MLS Playoff Focus: Notes on the LA Galaxy ahead of Sunday’s visit from Real Salt Lake

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Ahead of Sunday’s first-leg of this Western Conference semifinal, here are the must-knows about the LA Galaxy ahead of tonight’s match with Real Salt Lake:

  • Still waiting for Robbie Keane+Landon Donovan to lose

Robbie Keane’s spent two-and-a-half years in Major League Soccer, in which time the LA Galaxy have been involved in seven different playoff matchups (three in 2011; four last year). They’ve yet to lose any of them. The high-profile trio of Keane, Landon Donovan, and David Beckham produced consecutive MLS Cups after the Irishman’s arrival.

Beckham’s now gone, but giving how Los Angeles has dissected their playoff competition, it’s fair to say Keane and Donovan deserve some special consideration. While Beckham came up big in both MLS Cup finals, the partnership Keane and Donovan appear to have perfected was the main reason Bruce Arena’s teams have been able to deliver. Particularly on the counter attack, they can be frighteningly unstoppable.

RSL need to find a way to slow them down, but the teams’ last meeting was not promising. In August, Keane scored three times while leading the Galaxy to a 4-2 win in Carson.

  • Don’t forget Omar Gonzalez

Given the big defender won MVP at last year’s MLS Cup final, it’s a big of a disservice to exclude him from a list of Los Angeles’s big-time playoff performers. Yet over the course of this season, the new Designated Player has experienced some unexpected hiccups. Coinciding with the announcing of his new deal, the 25-year-old looked surprisingly vulnerable in the middle, some of his U.S. National Team mistakes creeping into his club world.

Of late, though, Gonzalez has recovered. As Bruce Arena noted mid-week, he seems to have finally settled in after perhaps struggling to justify his new contract. Gonzalez is back to his Best XI self.

Against Álvaro Saborio, he’ll be needed. Thanks to injury and international commitments, the Costa Rican striker was limited to 16 appearances this season (1346 minutes). In that time, however, he scored 12 times. Pro-rated, that’s 27 goals over the course of 34 90-minute games.

Gonzalez can handle him — he’s done so before — but he’s going to have to be the player we saw at the end of the year, not the one that played in the middle.

  • How worries should LA be able the rookies in defense?

Kofi Opare has stepped up. The second round pick out of Michigan, much like Tommy Meyer at the end of last season, has provided an unexpected boost to a defense that lost A.J. DeLaGarza. He’s a rookie in name but not in performance.

But with Todd Dunivant likely to miss Sunday’s game, Bruce Arena faces the prospect of starting two first-year players in defense. Twenty-three-year-old Greg Cochrane could get the call at left back, meaning one side of LA’s Sunday defense could have a combined 18 games of MLS experience.

Add in the theory that RSL may be one of the worst matchups for an inexperienced defense, and this has the potential to be LA’s undoing. Not only does RSL have the West’s best attack (57 goals in 34 games), but the mastery of their system leaves their team particularly adept at exploiting opponents’ errors. They’ve seen everything; they’ve accomplished everything; and they’ve consistently done it with the same style, tactics, and system. When an opening’s presented, they know what they’re supposed to do.

That’s why it may be particularly important to cut off service from Javier Morales. That task will fall on central midfielders Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho. They can’t allow the Argentine playmaker time to pick apart that inexperienced defense.

  • Another year; another goalkeeper

In 2009, Donovan Ricketts got LA to the final. The last two years, Josh Saunders has been in goal. If LA’s to made their fourth final in six seasons, though, it’s going to be with a third goalkeeper. Panamanian international Jaime Penedo will be tasked with guiding the Galaxy to a fifth MLS championship.

The newest model may be the best yet. Penedo’s been nothing short of a savior: coming in to take the reigns from Carlo Cudicini; helping Los Angeles move beyond their experiment with the long-time Chelsea backup. His save percentage is 20 points higher (77 to 57). He allows half-a-goal less per game. As Penedo asserted himself, LA made a late season charge up the West’s pecking order, briefly pulling themselves back into Supporters’ Shield contention.

Is if fair to say he’s better than the 2009 version of Donovan Ricketts? Probably not. He’s only played nine games. But he’s instilled a confidence that hasn;t existed since the big Jamaican was goal. As a result, Penedo’s addressed LA’s biggest need.

  • Home field not the be-all, end-all

We often talk about the importance of the home team getting a win in game one, but last year, Los Angeles lost the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal before eliminating the Supporters Shield winners. Their 3-1 win at San Jose rendered their 1-0 loss at home meaningless.

Salt Lake is a very tough place to play, but one bad day won’t ruin LA’s chances. This team’s more capable than most of turning a tie around on the road. While taking advantage of home field may be especially important in other series, the two-time champions are more resilient than most. A slip against RSL don’t doom their season.

Ukraine to join Spain-Portugal host bid for 2030 World Cup

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NYON, Switzerland — Hosting World Cup matches in 2030 would be “the dream of people who survived the horrors of war,” Ukrainian soccer federation president Andriy Pavelko said Wednesday after his country launched a joint bid with Spain and Portugal.

The leaders of the three soccer federations joined together at UEFA headquarters to present a campaign they hope will connect people beyond the world of sports.

“This is the dream of millions of Ukrainian fans,” Pavelko said at a news conference, “the dream of people who survived the horrors of war or are still in the occupied territories and over whom the Ukrainian flag will surely fly soon.”

Pavelko said the project is backed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

[ MORE: Premier League Golden Boot race ]

The expected Spain-Portugal bid, which has been in the works for more than three years, previously was made UEFA’s preferred candidate. FIFA will vote on the host in 2024.

“Now it’s not the Iberian bid, it’s the European bid,” Spain soccer federation president Luis Rubiales said at the launch. “Together we represent the power of transformation football has in society.”

No details were given about how many games at the 48-team World Cup would be staged in Ukraine or in which cities. The Olympic Stadium in Kyiv hosted the finals of the 2012 European Championship and the 2018 Champions League.

The European bid is expected to face a South American candidacy with co-hosts Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Saudi Arabia, which has built close ties to FIFA and its president, Gianni Infantino, has been preparing a multi-continent bid potentially including Egypt and Greece. It is unclear how Greece would be approved by UEFA to be part of that.

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Crystal Palace vs Leeds: How to watch, live stream link, team news, lineups

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Crystal Palace and Leeds meet Sunday at Selhurst Park in a bid to snap twin four-match winless runs in Premier League play (watch live, 9am ET Sunday on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).

Palace has won just once this season, drawing three times and sitting outside the relegation zone on goal differential.

STREAM LIVE CRYSTAL PALACE vs LEEDS

Leeds have three more points, good for 12th on the table.

Former Hudson River derby rival manager Jesse Marsch and Patrick Vieira will both look to kick their seasons forward with a much-needed win in South London.

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

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


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

Kick off: 9am ET, Sunday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Palace has given up 11 goals this season and expected goals say that perhaps it should be worse for the Eagles, who have received four of their seven goals from one man: Wilfried Zaha.

Leeds won’t have Luis Sinisterra, who was sent off last week, but Brenden Aaronson and Rodrigo have been producing plenty of attacking moments. Finish has to come next, although Leeds’ 10 goals puts it middle of the pack. Perhaps Patrick Bamford is ready to deliver the goods?


Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Joachim Andersen (calf). OUT: Nathan Ferguson (ankle), Nathaniel Clyne (ankle), Jack Butland (wrist), James McArthur (groin).

Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Adam Forshaw (ankle). OUT: Stuart Dallas (thigh), Archie Gray (toe), Luis Sinisterra (suspension).

Newcastle vs Brentford: How to watch, live stream link, team news, lineups

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Newcastle looks to run its Premier League unbeaten run to five when it hosts Brentford at St. James’ Park on Saturday (watch live, 10am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).

