Sporting Kansas City declare themselves “greatest team in MLS”… Are they?

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In case you missed it, Sporting Kansas City made a massive splash over the weekend by locking up U.S. internationals Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to long-term contract extensions and made them Designated Players in the process.

Those deals came after European clubs made some serious moves to snap up both SKC stars, who have been with the club since 2009 just before the club was rebranded as Sporting.

[RELATED: What do Zusi, Besler deals mean for MLS?]

Both Besler and Zusi have been shining lights in the clubs rebirth as one of Major League Soccer’s biggest success stories.

Getting Besler and Zusi to remain in MLS is a very big deal, I wrote more on that here, and signifies a marquee moment in the league’s history. Being able to pay players enough money to swat away the lure of fame and fortune in Europe is no mean feat and shows how far the league has come over the past two to three years.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday night after the deals were confirmed, CEO of SKC’s parent company Sporting Club, Robb Heinemann, aired some pretty bold statements about how big Sporting KC are as a club.

Here’s what Heinemann had to say about his side’s greatness and how big they can become.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff on social media around – ‘Oh, you know, this is not a good decision for the guys from a national team perspective’ – and to me, that’s complete BS. This is one of the best clubs in the world from a development perspective. The opportunity and the tools that are available here, including Peter and the way he trains these guys, is world-class. So any reference or thought that it’s not a first-class opportunity for these guys to be here, to me, is just complete crap.

“This club has the desire to be one of the greatest in the world. I think right now, we’re the greatest in MLS. Frankly, I think there’s no question that we’re the greatest in MLS. And we’re going to do everything that we can to try to continue to advance the vision of the club over time.”

The “greatest in MLS”… is that true?

Lets look at the facts. Sporting KC, correct me if I’m wrong, are the reigning MLS Cup champions. On the field they were the best team in MLS last season. This year they are currently trucking along atop the Eastern Conference standings and have represented MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Off the field, the way the organization has rebranded themselves is remarkable. Their purpose-built stadium, Sporting Park, is a joy to behold and sells out constantly at just under 20,000. SKC have the seventh-largest average attendance figures in MLS in 2014 (19,842) and could easily attract more fans.

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With their wonderful stadium, fanbase and recent success on the field, are SKC the best in MLS?

Sporting have developed guys like Besler and Zusi into U.S. national team stars after drafting them from college and they have given plenty of other young Americans, such as Erik Palmer-Brown, the chance to step up. However when you look around MLS, can you definitively say that Sporting are the greatest club? No.

The great thing about what people are calling ‘MLS 3.0’ is that organizations such as the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and in more recent times Toronto FC, have elevated the league to a whole new level. Seattle are averaging 42,771 fans per home game, while Toronto, Vancouver, Portland, the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are all getting over 20,000. A great club is defined by the number of fans who show up, their influence on the domestic league and further afield, how many great players they develop, how many trophies they win and many other factors.

If you look around the league, so many different teams can claim they are the “greatest” for one reason or another. As the history of MLS begins to take shape, we can look back on the four titles LA have won compared to KC’s two and make certain arguments. How about Seattle and the New York Red Bulls bringing big-name DPs to the league, does that make them “great”? That’s what it is all about, there is no right or wrong answer here. We should take only positives from Heinemann’s comments as he fuels the flames of debate around the MLS community.

Is it fair to call Sporting KC “the greatest” club in MLS? No. They are one of a number of great clubs in MLS. That is something to get excited about as the future for North America’s top-flight has perhaps never been brighter.

Man United ‘got away with one’ after dramatic late win at Brighton

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Manchester United reaction from Brighton was honest as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players looked somewhat sheepish as they snuck out of the Amex Stadium with a dramatic 3-2 win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

After being dominated for most of the game, Man United went behind then equalized via an own goal and took the lead after a piece of solo brilliance from Marcus Rashford.

Brighton saw a penalty kick decision overturned, hit the woodwork five times and then scored a 95th minute equalizer, only for Man United to be awarded a penalty kick after the final whistle blew as VAR was used and Bruno Fernandes won it in the 100th minute.

Speaking to BT Sport in the UK after the game, Solskjaer couldn’t help but laugh when trying to sum it all up and he admitted Man United secured an undeserved win.

“You can’t sum it up. We got away with one, to be fair. Maybe one point was what we deserved. I don’t think we deserved more,” Solskjaer admitted with his Manchester United reaction. “The character deserved more. That’s a big thing for us, compared to last season. We had too many draws last season. They [Brighton] created too much for my liking. They are a difficult team to play against and they have really good ball players at the back.

