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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Watford

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Like many of the teams towards the bottom of the Premier League table last season — and in most years — Watford had the classic killer combination of a lack of offensive firepower and an equally disappointing struggle of allowing goals.

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Marco Silva has been brought in to help Watford improve upon its 17th place finish from 2016/17, and with several key additions in the midfield the Hornets just might be able to climb the PL table in the Portuguese manager’s first season with the club.

Best, worst case scenarios – Watford will likely be lumped in with many of the usual mid-table suspects, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. If the Hornets can find another stable goalscorer alongside Troy Deeney up front, then perhaps the squad can make a push into the upper half of the table, which is likely the team’s ceiling. The club has also been reported to be close to a deal with young Brazilian Richarlison, and if successful, the 20-year-old Fluminense attacker could be a promising piece to the squad.

Worst-case scenario might just see Silva’s side drop down to the Championship. It’s not far-fetched considering how close Watford was a season ago to falling into England’s second flight. There were major concerns defensively last season, with the club allowing 68 goals in 38 matches, and as mentioned above, Deeney really didn’t have much support in the goalscoring department. He was the only Watford player to crack the 10-goal mark, and that’s something that must change in 2017/18 if the Hornets are to stave off relegation.


Best possible XI is…

Gomes

Janmaat — Kaboul — Britos — Holebas

Doucoure — Chalobah

Amrabat — Cleverley — Pereyra

Deeney


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea, Undisclosed), Daniel Bachman (Free agent), Kiko Femenia (Alaves, Undisclosed), Will Hughes (Derby County, Undisclosed)

Transfers Out: Juan Carlos Paredes (Emelec, Free), Mario Suarez (Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng, Undisclosed)

Last season:

— 17th in Premier League
— FA Cup 4th Round (lost to Millwall)
— League Cup 2nd Round (lost to Gillingham)

Star player: Troy Deeney — As stated above, Deeney was the only player to crack 10 goals last season. This is a squad that desperately needs somebody to finish chances, and at this very moment, it appears Deeney is the most likely candidate to do so.

Coaches’ Corner: Marco Silva — Say what you will about Silva’s performance at Hull last season, but there really wasn’t much to work with for the Portuguese boss or the Tigers roster. This isn’t a terribly different scenario for the manager, but the club has added some solid pieces this summer, such as Chalobah and Femenia. He’ll certainly have his work cut out for him, and Silva will have to keep a sharp eye out for more additions during January if he is to keep this team afloat.

PST predicts: Goals have been hard to come by for Watford, and at the end of the day that’s what keeps you in the Premier League. The Hornets squeaked by last season with just 40 goals to get them into 17th place, but it’s hard to say if that will be enough again in 2017/18. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, somebody other than Troy Deeney has to emerge on the goalscoring-front, and it has to start earlier rather than later in the season because that could spell doom for Silva and this squad.

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

[ MORE: NYCFC teen signs for Gladbach ]

Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola