Chelsea’s latest canter points to record-breaking title win

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LONDON — 10 points clear with 11 games to play. That says it all.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

“We’re going to win the league!” said Chelsea’s fans towards the end of their 2-1 win at West Ham United in the Premier League on Monday.

It’s not quite time to start tying some blue ribbons on the Premier  League trophy or planning a parade route around west London, but it’s not far off that time either as they became just the seventh team to rack up 66 points or more through the opening 27 games of a PL season.

Chelsea’s ruthless, composed display in their 2-1 win proved just how dominant they have become. Don’t look at the scoreline. It doesn’t tell the full story.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Antonio Conte‘s side have won 21 of their 27 Premier League games this season, but few were as easy as this.

“I think we played good football,” Conte said. “We created many chances to score the other goals. It is a pity to give away the other clean sheet at the end of the game. It is the second after Arsenal. We must work a bit on this aspect. I am pleased. It is not easy to play after your opponent played and won, when you know that if you drop points in these type of games, you give hope to your opponent to chase you. We played with a good pressure today but our answer was very good. I am very pleased for my players because we played very well and we controlled the game. We conceded not a lot. Our central defenders played very well against these long balls for Carroll, we defended very well. Good compact.”

That pressure will only mount in the coming weeks as Chelsea edge towards the title. With 11 games to go, everyone is waiting for Chelsea to stumble and their tricky games remaining come against Manchester City on Apr. 5 and Manchester United on Apr. 16. By the time the latter game is over, the race to win the league title may be as good as over.

Between now and then Conte knows the pressure is on.

“I think this period has started,” Conte said. “For me 11 games are a lot. Now, this period is very important to relieve the pressure in the right away. When you play the game after, you know your opponent won the game the day before. I am pleased for the commitment, the right mentality of my players. Very focused. They showed me great will to win the game and to suffer in the first half but stayed compacted but didn’t concede great chances to West Ham. Then we scored the goal, controlled the game. In some situations it is better to score more when you have the chances to better the result. I am very happy for the game because today it was.”

The reason Conte is so happy is because every single Chelsea player knew what they were doing from start to finish. They were confident, had a swagger in their step and a ruthless streak to continuously launch rapid counters as well as being able to dictate play and force opponents into mistakes.

Such has been their dominance since their 3-0 defeat at Arsenal back in September — they’ve lost just one PL game in their last 21 — there’s no reason to believe they won’t win all 11 of their remaining PL games.

If they did that they’d finish the season on 99 points, four more than the record points tally they hold from their title win in the 2004-05 campaign. They’d also set the record for most PL wins in a single-season with 32.

It seems absurd to suggest that but it is absurd how strong this Chelsea side is. They simply don’t have a weakness.

Just as much as their counters, continuity has been the key in Chelsea’s stylish canter towards the Premier League title. They’ve used 21 players in the Premier League this season, the fewest in the PL, and Conte has made just 24 team changes to his team.

We all saw last season how keeping things simple led to Leicester City’s incredible success. Chelsea have had the luxury of being able to follow that model with no European games leaving their starting lineup fresh and ready each week. It’s almost as if Conte studied Leicester’s playing style and told his Chelsea team to follow it.

It may not be easy between now and the end of the season (if it takes that long to seal the title) but they look unstoppable.

“It is not an easy ride but they aren’t going to become casual. That is 100 percent. They look very, very serious,” West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic said. “I can see them staying on top with the quality up top but also with how solid they are and concentrated they are and most of all how physically, the shape they are in… They are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League table for a reason.”

Conte is trying to stay calm, keeping away from praising individuals despite being asked about stunning displays from the likes of Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante.

He was asked if he trusts his players to see this job through and deliver a title in his opening season in England?

“I must have confidence in this because I think until now we deserve to stay on top of the table and now that we stay it is important to continue to keep this position,” Conte said. “For sure it won’t be easy because Tottenham and [Manchester] City, also Liverpool, two take two points from Arsenal and two points from United today was important. The game started to be less. I think this league will be very tough until the end. I listen to the other coaches of the other teams. They trust to win. This is right to have the ambition. It is important for us to know the others have this ambition, this hunger, this will to fight and stay on top of the league. It won’t be easy. We know this.”

“For sure, I trust my players,” Conte continued. “Because my players show me commitment not only during the games but during the week, in every training session, great will to working very hard to improve our work. I trust. Absolutely.”

