Amid all the noise, United States coach Jill Ellis got the tactics right on Tuesday

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MONTREAL – If you subscribe to the theory that fortune favors the bold, then inductive reasoning would prove that on Tuesday.

United States coach Jill Ellis switched up her team’s system against world No. 1 Germany in the 2015 Women’s World Cup semifinal and it worked to perfection, leading the Americans to a 2-0 victory and a second straight trip to the World Cup final.

Ellis faced major lineup decisions coming into this game, the answers to which would define this World Cup for the United States.

On the surface, what Ellis did on Tuesday may not seem overly risky. She played what many viewed in the walkup to the match as her best possible lineup against Germany, managing to get central midfielders Morgan Brian, Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday all on the field at once.

But Ellis has received immense criticism for her decisions at this World Cup and in the buildup to it. She started 35-year-old Abby Wambach in three of the first four matches of the tournament. She tried playing Lloyd – her best attacking central midfielder, as once again evidenced at this tournament – as a wide midfielder in the spring. And at times early in this tournament, the Americans intentionally stuck to a more direct style of play.

[KASSOUF: Formation changes pay off in epic semifinal]

Ellis is unapologetic about marching to her own beat. She says she doesn’t read what is written about her or her team in the media. She doesn’t have Twitter. She operates within the team’s “bubble,” which she and players speak of frequently.

“In terms of what’s out there, yeah, I don’t know what’s out there,” Ellis said on Monday regarding criticism of her and her team.

What was out there up until last Friday was largely negative. The Americans were winning, but they were winning ugly in a way that everyone – even they – knew wouldn’t be good enough against the world’s best teams.

U.S. players weren’t immune to that. They acknowledged all last week that they were playing below their standards.

In Friday’s quarterfinal victory over China, Ellis was forced to make changes due to the suspensions of Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, and the U.S. boss pushed all the right buttons. She did exactly that again on Tuesday, playing Lloyd in a withdrawn forward role behind Alex Morgan and letting Brian and Holiday sit underneath in more defensive “No. 6” roles.

It’s a system that the United States has barely used. It was implemented in the final 20 minutes of the round-of-16 victory over Colombia last week, but that was the first time using is since a trip to Brazil in December. So to turn to it in a World Cup semifinal against Germany – in a matchup of the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams – was bold, no matter how you slice it.

“You live and die by these decisions as coaches,” Wambach concisely said after Tuesday’s win. Even benching Wambach – the world’s all-time leading scorer – the past two games is a move that takes guts.

The United States women were spectacular on Tuesday, putting in a convincing 90-minute performance that most outside of their bubble wouldn’t have thought possible the way they played early in this tournament. But Tuesday was vintage United States, back to the days when the Americans took the initiative, pressed teams and shoved the result down their throats.

That energy set the tone for the game, and Germany looked rattled from the start, settling for poor shots from distance that never tested U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who only had to make one save on an early shanked cross.

Germany entered the match with a tournament-high 20 goals and 134 shots. The U.S. won the battle, however, extending its shutout streak to the nearly immortal mark of 513 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal.

Luck was certainly on the side of the Americans. Defender Julie Johnston was only shown a yellow card for denying a goal-scoring opportunity in the 59th minute. By the letter of the law, she should have been shown a red card, but the yellow allowed the U.S. to carry on with 11 players, and Celia Sasic missed the penalty kick after a lengthy delay of gamesmanship from Solo. Eight minutes later, the entire game changed. Morgan drew a penalty kick, Lloyd buried it and the rest is history.

“The rule says yes, but she didn’t get a red card,” Germany coach Silvia Neid said. She added that she is “very sad” that the game-winning goal came on a penalty kick that arguably should have been a free kick outside of the box (“My first reaction was I already wanted to build the wall,” Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer said. “Then I was a little bit confused that it was a penalty.”). However incongruous the statements, Neid said she wasn’t making any excuses despite the controversial decisions by referee Teodora Albon.

But Ellis made the crux of the argument in one short statement in the minutes that followed. Were the decisions questionable? Absolutely.

“Between the 18[-yard-boxes], we were a very good team,” Ellis said.

That’s the heart of it. The United States is finally playing its best soccer, peaking at the time when they told everyone they would, even though the evidence was slow to materialize.

Ellis, for all the criticism she takes – even if she is truly oblivious to it – deserves credit for making the necessary moves to get this team going over the past five days, even if it did take a while to do.

