MLS Season Preview: Ranking the top 10 defenders

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The countdown to the 2014 Major League Soccer season is ticking away and very shortly MLS will be back with a bang, as a spectacular season awaits.

We’ve been rolling out season previews of every team at PST and now it’s time to focus on each position and share who we think are the top 10 players.

LATEST 2014 MLS PREVIEWS, RIGHT HERE

Let’s take a look at the best defenders as our season preview continues.

1. Matt Besler

The hometown kid won his first MLS Cup for Sporting Kansas City last season, is a starter for the U.S. national team at center back and has just been named SKC’s captain for the 2014 season. His reading of the game is superb and with a quick turn of pace Besler is as solid as they come. From ball-boy to captain of KC, Besler’s the best of the best in MLS.

source: Getty Images
Will Gonzalez lead LA to another MLS Cup this season?

2. Omar Gonzalez

Besler’s central defensive partner for the USA, Gonzalez has certainly earned his Designated Player status with LA Galaxy in the last few years. Towering above most MLS attackers, the giant center back has poise on the ball and he’s reading of the game is improving all the time. Could easily be playing in Europe somewhere but has rebuilt his career as an MLS star after that bad injury set him back in 2011. Gonzo is great.

3. Jose Goncalves

The Portuguese center back had a sublime season for New England in 2013 and played every single second for Jay Heaps’ side. The Revs are a mean defensive outfit and with Goncalves anchoring things from the middle, it’s no wonder. In his debut season in MLS he won Defender of the Year honors and was also named in the Best XI. He has all the tools to do even better in 2014.

4. Victor Bernardez

San Jose have seen other defenders like Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow leave the franchise but Bernardez has stuck around. The Honduran defender is a man mountain at the back and has an impressive turn of pace to go along with his aggressive style of play. At 31 the Honduran has a wealth of experience and he’ll likely be the first name on Mark Watson’s team sheet in 2014.

5. DeAndre Yedlin

This young man continues to divide opinion in MLS, but in my view he’s the best right back out there. At the age of 20, he still has plenty to learn. But with the fans in Seattle driving him on and the experience of being involved in a couple of Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. squad’s, Yedlin will continue to grow. Exciting prospect who already has bags of MLS experience.

source: Getty Images
Collin was the MLS Cup 2013 MVP, as the French defender excelled in the postseason.

6. Aurelien Collin

Besler’s partner in crime at KC, Collin scored the crucial penalty kick in the MLS Cup final last season and is key to Peter Vermes plans at Sporting Park. Many would question his distribution but Collin’s job, first and foremost, is to defend and he does that superbly. The 27-year-old will be in his fourth season for Sporting and the French defender should be around a long-time after that, too.

7. Clarence Goodson

Another San Jose man makes it into our list, as Goodson’s return to MLS towards the end of last season showed how good he is. The former Brondby defender is aiming to get into Klinsmann’s USMNT squad and a strong start to the 2014 MLS season will likely see Goodson heading to Brazil. With Bernardez, the Earthquakes have a veteran partnership that should shut down most offenses. Cool on the ball and good in the air, Goodson is a coaches dream.

8. Carlos Bocanegra

Boca can still do it in MLS and with Chivas USA having a brighter future on the horizon, expect the former U.S. national team captain to pull everyone together in L.A. The future franchise, whatever they’re called, will likely see Boca still around, as the former Chicago Fire, Glasgow Rangers and Fulham star has so much to offer. His lack of pace may worry some, but that first yard is in his head.

source: Getty Images
Will Farrell kick on during his Sophomore season?

9. Bobby Boswell

Yes, he was waived by Houston but Boswell has bags of MLS experience and D.C. United will build their defense around him. His time was up at Houston and going back to D.C. will do him the world of good. An experienced man with a great attitude, D.C. United coach Ben Olsen could have pulled a masterstroke by getting Boswell on board. A young core of defenders will look up to Boswell as their leader.

