Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Track record of Top League vets bodes well for Rooney in MLS

Leave a comment

Sometimes you start researching a post, only to have just a few clicks on a stats page end any misgivings about the other side of your argument.

[ MORE: JPW on Rooney move ]

Wayne Rooney looks set to make a move to DC United, which is predictably being met by three sets of rallying cries:

  1. MLS is a retirement league (false)
  2. He’s not going to be worth it (relative and debatable)
  3. DC would be better served spend its money on younger Player X “not everyone’s heard of”

There’s little doubt that the fine work of Atlanta United has inspired and invigorated teams to look younger. Better to sign those on the stairway to the elite, not the escalator away from it.

But how often has a top European league starter, let alone a 10-goal Premier League scorer, produced at MLS?

Spoiler alert: Almost always. And the “clear busts” are very hard to find.

Here are two things we’ve learned, when it comes to Rooney or any player coming from an intense season in a top league:

  1. There are usually good signs in the abbreviated first season, but the second year is where the best output occurs (logically due to the stress of going from one season to the next and the ensuing offseason of rest).
  2. These may’ve looked like moves to sell jerseys and spread their club names worldwide, and they surely accomplished that, but class is close to permanent.

First we have to define the sample size, and we’ll stay in recent seasons considering the league — and this is not up for debate — is better than ever.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts to finishing 2nd ]

It’s still too soon to judge Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 17 goals for Manchester United in 2016-17 before missing most of this season.

We’ll also steer clear of Americans returning home, in part because that deserves its own post. Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, and Brad Guzan have met very different fates, but there are myriad components to their moves home.

Who does qualify? We look through traditional numbers and take a run through advanced stats site WhoScored.com to back us up.

Pre-S: For those who say, “but you listed some of the best names in modern soccer history,” … exactly.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Last team: Manchester United
MLS team: Chicago Fire
Age upon arrival: 32
Status report: Unqualified success; Chicago was on an entirely different level when Schweinsteiger was healthy, as the Fire went from also-ran to threatening a first-round bye in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.

David Villa

Last team: Atletico Madrid
MLS team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 33
Status report: One of the best players in MLS history. Don’t really need to write more, do I?

Giovani Dos Santos

Last team: Villarreal
MLS team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 26
Status report: Amazing start, but jury out; Dos Santos posted three goals and five assists in his first 10 MLS matches, then followed it up with a wonderful 14-goal, 12-assist performance in 2016. Last season was terrible, but the early returns make the deal worthwhile.

Kaka

Last team: AC Milan
MLS team: Orlando City
Age upon arrival: 32
Status report: Unqualified success; Twenty-four goals and 19 assists in three seasons with a brand new MLS club. That is not bad. His second of three seasons here was marvelous.

Sebastian Giovinco

Last team: Juventus
New team: Toronto FC
Age upon arrival: 28
Status report: One of the best players in MLS history. Next.

Andrea Pirlo

Last team: Juventus
MLS team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 36
Status report: Disappointment, but not as bad you recall; Pirlo had a bad ending at NYCFC, as his legs and waning passion caught up to him, but his first two seasons were good offensively, including an 11-assist campaign in 2016. He was 10th in key passes that season.

Steven Gerrard

Last team: Liverpool
MLS team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 35
Status report: Slow start, but a success; Gerrard was fine in his first half-season, but really shone when available as a sophomore. The Liverpool legend scored three goals and added 11 assists in 21 games; Only Sacha Kljestan recorded a better assist-per-90 minute ratio in MLS that season, and he was the 20th rated player in MLS by WhoScored.

Frank Lampard

Last team: Manchester City
New team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 37
Status report: Slow start, but a success; “Lamps” came to MLS at 37 after a long PL season, and fought injuries. But despite his age, Lampard scored 12 goals in 19 matches as a midfielder during his second season. Villa, Pirlo, and Lampard ranked 1, 4, and 5 on NYCFC’s performance score in 2016.

