AP Photo/Kevin Hagen

MLS preview: Red Bulls-Toronto FC, Timbers-Crew SC headline First Kick


It’s here. It’s finally here. Major League Soccer’s First Kick 2016 is here.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Just like last year, in this space we’ll discuss the biggest MLS games each weekend and I’ll hazard a prediction for each and every one of them — last year’s picks were so-so — thus opening myself up to loads of ridicule over the next eight months, beginning on Sunday. C’est la vie.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live

Without a doubt in my mind, this is the game of the weekend, and a worthy curtain raiser for the 2016 season. It’s hard to see past these two teams battling it out for top spot in the Eastern Conference this season — the Red Bulls finished top and won the 2015 Supporters’ Shield; TFC finally made the playoffs, kept the core pieces (Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore) intact for a second season and addressed actual needs in the offseason. As far as ceilings go, there’s nothing higher in the East.

As for Sunday’s matchup, it’ll be a battle of strength versus strength — RBNY’s midfield trio (Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins) vs. TFC’s midfield trio (Bradley, Will Johnson and Benoit Cheyrou). Woo, tasty. A slight advantage has to go to RBNY for the fact that all three players are holdovers from last year, while Johnson only arrived this winter. That said, TFC have the ultimate MLS difference maker (Atomic Ant), and that almost always counted for something in 2015.

Prediction: Red Bulls 2-2 TFC

Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Rematch of MLS Cup 2015 on opening day 2016, you say? Blah, I say. Sure, MLS needs to improve its television ratings in a big way, and leading off with a rematch of last year’s title game is one way to do that, I suppose, but doing so gives the game little chance of exuding the kind of quality you’d hope to see on display between two title-contending teams. The first month of the MLS season is very rarely anything close to resembling good soccer, but that’s just my two cents.

Didn’t we just finish discussing the tactical battle between these teams? Oh yeah, so just about everything from MLS Cup remains relevant on Sunday: Darlington Nagbe as a central midfielder is the new engine of the Timbers buzzsaw; Fanendo Adi and Kei Kamara are nightmares both physically and in terms of their off-ball movement, so good luck, center backs; Crew SC’s full backs (Waylon Francis and Harrison Afful) are going to be insanely dangerous up and down the flanks, and even more fun to watch this year; they’re both lethal on set pieces and dreadful at defending them, which shouldn’t have changed much in the offseason.

Prediction: Timbers 1-1 Crew SC

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City — Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, FS1

Sounders versus Sporting KC is quickly becoming one of the better under-the-radar rivalries in MLS, for two distinct reasons: 1) the games almost always arrive with massive consequences with regard to the standings — they’re both really good every year, and figure to be so again in 2016 — 2) the games are almost always heated and full of tempers flaring up and plenty of controversy. This makes for an entertaining spectacle.

It’ll be tough sledding in early days for the Sounders, who’ll have to adjust to life without Obafemi Martins, but fortunately for them, Clint Dempsey is still around and Jordan Morris is ready to become the greatest American soccer player ever chip in 10 or so goals this season to pick up the slack. Forewarning to the rest of the league: Joevin Jones is going to slay at left back for the Sounders. As for Sporting, they’ll attempt to run it back once more with a squad that’s won two U.S. Open Cups and an MLS Cup over the last four seasons, with the notable loss of would-have-been-superstar Krisztian Nemeth, which is offset by the arrivals of Brad Davis and Justin Mapp. These teams will be very good again in 2016, but it’s going to take a bit of time.

Prediction: Sounders 0-1 Sporting KC

Transfer news: Werner to Chelsea; Sanchez to Inter

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the latest transfer news Timo Werner is reportedly being chased by Chelsea, while Alexis Sanchez could be staying at Inter Milan instead of returning to Man United.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, a juicy report from Bild says that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is trying to convince his Germany teammate and close friend Timo Werner to join hm at Stamford Bridge.

Werner, 24, has dazzled at RB Leipzig this season (31 goals in 40 games in all competitions) and is widely expected to leave with Liverpool, Man United and many others clubs across Europe chasing his signature. Per the report, Chelsea have Rudiger working hard to convince his friend and former Stuttgart teammate that west London is the place for him.

The release clause on Werner’s current contract is said to be $60 million and Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a healthy transfer budget as they had a transfer ban for a whole year and Frank Lampard has just spent $44 million on one new signing so far, bringing in Hakim Ziyech who will not arrive until later this summer.

