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.

Ten possible transfers to monitor this week

Transfer rumors
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It’s been an active-enough transfer window from a wide perspective. Manchester United, Chelsea, and fans of other contenders may still be waiting for their breakthrough, but there’s been a lot to see world wide.

[ MORE: Deadline Day needs ]

Erling Haaland has a new home, and his housewarming party has been spectacular. Javier Hernandez headed from Sevilla to Major League Soccer.

Takumi Minamino joined Liverpool from Salzburg, and Gedson Fernandes found a home at Tottenham.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

So what’s still (possibly) to come before the transfer window slams shut at 6 p.m. ET Friday?

Aaron Long from New York Red Bulls to West HamA loan-to-buy bid’s been rejected, but could David Moyes skip the trial period. USMNT center back Long wants to go the Premier League, and RBNY are not in the CONCACAF Champions League so there’s time to replace him.

Antonee Robinson from Wigan Athletic to AC Milan — Speaking of USMNT-related transfers, could-be left back of the future has become a fixture at the DW Stadium but reports of his replacing Ricardo Rodriguez at Milan are many.

Paco Alcacer from Borussia Dortmund to Newcastle — The Magpies need another striker with Joelinton struggling to find form, and the BVB man is open to leaving on account of Haaland’s arrival.

Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United — A difference of $12 million seems likely to be made up by Friday.

Moussa Dembele from Lyon to Chelsea — He’s thrived at Fulham in the Championship, Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, and Lyon in Ligue 1, so the Premier League may finally get to see a mature Dembele. He made two appearances for Fulham in 2013/14.

Mykola Matviyenko from Shakhtar Donetsk to Arsenal — Twenty-two years old with 26 caps for Ukraine, reports of a try-it-before-you-buy-it with the Gunners seem very friendly to Arsenal.

Boubakary Soumare from Lille to Chelsea or Manchester United — Sixty-six senior appearances for a Ligue 1 side at age 20 is an eye-popper, and Soumare’s ceiling as a defensive midfielder is high.

Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Gerrmain to Atletico Madrid or Chelsea — The reports have all said Atleti is the front-runner, but the longer is takes the more you wonder…

Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli to Manchester United — Not in January with Napoli a month away from Barcelona in the UCL, right? Right?

Gareth Bale,  Krzysztof Piatek, Willian Jose, Mario Gotze, Steven Bergwijn, Alcacer, pretty much forward to Spurs — Self-explanatory. Spurs are transfer rumor bait as much as anyone not called Manchester United thanks to the injury to Harry Kane and the clear need for refreshment.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

FA Cup fifth round draw

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The draw for the FA Cup fifth round has been made and a potential clash between Chelsea and Liverpool has been set up.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

If Liverpool’s youngsters (sans Jurgen Klopp and their first team) get past third-tier Shrewsbury Town in their fourth round replay they will travel to Chelsea, while holders Man City will travel to second tier Sheffield Wednesday.

Man United will travel to either Northampton Town or Derby County as they could face former United legend Wayne Rooney, while Portsmouth (the lowest ranked team left in the competition) will host either Bournemouth or Arsenal.

Southampton or Tottenham will host Norwich City in the only guaranteed all-Premier League last 16 clash.

To help ease fixture congestion for Premier League clubs and due to their week off for a mid-season player break (even if if didn’t work out like that for Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton and Newcastle United due to fourth round replays) the fifth round will be played across three midweek evenings on Mar. 3-5.

There will also be no replays from the fifth round onwards in the FA Cup, as the games will go to extra time and penalty kicks, if needed, if the scores are level.

Below is the draw in full for the fifth round.


Sheffield Wednesday v. Manchester City
Reading or Cardiff City v. Sheffield United
Chelsea v. Shrewsbury Town or Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion v. Newcastle United or Oxford United
Leicester City v. Coventry City or Birmingham City
Northampton Town or Derby County v. Manchester United
Southampton or Tottenham Hotspur v. Norwich City
Portsmouth v. Bournemouth or Arsenal

LIVE, FA Cup: Bournemouth v. Arsenal

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Bournemouth host Arsenal in the FA Cup fourth round on Monday (kick off, 3 p.m. ET) as the Cherries and Gunners will both fancy their chances of a lengthy cup run.