Ashley Cole

Last team: Roma
New team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 35
Status report: Just okay; Considering that his signing seemed a laugh to the majority of fans (everywhere), his consistent appearances with a poor LA defense move this above considerably above “bust” status.

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd and Arsenal chase top five; Chelsea host Liverpool

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is filled up to the brim of top-six sides in action, as Manchester United and Arsenal look to climb into the top five in the table, while Chelsea looks to send a strong message as they host leaders Liverpool.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

West Ham vs. Manchester United — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Aside from leaders Liverpool, there is no other team in the league experiencing such a positive run as West Ham. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last four bouts – wining twice and drawing twice – as they head into Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United. Equal with five other sides with eight points, Manuel Pellegrini is conscious that it’s the ideal time to make a statement and climb into the top six.

“We have a very strong team in front of us, it will be a strong test against United. It is the only way we can get into the top six, demonstrating you are able to do it,” Pellegrini said heading into Sunday.

As for the Red Devils, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side – who share the podium with West Ham – are looking to extend their current winning form to three games. Ahead of the game, however, the talk surrounding United isn’t Sunday’s game, but Paul Pogba‘s rumored move to Real Madrid this summer. What a better way to get everyone’s mind of theoretical situations and injury worries than with a win.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Michail Antonio (hamstring), Arthur Masuaku (suspended) | Manchester United —OUT: Anthony Martial (thigh), Paul Pogba (back), Luke Shaw (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee)

Crystal Palace vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Not many expected it: Wolves winless throughout the first five games of the season. That, however, is the reality for a team that finished seventh last season. By now, Wolverhampton Wanderers have had plenty of time to pick up on the alarm bells, it’s time for them to respond.

Manager Nuno Espírito Santo, for instance, knows that it’s time for his side to get back into shape before it’s too late.

“This is important,” he said. “We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyse it and find solutions in the team to improve. We must react immediately. We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.”

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after falling to Tottenham Hotspur, 4-0, last week. Playing at Selhurst Park this time around should be a positive, but Palace has only managed to score a goal in three matches in front of their home crowd this season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: None | Wolverhampton Wanderers — OUT: None

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Arsenal have had several things going for them this season: scoring at home, positive first Europa League performance, a healthy and productive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among others. One thing they’ve been missing, though, is an effective Nicolas Pepe, especially after shelling record-money for the 24-year-old Ivorian.

“He needs more adaptation,” Emery said in his pre-match press conference. “He is playing good but progressively we know there is going to be more performance in him to help us and I want to do now quickly the last step in the adaptation for us, for example, against Aston Villa.”

With Alexandre Lacazette still out with an ankle injury, Pepe, again, will have the opportunity to showcase his true worth to a packed Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, too, can use his skill to get that much closer to three, vital points.

“When will Aston Villa finally break out of their shell?” is the million-dollar question for the visitors. At times, the newly promoted side has shown the flair that made it so powerful in the Championship last season, only to leave spectators on the edge of their seats, waiting for that final blow. In North London on Sunday, Dean Smith and Co. have the chance to do so with several players back in the mix, but that’s not to say the task will be a walk in the park.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) | Aston Villa — OUT: James Chester (thigh), Jonathan Kodjia (cheek)

Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool, like Chelsea, suffered opening losses in European play midweek; however, there is a different, more positive impetus fueling Jurgen Klopp‘s side. The defending Champions League winners’ immaculate record speaks volume to their current situation, one that’s biggest setback has been the aforementioned loss to Napoli and the injury to goalkeeper Allison, while regaining influential player Nabi Keita in trainings.

It begs to ask: with Manchester City already behind and several top-six sides struggling, how will Liverpool not runaway with the league title this season? That type of talk, however, is exactly what Klopp doesn’t want to hear. The season is green – very, ver green – and this season, for one reason or another, is nothing like last year’s.