“We don’t really have the legs and sharpness still, but we will get there. We have plenty of work to do, we know that, and the players know that. The players know we got away with one. We have to take the points and know we have to improve a lot. Last week was disappointing, today at least we showed the character and showed a response and the lads showed their quality a few times. Strikers and forward making chances and David de Gea making saves.”

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]    

Bruno Fernandes had a mixed outing and his Manchester United reaction showcased that. The Portuguese superstar set up the first goal via a free kick, set up Rashford’s superb strike and scored the late penalty kick winner, but he also gave away a penalty kick and lost Solly March for Brighton’s late equalizer.

“It is a difficult game. In the first half we left so many spaces for them to play. We were not as aggressive as I want. Big teams need to believe until the end. We created the chance, and at this point we need to look forward and do much better than we did today,” Fernandes said. “The point is to score goals, not hitting the crossbar and the post. Sometimes you have to have luck and the goalkeeper playing well and David de Gea did really well.”

Manchester United have now lost to Crystal Palace and snuck by Brighton in their first two games of the Premier League season and it is clear that Solskjaer’s side are yet to hit full fitness after a brief offseason due to reaching the latter stages of the UEFA Europa League.

Brighton were unlucky. Man United were unlucky. Solskjaer admitted it, and that’s fair enough. But sooner rather than later they have to get back up to speed as the Red Devils will be left behind.

They now face Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal within their next four Premier League games and they won’t let them off the hook like Brighton did.

Instant classic: Manchester United beat unlucky Brighton amid late drama

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Brighton – Manchester United: This was an instant classic, as Brighton hit the woodwork five times and Graham Potter’s side coughed up a lead but fought back to make it 2-2 in the 94th minute, only for Man United to win it in the 99th minute via a penalty kick.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Neal Maupay’s Panenka penalty gave Brighton a deserved lead but an own goal from Lewis Dunk and a sublime solo effort from Marcus Rashford saw Man United fight back in a dramatic game which saw VAR heavily used, penalty kicks overturned and a late equalizer in the 95th minute from Solly March.

With the final act of the game Harry Maguire’s header was handled by Maupay and after the referee blew the final whistle, VAR was used to award a penalty which Bruno Fernandes fired home to win it.

Man United have now picked up three points from their first two games of the season against Crystal Palace and Brighton, but it has been far from straightforward. Here’s a look at everything from a wild Brighton – Manchester United clash.


3 things we learned: Brighton – Manchester United

1. Rashford and Fernandes ooze class: Sure, Fernandes gave away a penalty kick and could have done better on Brighton’s goal but he oozed class when they needed him most. His free kick set up the first, he set Rashford away for his brilliant goal and then he smashed home the penalty late on to win it. Rashford’s solo goal was brilliant and his direct running on the break was always a threat. United’s two superstars stood tall on a day when many others struggled. That was the difference.

2. Silky Brighton unlucky: They didn’t deserve to lose this game. They just didn’t. Leandro Trossard hit the woodwork three times on his own (post, post and crossbar hat trick) and Brighton hit it five times. Graham Potter’s side were silky on the ball and created so many chances. They had 18 shots, had a penalty overturned and found David de Gea in good form. If only they could finish. On their early season showings there is no way Brighton will be in relegation trouble and they will instead by pushing for the top 10.

3. Man United struggling to shake off rust: This was by no means a deserved win for Man United, but they will take it. Solskjaer’s side are struggling to shake off the rust after their European exploits this summer and even though they had glimpses of brilliance, overall they struggled to control this game. They look like a team playing a preseason game and that’s because they are given the schedule they’ve had. Things will improve, and they have to. Fast.

Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford – His brilliant solo goal was stunning and he carried United’s threat. Trossard was a very, very close second.


Brighton started well and Leandro Trossard went so close to opening the scoring as his lovely left-footed shot smashed off the post and out. Man United barely woke up and their first chance of the game fell to Greenwood but he dragged his effort wide, then Bruno Fernandes’ cross just evaded Anthony Martial and skipped wide.

Trossard then hit the other post with a low shot as Brighton’s fluid play caused Man United plenty of problems. Brighton then hit the bar as Adam Webster’s looping header flicked off the bar with De Gea again trying to claw it away.

Before half time Man United’s star attacking trio combined as Martial found Rashford who played in Greenwood to finish, but Rashford was just offside. Brighton then took the lead as Bruno Fernandes clipped Tariq Lamptey’s heels in the box and a penalty was given, which Maupay scored with a Panenka.

