Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Fearful MLS predictions: PST picks the 2016 Major League Soccer standings

1 Comment

Ah, the business of guessing the postseason finishes of unpredictable MLS teams.

We mean: Totally forecasting Major League Soccer’s season with alarming accuracy. Yeah. That’s it.

It’s tricky, you know? Forget the massive changes that can come with massive midseason additions — *cough, Didier Drogba* — or new coaches. Just the status of whether young players will kick on or old players lose a step can change the entire dynamic of a player race.

[ MORE: 2016 MLS Eastern Conference preview ]

Take the Eastern Conference. For me — given team health — there are four playoffs locks, and how they finish in the standings is highly arbitrary considering the difference between Supporters’ Shield and duking it out for the final playoff spots is 3-4 wins.

In Toronto, you have a team I’d select to win 75 percent of its games but has to play its first nine on the road. So, I’ll go with Columbus? Who could lose Ethan Finlay for the Copa America and Wil Trapp to the Olympics? Will a full year of rested Didier Drogba work, or was the half-year part of what kept his legs brilliant in Quebec? How will RBNY cope without Matt Miazga, and handle CONCACAF Champions League schedule congestion? Which ones will try to win the Open Cup?

[ EXCLUSIVES: Villa wants wins at NYC | Pontius starts fresh in Philly ]

Then, with apologies to Chicago — and Philadelphia given my colleagues’ predictions — there’s a batch of five teams that can make the playoffs if their ships come in.

We saw what can happen when a single, revolutionary force joins an attack (Giovinco, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Drogba). What if that’s Shkëlzen Gashi in Colorado? What if Ilsinho opens up defenses for the Union? How about the chances of Jack Harrison, Fabian Herbers, Jordan Morris, Omar Holness or Julian Buescher pulling a Cyle Larin and exploding as a rookie?

[ MORE: PST’s MLS writer roundtable |Will NYC, Orlando kick on? ]

So, please, please, please, let us be close to correct MLS. The difference in 2nd place and 7th in the East last year was nine points. In the West, it was six! Whether you’re playing on a postage stamp (NYC) or a small city (Seattle), anyone can make a run (Yes, even you Chicago, with a new coach and GM).

JPW Nick Mendola Andy Edwards Kyle Bonn Kyle Lynch
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
1. Toronto 1. Columbus 1. Toronto 1. Red Bulls 1. Columbus
2. NYC 2. Toronto 2. Red Bulls 2. Montreal 2. Toronto
3. Red Bulls 3. Montreal 3. Montreal 3. Toronto 3. Red Bulls
4. Columbus 4. Red Bulls 4. Columbus 4. Columbus 4. New England
5. Montreal 5. Orlando 5. Orlando 5. New England 5. Orlando
6. Orlando 6. NYC 6. NYC 6. Orlando 6. Montreal
7. New England 7. New England 7. New England 7. DC 7. NYC
8. DC 8. Philadelphia 8. DC 8. NYC 8. DC
9. Philadelphia 9. DC 9. Philadelphia 9. Chicago 9. Chicago
10. Chicago 10. Chicago 10. Chicago 10. Philadelphia 10. Philadelphia
WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE
1. Seattle
1. LA
1. LA
1. Vancouver
1. Vancouver
2. LA
2. Vancouver 2. Dallas
2. Seattle
2. Dallas
3. KC
3. KC
3. KC
3. KC
3. Seattle
4. Vancouver
4. Dallas
4. Portland
4. Dallas
4. LA
5. Portland
5. Seattle
5. Vancouver
5. Portland
5. Portland
6. Dallas 6. Portland 6. Seattle 6. San Jose 6. Houston
7. San Jose 7. San Jose 7. RSL 7. Houston 7. KC
8. RSL 8. Colorado 8. Houston 8. LA 8. San Jose
9. Houston 9. RSL 9. San Jose 9. RSL 9. RSL
10. Colorado 10. Houston 10. Colorado 10. Colorado 10. Colorado

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

Adam Davy/PA via AP
1 Comment

Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.