Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Sunderland

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Sunderland hasn’t done much in the way of additions this summer, so can the Black Cats stay up again next season?

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Several key departures have left Sunderland at a severe disadvantage in comparison to the rest of the Premier League field, including Emmanuel Giaccherini and Steven Fletcher. Additionally, manager Sam Allardyce has left the club to take on a new challenge with England, while David Moyes has been tasked with keeping the Black Cats afloat again in 2016/17.

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One of the biggest stories to watch over the coming weeks will be how the Black Cats fare defensively. While the team’s attack is lacking depth, the side has much sorting out to do at the back, which is currently led by veteran center back John O'Shea.

U.S. defender DeAndre Yeslin has recently been linked with a move back to the Stadoum of Light after a successful loan spell in 2015/16, however, no move has been made yet to secure the full back.

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Cohesion will give the Black Cats an advantage over newcomers: While Sunderland has lost several talents this summer and added nothing up until this point, the team could very well benefit from keeping together much of its core. As long as the squad remains healthy, the players’ familiarity with one another could carry them as high as the top half of the table.

Most likely fight to stay afloat next season: A lack of additions this summer has put Moyes and co. behind the eight ball. While leading scorers Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini remain at the club, Sunderland simply doesn’t have the firepower to contend with even the PL’s mid-table sides like Everton and Southampton.

Best Possible XI

—– Mannone —–

— Jones — O’Shea  — Kone — Kaboul —

— Cattermole — Khazri — Van Aanholt —

 — Lens —

— Defoe –Borini —


Transfers in: None

Transfers out: Wes Brown (Released), Danny Graham (Free, Blackburn), Steve Harper (Released), Martin Smith (Free, Kilmarnock), Emmanuel Giaccherini (Undisclosed, Napoli), Steven Fletcher (Free, Sheffield Wednesday), Mikael Mandron (Free, Eastleigh), Liam Agnew (Released), Adam Matthews (Loan, Bristol City), Santiago Vergini ($1 million, Boca Juniors)

Last season: Fans of the club were given a thrill (and likely a scare or two) but Sunderland’s escape of relegation at the tail end of 2015/16 was a memorable one for the Black Cats. A 17th place finish isn’t anything to brag about but a stay in the Premier League is all the supporters and squad members will care about.

Star player: Jermain Defoe – At 33 years old, Defoe has aged like fine wine and proven to be a steal for Sunderland since returning to the Premier League in 2015. The Englishman netted 15 goals a season ago, good enough for seventh in England. With the Black Cats undermanned up front, Defoe will be at the center of the team’s attacking duties for the second straight campaign.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Jermain Defoe of Sunderland celebrates staying in the Premier League after victory during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Coach’s corner: David Moyes has faced difficult challenges before but 2016/17 could be his biggest yet. With Sunderland failing to make a splash this summer in the transfer market, the new boss will have to overcome several major hurdles with a roster that doesn’t boast a ton of talent. After narrowly escaping relegation in the final matches of the 2015/16 season, Moyes will have to get creative and hopefully bank on spending more in January if the team is to stay up by the end of May 2017.

METHIL, SCOTLAND - JULY 12: David Moyes manager of Real Sociedad looks on during the pre season friendly match between St Johnstone and Real Sociedad at Bayview on July 12, 2015 in Methil, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Sunderland could very well be in a similar position this season as they were a year ago with the team’s lack of additions this summer. With the squad likely forced to rely heavily again on Jermain Defoe up front, it will be up to the veteran Englishman to duplicate his impressive form of a season ago if the Black Cats are to survive again. A finish near the bottom is more than likely barring a big spending spree this winter.

Pearson: ‘I was semi-retired’ before Watford came calling

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Nigel Pearson had come to terms with the fact he would never again manage in the Premier League — or any league, perhaps — before Watford came calling out of sheer desperation last month.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings ]

“I was semi-retired, more or less,” Pearson admitted on Friday. He had been out of work for nearly 10 months following an 18-month spell at Belgian side Leuven. That came on the heels of a disastrous five months at EFL Championship side Derby, where he compiled a win percentage of just 21.4 percent — quotes from the Guardian:

“I wouldn’t have been thinking it was possible, of course I wouldn’t. It really is a situation that’s come out of nothing. I was semi-retired, more or less.”

