2015 MLS predictions: Cup winners? MVP? Lampard or Gerrard? Kaka or Giovinco?

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It’s prediction time! With the 2015 Major League Soccer season kicking off this week, we’ll tell you who wins every major trophy, award and how many goals some of the league’s biggest newcomers will score.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s 2015 MLS preview series ]

U.S. Open Cup winners

Joe Prince-Wright: Seattle Sounders. They love an Open Cup, don’t they?
Andy Edwards: FC Dallas. Semifinalists in 2014, it’s Oscar Pareja’s easiest route to a trophy in an unbelievably tough Western Conference.
Nicholas Mendola: New England Revolution.
Kyle Lynch: Seattle Sounders have dominated the Open Cup as of late, and they can do it again.
Duncan Day: Portland Timbers. They’ve made a few promising international acquisitions to put them in better playoff position, and I think Caleb Porter will see ideal result outside of league play.
Kyle Bonn: LA Galaxy.

Supporters’ Shield winners

JPW: LA Galaxy. Arena’s boys will kick on after Gerrard’s arrival.
Edwards: Seattle Sounders. Full season No. 2 for Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey will (somehow) be better than the first.
Mendola: New England Revolution, though look out for Toronto if they get steady play between the sticks.
Lynch: LA Galaxy. They won the league last season and aren’t looking back.
Day: NYCFC. Once Lampard comes to town I expect a surge from these guys. They have the capability to strengthen their squad before the window closes if the need dictates.
Bonn: Seattle Sounders are the favorite here, and with each team owning up to a heavy weakness, they’re the good pick.

MLS Cup matchup and winners

JPW: LA Galaxy vs. Toronto. Toronto to win. Bold statement, I know, but I’m feeling it.
Edwards: Seattle Sounders vs. Columbus Crew SC. Gregg Berhalter’s side is the most complete team in the Eastern Conference, capable of winning home-field advantage in the playoffs, and they’ll have learned from last year’s disappointment.
Mendola: Toronto FC vs. LA Galaxy, because the fix is in!
Lynch: LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution. The Cup goes back to Hollywood.
Day: LA Galaxy 2-3 Orlando City SC: Orlando makes its way into the East finals against Toronto and manages a slim-margined win. Kaka really proves his worth in the playoffs.
Bonn: Toronto may not win the Supporters’ Shield, and they may not even get a #1 seed, but come playoff time they’ll have had a full season to play together, and will likely be a team geared for a playoff setting. It’s why I picked them in the Open Cup, and why I’ll pick them to get here. Toronto and Seattle, and the Sounders win it.

source: Getty Images
Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus (and now, Toronto FC)

MVP

JPW: Sebastian Giovinco. How they managed to get the “Atomic Ant” I don’t know, but I’m glad they did. Wonderful talent.
Edwards: Obafemi Martins. Dempsey will miss a month for the Gold Cup, and Martins showed last year he can carry the team when he’s not around.
Mendola: Michael Bradley. The new TFC captain has a wealth of talent in front of him and a better defense than you think.
Lynch: David Villa. The Spanish legend leads New York City to the playoffs.
Day: Sebastian Giovinco. I believe he has the opportunity to be the most dangerous player in MLS due to his combination of pace and skill. He will produce a fair amount of both goals and assists, and that’s where he will set himself apart in the MVP race.
Bonn: Giovinco. What a signing.

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Newcomer of the Year (including returning MLSers)

JPW: Jozy Altidore. Expect the big man to find the back of the net regularly. Man, I’m bullish on Toronto this year, huh?
Edwards: Jozy Altidore. Once we put our USMNTers-should-be-in-Europe biases aside, we all agree he’s going to score a hundred goals this season, right?
Mendola: David Villa. It almost feels like cheating to write this, as he’ll be going well with Mix Diskerud and company before he even gets the aid of Frank Lampard.
Lynch: David Villa. Even though he’s 33, the MLS rookie will light it up.
Day: Octavio Rivero of Vancouver Whitecaps. Goal leader of the Chilean Primera Division last year, he has buried 20 goals in his past 33 appearances. With Kenny Miller gone for good, Rivero looks to be the new target man for the Caps, whose midfield should mesh well with the Uruguayan.
Bonn: Frank Lampard is going to be monstrous for NYCFC, because he clearly has a ton left in the tank, but he’s only got a half year to make an impact. If Giovinco’s the MVP, he’d obviously qualify here as well.

source:
David Villa has been the leading man for NYCFC so far.

Golden Boot winner

JPW: David Villa. I think the Spanish veteran will rip MLS defenses apart. Clinical and from the Robbie Keane school of finishing.
Edwards: Obafemi Martins.
Mendola: Josmer Volmy Altidore.
Lynch: Villa, Villa, Villa. As you can see, I think David Villa is going to be good. Really good.
Day: David Villa. The best forward talent in MLS, Villa scored a solid amount of goals last year (15 in all competitions) with Atletico Madrid as the No.2 man to Diego Costa, so a big goal tally in MLS should naturally suit the Spaniard.
Bonn: Dom Dwyer.