Right on half time Man United equalized as Fernandes’ free kick to the back post was flicked back in by Nemanja Matic and a combination of Maguire and Lewis Dunk bundled it home.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The start of the second half started in frantic fashion as Aaron Connolly won a penalty kick after contact from Paul Pogba, but the referee overturned the penalty kick decision after looking at the pitch-side monitor and realizing that Connolly initiated the contact.

Rashford then had a one goal disallowed and scored another soon after as his superb solo effort was deflected into the top corner to give Man United the lead. Brighton kept pouring forward and after a lovely flowing move, Solly March hit the inside of the post as the Seagulls were denied by the woodwork for a fourth time in the game.

There was time for Trossard to hit the crossbar to complete his unwanted hat trick as the Seagulls hit the woodwork for a fifth time, then David de Gea denied Trossard as he stood tall in stoppage time.

Brighton’s equalizer did arrive as March headed home in the 95th minute but the drama wasn’t over. With the final act of the game Harry Maguire’s header in the 97th minute but headed off the line, but after the referee blew the final whistle VAR was used and Maupay had clearly handled the ball.

A penalty kick was given and Fernandes smashed home to seal a dramatic 3-2 for Man United with the final kick of the game.

VIDEO: Rashford scores stunning goal v. Brighton

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Marcus Rashford goal v Brighton will be trending very soon.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Rashford scored a simply superb solo goal in the second half to put Manchester United 2-1 up against Brighton.

The England forward was set free by Bruno Fernandes and ran towards goal but still had four Brighton defenders and a goalkeeper to beat.

He did that, beating one defender twice, as he cut past Ben White easily, turned Brighton’s defense inside out and his shot found the top corner as Man United’s players celebrated wildly and Brighton’s players were left on the floor in a heap.

Rashford had a goal disallowed in the second half as the England star was a real threat on the break and even though Brighton dominated the game and hit the woodwork five times, Man United’s extra clinical edge shone through.

Their academy product led the way as Rashford added another fine strike to his collection as he stands tall for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side early in the season.

Check out the Rashford stunner in the video above, as the England and Man United was at his very best to lead his team at Brighton.

Crystal Palace – Everton: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Crystal Palace – Everton: It’s a battle of perfect teams on Saturday when Everton visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (Watch live at 10 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

The Eagles have knocked off Southampton and Manchester United to open their 2020-21 Premier League season while Everton has handled Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Two legends of the game will be at the helm when Roy Hodgson and Carlo Ancelotti match wits on Saturday. Can the former continue to coax unexpected results of his Eagles against the strengthened and powerful Toffees?


Team news: Crystal Palace – Everton (INJURY REPORT)

James Tomkins (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Christian Benteke (ankle), Gary Cahill (thigh) and Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed) are miss out.

Eze starts as Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew are up with him in attack.

Fabian Delph returned for the midweek League Cup game but Everton won’t have Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle), Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf).

Ancelotti has named an unchanged team.


What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on how the Eagles won (again) at Old Trafford: “We made certain and kept them playing in front of us and they could not profit from those spaces they are skillful enough to find. And when we had the ball I thought we looked very dangerous and threatening so I don’t think it was a big surprise that we scored three.”

Carlo Ancelotti after Jordan Pickford made a gaffe against Fleetwood Town: “I think the first goal was not an individual mistake because we passed the ball back to Jordan, it was a really difficult ball and we could behave differently. Of course you have to improve there. We want to build up from the back, but when there’s no risk. If it’s risky it’s no good because we can concede a goal like we did. It can be a good lesson for the future. I didn’t speak to him and, as I said, I have to speak with players that were involved when we build-up.Jordan was not the only one.”

Jordan Pickford
FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Jordan Pickford of Everton is challenged by Josh Morris of Fleetwood Town (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

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

Palace is an underdog despite beating United and it’s perhaps a bit surprising to see them at +275 with a draw at +220. An Everton win delivers +110.

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Crystal Palace – Everton prediction

Hodgson has coaxed some tremendous midfield performances out of James McArthur, James McCarthy, and Luka Milivojevic in his tenure at Palace but out-performing Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, and Andre Gomes is a big ask even for that steely crew. James Rodriguez is in incredible form but so is Wilfried Zaha. Couldn’t this one go either way? Yes, but if Everton’s moving in the direction many believe it will be able to take all three points in a composed 2-1 win.


How to watch Crystal Palace – Everton stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com