“I’ve been asked whether I was worried about getting a reputation as a ‘firefighter’ and it doesn’t bother me. If that’s how people want to look at it, fine. From my own perspective, coming into a situation like this, it’s just a good opportunity to work back in a league I didn’t think I’d be working in again. In terms of risk to my reputation or anything like that, I’m not bothered about those things. I wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if I didn’t think we had a realistic chance of succeeding.

“It’s just one of those situations where clearly there was a need for something different. So far it’s going OK. I’m pleased with how we’ve started to turn things around but I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s still going to be a tough job to maintain the standards we’ve set and push on again.”

Now at Watford, and back in the PL for the first time since 2015 (Leicester City), Pearson has guided the Hornets to four wins in his first seven games, including five straight without a defeat, and a 17th-place standing ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures. When he took over, Watford sat 20th out of 20 teams with eight points from 15 games. Less than a month later, they sit a point outside the relegation zone with 22 to their name.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).

Bundesliga: Schalke spoils Gladbach’s chance to go top

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Michael Gregoritsch scored one goal and set up another as Schalke dealt a blow to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Bundesliga title hopes in a 2-0 win on Friday.

In the Bundesliga’s first game of 2020 after the winter break, Gladbach’s defense was frequently overwhelmed by host Schalke’s rapid team moves, especially on the counterattack.

After a string of first-half saves by Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer kept the score 0-0 at the break, Schalke scored twice early in the second half to secure the win.

Gregoritsch took the ball out to the left flank in the 48th minute, stretching the Gladbach defense and opening up space in the middle. He then passed for Suat Serdar to charge through the gap in Gladbach’s back line and score from the edge of the penalty area.

Ten minutes later it was Gregoritsch’s turn to score, finishing off a counterattack which ran almost the length of the field, with a lay-off pass from Benito Raman.

“We had trouble the whole game with Schalke’s movement. They put a lot of pressure on us and it was hard to play the ball out too. We gave them too much room,” Sommer said in televised comments. “We had chances in the first half when we could have scored a goal, but in general we were not good enough today.”

As well as his key role in attack, Gregoritsch also made a key intervention in defense, clearing Marcus Thuram’s header off the line in the 38th in what proved to be one of Gladbach’s best chances.

“When it works like this, it’s really great,” Gregoritsch said, crediting Schalke’s home crowd for the win. “We’re at home and we can hit the gas pedal a bit more with the 12th man here.”

Starting in goal for Schalke due to a suspension for first-choice Alexander Nubel, Markus Schubert made a good reaction stop to deny Gladbach’s Patrick Herrmann just before the break.

Gladbach stays two points behind leader Leipzig and can be overtaken by third-place Bayern Munich on Sunday if Bayern beats Hertha Berlin.

Gladbach was the surprise leader earlier in the season as its fans started to dream of a first German title since 1977, but it’s started to stall, having won just one of its last five games in all competitions.

Schalke moves up one place to fourth, overtaking its fierce rival Borussia Dortmund, which visits Augsburg on Saturday.

Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings

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Frank Lampard is not only prepared for, but almost seems to prefer that, Chelsea make no new signings this month despite the club’s transfer ban being reduced to allow the Blues to sign players in January.

[ MORE: Report: Bruno Fernandes to Man United after Lisbon Derby ]

It’s not that Lampard believes he has the perfect squad, but he fears upsetting the balance and good vibes for a young group of players who have performed admirably thus far. Signing players for the sake of signing players would be “a knee-jerk reaction,” according to Lampard — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t want to comment on those deals because I think it’s easy with hindsight. … I think the idea of January being a time to buy players, it’s difficult for everybody: for players coming in — especially if they’re coming from a different league — for the club and for the settlement of the group. I think that’s why we have to think ultra-carefully.

“I don’t want to make some knee-jerk reaction to say: ‘Here’s my first big signing’ because we couldn’t sign anyone in the summer. No, I want to do the right thing for the club. That’s why if I do it I’ll try to consider all things. Hopefully it’s the best thing for us. Whether that’s more of a short-term option or a long-term option, we’ll also have to consider.”

As for potential outgoing players, West Ham United reportedly made a bid to take midfielder Ross Barkley on loan, but Chelsea rejected the offer and have no intention of letting the player leave Stamford Bridge this month.