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MLS preview: Orlando-Philadelphia Friday appetizer leads to tasty weekend

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With the MLS tables still looking topsy-turvey four games into the young season, Seattle has a golden opportunity to build on its first points of the year, while teams like Columbus, D.C., and New York will need big performances if they wish to get themselves back on track.

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More on that in a bit. First, a Friday taste brings us a pair of teams with surprisingly good starts.

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC – Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Orlando City leads the packed Eastern Conference and Philadelphia sits two points back as both teams come into today with a pair of wins on the season. Orlando is unbeaten thus far, and Kaka has returned after missing the first three games of the year, and he was stellar last week in a win over Portland. That record will be tested, as they will be without Brek Shea, who scored a goal in the Portland win, but had a yellow card changed to a red following the match, and thus is suspended. Also, Cyle Larin’s hamstring injury will keep him out, and Tommy Redding will miss with a head injury.

New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC – Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET

Two teams with just one win on the year meet at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. Toronto will have to buck a few trends to turn things around from two straight defeats and pick up some points. They have not scored in their last two matches, building on a dubious streak of 94 scoreless minutes. They also have lost four of their last five to New England, and seven of their last nine regular season road matches.

Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew – Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET

Montreal is another club that’s failed to score its last two times out, although their situation is different after picking up wins in their first two matches which still has them second in the East. Columbus will look to strike on Montreal’s slide, still without a win on the year and in the East basement. The Crew may also want to use some of their playoff mojo if any is leftover, having knocked Montreal out with a thrilling 3-1 extra time win in the second leg. Stat to note: Montreal has conceded four set-piece goals in four games, while two of Columbus’s three goals this season have come off corners.

D.C. United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET

D.C. remains without a win, and they’ll need an upset in form if that will change this weekend. Vancouver is unbeaten in three conceding just a single goal across that span, and none since 52nd minute against Seattle back in mid-March. The Whitecaps have improved defensively, and D.C. will need to match them if they hope to pick up the season’s first win.

New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting KC – Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

The referees haven’t helped, but the defending Supporters’ Shield winners have just three points on the year. As they travel to a seemingly revived Sporting KC, the central defense situation hasn’t improved. Kemar Lawrence, already an emergency option in the middle, was injured last week and is likely out for this weekend. Damien Perrinelle, Ronald Zubar, and Gideon Baah all missed out last week and will likely do so again in this bigtime meeting. Sporting KC failed in an attempt to beat a shorthanded team last week, falling to Real Salt Lake at home, but they get another go at the situation again this time around.

FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

FC Dallas is maybe the league’s hottest team, taking last season’s momentum and carrying it over, translating to 10 points through five matches. With an already good start, it could get better with key attacking cog Mauro Diaz set to return, having already found his way back to training. This already feels like an important meeting, with the Western Conference so clogged with points already. San Jose has seven points through four games, a quality haul by any standards, and yet they sit in just seventh. Points here would be huge to vault up the table in the early going.

Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids – Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET

A pair of revived teams meet in a late Saturday match. Real Salt Lake has scored a whopping eight goals this season, quite the number after finding themselves shut out 14 times last season. That scoring form comes into this game against a Rapids side that will be shorthanded, with defender Mekeil Williams stuck in Trinidad & Tobago with a visa issue after playing for his national team in World Cup qualifying. Meanwhile, it’s the opposite for RSL as Kyle Beckerman returns from suspension along with Jamison Olave and Burrito Martinez.

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders – Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

The Seattle Sounders are still bottom of the Western Conference. That’s funky no matter what way it’s spun, but with their first win of the season last time out, they are poised to turn things around. All three of their losses came by one goal, and that’s how they won last weekend, so things could be turning their way. The Sounders will need to buck a trend if they wish to come back home victorious, having never won at BBVA Compass Stadium in six tries. Houston, meanwhile, has scored 11 goals this season and conceded eight, so they’ll need to bring that latter number down if they wish to take advantage of the colossal tally up front.

New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire – Sunday, 7:00 p.m. ET

A pair of clubs with five points on the year look for separation in the East. Mark Geiger will referee this match after having come under fire for some red cards early in this season. NYCFC manager Patrick Viera said some handed out so far have been “harsh” so keep an eye on the discipline of this game. Chicago defender Johan Kappelhof is one to watch, having started his MLS career off quite well, earning MLS Team of the Week honors last time out in a 1-0 win over Philadelphia.

L.A. Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers – Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Portland hasn’t seen victory since the first week of the season, and as a result, they are only buffered from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings by Cascadia brethren Seattle. However, a 5-2 win over the Galaxy late last year sparked a stunning unbeaten run that ran them to the MLS Cup. Can they use the same opponent as a springboard yet again? They’ll need to improve quick, as Kaka tore them to shreds last weekend.  The Galaxy, meanwhile, been all over the map amidst a host of injury problems. Steven Gerrard is a question mark having not returned to full training from a calf injury, Robbie Keane is still on the shelf after knee surgery, and Gio dos Santos is back to training but still could be held back.

Season restart preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Brighton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Seagulls when it comes to the season restart.

Outlook: If there’s a team whose results don’t show the way they’ve played, it’s Brighton. Graham Potter’s Seagulls have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league, are a tidy seventh in passing, and are mid-table in tackles per game, interceptions per game, and shots per game.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]

The expected goals stats show even less reward for good work, with Brighton scoring 8.35 goals less than expected in open play and 4.38 less from corner kicks.

Despite all these good things, Brighton is two points clear of the drop zone with nine matches to play and has a terribly challenging schedule especially at the Amex Stadium.

Tactical analysis: Graham Potter has put the Seagulls in myriad formations this season, though he’s been utilizing at least four at the back since the calendar turned to 2020. He’s ready to attack but pragmatic given the club’s hopes of staving off the teams below it in the fight for PL survival.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Brighton’s chances ]

Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Ryan —–

— Montoya — Webster — Dunk — Burn —

—– Propper —– Mooy —–

— Trossard — Gross — Alzate —

—– Maupay—–

Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh are excellent weapons to have on the bench, and Brighton’s also got a very good center back in reserve in the form of Shame Duffy and an underrated center mid in Dale Stephens who will see playing time, too. On paper, this team is too good to go down.

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Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle
Away: Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Burnley

Predicted finish: They’ll do enough to get by, though that home fixture list is simply brutal. Safe before the final weekend.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.


Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.

Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]

Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.

Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

Premier League return
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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.