MLS preview: Red Bulls vs. Revs, NYCFC vs. Toronto FC headline Week 19

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Week 19 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, and though the Gold Cup is ongoing and the MLS schedule continues to roll right along as if nothing anywhere else is happening, this weekend’s games aren’t looking so bad. There’s playoff-team-on-playoff-team action everywhere you look.

Predictions record through Week 18: 30-37

So, if you’re to watch just four MLS games this weekend — who am I to tell you to watch only four games? — might I suggest the following four:

New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution (Saturday, 7 pm ET, MLS Live)

The Revs are hurting — I mean, hurting — without Jermaine Jones in the lineup. They’ve lost four straight by a combined score of 9-3. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are recently off a four-game losing streak of their own, though results have been mixed ever since.

With five of the 10 defenders on their roster unavailable due to injuries and international call-ups, the Red Bulls will have to get creative at one of the full back spots in this one. This should be a wide open game with lots of chances on the counter going either way. I actually like the Revs, because for all that Jones means to them, the rest of the roster is still intact.

Prediction: Red Bulls 1-2 Revs

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New York City FC vs. Toronto FC (Sunday, 3 pm ET, ESPN)

NYCFC have won four out of five, while TFC got hammered last weekend by the LA Galaxy, 4-0. No Michael Bradley and no Jozy Altidore (international duty) means the onus of not only scoring goals, but driving the game, falls squarely on the shoulders of Sebastian Giovinco, who’s scored just once in his last four games.

Fortunately for the Reds, NYCFC’s greatest weakness is still the area of the field in which Giovinco and Benoit Cheyrou operate, which means they’ve got a chance. That said, David Villa is in stunning form (five goals in four games) as he’s been healthy for more than two months straight. Advantage NYCFC, though who know’s what can happen on the ping-pong pitch at Yankee Stadium.

Prediction: NYCFC 2-1 TFC

[ MORE: USA 2-1 Honduras | Three things | Player ratings | Slow start for USMNT ]

Orlando City SC vs. FC Dallas (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

After losing just once in their last eight league games, expansion side Orlando City find themselves all the way up in third place in the Eastern Conference. That’s pretty remarkable, really, considering that the Seattle Sounders (2009) were the only expansion team to qualify for the playoffs in the last decade.

While the Lions are once again decimated by injuries (Aurelien Collin, Brek Shea and Kevin Molino), international call-ups (Cyle Larin and Darwin Ceren) and red cards (Kaka), Adrian Heath’s bunch continues to roll right along. This will, however, be their first voyage without Kaka since they entered the league. FCD haven’t conceded a goal in nearly 200 minutes, which doesn’t bode well for what is sure to be an impotent Lions attack.

Prediction: Orlando City 0-2 FCD

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City (Sunday, 9 pm ET, MLS Live)

While Sporting KC have been one of the best teams in MLS over the last two months, this is a matchup that just sets up horribly for Peter Vermes’ side. Not only will they be without starters Graham Zusi and Marcel de Jong (international duty), but the Whitecaps are a juggernaut at home and will almost certainly look to exploit Sporting’s rookie third-string left back Amadou Dia with the pace of Kekuta Manneh and Cristian Techera.

For as dynamic as the ‘Caps are going forward, they’ve actually give up the sixth-fewest goals this season (19 in 19 games). Of course, Sporting have conceded the fewest (17). It won’t be a spectacle of exciting soccer, but #VANvSKC will ultimately play out as an interesting tactical battle between Vermes and Carl Robinson.

Prediction: Whitecaps 1-0 Sporting KC

Reyna, Busio headline U.S. U-17 squad for CONCACAF Championships

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Two of the top teen-aged talents the U.S. has ever produced will be wearing the red, white, and blue next month at the 2019 CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s Championship.

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Raphael Wicky announced his 20-man squad for the upcoming tournament, set to take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It’s a small irony, as this is the first year without the residency program that was housed on the IMG Academy property.