Werner is exactly what Chelsea need. They have created so many golden goalscoring opportunities and although Tammy Abraham was putting them away at the start of the season, his form and fitness was a concern in the last few months before the suspension.

Olivier Giroud is their only other forward option and Werner would be perfect to finish off the chances this attack-minded Chelsea team create. Even better for him, he would actually play at Chelsea which may not be the case at Liverpool and Man United given their stacked attacking lineups.

Getty Images

Heading to Manchester, it appears Alexis Sanchez may not be going back to his parent club next season.

Sanchez, 31, is on loan at Inter Milan for the 2019-20 season and the Daily Express claim that he could stay at Inter rather than heading back to Old Trafford despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously saying he was open to the idea. Per the report, Man United are keen to loan Sanchez out to Inter once again on a similar arrangement and the Serie A side are willing to see how Sanchez does when the season restarts in a few weeks. With Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and others around at Man United, he may struggle for minutes at Man United.

Would another loan be a good move for Inter?

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been their main strikers this season under Antonio Conte, with Sanchez out injured for large chunks of the campaign and then doing okay when he did play. However, with Martinez chased by Barcelona, if they do sell the Argentine forward for over $115 million, having Sanchez around on loan would soften the blow.

The main problem with Sanchez is that over the last three years he has picked up consistent injury problems. If he can shake those issues off, we all know he is capable of scoring goals and creating havoc. Given this recent track record though, that’s a big if, as he’s scored just one goal and added three assists in 15 outings for Inter this season.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

Premier League
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that zero out of 1130 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday and Friday have come back positive.


The fourth round of testing is the first time that no positive tests have come back, as a total of 3,882 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 12 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 full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:

The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1130 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.

This is more good news for the Premier League as the UK government gave the green light for elite sport in the UK to return from June 1 in empty stadiums, as the top-flight of English soccer continues to clear each hurdle in its way to finishing the final 92 games of the 2019-20 season.

With just over two weeks to go until the action returns, Premier League clubs will have to keep these test results low for the restart to take place.

Bayern Munich batter Fortuna, go 10 points clear at the top (video)

Bayern Munich
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bayern Munich are waltzing their way to an eight-straight Bundesliga title as they battered Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 on Saturday at the Allianz Arena to record an eight-straight win in the German top-flight.

[ MORE: Schalke lose again; Saturday recap ]

An own goal, two from Robert Lewandowsk and a goal each from Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies did the damage to Fortuna as Bayern Munich are now just three wins away from securing the title, as they have five games left in the season.

Hansi Flick has now won 22 of his 25 games in charge of Bayern Munich after he took charge in November with the German giants struggling under Niko Kovac. Now, they are rampant and are one of the favorites to win the UEFA Champions League.

The Bavarian giants dominated early on as USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales made an important clearance but Mathias Jorgensen was so lucky a few moments later.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule, stats

A ball into the box found Benjamin Pavard and his scuffed effort was going wide before it hit Jorgensen and went into his own goal.

Bayern then doubled their lead as Thomas Muller’s shot was pushed wide and from the resulting corner Pavard nodded home to make it 2-0.

Lewandowski made it 3-0 before the break as he has now scored against all of the current Bundesliga clubs and had previously gone without a goal in five outings against Fortuna.

Kimmich’s surging round saw the loose ball find Muller and his pass to Lewandowski was perfect as he swept home to an empty net.

Lewandowski was at it again just a few minutes after the break as he finished off a slick Bayern move as the Bavarian giants put their foot on the accelerator.

Alphonso Davies made it 5-0 as he bulldozed his way through the Fortuna defense and slotted home, while Muller and Pavard went close to adding a sixth and Fortuna had the odd chance on the break.

In the end, the victory was as routine as possible for Bayern Munich who have more than one hand on the Bundesliga title.

USMNT’s Weston McKennie honors George Floyd with armband

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Schalke and USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie has released a statement after he wore a personalized armband with the message ‘Justice for George’ on it to honor George Floyd.

McKennie, an American international who has played in the Bundesliga for the last four seasons at Schalke, was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He wore the armband in Schalke’s defeat at home to Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on Monday there have been widespread protests across the USA. A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Weston McKennie released the following statement after wearing the armband at the weekend to honor George Floyd:

“To be able to use my platform to bring attention to a problem that has been going on to long feels good!!! We have to stand up for what we believe in and I believe that it is time that we are heard! #justiceforgeorgefloyd #saynotoracism

Here is a photo of McKennie wearing the armband which he put on before the game kicked off and wore on his left arm.