Five reasons you should watch five MLS games tonight

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Soccer — you just can’t get enough of it, can you?

As the 2015 calendar years wears on and winds down, so too does the 2015 Major League Soccer season. The regular season — which feels like it began just last week, by the way — is very much into its final stretch, as some teams have played as many as 25 games (though, not all teams), meaning the countdown to playoffs is either in or nearing single digits.

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With that in mind, each and every game the rest of the way carries an added tinge of importance. With five MLS games slated for Saturday, Aug. 15 (fire up those MLS Live accounts), here’s five reasons to watch all of them:

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC (7 pm ET, MLS Live)

It would be cheating if I said, “Sebastian Giovinco — enough said,” right here, wouldn’t it? Probably, but this is my workspace, so I can do that. Seriously, watch this guy. He’s scored 16 goals (you can watch them all, right here, in 60 seconds flat) and tallied 11 assists in his first 22 MLS games. The Red Bulls’ defense has given up the third-fewest goals in MLS this season (25), so this will be a tough test for the Atomic Ant. Do yourself a favor: watch this game and find out what all the Giovinco hype is about.

New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

OK, admittedly pinpointing one particular reason to watch this game is significantly more difficult than what we encountered above. So here’s what we’ll go with: major playoff position jockeying in both conferences. The Revs, currently fifth in the East on 31 points, are just five points behind the second-place Red Bulls. The Dynamo, currently seventh in the West on 31 points, are a single point behind the Portland Timbers for the other conference’s sixth and final playoff place. Huge three points on the line. Huge.

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

On Friday I wrote the following in my weekly MLS preview:

Quick: name a team in MLS with a higher points per game average than Sporting KC (1.76) or the Whitecaps (1.75). That’s a trick question, because there isn’t one.

That’s a nice place to start. If PPG were extrapolated to complete a full 34-game season, these would be the first- and second-place finishers in the whole entire league. Throw in the fact that the Whitecaps are an historically lethal counter-attacking team, alongside the MVP candidate form of Benny Feilhaber (eight goals, 12 assists in 21 games), and I’m feeling extra lucky to be at Sporting Park tonight.

FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy (9 pm ET, MLS Live)

source: Getty Images
Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy

Yet again I could take the easy way out right here by saying, “all of the Galaxy’s stars,” but that would be 1) lazy, and 2) horrifically not pun-ny of me. Besides, we’re all extremely familiar with Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos. Instead, how about two teams leading MLS in terms of the “youth movement,” and having massive success while doing so? Playing alongside the above headliners are American stars (in the making) Gyasi Zardes (23) and Sebastian Lletget (22) for the Galaxy, and Fabian Castillo (23), Mauro Diaz (24), Tesho Akindele (23), Matt Hedges (25), Kellyn Acosta (20), Victor Ulloa (23) and Moises Hernandez (23) — all of whom are every-game starters — for FCD. The future of MLS is bright, and that only has so much to do with the guys making 5, 6 and $7 million a year.

[ MORE: NYCFC 3-1 DCU to kick off the weekend | PHI 1-0 CHI (USOC) | SKC 3-1 RSL (USOC) ]

Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers (10 pm ET, MLS Live)

Before the season began, I predicted the near-unthinkable: RSL would not qualify for the playoffs in 2015. Through 24 games, that prediction is looking pretty good (Jeff Cassar’s side trail the Seattle Sounders, sixth place in the West, by three points). Considering Saturday’s opponent is one the teams they’re currently chasing for a playoff place, and the fact it’s very nearly “their season is on the line” time, this is a massive game for a struggling (two wins in their last eight league games) and exhausted (fifth of five games, in 15 days, in three different countries — 1W-0D-3L thus far) Claret and Cobalt bunch.

Bournemouth – Tottenham, Everton – Southampton: Stream, how to watch

Bournemouth - Tottenham
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Bournemouth – Tottenham and Everton – Southampton take place on Thursday as the Cherries need the win to try and save themselves from relegation, while Spurs need to stay in the top four hunt. (Watch live at 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth have been awful since the restart, losing all four games, and are in deep trouble in the bottom three with a very tough run of games to end the season.

Jose Mourinho and Tottenham beat Everton 1-0 last time out and they are still in the hunt to finish in fifth place, which could be a Champions League spot.

BOURNEMOUTH – TOTTENHAM STREAM LIVE

EVERTON – SOUTHAMPTON STREAM LIVE

As for the other early game on Thursday, Everton host Southampton with just one point and one place between them. Everton sit in 11th on 44 points, while Saints are in 12th on 43 points after their shock win against Man City last weekend.

Here’s a look at the team news for the two games at 1pm ET.


Team news

Bournemouth bring back Callum Wilson as he returns from suspension, while Dan Gosling comes back into the midfield.

Tottenham bring Jan Vertonghen into central defense to replace the injured Dier, while Steven Bergwijn and Erik Lamela come into the starting lineup with Heung-min Son on the bench.

Everton bring Anthony Gordon and Yerry Mina into the team with Gylfi Sigurdsson on the bench and Mason Holgate out injured.

Ralph Hasenhuttl names the same Southampton team which beat Manchester City on Sunday, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is fit enough for a place on the bench.


 

Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

DraftKings have Tottenham (-157) as the heavy favorites at Bournemouth (+425) with the tie at +310. Anything other than a big Spurs win would be surprising but we all know the Cherries have a few shocks up their sleeves.