[ LIVE: Follow Bournemouth-Arsenal ]

In all honesty, both Eddie Howe and Mikel Arteta could do without this game as they aim to improve their position in the Premier League table.

Bournemouth picked up a vital win against Brighton last time out to push themselves out of the bottom three, while Arsenal picked up a morale-boosting draw at Chelsea after playing for over an hour with 10 men.

Howe and Arteta will acknowledge that their main aim is to stay in the Premier League and finish in the top four respectively but both will be extremely tough in the final months of the season.

It is always tough to strike the balance about how serious to take the FA Cup for teams in tough situations in the PL but more often than not the competition is a bit of a distraction for players as league form goes out of the window.

Arteta’s first game in charge of Arsenal was a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth in December and this will be a tight, tough game down in the wind and rain on the England’s south coast.

Success in cup competitions will likely save Arsenal’s dismal season as Arteta’s banged up side have shown plenty of hunger in recent weeks and an FA Cup and Europa League double would certainly salvage plenty of pride from the 2019-20 campaign.

That said, there is still a long, long way to go for Arsenal.

Click on the link above to follow the action as it happens, while we have you covered right here on Pro Soccer Talk with the reaction and analysis on the final game of the fourth round.

Deadline Day transfer needs for PL clubs

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Now, the idea of this transfer needs post is to identify what each Premier League club should do on Deadline Day.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

We know that quite often the January transfer window is a slow burner and maybe, just maybe we will see a flurry of activity in the finals hour of the window.

Below is a look at the key areas where each PL club should do business before the transfer window closes on Friday evening.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


Arsenal
Center back: The Gunners have been on the hunt for a new central defender all month long after Calum Chambers ruptured his ACL. Mikel Arteta is trying to get a move for Pablo Mari over the line, while Thomas Lemar has also been linked with a move if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leaves for Barcelona in the final days of the window.
Possibility they will add players: 90 percent


Aston Villa
Striker: They have been the busiest team in January so far after two huge injuries to Tom Heaton and Wesley have hit Villa hard. Dean Smith brought in Pepe Reina in goal, Danny Drinkwater on loan in midfield, Mbwana Samatta up top and youngster Louie Barry. So, they should be set. But Dean Smith has hinted they may add one more attacking player. With American youngster Indiana Vassilev performing well off the bench after his recent debut, Villa may not need extra help.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent


Bournemouth
Defenders: With so many injuries, Eddie Howe has been scrambling to put his best team together. They had a big win agains Brighton last time out which will have relieved some of the pressure on him but Danny Rose has been linked with a loan move and that would seem like a good fit. 
Possibility they will add players
: 40 percent


Brighton and Hove Albion
None: The Seagulls have added Aaron Mooy on a permanent basis and have plenty of attacking options, although the goals have dried up for Maupay and Connolly. Maybe adding an extra forward on loan in the final days of the window makes sense?
Possibility they will add players
: 10 percent


Burnley
None: A quiet few days for the Clarets who may just move a few squad players out on loan. Sean Dyche has a strong squad which is free of injuries and he will be happy enough with what he has. 
Possibility they will add players
: 10 percent


Chelsea
Striker: Frank Lampard has looked a little frustrated by the lack of signings and Chelsea have been linked strongly with moves for Edinson Cavani, Piatek and Boubakary Soumare. Those deals seem unlikely to happen and their focus may be set on this summer with Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and Wilfried Zaha at the top of their list. A deal for Zaha seems unlikely in the next few days.
Possibility they will add players: 30 percent


Crystal Palace
Defenders: Basically, Palace need to add an extra player in each area of the pitch and Roy Hodgson has already said that and he hopes the owners back him. With Cenk Tosun arriving on loan they’ve addressed that need but Palace do look short in the full area. The Eagles always seem keen to add players later in the month and hang on for a good deal. Let’s see if they do it again.
Possibility they will add players
: 40 percent


Everton
None: A bit of extra cover would be nice for Carlo Ancelotti but with Mason Holgate, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and others stepping up, he can rely on Everton’s youngsters to push them into midtable in the final months of the season. 
Possibility they will add players
: 10 percent


