Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

This should finally be the year Toronto FC lives up to the hype

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From a personal standpoint, I understand keenly why Toronto FC fans feel burnt. As a soccer fan less than 100 miles from BMO Field, splitting TFC season tickets with friends was an easy decision. Major League Soccer so close to home? Why not give it a go?

Know what was an easier decision? Not renewing after a few years of profound disappointment. Despite a great stadium with a better skyline and an unbelievable group of nascent supporters in the Red Patch Boys, TFC was an on-field disaster.

That’s not to say it should be easy for a team created from scratch to thrive in any league, even one as young as Major League Soccer. But we’re talking eight years without playoffs, not a single conference standing finish higher than fifth, in front of a buzzing group of supporters who started to buzz, well, a lot less.

[ MLS: Can San Jose make noise in the West? ]

Toronto FC never had a chance to gel. Nine seasons in, the club has only seen eight players make more than 75 appearances. Only three — Stefan Frei, Jim Brennan and Julian de Guzman — have tempted 100 (Now with Seattle, Frei leads with 96).

How’s this for a sense of history? Sebastian Giovinco’s MVP season last year saw him score 22 goals. That places him second all-time for TFC. Second. All-time.

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick with teammates Jozy Altidore (17), Michael Bradley (4) and Jackson Goncalves (11) during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Philadelphia Union, Saturday, May 2, 2015, in Chester, Pa. Toronto FC won 1-0. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

This year feels a bit different. For one, there’s continuity in attack. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Giovinco (right) are all back in the fold. The first two can be expected to have much improved second seasons, while Giovinco just needs to whiff the greatness of his first to lift TFC higher in the standings. The Copa America Centenario break won’t help much, but it’ll hurt others, too.

Plus, coach Greg Vanney can change the game plan when Bradley and Altidore are gone. Benoit Cheyrou was very good in the midfield last season, while Toronto-born midfielder and reigning MLS champion Will Johnson is now playing at home and will add even more steel to the middle of the park.

Toronto also took proper steps to firm up their porous defense, which was a laughingstock last season, stung by the loss of captain Steven Caldwell.

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The Reds had some pieces in Damien Perquis, Nick Hagglund and Justin Morrow, the latter a mainstay who has flown under the radar. Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has brought in back liners with quantifiable MLS experience. Steven Beitashour arrives from Vancouver, and Drew Moor moved over from Colorado.

Clin Irwin, Colorado Rapids
Irwin

TFC found some steadiness in goal when they picked up Clint Irwin (right) from Colorado, a veteran who can properly tutor 2015 draft pick and USMNT prospect Alex Bono.

With fellow Toronto sides thriving in their respective leagues — the Jays are an AL East contender and the Raptors lead their division — this could be the year TFC finally delivers on expectations. There’s enough depth in the fold to think that, given a relatively healthy campaign, Toronto should be able to place high enough in the East to set itself up for a bye.

There’s plenty to be hopeful, but it’s still cool if you don’t believe it ’til you see it. We’ve learned that much, right?

VIDEO: San Jose’s amazing comeback 4-3 win v. Vancouver

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San Jose – Vancouver may go down as one of the best games in MLS history. I’m not kidding.

It was pure MLS from start to finish as we had huge mistakes, stunning goals, an amazing comeback and wild celebrations in the 98th minute as San Jose rallied from 3-1 down with 18 minutes to go to win 4-3.

This was, by far, the best game so far of the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, Florida.

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Vancouver went 2-0 up thanks to a fine goal from Ali Adnan, then there was a wild goal for the Whitecaps as Judson put the ball into his own net after running the length of the pitch to try and stop Yordy Reyna but then sliding to clear but scoring an own goal.

Andy Rios pulled one back right on half time to make it 2-1 but then a terrible goalkeeping mistake made it 3-1 as Cristian Dajome finished. Then came San Jose, who were rampant in the final 20 minutes in particular. Chris Wondolowski jumped off the bench and made it 3-2, then Oswaldo Alanis made it 3-3 with a towering header.