“Nothing is won already,” Klopp said. “We have seen teams make big steps. There is nobody you think will go down with no points. Watford and Wolves have been at the bottom, struggling, but will end up going back up. The league is much different (to last season). So many things can happen. Five games is nothing, not even created a basis…”

Klopp’s counterpart on Sunday, Frank Lampard, as a result of his own environment, is managing a different dialogue ahead of the clash, like the possibility of fielding Mason Mount, who came off midweek against Valencia in Champions League play.

On the bright side, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four league bouts, and have a game against Liverpool under their belts this season already – a penalty-shootout loss in the UEFA Super Cup – that should have seasoned them ahead of this season’s part two of the rivalry.

“Times have changed slightly, but it doesn’t change that feeling,” Lampard said on the Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry. “I think the fans feel it, the players feel it, it does involve a lot of passion whenever it’s played. If your levels aren’t there it’s a game that can get away from you quickly so my first thing to say to the players is to make sure they feel this game, recognise what it is, because it always does have an edge.”

INJURIES: Chelsea OUT: Antonio Rüdiger (groin), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James (both fitness) | Liverpool  OUT: Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)

Serie A roundup: Inter win Derby della Madonnina, Juventus edge Verona (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Inter Milan’s rampant run and Juventus’ win headline Saturday’s Serie A action.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

AC Milan 0-2 Inter Milan

The stats books following this season’s first Derby della Madonnina make two things very clear: at the moment, Inter are the best team in Milan and in Serie A.

With four consecutive victories to start the season, Antonio Conte and Co. lead Italy’s top-flight by two points.

 

After nearly being up two goals in the first half, Inter broke deadlock in the 49th minute. From a orchestrated set-piece play, marcelo Brozovic’s strike skimmed the heels of Rafael Leão, deflecting the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma, and into the back of the net. An offside call was reviewed through VAR, but the goal stood.

In the 78th minute, a short, lofted cross from Nicolò Barella found Romelu Lukaku, who headed the ball into the far post. The Belgian, who arrived from Manchester United during the summer, has scored three goals in four league games.

Dominating time with the ball didn’t do much for AC Milan, whose clearest chance came late in the second half when Theo Hernández’s strike inside the box hit the bar.

Yet to taste a draw or defeat, Inter marches on as they host Lazio next, while AC Milan travel to Turin to take on Torino.

Juventus 2-1 Hellas Verona

In a game that could have gone either way, Juventus, with its star-studded team and all, walked away with three points against 10-man Hellas Verona.

Aaron Ramsey, who made a shock switch to the Old Lady in July following an 11-year spell with Arsenal, scored his first Serie A goal. From distance, in the 31st minute, the 29-year-old’s shot deflected Verona’s Koray Gunter, beating Marco Silvestri and into the goal.
Ramsey’s goal, however, only leveled the score.
Following a missed penalty and second chance, Miguel Veloso scored what can be the goal of the week: a first-time, left-footed volley into the top corner of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal. Verona, who had a couple of clear chances in the second half, were unable to get past Buffon again.
With three points desperately needed to keep pace with Inter Milan, Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue. The Portuguese converted from the sport – his first of the season – following a solo run from Juan Cuadrado.

With positive momentum behind them, second-place Juventus travels to Brescia next, while Hellas Verona receive a lackluster Udinese side.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Cagilari 3-1 Genoa

Udinese 0-1 Brescia

VIDEO: Kei Kamara scores superb bicycle kick goal against Sporting KC

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kei Kamara has scored plenty of goals at Children’s Mercy Park, but none like his bicycle kick goal on Saturday.

The 35-year-old, now in his 16th season, showcased his penchant for scoring right before halftime against his former team. The goal makes 12 for the Colorado Rapids’ forward this season, placing him within the top 10 of the league and two begin his 14-goal season last year.

Overall, Kamara is fifth in the all-time MLS scoring list with 124 goals, second among active players behind San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski.

Enjoy a superb goal from a superb goalscoerer.

La Liga roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar