Early this year, when assessing and comparing the Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake defenses, any analyst worth his or her weight in Brazuca match balls would have handed the check mark to SKC and happily moved on.
Not that Real Salt Lake’s back line wasn’t worthy; Sporting KC’s tough and talented bunch was just that good. Sporting led the league in fewest goals allowed in 2013, a fact that surprised absolutely no one.
But after watching the playoff performance of RSL center backs Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler, absolutely dominant in series wins over Los Angeles and (especially) Portland, this should now be considered about as close as it can be. Both of the back lines to be showcased Saturday at ridiculously cold Sporting Park are MLS Cup worthy units, and then some.
It’s not just the center backs, either. For Kansas City, fullbacks Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic are tough, talented and always happy to scoot forward in support of the attack. Witness Sinovic’s big run up the left side and mighty finish that supplied his team the conference semifinal series game-winner against New England.
But those two have nothing on Tony Beltran (right) or Chris Wingert (left). Neither is quite national team material, but like Myers and Sinovic, they are just a small notch below international status, certainly blessed sufficiently in all the areas that make an upper echelon MLS outside back: one-on-one defending, passing out of the back, crossing and speed to move up and down the flank (in systems that demand it).
But both defenses revolve around those imposing center backs. (Well, and goalkeepers that provide good information to keep the elements linked.) Aurelien Colilin is something close to unbeatable at times, setting his team’s physical tone with an edge that frequently walks the line. Central partner Matt Besler (pictured above) provides the balance, accomplishing his defensive mention with a sharp read and a savvy ability to slip into the right spots, and then distribute sensibly out of them. His gradual rise to U.S. national team starter has been inspirational.
Speaking of rises: Schuler’s terrific work on the back half of RSL’s surprisingly bright 2013 campaign has made the Rio Tinto faithful more or less forget how much they miss Jamison Olave, who was traded to New York a year back. Alongside Borchers (pictured above and to the left) the pair helped limit Portland to just two shots on goal in the second leg in Oregon, in a match where the Timbers were determined to attack with abandon. It was truly one of the best paired performances of the 2013 MLS post-season.
Weaknesses along the back lines? Not many. If we are picking nits, perhaps Collin’s volatile nature could get him in early yellow card trouble, forcing him to drag around the booking and recalibrate accordingly. Or perhaps the collective SKC desire to press high and get the outside backs forward when playing at home could leave the flanks vulnerable to a sharp-eyed playmaker and a fast forward. (Javier Morales and Robbie Findley, anyone?)
Arsenal are pushing hard to sign Moises Caicedo, with the Ecuadorian midfielder not playing for Brighton in the FA Cup against Liverpool amid a reported new $86 million bid from the Gunners. Anthony Gordon has signed for Newcastle from Everton for a fee believed to be around $60 million.
Dango Ouattara (Lorient)
Darren Randolph (West Ham)
Antoine Semenyo (Bristol City)
Ferdinand Okoh (Dorchester) Loan
James Hill (Hearts) Loan
Will Dennis (Slough) Loan
Noa Boutin (Gosport) Loan
Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
Jakub Kiwior (Spezia Calcio)
Brooke Norton-Cuffy (Coventry) Loan
Miguel Azeez (Wigan) Loan
Arthur Okonkwo (Sturm Graz) Loan
Ovie Ejeheri (SJK Seinajoki) Loan
Harry Clarke (Ipswich Town)
In Aaron Ramsey (loan recall)
Tyreik Wright (loan recall)
Alex Moreno (Real Betis)
Jhon Duran (Chicago Fire)
Out Cameron Archer (Middlesbrough) Loan
Tyreik Wright (Plymouth Argyle)
Frederic Guilbert (RC Strasbourg)
Indiana Vassilev (St. Louis City SC)
Danny Ings (West Ham)
Jan Bednarek (loan recall)
Morgan Sanson (Strasbourg) Loan
In Byron Wilson (Coventry)
Conor McManus (Bray Wanderers)
Fin Stevens (loan recall)
Mads Bech (loan recall)
Beaux Booth (Dorking)
Kevin Schade (Freiburg) Loan
Paris Maghoma (loan recall)
Romeo Beckham (Inter Miami) Loan
Nathan Young-Coombes (loan recall)
Salomon Rondon (released)
Nathan Broadhead (Ipswich)
Tom Cannon (Preston) Loan
