MLS preview: MLS Cup places to be booked on Sunday

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The last team to overcome a two-goal deficit in the second leg of a two-leg MLS Cup Playoffs tie was the 2004 Kansas City Wizards. On Sunday, two conference finals favorites — higher seeds, at least — will take their shot at rewriting the above piece of history in their bids to qualify for MLS Cup 2015.

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The New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas, each the top seed in their respective conference and one-two finishers, respectively, for the Supporters’ Shield, have 90 minutes to overcome two very difference two-goal deficits against the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew SC.

Note: A player who accumulates his second yellow card (of the MLS Cup Playoffs) in the second leg of the Conference Championship series IS ELIGIBLE to play in MLS Cup, as playoff yellow card accumulation resets following the Conference Championships. (A red card, whether a straight red or two yellows, in the second leg still equals a suspension for MLS Cup.)

FC Dallas 1-3 Portland Timbers — 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

While history isn’t on the side of teams attempting to come back from two goals down in the second leg, FCD have one thing going for them: an away from the first leg — of course, they would have been better served to have not given away a third goal in the game’s dying minutes and headed home slight favorites with an away goal and a one-goal deficit. As things stand, though, 2-0 puts FCD through to MLS Cup — which they would host against Columbus Crew SC and play away to New York Red Bulls.

A big problem for FCD in the first leg was how much time Portland’s full backs, Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafana, spent overlapping into FCD’s defensive half. Because of this, FCD’s rabid wingers, most notably Fabian Castillo, were limited in their effect on the counter after being forced to drop so deep to defend. With Portland defending a two-goal lead on Sunday, look for Powell and Villafana to sit back quite a bit more, thus putting the keys to FCD’s season into the hands of Castillo and Mauro Diaz. The great thing about Diaz, if you’re an FCD supporter, is that he’s brilliant enough to singlehandedly pick teams apart whether they’re stretched all over the field or bunkered deep.

Regular season: POR 3-1 FCD (4/4); FCD 4-1 POR (7/25)
Injuries: FCD — OUT: Rolando Escobar (facial fracture) | POR — OUT: Ben Zemanski (knee)

New York Red Bulls 0-2 Columbus Crew SC — 7:30 p.m. ET, FS1

If FCD are standing on tenuous ground, the New York Red Bulls are running on quicksand. No away goal in the first leg, coupled with Kei Kamara‘s late goal to make it 2-0, means anything but a perfect performance on Sunday, and they’re out. 2-0 send the series to extra time, but here’s where it gets supremely tricky for the Red Bulls: a single Crew SC goal in the second leg means RBNY need four goals to advance. That would seem quite unlikely.

For the entirety of the 2015 season, RBNY’s greatest strength was their spine: Matt Miazga and Damien Perrinelle at center back, and Dax McCarty, Felipe Martins and Sacha Kljestan in midfield. In the first leg, the midfield trio had its worst game of the season — completely overwhelmed with pressure and unable to press high themselves — which put the center of defense — already down Perrinelle to a season-ending knee injury — under tons of pressure. From the moment Justin Meram hit the back of the net, eight seconds into the game, RBNY’s entire gameplan was out the window — they were forced to chase a goal they didn’t really want, and in turn gave up a second late on. They’ll need to start better in the second leg, set their high line of pressing much more quickly when turning the ball over, and attack the wings to limit the attacking impact of full backs Harrison Afful and Waylon Francis, who absolutely destroyed them in the first leg.

Regular season: CLB 1-2 RBNY (3/28); CLB 2-1 RBNY (7/4); RBNY 2-1 CLB (10/3)
Injuries: RBNY — OUT: Damien Perrinelle (knee), Chris Duval (broken leg) | CLB — OUT: Kristinn Steindorsson (knee)

American coach Marsch named Austrian Bundesliga Coach of the Year

Jesse Marsch award
Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images
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American coach Jesse Marsch saw his incredible season grow with a predictable but wonderful honor.

Marsch is the Austrian Bundesliga Coach of the Year after leading Red Bull Salzburg to a domestic double despite myriad challenges.

Obviously all coaches had to manage their teams during the coronavirus pandemic, but Marsch also had to contend with sales of stars Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Takumi Minamino (Liverpool), and Marin Pongracic (Wolfsburg) to big clubs in top European leagues.

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The Salzburg release brands Marsch as someone with “his American charm and sheer endless positivity” and includes this quote from Marsch:

“Winning Coach of the Year for me is a reward for the entire team, which I think is deserved. The trophy is for the whole coaching staff, as we have worked so well together. Losing players in winter brought us even closer together.

Aided by LASK Linz loses its table lead when it was docked six points for unauthorized team training during the pandemic, Marsch’s Salzburg left no questions in winning the league with four matches left (The club went 1W-1D-2L in the final matches).

Marsch spent last season assisting Ralf Rangnick and RB Leipzig to a third-place finish in the Bundesliga. Prior to that he was MLS Coach of the Year with the New York Red Bulls. As a player, he won three MLS Cups and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups while also earning two USMNT caps.