10. Andrew Farrell

As a rookie, Farrell got better as the season went on. A beast at right back for New England and able to play elsewhere, expect him to kick on this season for the Revs. 32 games last year saw the Louisville product grow in stature and his pace and power suit MLS perfectly. Will we see him partner Goncalves?

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Arsenal vs Tottenham projected lineups, form, head-to-head, prediction

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There is so little between Arsenal and Tottenham this season that every little decision will count as they square off this Saturday (watch live, 7:30am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com) in the north London derby.

[ MORE: Preview, storylines, latest on Arsenal vs Tottenham ]

Mikel Arteta and Antonio Conte have overseen superb starts to the season for their teams, with the Gunners top of the table and they are just one point and two places above unbeaten Spurs.

After Tottenham pipped Arsenal to a top four finish late last season, this rivalry has gone to new levels and both believe they can finish in the top four this season, at the very least.

Below we take a closer look at form, head-to-head info, projected lineups and a prediction for what promises to be a classic Arsenal vs Tottenham clash in the north London derby.


Arsenal vs Tottenham recent Premier League form

Arsenal last five fixtures – WLWWW | Last match: 3-0 win at Brentford

Tottenham last five fixtures – WWDWW  | Last match: 6-2 win vs Leicester City


Who has more wins, Arsenal or Tottenham? (all competitions head-to-head)

Tottenham wins: 67

Arsenal wins: 84

Draws: 54


Projected lineups

Arsenal (4-2-3-1)

—– Ramsdale —–

— White — Saliba — Gabriel — Zinchenko —

—- Partey —- Xhaka —-

—- Saka —- Odegaard —- Martinelli —-

—– Jesus —–

If Partey is out with injury then Arteta has a big decision to make in midfield: does Lokonga come in? Or does Odegaard drop deeper with Vieira coming in to an attacking midfield role? Elsewhere, Zinchenko will likely start ahead of Tierney if both are fit, while Zinchenko could also start in holding midfield given his incredible vesatility.


Tottenham (3-4-2-1)

—– Lloris —–

—- Romero —- Dier —- Davies —-

— Emerson — Hojbjerg — Bentancur — Perisic —

—- Richarlison —- Son —-

—– Kane —–

The back three picks itself, if everyone is fit, with Llenget and Sanchez coming in and doing okay when injuries have flared up. But the big debate is what Spurs do with Kulusevski potentially out. Does Richarlison come in for him? Or does Yves Bissouma start in midfield and the formation switch to a 3-5-2 with Son supporting Kane in attack? If it’s the latter, that would give Spurs extra defensive cover in the engine room.


Arsenal vs Tottenham prediction

This is going to be a very close game with these managers, players and clubs so evenly-matched across the board. Arsenal have been in better form but are battling with some key injuries, while Spurs look more capable of grinding out results when they’re not at their best. All of that adds up to an entertaining draw. I’m going for 2-2.


Arsenal vs Tottenham: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Arsenal host Tottenham in a massive north London derby on Saturday as first host third in the Premier League following impressive starts to the season for both of these bitter rivals.

STREAM LIVE ARSENAL v TOTTENHAM

Mikel Arteta’s Gunners are top of the table and have won six of their first seven games as Gabriel Jesus, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka have led their impressive start as Arsenal have played with a swagger and confidence which suggests they’re ready to at least finish in the top four this season.

Antonio Conte’s Tottenham sit just one point behind Arsenal and remain unbeaten through their first seven games as they’re yet to hit top form but are very stubborn and disciplined. This will be Spurs’ toughest test so far and after just pipping Arsenal to finish fourth last season, there will be extra spice (if that’s possible) to this clash.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]  

Here’s everything you need to know for a massive NLD as Arsenal vs Tottenham is always appointment viewing.


How to watch Arsenal vs Tottenham live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines

Arteta’s Arsenal have been absolutely superb so far this season and they could easily be perfect as they lost at Manchester United but dominated the majority of the only game where they’ve dropped points. There is a great balance to the Gunners with young attacking players flying all over the place — led by the incredible Jesus who has slotted in seamlessly — and a solid defense with Partey and Xhaka very important in the holding midfield roles. Arteta knows that a big win against Spurs will give his young side further confidence as they aim for a top four finish, and maybe more, this season.