Leicester City
Center back: They want to sign a center back and have been linked with Southampton’s Jannik Vestergaard but that deal seems unlikely. Leicester’s squad is strong throughout and has even copped without the injured Jamie Vardy
Possibility they will add players
: 15 percent


Liverpool
None: And they’ve already done their business. Takumi Minamino has arrived from RB Salzburg in a bargain deal and that will be Liverpool wrapped up for the window. Jurgen Klopp also has plenty of talented youngsters to call up.
Possibility they will add (more) players: 5 percent


Manchester City
Center back: Their biggest need for about 12 months and City haven’t done anything about it. Seems crazy given their status as one of the richest teams on the planet. Nathan Ake would be a good buy, so too would Caglar Soyuncu or Jonny Evans but now Aymeric Laporte is back, nothing is likely to happen. Pep is unlikely to do business in the January window unless a wonderful deal presents itself.
Possibility they will add players: 25 percent


Manchester United
Central midfield, striker: As injuries pile up in central midfield Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted all month that is where he is looking. That has been their biggest need all season, especially with Pogba’s injury problems. Bruno Fernandes heading to United looks unlikely, while they may need a short-term replacement for Marcus Rashford but it seems like Mason Greenwood is ready to step in and feel that void.
Possibility they will add players: 50 percent


Newcastle United
Left back: They’ve been busy in January with Nabil Bentaleb and Valenino Lazzaro coming in on loan, while they have also been linked with Danny Rose after Paul Dummett and Jetro Willems went down with season-ending injuries. Steve Bruce will doing his best to add a left back in the final days of the window.
Possibility they will add players: 70 percent.


Norwich City
None: Norwich have loaned Hertha Berlin’s attacker Duda and signed midfielder Lukas Rupp and the main thing for Daniel Farke‘s side is that they keep hold of Pukki, Aarons and Cantwell, which they look like doing. They should have probably added an extra defensive player but Farke has already said they are done for January. 
Possibility they will add players
: 10 percent


Sheffield United
None: They added Jack Rodwell as a free agent to provide some depth and Jack Robinson as a key defensive addition. They have options in every position and Chris Wilder has rotated the squad well this season. 
Possibility they will add (more) players
: 5 percent


Southampton
Full backs: Ralph Hasenhuttl has already said he wants to sign some new full backs. Cedric is out of contract this summer and Ryan Bertrand has been linked with a move away. Expect some young full backs to arrive, with Spurs’ Kyle Walker-Peters set to arrive on loan. Given their superb recent form that is pretty much all Saints need.
Possibility they will add players: 80 percent.


Tottenham Hotspur
Striker: Harry Kane’s injury means they will want a new striker. Jose Mourinho has sorted out their defensive displays and Daniel Levy has finally moved on Christian Eriksen with Steven Bergwijn set to replace him. Gedson Fernandes has arrived and Piatek seems like the perfect man to help with Kane’s absence.
Possibility they will add players: 70 percent.


Watford
Defender: Honestly, they are pretty set. Another striker to push Deeney and Gray hard would be nice but Nigel Pearson has inherited a decent squad and now has them well organized and hungry. The Hornets don’t really need to spend despite being in a relegation scrap. But with a few poor results in recent weeks, a defensive addition would be nice. They’ve been linked with moves for Danny Rose from Spurs and Ben Gibson from Burnley. Both would make sense. 
Possibility they will add players
: 50 percent


West Ham United
Striker, defenders: David Moyes needs to do some serious work in the finals days of the window as the Hammers look set for a relegation scrap. They have brought in Randolph to back up Fabianski in goal and more defensive improvements would be nice. The Hammers have spent a lot recently but an experienced striker to work alongside Haller is essential. Work to do. 
Possibility they will add players: 70 percent


Wolverhampton Wanderers
None: Pretty set after adding Leonardo Campana to back up Raul Jimenez up top, as Nuno Espirito Santo likes to have a small squad and they’ve battled through superbly so far. With no FA Cup run this season, they can focus on the Europa League and Premier League. Wolves always seem likely to add young players though.
Possibility they will add players: 10 percent