Niels Nkounkou (Saint-Etienne) Loan
Sebastian Quirk (Accrington Stanley)
Tyler Onyango (Forest Green) Loan
Anthony Gordon (Newcastle)
In Anthony Knockaert (loan recall)
Idris Odutayo (Maidenhead) Loan extension
Anthony Knockaert (Huddersfield) Loan
Ibane Bowat (Den Bosch) Loan
In Max Wober (RB Salzburg)
Georginio Rutter (Hoffenheim)
Out Mateusz Klich (MLS pending)
Alfie McCalmont (Carlisle) Loan
Leo Hjelde (Rotherham) Loan
Max Dean (MK Dons)
Cody Drameh (Luton) Loan
Joe Gelhardt (Sunderland) Loan
George Hirst (loan recall)
Victor Kristiansen (Copenhagen)
George Hirst (Ipswich) Loan
Ben Nelson (Doncaster) Loan
Jakub Stolarczyk (Hartlepool) Loan
Cody Gakpo (PSV)
Billy Koumetio (Austria Vienna) Loan recall
Max Woltman (loan recall)
Jakub Ojrzynski (loan recall)
James Balagizi (loan recall)
Fidel O’Rourke (loan recall)
Rhys Williams (loan recall)
Jake Cain (Swindon Town)
Jarell Quansah (Bristol Rovers) Loan
In Liam Delap (loan recall)
Maximo Perrone (Velez Sarsfield)
Luizao (Sao Paulo)
Armstrong Okoflex (loan recall)
Danny Ings (Aston Villa)
Thierry Nevers (Bradford) Loan
Craig Dawson (Wolves)
Pierre Ekwah (Sunderland)
Darren Randolph (AFC Bournemouth)
Will Greenidge (Colchester) Loan
In Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid) Loan
Joe Young (loan recall)
Louie Moulden (loan recall)
Theo Corbeanu (loan recall)
Christian Marques (loan recall)
Lewis Richards (loan recall)
Mario Lemina (Nice)
Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain)
Craig Dawson (West Ham)
Dan Bentley (Bristol City)
Ki-Jana Hoever (loan recall)
Out Leo Bonatini (released)
Joe Young (Telford) Loan
Goncalo Guedes (Benfica) Loan
Theo Corbeanu (Arminia Bielefeld) Loan
Leonardo Campana (Inter Miami)
Connor Ronan (Colorado Rapids)
Fabio Silva (PSV) Loan
Matija Sarkic (Stoke) Loan
Ki-Jana Hoever (Stoke) Loan
Jackson Smith (Walsall) Loan
From clicking on the links above to read the latest reports and analysis, having Sky Sports News live on Peacock all day long and to our own Pro Soccer Talk live deadline day show which starts at 5:30pm ET on Jan. 31, you won’t miss a thing.
Click on the video below to send in your questions for the PST crew for our deadline day chat where we will round up all of the deals happening late in the window, dish out grades to Premier League teams based on their business and give our analysis on the best signings of the January window.
Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?
Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest though Newcastle is not going away and Manchester United has surged into contention.
Uneven Tottenham are hanging in the top four battle, while Liverpool is struggling to stay in the Champions League scrap. Chelsea has some work to do while surprising Fulham and Brighton are hanging around on the periphery with fine campaigns.
Who are the candidates for relegation?
Everton, Bournemouth, and Southampton currently occupy the relegation places.
But Leicester, West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Wolves, and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom three after a topsy-turvy start.
Below you will find the latest Premier League table.
Would a move to Leeds be a good fit for Weston McKennie?
Stylistically the Premier League is a great fit for Weston McKennie and Leeds are probably one of the best teams he could move to.
He loves to fly into tackles and drive forward from midfield and playing just in front of Tyler Adams and Marc Roca or to the right of them would be a perfect spot for him at Leeds.
It would give Leeds more control of games and the Yorkshire club also play to his strengths. it’s a really good fit.
McKennie has struggled to have a big impact at Juve this season as injuries have taken their toll on him over the last few years. That would perhaps be the one concern about his move to the Premier League, as McKennie seems to pick up quite a few knocks.
However, looking at his stats below from this season at Juventus, the chances he creates per game and the shots per game will improve and his accurate passing will help Leeds become less susceptible on the counter.
McKennie is a player who rattles into tackles, feeds off the energy of his fans and his mentality is perfect for the aggressive side Jesse Marsch has created at Leeds.
The Texas born midfielder has always wanted to play in the Premier League and he’s got his wish at a club where he will play week in, week out and one which suits his style of play perfectly.