Conte’s Spurs have been workmanlike so far and Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Richarlison are all among the goals and are popping up at key moments when they’re needed. Defensively Spurs look solid in their 3-4-3 formation and you always fancy them to grab at least a few goals. Tottenham are seen as many as title contenders this season and a win at their bitter rivals will see that feeling grow.


In-form players to keep an eye on

Gabriel Jesus continues to lead the line superbly for Arsenal and he is bringing their entire attacking unit to life. Granit Xhaka has also been incredibly important and was excellent away at Brentford before the international break as he wore the captain’s armband once again and Arsenal’s fans were full of praise for the Swiss international midfielder.

Son has finally found his scoring boots and bagged a hat trick off the bench in Spurs’ demolition of Leicester City and he looked very good for South Korea over the international break. Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg have barely put a foot wrong and are a big reason why Spurs remain unbeaten this season and look so robust. Harry Kane loves a north London derby and he always seems to take his game to a new level when this game rolls around.


Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options

Emile Smith Rowe is out until December after undergoing surgery on a groin injury, while Reiss Nelson and Mohamed Elneny remain out. Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey, Cedric Soares and Oleksandr Zinchenko are all battling to be fit to feature. If Partey is out, Albert Sambi Lokonga is likely to come in and partner Granit Xhaka in central midfield or perhaps Odegaard could slot back into a deeper role and Fabio Vieira may play in the No. 10 role after his fine goal at Brentford?


Tottenham team news, injuries, lineup options

The main injury concern for Spurs is Dejan Kulusevski after he suffered an injury while on international duty with Sweden. Hugo Lloris and Ben Davies have had thigh and knee injuries respectively and will be battling to be fit, while Lucas Moura is definitely out as he continues to work his way back from a calf injury.


Ever Wonder why Arsenal moved from South to North London?

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Our ‘Ever Wonder’ series will run throughout the 2022-23 Premier League season and focuses on key stories behind the history, tradition and culture of all 20 Premier League clubs.

[ MORE: Check out our ‘Ever Wonder’ series in full ]

Have you ever sat there and wondered why certain chants became iconic at a club? Why a team has a certain nickname? Why they play in those colors? How they were founded? Yep, us too.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

This season we will be digging deep to tell the stories of the rich history, tradition and culture from around the Premier League and give you the answers to things you want to know more about.


Ever Wonder why Arsenal moved across London?

Based in Woolwich in south east London, the club was originally founded in 1886 as a group of workers from the Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory decided to set up a club.

They were originally called Dial Square because of a sun dial atop the entrance to the factory. Seriously.

As for the factory itself, it served the British Army with ammunition and explosives research and 80,000 people worked there during the First World War.


Red jerseys and stadium struggles

Dial Square then became Royal Arsenal and players from Nottingham Forest joined the club, hence the now famous Garibaldi red jerseys which Forest, established 20 years before Arsenal, gave them.

After moving around several stadiums in Plumstead, which was based on the outskirts of London at the time, Arsenal then became Woolwich Arsenal and it stayed that way until 1913.

Struggling financially due to Plumstead being in an isolated area and not easy for people to travel to compared to other London clubs, Woolwich Arsenal were looking for other locations to move to from their Manor Ground home.

Arsenal vs Liverpool at the Manor Ground in Plumstead


Bombing accelerates move

During the suffragettes battle for equality for women in the UK, targeted bombings were carried out at high profile venues.

One such bombing occurred at Arsenal’s home stadium, destroying the grandstand at the Manor Ground in 1913 which would reportedly cost over $1,220 to repair.

With a significant bill to pay to repair the stadium and the club once again teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the largest shareholder of the consortium who bought the club in 1910, Sir Henry Norris, decided to move the club to Highbury in north London in 1913 after a failed attempt to merge Fulham and Arsenal, the two clubs he was chairman of.

