MLS Week 2 preview: Timbers vs. Galaxy, Crew SC vs. Toronto FC headline 8-game weekend

Leave a comment

Week 2 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season kicks off Friday night, as the Houston Dynamo host Orlando City SC (more on that game in a bit) at BBVA Compass Stadium, and finishes up with the defending champions visiting Providence Park to face the Portland Timbers (again, more on that in a bit).

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]

Predictions record in Week 1: 5-1

If you’re to watch just five games this weekend — not that you’re limited to five, of course — might I recommend the following five:

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

Caleb Porter vs. Bruce Arena — of all the head coaches in MLS, perhaps no two have the personality and bravado of the young grasshopper (Porter) and old master (Arena). Pervious matchups between the two have given us timeless gems like this beauty.

On the field, the Galaxy are somewhat in transition after last year’s MLS Cup triumph and Landon Donovan’s retirement. They labored to a 2-0 victory over Chicago on opening night, but never, ever looked like losing. Meanwhile, Darlington Nagbe impressed as the Timbers’s attacking focal point in a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake last weekend. How Juninho tracks Nagbe’s varying positions and runs will be a telling battle on one end, while Robbie Keane looks to drop into midfield and exploit a unit missing Will Johnson (broken leg) and a questionable Diego Chara (calf).

Prediction: Timbers 1-1 Galaxy

Columbus Crew SC vs. Toronto FC (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

If there’s one game this weekend that has the potential to turn into a shootout, it’s this one. For starters, TFC put three past Vancouver last week, away from home. Also, there’s the matter of Crew SC midfielder Tony Tchani being suspended for this game, which leaves a massive hole in front of the Crew defense. Think Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley might try to exploit that? Yeah, probably.

The Crew could have/should have put three or four past Houston last week (also away from home), so they’ll have their fair share of chances as well.

Prediction: Crew SC 2-2 TFC

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

A pair of sides with frightening attacking units and solid-to-good defenses, but still trying to figure things out in the midfield. Balance is important, as always, and while FCD and Sporting KC work to figure that one out, we’ll enjoy a wide open game with plenty of chances each way.

While Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza figure out how to coexist in the same midfield, Mauro Diaz seems a safe bet to have a huge game pulling the strings for FCD, providing plenty of chances for Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo.

Prediction: FCD 2-1 Sporting KC

Houston Dynamo vs. Orlando City SC (Friday, 7 pm ET, UniMas)

This one is sure to be a cagey affair as both sides struggled to create chances in Week 1, but a single goal opens the game up for both teams. Owen Coyle may be the man in charge these days, but the gameplan is still very much the same for Houston: attack down the flanks.

How Brek Shea, who’s played only a handful of games at left back, deals with Boniek Garcia will be a deciding factor. On the other hand, Boniek will have his hands full, protecting Kofi Sarkodie, as Shea surges forward time and again.

Prediction: Dynamo 1-0 Orlando

Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)

The Earthquakes deserved something from their 1-0 loss to FCD last week. They really did. They were the better team for 92 minutes, looked extremely organized in defense and broke quickly on the counter. That’s the hallmark of a Dom Kinnear-coached team, and they’ll be much better this season for it.

Those components will be of the utmost importance this week as they hope to slow down the Sounders’ potent attack, which was in mid-season form in Week 1. And in that endeavor, good luck to them.

Prediction: Sounders 2-0 Earthquakes

Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

Europa League
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City and Chelsea still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League Round of 16 second legs will take place before mini tournaments begin.

Man City lead Real Madrid 2-1 from their first leg in Spain, while Chelsea trail Bayern 3-0 as they head to Germany for the return game. Man United are all but in the quarterfinals, while Wolves are favored to make the Europa quarters too.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Round of 16 at home venues; Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
Friday, August 7: Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid (2-1)
Friday, August 7: Juventus 2-1 Lyon (0-1)
Saturday, August 8: Barcelona 3-1 Napoli (1-1)
Saturday, August 8: Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea (3-0)


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
Copenhagen 1-2 Istanbul Basaksehir
Wolves 2-0 Olympiakos
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Rangers
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Wolfsburg
Basel 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Manchester United 3-1 LASK
Inter Milan 3-0 Getafe
Sevilla 1-3 Roma


Champions League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
(-139) Manchester City v. Real Madrid (+320). Tie: +340
(-230) Juventus v. Lyon (+650). Tie: +340
(-150) Barcelona v. Napoli (+400). Tie: +300
(-250) Bayern Munich v. Chelsea (+650). Tie: +410

Quarterfinals (August 12-13)
(+200) Atalanta v. Paris Saint-Germain (+120). Tie: +285
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+133). Tie: 220

Outright winner
Manchester City (+350)
Bayern Munich (+365)
Paris Saint-Germain (+450)
Atletico Madrid (+700)
Atalanta (+950)
Barcelona (+1100)
RB Leipzig (+1500)
Juventus (+1700)


Europa League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
(+155) Copenhagen v. Istanbul Basaksehir (+180). Tie: +235
(-134) Wolves v. Olympiakos (+390). Tie: +260
(-162) Bayer Leverkusen v. Rangers (+410). Tie: +310
(+135) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Wolfsburg (+185). Tie: +265
(+155) Basel v. Eintracht Frankfurt (+155). Tie: +275
(-455) Manchester United v. LASK (+1200). Tie: +550
(-143) Inter Milan v. Getafe (+385). Tie: +285
(+110) Sevilla v. Roma (+270). Tie: +230

Outright winner
Manchester United (+160)
Inter Milan (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+700)
Wolves (+800)
Sevilla (+900)

Europa League: Man United, Inter Milan advance to QF

Europa League Man United
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Results from the round of 16 in the Europa League: Man United and Inter Milan advanced to the quarterfinals on Wednesday…

[MORE: Man City sign Nathan Ake from Bournemouth ]

Man United 2 (7)-1 (1) LASK

Manchester United had a virtually insurmountable advantage following their first-leg demolition of Austrian side LASK, which gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the freedom to rotate his team ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford.