It’s easy to trust your players when they’re 10 points clear at the top with 11 games to go.

First Leagues Cup will be an all-Liga MX affair

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Given Major League Soccer’s record against Liga MX sides when both teams are bringing their best players to the party, it’s no surprise that the former has been left out of the Leagues Cup Final.

Instead, Cruz Azul and Tigres UANL will meet on Sept. 18 for the first ever crown in the history of the competition pitting teams from Mexico, Canada, and the United States top flights.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Choosing not to play Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jonathan Dos Santos, and Carlos Pavon amongst others, the LA Galaxy fell 2-1 to Cruz Azul in Carson, California, getting an Emil Cuello goal but allowing the below delightful winner from Orbelin Pineda just after halftime.

The Galaxy were in the midst of a nasty four-match fortnight, and opted for this match — a tournament semifinal against a league which has bossed its league — to rest their men. Not a choice we love, but a fair choice given the Galaxy’s mere 4-point advantage on 7th place in the West.

Tigres needed penalties to get past Club America in an absolutely bonkers semifinal.

The match was level at 2 after regulation, with two own goals, a penalty, and a 90th minute red card doled out to Tigres’ Roger Martinez.

The second Tigres own goal, which came before the club outlasted America 5-3 in penalties, came deep in stoppage.

USWNT lawsuit goes to trial May 5

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A judge has set a May 5 trial date for the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team against U.S. Soccer.

District Judge R. Gary Klausner assigned the date at a hearing Monday in Los Angeles, which came less than a week after mediation between the two sides broke down.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

The players sued U.S. Soccer in March, alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation when compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The federation claims that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result.

The sides had agreed to mediate the dispute after this summer’s World Cup in France. The U.S. beat the Netherlands in July for its second straight title, and fourth overall.

The players and U.S. Soccer had requested a trial date after the Tokyo Olympics, which start July 25.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Zappacosta off to Roma as Chelsea trusts youth

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Tuesday was a great day to be Reece James.

Not that it hasn’t been a good summer altogether with Frank Lampard in charge of Chelsea.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Lampard sanctioned the loan of Zappacosta to AS Roma, which puts James firmly in line for first team reps at Stamford Bridge.

The 19-year-old James has earned his place after two seasons on loan at Wigan Athletic, and Cesar Azpilicueta will either need rest or time at center back at some point.

As for Zappacosta, he was a curiosity buy who was serviceable during his time at Stamford Bridge. At Roma, though, he’ll… also be second choice to club captain Alessandro Florenzi.

Lampard is definitely giving the Blues’ youth a chance to shine during this transfer ban, and this may well be the best opportunity of James’ career.

Predicting the USMNT September call-ups

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The United States men’s national team has just a pair of friendlies remaining before its next CONCACAF competition, the Nations’ League.

Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT will meet Uruguay and Mexico in September, and the looming CNL — you know Berhalter wants some sort of crown given the Gold Cup Final loss to El Tri — certainly hints at a strong XI even with players like Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Boyd (Besitkas) and Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf, on loan from Man City) settling into new digs.

[ MORE: Klopp “couldn’t afford” Coutinho ]

Before we dare to name a 23-man outfit for these matches, we should note that there’s no guarantee every big team will want to release their players in September. But this projection will act under the assumption that his best healthy men will accept invitations or that, at least, Berhalter will invite his best healthy men.

The MLS playoff push may actually force his hand in that Berhalter may respect teams in said playoff race due (though MLS does not have every team playing over the break).

We’ll assume for this exercise that DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) don’t miraculously come fit.

Now for the Big Berhalter Questions (BBQs):

  1. Since Gyasi Zardes has scored three goals and an assist in his last six MLS games and there’s no chance Berhalter ignores him, who will not get a look: Tim Weah (Lille), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas) or … wait, it’s gonna be Boyd.
  2. Wil Trapp has been poor in a USMNT jersey, but has three assists in his last six MLS matches so will he…. book his place, too.

Finally, I’m not going to say that this 23-man roster will be correct, but it will be fun.

Goalkeepers (3)

Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
Kasey Keller (Millwall)
Pick the guy who you think I should pick here and pretend you like it better than:
David Bingham (LA Galaxy)

Defenders (8)

John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Matt Miazga (Reading)
Aaron Long (West Ham New York Red Bulls)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Midfielders (6)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth)
Paxtom Pomykal (FC Dallas)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (6)

Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Timothy Weah (Lille)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Paul Arriola (DC United)
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)