Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Watford


After a second place finish in the Championship last season, Watford is back in the Premier League for just the third time in club history. Unfortunately, in the Hornets’ previous two PL campaigns (1999-00, 2006-07), the club finished in dead last and was sent immediately back to the second tier.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

This time around, the Hornets will look to avoid relegation and stay in the top flight, and they’ve been making moves this summer. Quique Flores was named manager in June, and the club has brought in plenty of talent in the transfer window, including the signing of Etienne Capoue from Tottenham Hotspur for a club record transfer fee.

Watford’s biggest fan is Sir Elton John, who had two stints as club chairman and is now an Honorary Life President at Vicarage Road. The Hornets have a long-standing rivalry with League Two’s Luton Town, but in the Premier League their closest rivals will be the London clubs.

Best possible XI:

— Gomes —

— Nyom — Prodl — Cathcart — Holebas —

— Capoue — Behrami —

— Abdi — Ighalo — Jurado —

— Deeney —

Transfers in: Allan Nyom (Free, Udinese), Sebastian Prodl (Free, Werder Bremen), Etienne Capoue ($10 million, Tottenham), Steven Berghuis ($7 million, AZ Alkmaar), Valon Behrami ($4 million, Hamburg), Jose Manuel Jurado ($9.5 million, Spartak Moscow), Jose Holebas ($2.75 million, Roma), Miguel Britos (Free, Napoli), Giedrius Arlauskis (Free, Steaua Bucuresti)

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club ]

Transfers out: Jonathan Bond (Undisclosed, Reading), Uche Ikpeazu (Loan, Port Vale), Lewis McGugan ($475,000, Sheffield Wednesday)

Troy Deeney will be to go-to guy for Watford once again this season.

Last season: Second in the Championship –Watford finished with the most wins in the Championship, but ended the season a point behind Bournemouth for the top spot. However, this is a much different team than last year, as the Hornets have brought in a handful of new summer signings as well as a new manager. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo combined for 41 goals last season, which accounted for nearly half of the team’s total offense.

Star player: Troy Deeney — Deeney is the club’s captain and leading goalscorer, having tallied at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons, the first player to do so in Watford history. The striker had a few Premier League teams looking to buy his services this summer, but he penned a new five-year deal to stay at Vicarage Road. The 27-year-old has worked his way up the ranks of English football, and he will have to continue his goalscoring ways if Watford is to have a shot at avoiding relegation.

Quique Flores is entering his first season in charge at Watford.

Coaches’ Corner: Quique Flores became Watford’s fifth manager in a year when he replaced Slavisa Jokanovic in June. Jokanovic had earned the Hornets Premier League promotion, but left the club after the two sides failed to work out a new contract. Flores comes in after a short stint at Spanish side Getafe, and has no experience managing in England. However, he led Atletico Madrid to a Europa League title in 2010, so he does know how to win on the big stage.

PST predicts: It’s going to be a tall order for Watford to survive in the Premier League, but the Hornets could be one of the surprise stories of the season. With a new manager and so many new players, it’s hard to get a read on how they’ll perform in the most competitive league in the world. The Hornets will likely be hovering around the relegation zone, but this could be the year they survive the drop.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.


“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.

Clark County “declines to prosecute” Ronaldo for rape

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not face sexual assault charges for a June 2009 incident in the United States, attorneys say.

An American woman filed a civil lawsuit against the Juventus superstar last year, claiming that Ronaldo forced himself upon her while she was in a prone position in his hotel room.

[ MORE: Bayern keen on Zaha ]

Ronaldo had expressed belief that he would be cleared of the claims, and claimed that graphic documents produced by German publication Der Spiegel were altered and fabricated.

Las Vegas police issued a warrant in a bid to get Ronaldo’s DNA, and the DA’s office says the woman’s refusal to name her attacker stopped them for collecting “vital evidence.” The woman reached a civil settlement with Ronaldo in 2010.


“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the D.A.’s office said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”