Arsenal moved to Highbury Stadium


Controversial 12-mile move from South to North London approved in 1913

Amid uproar from fans in Woolwich and north London, it still happened and famed stadium architect Archibald Leitch built their home ground at Highbury.

That is when the Arsenal we know today was truly born.

They soon became known as ‘The Arsenal’ in 1914 and then dropped ‘the’ to become known simply as Arsenal in 1919 as football resumed in England following the First World War.


Feud with Tottenham begins

In-between then a feud had already bubbled up with Tottenham. Of course it had.

Arsenal were promoted to the first division at the expense of Tottenham amid huge controversy and after a league vote, Arsenal took Spurs’ place in the first division.

Hence a bitter rivalry was born and Tottenham’s fans like to remind Arsenal to, shall we say, ‘head back to Woolwich, please, because north London is ours.’ The real version is obviously less polite.


The Gunners have never looked back

Financial success, being close to a London Underground station and improved facilities were the main reasons Arsenal moved 12 miles across London to north London in 1913 and it is where they have remained ever since.

London’s most successful team (in terms of the number of major titles and top-flight titles), the decision to move Arsenal across England’s capital city is still bearing fruit over 100 years later.

They’ve come a long way from a team set up in a factory which made explosives for the British Military.

Southampton vs Everton: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Southampton host Everton at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday and both Ralph Hasenhuttl and Frank Lampard are desperate for a win.

STREAM LIVE SOUTHAMPTON v EVERTON

Before the break Saints put in their worst display of the season as they lost at Aston Villa and their trademark high-pressing was non-existent. With such a young team they are likely to have ups and downs throughout this season and overall they’ve had a very solid start to the new campaign.

Everton got their first win of the season last time out as they edged past West Ham at home before the break and Lampard has made the Toffees very tough to beat. They sit on seven points (the same as Southampton) and have lost just twice so far this season. That said, scoring goals is a real issue for them as they’ve scored just five goals in their first seven games.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]  

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a huge game as Southampton vs Everton is a clash both teams will believe they can win.


How to watch Arsenal vs Tottenham live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines

Saints have so many good youngsters with Armel Bella-Kotchap, Gavin Bazunu and Romeo Lavia all catching the eye early in the season. The latter has missed the last few games through injury and Saints have lost both 1-0 at Wolves and Aston Villa. Scoring goals will be a problem for them but they look defensively solid this season and Hasenhuttl is relying on Che Adams and James Ward-Prowse to score the goals to keep them well away from the relegation scrap.

Lampard’s Everton are also tougher to break down and scoring goals is also an issue for them. After selling Richarlison in the summer and having Dominic Calvert-Lewin out injured so far, Lampard has relied on Anthony Gordon to be his main attacking weapon. The youngster has a lot of pressure on his shoulders.


In-form players to keep an eye on

Saints’ Bella-Kotchap (20) and Mohammed Salisu (23) have formed a really strong partnership at center back and both made their international debuts over the break for Germany and Ghana respectively. Saints need Ward-Prowse to get back to his best as he’s struggled to start the season and is so important to the way they play.

Alex Iwobi has been superb in a deeper central midfield role for Everton and Amadou Onana continues to show his class alongside him, while the experienced duo of Conor Coady and James Tarkwoski are forging a very solid partnership at center back with the summer signings leading by example.


Southampton team news, injuries, lineup options

Tino Livramento continues his recovery from a long-term knee injury and is getting closer to a return, while 18-year-old midfield sensation Lavia is still a few weeks away from returning. It will be intriguing to see who starts in attack with Adams as Hasenhuttl has so many attacking midfield options but nobody has staked their claim for a regular starting spot.


Everton team news, injuries, lineup options

Injury issues continue to mount up for Lampard as they lost right back Nathan Patterson over the break and that is a big blow as he’s been sensational in recent games. Jordan Pickford should be back from injury, which is a massive boost, but Ben Godfrey, Mason Holgate, Yerry Mina and Andros Townsend all remain out. Calvert-Lewin has a chance of being back for this game.