Sure, Ellis’ hand was forced against China due to suspension. Sure, a little bit of luck was on the Americans’ side against Germany. But Ellis got it right for the second straight time on Tuesday, and the U.S. has caught fire heading into the World Cup final.

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 all set to miss out for Roy Hodgson’s Eagles.

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).


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

Brighton – Manchester United: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Brighton – Manchester United: Impressive Brighton and Hove Albion hopes to continue Manchester United’s winless league season when the Red Devils visit the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

It will be the first two meetings in several days, as Brighton’s win at Preston North End and United’s takedown of Luton Town set up a League Cup fourth round date at the Amex.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

United handled Brighton well last season, winning 3-1 and 3-0, so this will be a great test at the acumen of both managers: Graham Potter in his second full season with the Seagulls and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempting to prove his doubters wrong.


Team news: Brighton – Manchester United (INJURY REPORT)

The Seagulls will not have Yves Bissouma, who was suspended three matches for his no-look, studs-up kick into the face of Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis. Brighton manager Graham Potter revealed that the long-term recovery of Jose Izquierdo is about two weeks away from being complete.

Manchester United will be without Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones.


What they’re saying

Potter on the League Cup win setting up consecutive Man United tests: “It’s a big week for us with those two matches and then Everton before the international break. That’s what we wanted because we wanted to go through in this competition. Players always want to play and the best thing for them is to be out on the field on nights like tonight to keep everyone in the group ready for when they’re needed. You saw that today. There was a willingness to run and fight for the team and get the result and that’s why I’m very happy.”

United’s Solskjaer after goalkeeper Dean Henderson starred on his senior debut: “The goalkeeping department and training level has been really high, of course, you can see driven and dedicated people and I’ve enjoyed watching them. Dean in goal, good save, you can see he’s having to concentrate and it’s a different job to what he’s done a few times last season and he came up with the save when he had to.”

League Cup results
LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Dean Henderson of Manchester United saves a shot at Kenilworth Road (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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

Brighton is +375 to win at home, while a draw nets the wagerer +260. Manchester United is expected to win and thusly -130 to take all three points.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Brighton – Manchester United prediction

The only thing keeping us from pegging a very impressive Brighton team to collect another win is the shadow cast by Manchester United’s 2019-20 season (and long tradition of winning). United was rusty in its loss to Crystal Palace and had to work hard to defeat Luton Town in the League Cup. If that rust was there last week, how do the legs feel after a week? Anyway, the Red Devils still have Bruno Fernandes and it just doesn’t seem like this team starts 0-2 (or even 0-1-1). I grimace as I write 2-1 to Manchester United.


How to watch Brighton – Manchester United stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Lampard gushes after Thiago Silva debut, Havertz hat trick

Frank Lampard reaction
Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Chelsea rebounded from its weekend loss to Liverpool by getting the good vibes going through a number of new faces Wednesday in a League Cup blowout of Barnsley.

Kai Havertz scored three times, Ben Chilwell came off the bench to chip in an assist on debut, and Thiago Silva went 60 minutes in his first match in a Chelsea shirt as the Blues pounded the Championship side 6-0.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

We’ll start with the longtime PSG defender, who had four clearances, an interception, and a tackle while winning both of his duels.

He passed at 94 percent including six-of-seven long balls. Even accounting for the competition, that’s solid.

Lampard called Silva’s outing “a perfect 60 minutes” via Football.London:

“He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others,” Lampard said. “He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight. Yes, I am very very pleased with Thiago. It is what I expected of a player of his level but it is very refreshing to have him here at the club.”

ProSoccerTalk talked about Chelsea’s need for a leader at the back during this week’s “Unfiltered,” and Lampard has clearly been waiting for someone like Silva.

As for Havertz, you only needed the box score to see his influence on the game.

Two of Havertz’s three goals were assisted by Tammy Abraham and a third from Mason Mount.

The German phenom also racked up five tackles and two key passes against Barnsley.

“He makes the recovery tackle for Ross (Barkley)’s goal, but then to also just have some freedom on the ball in central areas roaming behind Tammy,” Lampard said. “The combinations he had with Tammy, the way he grew into the game and had confidence and the three goals. It was a great night for Kai and the first of many for him.”

Havertz scored seven braces for Bayer Leverkusen, but this was his first hat trick. Barnsley may play in the second tier, but they had allowed three goals in their last four games.

Whoops.

Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
Photos by Amy Sussman/Getty Images and Jim Spellman/WireImage
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1864 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.