It will be interesting to see if Marsch sticks around another year in Austria. His name has risen in renown like a rocket and he had been linked with Borussia Dortmund, and there are no guarantees he can continue to impress with Salzburg in the Champions League and Europa League.

Salzburg was a stepping stone for its last Coach of the Year, and Marco Rose enjoyed success at Borussia Monchengladbach this season. With league Player of the Year winner Dominik Szoboszlai expected to fetch a big fee and join Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, Konrad Laimer, and the aforementioned transfers in challenging a coach to rebuild his squad, perhaps Marsch will go sooner rather than later.

We wouldn’t put anything past him, though. At one point before he’s done, Marsch will be an exciting USMNT coach if he wants the job.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that there were zero positive COVID-19 results out of 1,973 tests from Monday 29 June to Sunday 5 July.

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With the twelfth round of testing now completed in the Premier League, a total of 16,280 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 18 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as games are now up and running after a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full on the latest result:


The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday 29 June and Sunday 5 July, 1,973 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.
Round 4: 28-29 May – 1,130 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 5: 1-2 June – 1,197 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 6: 4-5 June – 1,195 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 7: 8-9 June – 1,213 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 8: 11-12 June – 1,200 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 9: 15-16 June – 1,541 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 10: 17-21 June – 1,829 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 11: 22-28 June – 2,250 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 12: 29 June – July 5 – 1,973 tested, with zero testing positive.

Premier League odds: Matchweek 34

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Check out the EPL betting odds for the games in Matchweek 34, as the Premier League return continues with games coming thick and fast.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Take a look below at the odds for the Premier League games in midweek, as the action has resumed following the suspension on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Click on the link above to watch all of the games live via our platforms here at NBC Sports, while below are the individual EPL betting odds for each game via DraftKings.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League predictions ]

Also, click play on the video above to watch my predictions for the games and where you should focus your attention this weekend as the Premier League action continues to come right at us.


Matchweek 33

Tuesday, July 7: (+650) Crystal Palace v. Chelsea (-220), Tie: +335
Tuesday, July 7: (-152) Watford v. Norwich (+440), Tie: +285
Tuesday, July 7: (+125) Arsenal v. Leicester (+220), Tie: +245
Wednesday, July 8: (-835) Man City v. Newcastle (+2000), Tie: +245
Wednesday, July 8: (+310) Sheffield United v. Wolves (+107), Tie: +210
Wednesday, July 8: (+104) West Ham v. Burnley (+285), Tie: +235
Wednesday, July 8: (+510) Brighton v. Liverpool (-182), Tie: +320
Thursday, July 9: (+100) Everton v. Southampton (+270), Tie: +255
Thursday, July 9: (+425) Bournemouth v. Tottenham (-157), Tie: +310
Thursday, July 9: (+900) Aston Villa v. Man United (-315), Tie: +420

Crystal Palace – Chelsea preview: How to watch, odds, team news, prediction

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Crystal Palace – Chelsea promises to be an intriguing clash at Selhurst Park on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a London derby.

Christian Pulisic continues to be the main man for Chelsea as the USMNT star put in another superb display in their 3-0 win against Watford and the Blues remain on track to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

CRYSTAL PALACE – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

As for Palace, they have lost their last three games on the trot without scoring and Roy Hodgson’s side look destined for a midtable finish.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace – Chelsea on Tuesday.


Team news

Palace will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly, while Hodgson may bring back Cheikhou Kouyate, Scott Dann and James McCarthy as they were rested.

Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic through injury, as Fikayo Tomori is also out.

What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on facing Chelsea: “They a very, very good team with many, many good players and, irrespective of our own position in this moment in time, all we can do is prepare for it, get ready for it and look forward to it – I do look forward to it, and I know all the players are looking forward to the game. I know we will do our best, work very hard and make life as difficult for them as possible. But we 100% aware of all the challenges, with the quality that they have, that they’re going to present us.”

Frank Lampard on the threat of Man United to their place in the top four: “They’re closest, they’re a very strong team, they’re in great form for a long period of time. They have got really good individual players. You have seen the momentum they have gained across their front three, all scoring, lots of goals. They’re the biggest threat from behind, but this is the Premier League. It looks that way today, but it’s how each team finishes the season.”

Odds and ends

Crystal Palace are huge underdogs (+650) as Chelsea (-220) are the red-hot favorites given their three wins from their first four games of the restart. The tie at +335 is where the value is at because as we saw with Chelsea’s shock defeat at West Ham last week, they can be dominated from set pieces and hit on the counter. Those two aspects are huge strengths of Palace’s game.

Prediction

We are all expecting a Chelsea win here but don’t be surprised if Wilfried Zaha has a day at makes it a very tough outing for this leaky Chelsea defense. Palace have been fired up and shocked Chelsea before but I think the Blues, led by Pulisic, have too much for Palace. 3-1 to Chelsea.