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.

At the half: West Ham lead struggling Arsenal

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They say in derbies that form goes out the window, but it didn’t seem that apparent for Arsenal on Monday evening.

West Ham United is 45 minutes away from a second major win in three Premier League games as the Hammers hold a 1-0 halftime lead over Arsenal. Angelo Ogbonna’s headed goal off a Pablo Fornals cross is the difference so far.

After two straight poor performances for Arsenal, manager Freddy Ljunberg must have hoped for a better reaction in a London derby. Instead, Arsenal has been slow in passing, slow to second balls and not as determined as West Ham to win. Every possession gained is giving West Ham confidence, which led to the goal. The goal came after a couple of pinball rebounds following a corner kick, but the Hammers’ determination to score helped them go in front.

To make matters worse for Arsenal, Kieran Tierney suffered another injury, forcing him off the field in the first half and compelling Ljunberg to bring on Sead Kolasinac, despite him being short on fitness too.

Arsenal has a massive 45 minutes ahead. Should West Ham win, it would go level with Arsenal. If the Gunners lose, it’s their 10th straight match in all competitions without a win and it drops them into the bottom half of the league table.

Watch Live: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Arsenal will be searching for their first win since firing Unai Emery as manager when they visit West Ham United, who could use a win in the worst possibly way themselves, at the London Stadium on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Gunners have drawn one — coming back from a goal down, twice, against Norwich City — and lost at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday. It’s hardly been an ideal start to life under interim boss Freddie Ljungberg. As a result, they enter Monday’s game sitting 11th in the Premier League table.

As for the Hammers, Manuel Pellegrini is beginning to feel the pressure after winning just one of his side’s last nine games (1W-2D-6L). Following that exceedingly poor run of results, West Ham sit 16th in the PL table, just one point clear of the relegation zone.

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Messi’s hometown offers emotional trip to his childhood

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ROSARIO, Argentina — Soccer wasn’t always Lionel Messi’s favorite activity.

When he was a child in the modest neighborhood of La Bajada in his Argentine hometown of Rosario, he spent his time bicycling with friends, building forts out of branches and stones, playing hide and seek – and occasionally stealing lemons from a neighbor to make juice.

Those stories and others are the focus of a new tour being offered by Rosario to celebrate their 32-year-old hometown hero, an international sports superstar who just won an unprecedented sixth Golden Ball as world soccer’s player of the year.

The tour put together by Rosario’s city hall is free of charge and available in an app translated into several languages, guiding fans through 10 stops.

Few houses are higher than two stories in La Bajada, a middle-class neighborhood in the city that is 186 miles (300 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.

Halfway down Israel street stands a gray house, closed off by shut curtains and protected by railings. There is no sign outside indicating it was Messi’s home, and no one lives there now, though it still belongs to his family.

The neighbors aren’t so shy about the Messi connection, however. Colorful paintings dedicated to the soccer star stand in front of houses and there are sidewalks colored in the blue and white of Argentina’s national team with Messi’s jersey number, 10, painted in black.

Messi’s neighbors and friends are often willing to share stories with visitors.

“Leo was normal and ordinary like other people here,” Diego Vallejos, one of Messi’s childhood friends, told The Associated Press on a sandy soccer field of the El Campito club as three youngsters played soccer.

“We fell, we scratched ourselves riding bikes. We went to the street with water bombs and threw them at buses,” said Vallejos, who is one year older than Messi.

Also are on the tour are the school Messi attended and the Abanderado Grandoli club, where he learned his first soccer moves.

The city long had a somewhat distant relationship with Messi, and officials say the tour seeks to change that. Rosario’s city hall said Messi’s family did not take part in the creation of the tour.

“What we want to emphasize is that Leo is a product of his city, and that there is a life and many stories behind the superstar,” said Santiago Valenti with Rosario’s tourism agency.

Messi was born June 24, 1987, in the Hospital Italiano Garibaldi in Rosario. He lived in the city until 2000, when he moved to Barcelona.

A recently opened sports museum, a few blocks from Messi’s old house, offers an interactive tour of the lives of local stars in racing, boxing, basketball and soccer.

Messi’s section of the museum is introduced by a painting that mixes monuments from Rosario and Barcelona, and the sentence: “All that I did, I did for soccer.” Two giant screens display goals and testimonials from his teammates.

“The idea is not to pay a tribute to his sporting success,” said museum coordinator Juan Echeverría. “It is to value the path he walked, everything that an athlete has to go through to get to the tip of the iceberg that we see when he is on the podium.”

The museum has contacted Messi’s family and the player’s father said he would donate more memorabilia.

One of items on display is a small red coat with a white collar. Below it is Messi’s official register as a Newell’s Old Boys academy player and a picture of him smiling.

Downtown is the Malvinas compound where Newell’s has its soccer academy. It was there the young Messi was filmed out-dribbling much bigger opponents.

“This is where it all started,” said Lisandro Conte, an employee at the academy.

Messi did not play for Newell’s. “At that time there were players who looked more promising, and the bet was placed on them,” Conte said.

Still, Messi has said he wants to finish his career at Newell’s, playing for his hometown club in his own country after a professional career in Barcelona’s storied Spanish league team.

Fans visiting Rosario might even be able to catch a match between teams like the recent clash between Newell’s and arch-rival Rosario Central. Among the 14 youngsters chasing the ball might be Rosario’s next star.

Solskjaer: Man Utd must keep big-game mentality v. lesser teams

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Things are going quite well for Manchester United right now, but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists they still could — and should — be better.

[ MORE: Man arrested in connection to racist abuse at the Manchester derby ]

Following back-to-back wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the span of four days last week, Man United now sit fifth in the Premier League table and trail Chelsea by just five points in the race for top-four.

The win over Man City could very well go down as the result of the season, having thoroughly outplayed their rivals, on their own field, for 45 minutes before holding on for all three points. Solskjaer was proud of his player’s mentality on Saturday, but it left him wondering what could be if they managed to maintain that level of focus and performance against the so-called “lesser” teams as well — quotes from the Guardian:

“That’s up to me, to make sure that for every single game they know they have to earn the right to win a game of football. You’ve got to earn the right to win. Sometimes you’ve got to earn it by passing quicker, winning the ball back — there are different ways of winning games of football.

“We’ll work with the mentality of the boys. It’s been very much about margins in those games [we lost]. But if you look behind the results I’m not as negative as you are. I’m not so worried, so concerned. If the boys are then telling me they can’t get up for these games, then we’ve got a problem. Then I’ve really got to work with them because when I played that’s how we won the league. We never gave points away against the lesser teams, the not-so-good teams. The Premier League is difficult. If you don’t have that mentality, you won’t get results. I’ll work on the mentality.”

Up next for United is a visit from a potentially tricky opponent, Everton (Watch live, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), who last week fired manager Marco Silva and beat Chelsea 3-1 less than 48 days later.