Injuries then saw the game move into eight minutes of stoppage time as tackles flew in all over the place and then Shea Salinas just said ‘screw it, I’m running at goal’ in the 98th minute.

Vancouver allowed him to run through half of their team, he got a lucky bounce and then finished to make it 4-3 and spark a bench-clearing celebration. The celebrations were made even more epic by a member of the San Jose medical staff spraying a bottle of ice freeze spray into the air as if it was some pyro.

If anybody ever asks you what MLS is all about, simply show them the video highlights from this game.

Records were set for the most corners (22) by a single team in a game in MLS history, plus tied the record for most corners in a game (25) in MLS history.

There was just something special, and wildly reassuring, about seeing San Jose and Vancouver going at it for 90 minutes of pure entertainment.

Take a look at the video above to see all seven goals and the general madness from the thrilling game.

NBC Sports Premier League schedule

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The new NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the upcoming matchweeks confirmed and here’s how you can watch it all live on TV in the USA and via Peacock online.

[ WATCH: Premier League video ] 

With games spread out across multiple days and many in separate time slots, there are lots of changes to your regular schedule as the league returns on June 17 after being suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues.

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The full TV schedule for the games this month are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com, the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

Below is the new schedule for the Premier League on NBC Sports from June 17 to July 22 , as we will release the dates and times for the final matchweek of the 2019-20 season when they become available and how to watch them in the USA.


Premier League: How to watch, schedule in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 29

Wednesday, June 17: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 17: Man City 3-0 Arsenal

Matchday 30

Friday, June 19: Norwich 0-3 Southampton
Friday, June 19: Tottenham 1-1 Man United
Saturday, June 20: Watford 1-1 Leicester
Saturday, June 20: Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
Saturday, June 20: West Ham 0-2 Wolves
Saturday, June 20: Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday, June 21: Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United
Sunday, June 21: Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Sunday, June 21: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Monday, June 22: Man City 5-0 Burnley

Matchday 31

Tuesday, June 23: Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Tuesday, June 23: Tottenham 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday, June 24: Man United 3-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 24: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Wednesday, June 24: Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wednesday, June 24: Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
Wednesday, June 24: Liverpool 4-0 Palace
Thursday, June 25: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Thursday, June 25: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Thursday, June 25: Chelsea 2-1 Man City

Matchday 32

Saturday, June 27: Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Sunday, June 28: Watford 1-3 Southampton
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
Tuesday, June 30: Brighton 0-3 Man United
Wednesday, July 1: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Wednesday, July 1: Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham
Thursday, July 2: Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich City 0-1 Brighton
Saturday, July 4: Leicester 3-0 Crystal Palace
Saturday, July 4: Man United 5-2 Bournemouth
Saturday, July 4: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Sunday, July 5: Burnley 1-1 Sheffield United
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle United 2-2 West Ham
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Sunday, July 5: Southampton 1-0 Man City
Monday, July 6: Tottenham 1-0 Everton

Matchday 34

Tuesday, July 7: Crystal Palace 2-3 Chelsea
Tuesday, July 7: Watford 2-1 Norwich City
Tuesday, July 7: Arsenal 1-1 Leicester City
Wednesday, July 8: Man City 5-0 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 8: Sheffield United 1-0 Wolves
Wednesday, July 8: West Ham 0-1 Burnley
Wednesday, July 8: Brighton 1-3 Liverpool
Thursday, July 9: Bournemouth 0-0 Tottenham
Thursday, July 9: Everton 1-1 Southampton
Thursday, July 9: Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United

Matchday 35

Saturday, July 11: Norwich City 0-4 West Ham
Saturday, July 11: Watford 2-1 Newcastle United
Saturday, July 11: Liverpool 1-1 Burnley
Saturday, July 11: Sheffield United 3-0 Chelsea
Saturday, July 11: Brighton 0-5 Manchester City
Sunday, July 12: Wolves 3-0 Everton
Sunday, July 12: Aston Villa 2-1 Crystal Palace
Sunday, July 12: Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal
Sunday, July 12: Bournemouth 4-1 Leicester City
Monday, July 13: Man United 2-2 Southampton

