PST’s top 10 terrible (and spot-on) MLS preseason predictions

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The 2015 Major League Soccer (regular) season is in the books, and it played out exactly like everyone here at PST predicted it would. Yes, we were all exactly right.

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OK, that’s a big, fat lie, because we were smart silly enough to make predictions way back in March (read in full HERE), put our real, legal names to them and post them on the internet, where nothing is ever forgotten. In truth, some of us didn’t do so badly, while others (not naming names, you’ll have to read on) went for the upper-90 and skied our shots horribly.

Without further ado the best (and worst) of PST’s preseason MLS predictions…

10. Sporting KC win the Open Cup, to everyone’s surprise

Q: U.S. Open Cup winners?
Joe Prince-Wright and Kyle Lynch: Seattle Sounders
Andy Edwards: FC Dallas
Nicholas Mendola: New England Revolution
Kyle Bonn: LA Galaxy

Of the four unique picks found above, the PST braintrust selected two teams who were knocked out in the fourth round (Sounders and Revs – zero rounds advanced), one side that went out in the fifth round (FCD) and a single quarterfinalist (Galaxy – two rounds advanced). Congrats to Bonn, who came up only 270 minutes short of correctly picking the 2015 USOC winner.

9. Red Bulls win the Shield, to everyone’s surprise

Q: Supporters’ Shield winners?
JPW and Lynch: LA Galaxy
Edwards and Bonn: Seattle Sounders
Mendola: New England Revolution

We’re off to a pretty poor start here, but in our defense, let’s take a quick trip back in time, to early March. If anyone was predicting the New York Red Bulls to win the Shield in 2015, that’s because they are a Red Bulls supporter. The offseason they had just had — losing Thierry Henry, firing Mike Petke, the town-hall meeting — pointed toward a rebuilding year for RBNY, not a regular-season championship. *shrug* That’s MLS for ya.

8. MLS Cup winners still alive and kicking

Q: MLS Cup matchup?
JPW and Mendola: LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC
Edwards: Seattle Sounders vs. Columbus Crew SC
Lynch: LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution
Bonn: Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders

Hey, we all have a chance to be right about something. No one picked the top seed from either conference, though that’s OK because home-field advantage rarely translates to an MLS Cup appearance. I’m the only person to have picked a team with a knockout round bye (Crew SC). Any of the four unique matchups found above would be highly interesting finals.

7. TFC into the postseason

Q: Will Toronto FC (finally) make the playoffs?
All: Yes.

So, this one turned out to be fairly straightforward — TFC snuck in as the sixth seed (a full five points clear of the cut-off line, for what it’s worth). To have everyone on the same page, and no one thinking they’ll out-clever the rest of the group, was fairly impressive, though.

6. Gerrard and Lampard out-awful one another

Q: Better first six months in MLS — Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard?
JPW and Bonn: Gerrard.
Edwards, Mendola and Lynch: Lampard.

Nobody really wins here — most so fans of the Galaxy and NYCFC — because three months after their arrivals in MLS, neither Gerrard or Lampard have done anything to justify their 6.2 and $6 million annual salaries respectively (on the field, at least). Gerrard’s Galaxy are still alive in the playoffs, so he still has a chance to time warp and land in a much simpler time, say, 2010 or earlier, when he was still a mobile human being.

5. All aboard the NYCFC hype train

Q: Greater points tally — New York City FC or Orlando City SC?
All: New York City FC.

There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Manchester City’s experimental MLS spawn — and nearly every one of them came to pass — but how could you pick against Jason Kreis? The summer signing of Andrea Pirlo was an especially bitter pill to swallow for Kreis, who may or may not be around for a second season.

4. Picking Kaka over Giovinco, on an island all alone

Q: More goals/assists combined — Kaka or Sebastian Giovinco?
Edwards: Kaka. Caveat: If healthy, Kaka is the 2015 MVP. Let’s not forget this is the 2007 World Player of the Year, arguably the best player in the world for a time.

This wasn’t my worst pick of the preseason (don’t worry, that’s still to come), not by a long shot. Kaka wasn’t bad in his first MLS season (9 goals, 7 assists in 28 games played), but Giovinco was unreal in a way that MLS has never seen before (22 goals, 16 assists).

3. Faith in the Atomic Ant

Q: 2015 MLS MVP?
JPW: Sebastian Giovinco. How they managed to get the “Atomic Ant” I don’t know, but I’m glad they did. Wonderful talent.
Bonn: Giovinco. What a signing.

Any other player (read: human being) would have required some sort of an adjustment period upon coming to MLS. Giovinco? Nope. His first five MLS games: 3 goals, 2 assists. His next five games: 2 goals, 2 assists. His next 23 games: 17 goals, 12 assists. There is no debate about the 2015 MVP, so props to JPW and Bonn for nailing that one.

2. Nailed the West

Q: Who misses the playoffs in the West?
Edwards: Colorado, San Jose, Houston and Real Salt Lake

Obviously I get to toot my own horn here a bit, because 1) I’m writing this post, and 2) I was the only one to correctly predict the six playoffs teams in the Western Conference. It felt wrong to leave out RSL, but the proof is in the pudding. 34 weeks of soccer don’t lie. I’m pretty sure I would have gone 6-for-6 in the East if we had done it, too. /end sarcasm

1. Bernardo who?

Q: Who’s the Lee Nguyen-esque (veteran) Breakout Player of the year?
Edwards: Bernardo Anor. Quick — tell me what team Anor plays for. If you don’t know now, you will be April or May. Can’t believe Berhalter let him go.