As for the game at Goodison, Everton have a great all-time home record against Southampton and the Toffees are the favorites (+100) but Southampton (+270) have been in sensational form away from home for most of this season. The draw at +255 looks very interesting.


How to watch Bournemouth – Tottenham stream, start time

Kickoff: 1 pm ET Wednesday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

How to watch all Premier League games

Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

MLS: Black Lives Matter protests; Nashville out due to COVID; Orlando, Philly win

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The MLS is Back tournament kicked off in Orlando, Florida over the last 24 hours and the headlines have been centered around the moving Blacks Lives Matter protests, Nashville SC leaving due to COVID-19 cases and wins for Orlando and Philadelphia.

[ MORE: MLS is Back schedule, how to watch ]

First up, the Black Lives Matter protests on Wednesday evening before the Orlando City SC v. Inter Miami CF game lasted for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

That was the length of time police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on the neck of George Floyd.

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Players from all teams got together to lead the protests, as the Black Players for Change in MLS group organized the show of solidarity for the movement.

The other main headline off the pitch is that first-year MLS team Nashville SC is heading home after nine players tested positive for COVID-19.

Reports had surfaced from The Athletic about multiple cases within the squad ahead of their arrival in Orlando and MLS commissioner Don Garber said late Wednesday a decision would be made on Nashville’s involvement in the tournament.

Sources have told ProSoccerTalk that Nashville are out of the tournament, although official confirmation has yet to arrive. If confirmed, as expected, then the tournament will now consist of 24 teams after FC Dallas were also unable to compete. Chicago would move from Group A to Group B so that all groups have four teams for the tournament.

On the pitch, the first-ever meeting between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami saw the tournament hosts win 2-1 thanks to a late winner from captain Nani. Juan Agudelo had given Miami the lead but Chris Mueller equalized off Nani’s cross before the Portuguese legend secured the win.

The first early morning game took place on Thursday as the Philadelphia Union beat New York City FC 1-0 thanks to a fine strike from captain Alejandro Bedoya. Union goalkeeper Andre Blake made a string of fine saves to deny NYCFC.

Before the game the Union players all wore the names of Black people who have been killed by police on the back of their jerseys rather than their own surnames as a moving tribute to their memory.

Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ozil to MLS

Kai Havertz to Chelsea
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In the latest transfer news the latest update on Kai Havertz to Chelsea has arrived, while Mesut Ozil could be heading to MLS.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Starting in west London, Kai Havertz, 21, has reportedly said he wants to join Chelsea and has handed in a transfer request to Bayer Leverkusen.

The German attacker is valued at $113 million by Leverkusen and although that transfer fee may be a little high for Chelsea, it is clear that Havertz will be worth it.

Per multiple reports, Havertz wants to join new signings Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech in reshaping the Chelsea attack and is ready to hand in a transfer request to make it happen.

Frank Lampard has revealed his admiration for Havertz and if Chelsea can pull this deal off, their attack is set. The big problem for Chelsea is in defense as they continue to make silly mistakes at the back but with Werner and Ziyech arriving, plus Havertz on the way and Christian Pulisic in fine form, this Chelsea attack will be lethal next season.

Mesut Ozil to MLS
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Heading to north London, Mesut Ozil could be heading to MLS according to a report from The Sun.

Ozil, 31, has one year left on his huge contract at Arsenal but continues to be on the outside looking in when it comes to Mikel Arteta’s plans.

According to the report, Ozil will see out the remaining year of his contract at Arsenal and will then move to either MLS or Turkey. He has told close friends those are the two places he wants to play next.

Could we see Ozil in MLS next summer? I could.

His talent is undoubted but his career is fizzling out at Arsenal and in the Premier League. He earns over $440,000 per week and can’t even get off the bench for the Gunners.

Premier League will be part of Peacock’s July 15 launch

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The Premier League will air on July 15 as part of the launch of Peacock, as NBCUniversal’s new streaming service will arrive with plenty of PL action.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule

Premier League action on Wednesday, July 15 will be free to all fans with our studio shows, games and analysis being aired commercial free. How about that!?

The marquee game on July 15 is Arsenal hosting Liverpool (start time, 3:15pm ET) and we will be on air from 12-6pm ET with four games, reaction, analysis and much more.

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Our studio host Rebecca Lowe explains exactly how it will all work and how you can sign up, with more details about Peacock on the link above.

Here are more details on how it will all go down on July 15:


On July 15, Peacock will be the exclusive home for all free NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage featuring four matches – including newly-crowned champions Liverpool visiting Arsenal at 3:15 p.m. ET – and the full complement of studio programming including prematch, halftime and postgame.

In addition, NBC Sports’ six hours of coverage, beginning at Noon ET, on July 15 will be presented without commercial interruption.

To get fans ready, Peacock will celebrate “Premier League Day” across social channels tomorrow, Thursday, July 9. Follow Peacock on InstagramTwitter and Facebook for top plays, celebrations and games for fans.

Following is the July 15 schedule for free NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage on Peacock (all times ET, subject to change):

Date Time (ET) Match
Wed., July 15 Noon Premier League Live
Wed., July 15 1 p.m. Burnley v. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wed., July 15 1 p.m. Manchester City v. Bournemouth
Wed., July 15 1 p.m. Newcastle v. Tottenham
Wed., July 15 3:15 p.m. Arsenal v. Liverpool
Wed., July 15 5:15 p.m. Goal Zone