The U.S. squad is led by Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio and the son of USMNT legend, Claudio Reyna, Giovanni, who is reportedly set to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy officially in the coming months. Also included in this squad is FC Dallas youngster Ricardo Pepi, who already has four goals in USL League One this season. Another forward, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is coming into the camp in red-hot form, having scored a hat-trick and helped lead his Seattle Sounders to the GA Cup title.

Griffin Yow just made his full D.C. United debut, and Las, just 17, has already reportedly attracted attention from Europe.

Here’s a look at the U.S. roster.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.; 13/0), 12-Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alta.; 4/0)
DEFENDERS (7): 4-Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 14/0), 3-Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 11/0), 13-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), 14-Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 10/0), 5-Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 14/1), 2-Joseph Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 14/1), 15-John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 7-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greensboro, N.C.; 7/2), 20-Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.; 13/0), 8-Bryang Kayo (D.C. United; Poolesville, Md.; 0/0), 6-Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.; 0/0), 16-Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 17/1)
FORWARDS (6): 18-Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.; 0/0), 17-Tyler Freeman (Sporting Kansas City; Shawnee, Kan.; 3/1), 19-Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance; Kent, Wash.; 14/5), 9-Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC; McKinney, Texas; 6/1), 10-Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 8/1), 11-Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 6/3)

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man City preparing $79 million bid this summer; Bale to leave Real Madrid

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Pep Guardiola has identified the successor to Fernandinho, and he’s convinced Manchester City to break the bank to acquire him.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Per a report in The Telegraph, Manchester City is preparing a transfer bid of nearly $79 million to sign Atletico Madrid central midfielder Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, better known as Rodri. In his first season in Madrid, the 22-year-old has made 28 La Liga starts along with six in the UEFA Champions League, anchoring the second-place Atletico Madrid midfield.

In addition to his defensive duties, he’s also scored a pair of goals this season.

If true, Rodri’s transfer will break Man City’s previous record when it signed Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for almost $78 million.

Fernandinho continues to be a world class holding midfielder, but coming up on 34-years old, he’s surely coming up on time when he won’t be able to cover as much ground as he used to. With Rodri in tow, Fernandinho can slowly take a reserve role in the team, or move to another club for one last big contract.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe:

(more…)

USMNT’s Brooks scores equalizer for Wolfsburg

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John Brooks is enjoying a career year for Wolfsburg, and he just added another highlight to his strong season.

Brooks, running up in the attack in a rare foray forward, tapped home into an empty net to save Wolfsburg a point at home in its 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. It was Brooks’ third goal of the season and second in the last two months.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The U.S. Men’s National Team centerback has played and started 29 times this season for Wolfsburg, the most games he’s ever played in a single season in Germany’s top tier. Brooks started alongside Aaron Long in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador in Orlando in late March, and could play a key role for the USMNT this summer at the Gold Cup, unless coach Gregg Berhalter decides to let him rest this summer.

Season over: Hudson-Odoi suffers suspected Achilles tear

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One incident on Monday showed why some players are so desperate to change clubs when given the chance. They may never get it again.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Callum Hudson-Odoi said on his Instagram post Monday evening that he had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. If confirmed by the club, it’s usually a nine-month recovery process, with some players needing a full year to return to full fitness. Considering the timing of this, towards the end of the season, it means that Hudson-Odoi may miss an entire season of top-flight soccer, as well as possibly miss out on a chance to move to Bayern Munich this summer.

The injury is a huge blow to the 18-year-old, who had forced his way into the Chelsea side after strong performances in the UEFA Europa League, and now he’s making regular Premier League starts at the tender age of 18. Hudson-Odoi had started four-straight Premier League games including Monday, but now he faces a long layoff.

In Hudson-Odoi’s favor is his youth. While it can be a career-ending injury, hopefully Hudson-Odoi could retain his electric pace once he recovers and can return to the starting lineup for Chelsea.

But it’s a big disappointment to the young Englishman, who surely would have played for England youth national teams this summer and could have potentially made a big-money move abroad.