Lee Nguyen’s brilliance has New England Revolution at pinnacle of MLS

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When nearly retired Landon Donovan buried a hat trick in the LA Galaxy’s 5-0 drubbing of Real Salt Lake en route to the Western Conference finals, New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen enjoyed a more quiet night, although he buried a score to show viewers why he deserves considerable MLS MVP consideration.

Another goal and another assist marked Nguyen’s excellent night, with the Revs beating the Columbus Crew 7-3 on aggregate to seal a spot in the Eastern Conference finals. The Revolution haven’t graced the final stop to the MLS Cup since 2007, when they ended up losing the MLS Cup to the Houston Dynamo.

At that time, Taylor Twellman served as New England’s the crucial offensive attacker, tallying 19 goals and three assists in all contests.

Now, one can see Twellman’s impact nearly parallel to that of Nguyen’s, the technically-gifted Texan who saw time overseas at PSV Eindhoven, Rangers and in the Vietnam’s V.League 1 before returning to Major League Soccer, where the Revolution acquired him via the MLS Waiver Draft.

And Nguyen’s abilities—his creativeness, vision and patience in the midfield—were no secret earlier in his career. The United States soccer federation recognized him seven years ago by calling him up for a friendly vs. China, in addition to his inclusion in the Copa America roster.

A bit raw but talented nonetheless, he was only 20 years of age then.

Today, USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann has called the 28-year-old Nguyen into national team camp, another notch to the footballer’s belt, and he comes into international training with a more advanced skill set.

After years of falling off the radar overseas, his return to America has allowed the midfielder’s adeptness on the ball to shine. Even when 19-year-old Diego Fagundez totaled a magnificent 13 goals last year, Nguyen’s importance to the Revs was plainly obvious; he displayed an marvelous feel for the pitch and brandished attributes that facilitated successful attacks throughout his career in the Northeast.

This year, however, statistics have legitimately attested to his capabilities. His 18 regular season goals stand above all other midfielders in the league and comfortably sit at fourth place behind the likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Dom Dwyer and Robbie Keane, all primarily known for their striking.

But Nguyen doesn’t just score. He’s the glue that coalesces the Revs’ midfield, and it’s very apparent that his passing decisions also help decide the outcome for his side. In his latest start, MLS Soccer’s Jesse Marsch and a playoff-eliminated Dwyer break down the intricacies of the MVP candidate on MLSsoccer.com.

Nguyen began to noticeably play this way in the second half of the season, stringing together great performance after great performance, especially when World Cup standout Jermaine Jones came into the fold in late August.

With Nguyen firing on all cylinders, his consistency hasn’t wavered in the slightest, and one may realize that there is no limit to what the Revs can do, as the MLS Cup beckons on the horizon.

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Top Premier League storylines: Week 13

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Yes, Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and, sure, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manuel Pellegrini are in managerial hot seats, but is there any match more intriguing than Man City and Chelsea squaring off with the knowledge that a bad outcome could see them double digits out of first?

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


The Jose Mourinho Era begins against a familiar foe

  • West Ham v. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have matched wits many times, which could help the former in his bid to get ready for a rankled Spurs side to kickstart the Premier League weekend.

Mourinho has only matched up with six managers more than Pellegrini in his career, and boasts a 7W-3D-4L record. Can he quickly get Spurs put together for a visit to a desperate Irons side.


Chelsea, Man City put slim title hopes on the line

  • Manchester City v. Chelsea — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Both Pep Guardiola‘s City and Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have lost to Liverpool, meaning their chances to directly affect the Reds’ title hopes are limited. Matches like this one are the ones that get the Reds salivating, in fact, knowing that only one team can snare three points.

City enters the day nine points back of first and a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City. The Top Four race sure looks clear cut right now — the chasing pack is eight points behind fourth — but failure to win on Saturday will likely leave either side double-digit points back of first.


Knock off the Red Devils? Wilder things have happened

  • Sheffield United v. Manchester United — Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has the newly-promoted side in fifth place on the table, one point better than his celebrated visitors. The Blades will sit no worse than five points back of the Top Four if they can beat Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Red Devils, adding another big name to a season of results which already includes a defeat of Arsenal and draws against Chelsea and Spurs. United is still without Paul Pogba and now will also miss Scott McTominay. Another upset brewing?


Reds hope to get back to business as usual in title fight

  • Crystal Palace v. Liverpool — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

A week removed from a glitzy show against Man City, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds now visit a Palace side who is probably getting sick of facing the Premier League’s best. Roy Hodgson‘s table rise has been stunted by a four-match winless run that includes 2-0 losses to Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea to go with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

A Liverpool win will boost it clearer of Man City and/or Chelsea, as the Reds seek a double-digit lead on the field (Second-place Leicester City is away to Brighton and Hove Albion).


Arsenal looks to right wobbly league ship versus slumping Saints

  • Arsenal v. Southampton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Unai Emery‘s Gunners may be doing fine in the Europa League, but they’ve taken just two points from 12 since an Oct. 6 defeat of Bourrnemouth at the Emirates Stadium. Saints only win since mid-September in any competition is a 4-0 demolition of rivals Portsmouth. If Arsenal cannot get right here, well…

The 2 Robbies break down Tottenham’s big switch from Poch to Mou

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Maybe you saw the firing of Mauricio Pochettino coming, and maybe you even though Jose Mourinho could be in the running to take his place, but the whole thing happening in rapid fire fashion calls for something different.

Call it an emergency podcast for The 2 Robbies.

[ MORE: Ederson back in training ]

Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle respond to the shocking and divisive news coming from North London earlier this week.

Tottenham Hotspur sacked Pochettino and quickly replaced him with The Special One. This episode also includes some of Jose’s first words as the new Spurs Head Coach.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Pochettino leaves emotional whiteboard message to Spurs

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Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff have left Tottenham Hotspur, but not without fond words for the North London set.

Pochettino’s backroom staff was also dismissed, with assistant Jesus Perez and coaches Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez leaving to make room for Jose Mourinho’s crew.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

And Perez wanted to make sure that the world knew the final words Pochettino left for his players, something that has Tottenham supporters even more emotional.

It also surely plays as a political piece which will increase the villain status of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who’s been under fire for not helping Pochettino by selling players who did not want to be in North London.

Even Mourinho heaped praise on his predecessor.

“Mauricio, for the work he did, this club will be always his home,” Mourinho said. “He can come when he wants. When he misses the players, when he misses the people he work with. The door is always open for him. He will find happiness again. He will find a great club again. He will have a great future.”

Get your tissues, Spurs fans.