Who’s the Lee Nguyen-esque (veteran) Breakout Player of the year?

JPW: Nat Borchers leading Portland’s defense. I expect the Timbers to have an impressive season.
Edwards: Bernardo Anor. Quick — tell me what team Anor plays for. If you don’t know now, you will be April or May. Can’t believe Berhalter let him go.
Mendola: Sam Cronin, Colorado Rapids.
Day: Benny Feilhaber. Sporting KC have a good squad as usual, and Dom Dwyer will likely serve as the team’s main impact player still, while Feilhaber will build off one of his best seasons in MLS on a similar but smaller scale than Nguyen did.
Bonn: I’m not so sure this is a breakout, but I love Jamison Olave back at RSL. Their new-look defense is well put together.

Who’s the Gyasi Zardes-esque (young) Breakout Player of the year?

JPW: Umm…Tony Taylor for NYCFC?
Edwards: Luis Gil. We’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for Gil to have the breakout year. This is finally it.
Mendola: Thomas McNamara of New York City FC. He showed plenty of promise for Chivas USA last season before a crushing injury. If he can get get on and stay on the field in NYC, he will shine.
Lynch: Erik Palmer-Brown. The 17 year old is one of America’s brightest prospects, and this could be the year he becomes a household name in MLS.
Day: Patrick Mullins, NYCFC. The former New England Revolution players showed great flashes of skills for the Revs. Mullins could provide an immediate impact, especially with the service of Mix and Lampard.
Bonn: Love me some Khiry Shelton.

Cascadia Cup winners

JPW: Seattle Sounders will just edge out Portland and Vancouver. Expect it to be a tight race up in the Pacific Northwest.
Edwards: Vancouver Whitecaps.
Mendola: Vancouver Whitecaps. Carl Robinson is doing things, man.
Lynch: It’s a toss-up, but I’m taking the Portland Timbers.
Day: The Whitecaps are set to extend their recent streak and success against Seattle and Portland, but may not enjoy a better league finish than both the Timbers and Sounders.
Bonn: This is going to be FUN this year…but when isn’t it? I’m going with the boring pick of Seattle simply because of my pick to get them the Shield, but it will be close. The other two teams are very much improved.

source: Getty Images
Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard

Better first six months in MLS — Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard?

JPW: Steven Gerrard. He can slot into LA seamlessly, while NYCFC will hit plenty of speed bumps along the way during their inaugural season as a club.
Edwards: Lampard. His team will need him to do more from day one, and I still don’t know how Gerrard is going to fit into that Galaxy team.
Mendola: Lampard. Honestly, it feels like Lampard has more left in the tank, or at least in his legs. Maybe it all comes down to who finishes more, Nemec and Villa or Keane and Zardes, but I think Lampard is better at this stage in his career.
Lynch: Lampard’s great form for Manchester City carries over to New York City.
Day: Both will be coming off Premier League seasons, so I wouldn’t expect very quick impacts, but over the course of the year, I see David Villa and Lampard combining to create the best attacking combo in MLS, with the Chelsea great enjoying top-notch performances.
Bonn: Gerrard is beyond his best and Lampard is looking sluggish down the stretch after a full year in the Premier League. Father Time has stricken both, but Lampard still has more left in the tank. I like him more once he returns from England.

Greater points tally — New York City FC or Orlando City SC?

JPW: New York City FC. Having the likes of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Mix around will win you plenty of points. I’m pretty confident Jason Kreis’ boys will make the playoffs.
Edwards: New York City FC. The trust I have in Jason Kreis outweighs the questions that come with the Frank Lampard saga, but only by a little.
Mendola: New York City FC. And they’ll make the playoffs.
Lynch: New York City FC. I fully expect to see a playoff game at Yankee Stadium this season.
Day: New York City FC has the greater point tally. I don’t think Orlando will have that flashy of a regular season, but in the playoffs, their Designated Players will start to flourish in critical situations.
Bonn: Liking NYCFC. They may be somewhat even through the first half, but Lampard will make a significant difference.

[ WATCH: Diskerud hits a screamer from 20 yards ]

Will Toronto FC (finally) make the playoffs?

JPW: Yes. 100 percent. Gulp… I hope I’m right but with players like they have, it’s difficult to see them not making it and going deep.
Edwards: No. 3 seed behind the Crew and Revolution.
Mendola: Yes.
Lynch: This is the year, Toronto. Jozy Altidore scores some big goals and Toronto FC find themselves in the postseason.
Day: Toronto is poised to be a big contender in the East because I think the additions of Jozy and Giovinco will also help spur Bradley’s play, making for an especially dynamic group.
Bonn: Absolutely. They’re much better put together this time around. They might sputter early, but they’ll get it together.