There’s really no defense of this one. On paper, it seemed like a great signing — skilled wing player on a team lacking natural width, brings a load of MLS experience and in need of a change of scenery. Little did I know back then that Krisztian Nemeth would basically have the season I thought Anor would.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.

Serie A: AC Milan on winning streak, Fiorentina woes deepen

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AC Milan secured its first winning streak since mid-September as Krzysztof Piatek and Theo Hernandez led the way to a 3-2 road win over Bologna.

Piatek was the first on the scoresheet, opening the scoring from the spot after the Polish striker was bundled over on the break by Mattia Bani. He utilized a heavy stutter in his run-up, but wrong-footed Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski for the conversion. Hernandez was next up, latching onto a perfect through-ball from Suso that sprung the former at the far post.

Bologna pulled one back before halftime on a Hernandez own-goal, but Giacomo Bonaventura restored the two-goal lead just seconds after the restart. Nicola Sansone’s late penalty made no difference in the result and Milan sits 10th in the league table, level on points with Torino.

Fiorentina slumped to its fourth straight loss as they fell at Torino 2-1. The visitors were soundly beaten on goals by Simone Zaza and Cristian Ansaldi, only able to grab a consolation strike from Martin Caceres in stoppage time. They put just four of their 17 shots on net and had very few true chances until Caceres’s late goal. With the loss, Fiorentina drops to 13th in the table, just five points above the relegation zone. Vincenze Montella’s job is on the line, having just returned to the club in April for a second stint in charge after the departure of Stefano Pioli.

Cagliari failed to pull away from Roma with a 2-2 draw on the road at 14th placed Sassuolo. A comeback was required after falling down 2-0 before halftime. João Pedro brought the visitors one back just six minutes after the break, and Daniele Ragatzu rescued the point as he snuck one in at the near post a minute into added time. They also survived what could have been the game-winning goal as Domenico Berardi clattered the crossbar from the penalty stop on a chance that would have put the home side 3-1. Instead, Cagliari moves level with Roma on 29 points, clinging to the fourth Champions League spot on goal differential.

Genoa survived the final 13 minutes with just nine men, securing a 2-2 draw with Lecce that keeps them in the hunt for Serie A safety. Goran Pandev and Domenico Criscito had put Genoa 2-0 up before halftime, but they had coughed up the lead by the 70th minute. Still, things could have been worse as Kevin Agudelo was sent off with 20 minutes to go after conceding a penalty, while Pandev was given his marching orders in the 77th minute. The goals in this game were spectacular, with Pandev’s opener coming from nearly 40 yards out as he chipped Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel who was off his line, while Filippo Falco scored a fine curler to mark Lecce’s first on the hour mark.

Brescia topped SPAL 1-0 to leave the latter at the bottom of the Serie A table, with the lone goal coming via Mario Balotelli in the 54th minute as he collected a bobbling ball on the break and fired it in at the far post. The win was critical, moving 19th-placed Brescia to 10 points on the year, two from safety.

Parma defeated Sampdoria 1-0 on a 21st minute goal from Juraj Kucka that left Claudio Ranieri‘s squad just a point off the relegation zone.

Nuno expresses pride in Wolves achievements after Brighton draw

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Nuno Espirito Santo has expressed his pride in what Wolves has achieved so far this season after the 2-2 road draw at Brighton & Hove Albion.

The team reclaimed sixth place in the Premier League table with the point from the Amex, and while Nuno knows there were moments to improve on, he still believes the team is headed forward and looks back fondly on where they’ve come from.

[ RECAP: Wolves, Seagulls draw ]

“We are very proud of what we are achieving day by day but we want to keep on going,” Nuno said after the match. “We need to compete and prepare ourselves for the last game in the Europa League.”

He pointed to mistakes that led to Brighton goals, ones he believes a little tactical instruction should snuff out. “I am proud of how we stayed organized. We did not do well when he had to restart the game after the 1-1, we should not have played a horizontal pass that was intercepted.”

The head man was frustrated by one key thing, as his winger Adama Traore was fouled four times, all coming in the second half. “He’s a strong boy,” Nuno said. “Everybody can see that. No matter how strong you are, if you are being kicked it’s impossible.” He was seen having an animated conversation with the fourth official during the later stages of the game, with two of the four fouls drawn in the final 10 minutes as the visitors pushed for a winner.

The draw against Brighton was no anomaly – Wolves has achieved its impressive table position despite just five wins on the season. The key for them has been avoiding losses, with just two defeats on the year. They have drawn a shocking nine games, with the previous eight all either 0-0 or 1-1 before Sunday’s 2-2 finish. That leaves Wolves with an 11-game unbeaten streak, with the last loss coming in mid-September.

Nevertheless, Nuno knows the toughest part of the season is on the horizon. “The hardest part of the fixtures is going to start now. It will be tough for everybody.” Wolves has a match against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham next weekend before a festive season that sees the club play Norwich, Man City, Liverpool, and Watford between an eleven-day span.