The Magpies beat up 10-man Fulham last weekend to pick up their second win of the season. Eddie Howe’s team has only lost once, a controversial setback at Liverpool, and sits seventh with 11 points.

STREAM LIVE NEWCASTLE vs BRENTFORD

Brentford’s only collected one fewer point than their Saturday hosts, but the Bees have been blanked in consecutive outings and failed to find a way past Bournemouth in a scoreless draw on Oct. 1.

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

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


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

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Exciting forward Allan Saint-Maximin could return for Newcastle, making an already cohesive unit more dangerous. The 25-year-old has a goal and two assists in four appearances this season and scored in this fixture, a 3-3 draw, last season.

Brentford has scored the fifth-most goals in the Premier League this season — quite good — but only six teams have conceded more than the Bees. Goalkeeper David Raya has made 30 saves, tied for third in the Premier League with… Nick Pope. So perhaps it’s time to expect fireworks.


Newcastle team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Allan Saint-Maximin (thigh). OUT: Karl Darlow (ankle), Alexander Isak (thigh), Jonjo Shelvey (thigh), Matt Ritchie (calf), Emil Krafth (knee).

Brentford team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Ethan Pinnock (knee). OUT: Keane Lewis-Potter (ankle), Pontus Jansson (thigh), Christian Norgaard (tendonitis)

Premier League top scorers: Who is leading 2022 Golden Boot race?

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For those tempted to write off Erling Haaland’s historically-hot start to life as a Premier League striker, we get it: There’s something rather dull about not wondering the identity of the 2022 Golden Boot winner, but just the number of his final tally.

Haaland’s Premier League-leading 14 goals from eight games has him seven goals clear of the next closest challenger: Tottenham’s Harry Kane.

His third hat trick of the season, joined by three Phil Foden goals in Man City’s 6-3 derby win over United, keeps him on pace for more than 60 goals this season, a mark that would

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ] 

And even though Haaland is currently overperforming his expected goals total, it’s already becoming clear that projecting him for the Premier League record is not farfetched at all.

Take a look at these digits. Haaland isn’t just punching in goals; He’s made an almost seamless transition to Pep Guardiola’s system, producing chances for others in addition to his powerful self-positioning.

Erling Haaland
fotmob.com

Haaland is unlikely to hit even 50 goals given the schedule congestion to come for Man City, but the Premier League record is very well under assault

Mohamed Salah holds the 38-game season record with his 32 goals scored for Liverpool during the 2017-18 season, while Newcastle’s Andy Cole and Blackburn’s Alan Shearer bagged 34 during 42-game seasons in the 20th century’s final decade.

Haaland also could topple the record for goal involvements (goals plus assists) in a single season, including beating the 42-game record. Alan Shearer put up 47 over 42, while Thierry Henry holds the 38-game record with 44.

Other records that Haaland could legitimately tie or topple:

  • 30 goals in a first Premier League season (Kevin Phillips, Sunderland, 1999-2000)
  • Goals in 24 different Premier League matches (Salah, Liverpool, 2017-18)
  • Most goals in a Premier League match (Five tied with five)
  • 11-straight Premier League games with a goal (Jamie Vardy, Leicester, 2014-15)

Read on to see the latest Premier League goal totals for the 2022-23 season, as Haaland looks to claim a Golden Boot in his first PL season.

Premier League 2022-23 Golden Boot race

  1. Erling Haaland, Man City — 14
  2. Harry Kane, Tottenham — 7
  3. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham — 6
  4. Phil Foden, Man City — 5
  5. Ivan Toney, Brentford — 5
  6. James Maddison, Leicester City — 5
  7. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool — 5
  8. Gabriel Jesus, Arsenal — 5
  9. Leandro Trossard — Brighton — 5
  10. Three tied with four. (Alexis Mac Allister, Rodrigo, Wilfried Zaha)