[ REPORT: Orlando City using Kaka to lure Mario Balotelli to MLS ]

source:
Joze Altidore, Toronto FC

Jozy Altidore — over/under Jermain Defoe’s 2014 goal tally (11 in 19 games)?

JPW: Over. Jozy will rip it up.
Edwards: Over, by nearly 10.
Mendola: Over, if only because Giovinco and Bradley will be in Toronto all year, and Defoe had to deal with the World Cup absence of Bradley.
Lynch: Jozy Altidore finds the form that made him one of America’s most feared strikers, and scores at least 15 times for Toronto.
Day: Very close if you’re looking at the number goals per game. But Jozy will probably play a few more games, and I expect his tally to be around 20.
Bonn: Over. In the first half of the season.

[ WATCH: Bradley, Giovinco combine for Altidore’s first TFC goal ]

More goals/assists combined — Kaka or Sebastian Giovinco?

JPW: Giovinco. I still think he’s an incredible addition and will become a star of MLS for many years to come.
Edwards: Kaka. Caveat: If healthy, Kaka is the 2015 MVP. Let’s not forget this is the 2007 World Player of the Year, arguably the best player in the world for a time.
Mendola: Giovinco. Sorry, Kaka fans, but as bizarre as this sounds he has far more to prove this season.
Lynch: Giovinco is teaming up with Michael Bradley in the midfield and Jozy Altidore up top, while Kaka is walking into a brand new club. I’ll take the Italian, and look for Giovinco’s name to be near the top of the MVP discussion  as well.
Day: Giovinco. The ex-Juve man will work well with Jozy and Bradley, while Kaka will tend to be more of a one-man show.
Bonn: Giovinco. Kaka is nice but, at his age, nowhere near a Sebastian Giovinco in his prime.

Who misses the playoffs in the West?

JPW: Colorado, Vancouver, FC Dallas and San Jose.
Edwards: Colorado, San Jose, Houston and Real Salt Lake.
Mendola: San Jose, Colorado, Portland and Houston.
Lynch: San Jose, Colorado, Real Salt Lake and Vancouver.
Day: San Jose, Houston, FC Dallas and Colorado.
Bonn: San Jose, Vancouver, Colorado, Portland. Tough pick here. Will be very, very tight.

First head coach fired

JPW: Tough to say. I’m thinking Colorado continue to struggle and Pablo Mastreoni will be out. Legend of MLS, but not sure the Rapids will flourish once again this season.
Edwards: Frank Klopas in Montreal. Joey Saputo has the track record for having a quick trigger finger, and if Klopas don’t make the playoffs in the East, he’s out.
Mendola: Caleb Porter. I’m kidding, because I don’t think Portland will pull the trigger during another disappointing year. i think there’s something to be said for no one being fired this season. Lot of new faces, lot of established ones. Jesse Marsch?
Lynch: Ben Olsen’s entire playing and coaching career has been in the nation’s capital, but if DC United start slow, he could be the first to go.
Day: We’ll see if any team sinks way below expectations that warrants a quickly-decided firing, but by the end of the season, it may be Fire coach Frank Yallop under scrutiny.
Bonn: Frank Klopas is going to struggle at Montreal, and I think he’s the first to go.

USMNT striker Sargent out for rest of 2019

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American forward Josh Sargent will be shut down for the rest of 2019 thanks to a groin injury.

Werder Bremen said the injury first arose during USMNT duty and has bothered the 19-year-old in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sargent has two goals and three assists in 13 matches this season, playing mostly a center forward or primary striker role.

Here’s Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt:

“Since this is a small, deep-set muscle, the problems only occur at certain, very specific loads, which is why he was able to play and train for so long with problems. We will now give Josh’s injury time to properly heal, then he will get back to training in January.”

There are four more match days in the Bundesliga before the league goes on holiday break until mid-January.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone. Might it be this guy? Better than the alternatives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank Everton for existing so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

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Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.

MLS teams no longer will play every opponent each season

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer’s tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Nashville opens Feb. 29 at home against Atlanta and David Beckham’s Inter Miami starts March 1 at Los Angeles, the league said Thursday in announcing all home openers. Defending champion Seattle opens March 1 against Chicago.

Other Feb. 29 openers are Colorado at D.C., New England at Montreal, LA Galaxy at Houston, Toronto at San Jose, Philadelphia at Dallas, Salt Lake at Orlando and Kansas City at Vancouver. Games the following day include New York City at Columbus, Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls and Minnesota at Portland.

Home openers on March 7 are Chicago at New England, Red Bulls at Salt Lake, NYC at Toronto, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Houston at Kansas City, Orlando at Colorado and Vancouver at LA Galaxy. Four more home openers are set for March 14: Dallas at NYC, LA Galaxy at Miami, D.C. at Cincinnati and San Jose at Philadelphia.

The final home openers are Red Bulls at Minnesota on March 15 and Atlanta at Chicago on March 21 as the Fire return downtown to Soldier Field, their home from 1997-2005. The played in suburban Bridgeview from 2006 through last season.

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