Philipp Wiesinger opened the scoring not long before the hour mark, and did so in spectacular — if understated — fashion. LASK’s free kick was initially headed out of the penalty area, but the ball fell to Wiesinger with not a single red shirt within 10 yards. The first-time rocket he unleashed couldn’t have been placed any better.

United hit back through Jesse Lingard just two minutes later, though, restoring the five-goal lead and ruining any dreams of a miraculous comeback at the Theater of Dreams. Anthony Martial added to the lopsided final scoreline in the 88th.

United will face Danish side Copenhagen in the quarterfinals on Monday, Aug. 10.

[ MORE: Report: Arsenal offer Willian three-year deal ]

Inter Milan 2-0 Getafe

The first and only leg (due to the previous coronavirus shutdowns in Italy and Spain) of Inter Milan’s last-16 clash with Getafe was played at Schalke’s Veltins-Arena, and Romelu Lukaku proved to be the hero of the day for Antonio Conte’s side as he bagged the game’s opening goal in the 33rd minute. After getting on the end of Alessandro Bastoni’s long ball forward, Lukaku put his left foot through the ball and snuck it just inside the far post.

Super-duper sub Christian Eriksen sealed Inter’s place in the quarterfinals, where they’ll face Rangers or Bayer Leverkusen, with a cool second-chance finish in the 83rd minute.

Other Europa League scores

Copenhagen 3 (3)-0 (1) Istanbul Basaksehir
Shakhtar Donetsk 3 (5)-1 (1) Wolfsburg

Thursday’s Europa League schedule

Sevilla v. Roma — 12:55 pm ET
Bayern Leverkusen (3) v. Rangers (1) — 12:55 pm ET
Wolverhampton Wanderers (1) v. Olympiacos (1) — 3 pm ET
Basel (3) v. Eintracht Frankfurt (0) — 3 pm ET

Man City sign Nathan Ake from Bournemouth

Man City sign Nathan Ake
Photo credit: Man City
Leave a comment

Man City sign Nathan Ake from Bournemouth: Another day, another potentially transformative signing for Pep Guardiola and Co., as they reload for their quest to reclaim the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Report: Arsenal offer Willian three-year deal ]

Ake joins Man City after four hugely successful seasons at Bournemouth, which initially took him on loan from Chelsea in 2016 before making the deal permanent for $26 million a year later. With the Cherries relegated from the PL this season, Ake was always going to leave the Vitality Stadium for top-tier pastures.

The transfer fee is said to be in the neighborhood of $52 million, which makes the 25-year-old a relative steal in comparison to fees now being paid for center backs around Europe. Given he has ample experience in the PL, and earned much of it playing in a side that favored a hugely expansive possession style of soccer, Ake should gain Guardiola’s trust and favor rather quickly as we begin to look toward the 2020-21 season.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Gabriel to Arsenal; Lewis to Liverpool ]

John Stones has mostly struggled to impress and raise his level to that of City since moving to the Etihad Stadium in 2016, leaving Guardiola with a serious need at center back alongside Aymeric Laporte. Midfielder Fernandinho was regularly deputized in recent seasons, but that will no longer be necessary with one of the 10-12 best central defenders in the world arriving this summer.

Report: Arsenal offer Willian three-year deal

Arsenal offer Willian
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal offer Willian three-year deal to join on free transfer: According to multiple reports out of the UK, the Gunners have made the soon-to-be former Chelsea winger a very high priority in the opening hours and days of the summer/fall transfer window of 2020.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Gabriel to Arsenal; Lewis to Liverpool ]

With other interest reportedly coming from Barcelona and MLS side Inter Miami, Willian undoubtedly has options as a free agent following the expiration of his Chelsea contract. According to Sky Sports, the weekly wages offered by Arsenal are “still some way short” of those coming from Barca and Miami.

The 31-year-old is said to have been open to remaining at Stamford Bridge, but he was only offered a two-year contract to do so, prompting him to explore possibilities elsewhere.

Despite starting the season at 30 and turning 31 in September, Willian put together his best season for the Blues, at least statistically speaking, in 2019-20. The Brazilian tallied nine goals and seven assists (in 36 appearances) in Premier League action, plus another pair of goals and an assist between the Champions League and FA Cup.

[ MORE: Premier League transfers: Every deal from all 20 clubs ]

Factoring in their willingness to give him the third year he clearly desires, in order to secure his earning power until he’s 35, Arsenal could very well be favorites to land Willian.

Let’s say they’re offering $150,000 per week, which comes out to a little over $7.8 million per year, bringing the grand total to more than $23 million over three years. Even if Barca have offered $200,000 per week for just the two seasons, the total package falls roughly $4 million short over the life of the respective offers. Sure, Willian could take the gamble of the shorter, more lucrative offer and then be available for another move in the summer of 2022, but such a decision would come without the added security given he’ll be 34 years old at the time and could see his abilities and production fall off dramatically.