior to every matchweek of the 2020-21 season, we’ll update this Premier League injuries page with the latest news and update, so make sure to check back regularly to see how your favorite — or least-favorite — club is getting on.

Note: Any player listed for COVID-19 reasons — whether a positive test or additional precautions — will always be deemed “questionable” until they make their return to action.

Arsenal injuries

QUESTIONABLE: David Luiz (neck), Kieran Tierney (groin) | OUT: Gabriel Martinelli (knee), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh), Pablo Mari (ankle), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (calf), Calum Chambers (knee)

Aston Villa injuries

OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)

Brighton & Hove Albion injuries

OUT: Yves Bissouma (suspension), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Florian Andone (knee), Christian Walton (ankle)

Burnley injuries

QUESTIONABLE: James Tarkowski (ankle), Ashley Barnes (undisclosed), Robbie Brady (ribs), Jay Rodriguez (foot) | OUT: Ben Mee (thigh), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (knee), Jack Cork (ankle)

Chelsea injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Christian Pulisic (hamstring), Cesar Azpilicueta (thigh) | OUT: Hakim Ziyech (knee), Andrea Christensen (suspension)

Crystal Palace injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed), Christian Benteke (ankle) | OUT: James Tomkins (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Gary Cahill (thigh), Connor Wickham (undisclosed), Scott Dann (undisclosed)

Everton injuries

OUT: Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf), Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle), Jonas Lossi (back)

Fulham injuries

None

Leeds United injuries

OUT: Gaetano Berardi (knee), Adam Forshaw (groin), Pablo Hernandez (groin)

Leicester City injuries

OUT: Ricardo Pereira (knee), Jonny Evans (thigh), Filip Benkovic (groin), Wilfred Ndidi (groin)

Liverpool injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Jordan Henderson (thigh), Joe Gomez (knee) | OUT: Joel Matip (undisclosed), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee),

Manchester City injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Ilkay Gundogan (COVID-19) | OUT: Bernardo Silva (thigh), Sergio Aguero (knee), Joao Cancelo (foot), Oleksandr Zinchenko (undisclosed)

Manchester United injuries

OUT: Axel Tuanzebe (ankle), Phil Jones (knee), Sergio Romero (undisclosed)

Newcastle United injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Allan Saint-Maximin (ankle), Jamal Lewis (eye) | OUT: Matty Longstaff (thigh), Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee)

Sheffield United injuries

OUT: John Egan (suspension), Lys Mousset (ankle), Simon Moore (finger)

Southampton injuries

OUT: Nathan Redmond (foot)

Tottenham Hotspur injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Reguilon (ankle) | OUT: Gareth Bale (knee), Japhet Tanganga (thigh)

West Bromwich Albion injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Ahmed Hegazi (thigh), Kamil Grosicki (back), Hal Robson-Kanu (leg) | OUT: Kieran Gibbs (suspension), Conor Gallagher (loan rules), Kenneth Zohore (calf)

West Ham United injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Issa Diop (COVID-19), Josh Cullen (COVID-19), Mark Noble (toe), Sebastien Haller (thigh)

Wolverhampton Wanderers injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Fernando Marcal (undisclosed) | OUT: Jonny (knee)

UEL roundup: AC Milan, Celtic, Rangers reach last round of qualifying

Europa League results
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Europa League results: AC Milan, Celtic and Rangers were all victorious in the third round of UEFA Europa League qualifying on Thursday, advancing to the playoff round — the final round — on Oct. 1.

[ MORE: Son to the rescue as Spurs advance in UEL qualifying (video) ]

AC Milan 3-2 Bodo/Glimt

Hakan Calhanoglu scored twice — once in each half, including the game-winning goal in the 50th minute — as Milan did just enough to knock out Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt.

Lorenzo Colombo got the other goal for Stefano Pioli’s side, with Bodo/Glimt tallies bookending the Italians’ three.

Riga 0-1 Celtic

Celtic’s progression into the playoff round was far more dramatic, and uncertain. Neil Lennon’s side found itself level at 0-0 as they entered the 90th minute. Exra-time, and maybe even penalties, seemed likely.

Mohamed Elyounoussi had other ideas. It wasn’t the most visually pleasing goal scored on Thursday, but Elyounoussi’s bouncing, first-time finish had just enough on it to evade the goalkeeper and hit the back of the net.

Willem II 0-4 Rangers

As for the other side of Glasgow, Rangers cruised past Dutch side Willem II and were just about through to the next round before halftime. James Tavernier converted from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute, followed three minutes later by a goal from Ryan Kent.

Filip Helander made it 3-0 in the 55th, and Connor Goldson finished the rout in the 71st. Steven Gerrard’s team was one of the most impressive sides on the day, and looked ready for a season-long battle for the Scottish Premiership title. Having played one more game than their local rivals, Rangers currently lead Celtic by a single point.

Notable Europa League results

Shkendija 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (FULL RECAP)
Mura 1-5 PSV Eindhoven
Wolfsburg 2-0 Desna Chernihiv
Sporting CP 1-0 Aberdeen

Notable Europa League playoff matchups

Tottenham Hotspur v Maccabi Haifa
Rio Ave v AC Milan
Sarajevo v Celtic
Rangers v Galatasaray
Rosenborg v PSV Eindhoven
AEK Athens v Wolfsburg
Sporting CP v LASK

League Cup: Liverpool win 7-2; Man City survive and advance

League Cup - Liverpool
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A roundup of League Cup third round results on Thursday, as Liverpool and Man City booked their places among the final 16 teams…

[ MORE: Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense? ]

Lincoln City 2-7 Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp fielded a team of most of his seldom used players, and had virtually no issues getting past League One side Lincoln. Xherdan Shaqiri opened the scoring in the ninth minute, and he did so in truly fantastic free-kick fashion.

Takumi Minamino scored twice — once either side of halftime — beginning with his first-time, curled beauty in the 18th minute to make it 2-0. The Japanese international appears to have stockpiled plenty of confidence to force his way into the Reds’ star-studded first team with greater regularity.

From there, Liverpool were off to the races. Curtis Jones bagged a brace in the 32nd and 36th minutes, followed the second from Minamino to make it 5-0 after 46 minutes. Lincoln hit back right on the hour mark, but Marko Grujic restored the five-goal lead just five minutes later.

The Imps clawed back another goal just a minute later, but an 89th-minute tally from Divock Origi ensured the Reds would triumph by the five-goal margin.

Up next for Liverpool is a heavyweight fourth-round showdown, at home against Arsenal.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Reyna to Liverpool; Jorginho to Arsenal ]

Man City 2-1 Bournemouth

Pep Guardiola’s men were far from full stretch, and far from their best, en route to a 2-1 victory over recently relegated Bournemouth. With as many as six first-team regulars given the rare night off, City found themselves level at 1-1 with the final 15 minutes approaching. U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen was one of the backups to feature.

Fortunately for City, Phil Foden has stepped forward in recent outings and asserted himself a star of the present — no longer of the future — and reaffirmed his ascent with a well-place winner in the 75th minute.

It was one of the youngsters, 17-year-old Liam Delap, who opened the scoring in the 18th minute, when he hammered a left-footed strike into the upper-90 of the far post. Foden provided the diagonal through ball for Delap and picked up the assist on the play. The lead lasted barely four minutes, though, before Sam Surridge had drawn the Cherries back to level terms.

Up next in the League Cup, City will visit Burnley in the fourth round.

Bristol City 0-3 Aston Villa

A pair of new signings — Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore — bagged goals, alongside the opener from Anwar El Ghazi, for Dean Smith’s Villa, to make it a comfortable 3-0 victory over Championship side Bristol City.

Villa will host Championship side Stoke City in the next round.