Matchday 36

Tuesday, July 14: Chelsea 1-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 15: Burnley 1-1 Wolves
Wednesday, July 15: Man City 2-1 Bournemouth
Wednesday, July 15: Newcastle 1-3 Tottenham
Wednesday, July 15: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
Thursday, July 16: Everton v. Aston Villa, 1 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock
Thursday, July 16: Leicester v Sheffield United, 1 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Thursday, July 16: Crystal Palace v. Man United, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Thursday, July 16: Southampton v. Brighton, 3:15 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock
Friday, July 17: West Ham v. Watford, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Matchday 37

Saturday, July 18: Norwich City v. Burnley, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Bournemouth v. Southampton, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Tottenham v. Leicester, 11 a.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Brighton v. Newcastle, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Sheffield United v. Everton, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Wolves v. Crystal Palace, 3:15 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Watford v. Man City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Aston Villa v. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Man United v. West Ham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Liverpool v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. ET

Arteta loves Arsenal effort: ‘The fight is now equal. The rest will take time’

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It’s not insane to call Arsenal’s latest triumph a bit of an “oops” win.

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 on Wednesday at the Emirates while seemingly utilizing a second-choice lineup while preparing for Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal versus Manchester City.

Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson starred in a first-half sequence that gave Arteta a very nice win for his Arsenal managerial resume, coming back from Sadio Mane’s early goal in North London.

ARSENAL – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

“I was worried after 1-0 how we would react,” Arteta said after the game. “We were able to pick one moment and believe again. … The gap between the two teams today is enormous. We can not improve it in two months, but the accountability, the fight is now equal and I am very proud of that. The rest will take some time.”

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Arteta was clearly happy with the result despite Liverpool’s continued pressure on the Gunners’ goal (Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had a wonderful day).

You could call it the perfect tonic for a North London Derby loss.

“In terms of energy and happiness in the dressing room before the semi-final, it’s a good medicine,” he said. “To beat this team you have to have moments in the game when you take your chances, defend and have a bit of luck.”

Liverpool ‘constantly dominant’ in latest post-title setback

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Virgil van Dijk doesn’t want to hear the easy excuses after rare mistakes from Alisson Becker and Van Dijk helped Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 to stop the Reds’ dreams of a 100-point season.

Liverpool was controlling the early stages at the Emirates Stadium and led on a Sadio Mane goal when Van Dijk flubbed a back pass to set Alexandre Lacazette on his way to an equalizer.

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Moments later, Lacazette darted into the right flank to steal a blind Alisson pass. The Frenchman found Reiss Nelson for a 2-1 lead that went the distance.

“Until then there was nothing wrong, we played very well. So it’s easy to blame us having the title but until I made the mistake there was nothing wrong.”

It is an easy excuse but it also likely holds a lot of truth. Teams that clinch the PL title early have historically struggled down the stretch, aside from Pep Guardiola’s 2017-18 juggernaut that set the league record for points with 100.

Liverpool could’ve caught or passed that City team had it managed a draw or win on Wednesday. Klopp and Van Dijk would love to believe their team is above the historical flaws of other great teams but that’s just illogical.

Klopp puts it down to mistakes and an inability to finish any number of chances on a day Arsenal keeper made eight saves including an incredible palm stop in injury time.

“Twice, a massive lack of concentration, we took a break after 1-0, especially in the first half before the goal, we were just brilliant, we had 24-3 shots, that’s incredible but these two moments killed the game for us. … We were constantly dominant. It was a good game. Arsenal, they were there in two situations, I am not sure they forced them but they were there and they used them.”

Liverpool can now max out at 99 points if it beats Chelsea and Newcastle United to finish the season.