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Need to Know: What went down on MLS opening day

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The 2019 MLS season got underway on Saturday, and did so with a flurry of action — and goals — across the campaign’s first 10 games…

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Heath lead USWNT back to draw England (video) ]

If you missed the day’s action, here are four of the biggest stories, outcomes, debuts or revelations you need to know…

Michael Bradley Revenge Tour – 2019

First things first, 2019 is a contract year for Michael Bradley, Toronto FC’s $6.5-million-per-year midfield engine. While the one-time (and maybe still) U.S. men’s national team captain can hardly ever be accused of prioritizing money over all else in his career, it’s the whole “getting paid” part that makes him a professional. Beyond the cash he stands to make or lose on a potential next contract, Bradley must first prove he’s got enough left in the tank to warrant the Reds extending an offer in the first place.

Fine, have a season-opening brace in a 3-1 victory away to the Philadelphia Union, one of the Eastern Conference’s six playoff teams from a year ago. What happened to TFC in 2019 was no doubt an embarrassment and an affront for a player of Bradley’s standard.

Taking into account the above two factors, no one should be at all surprised when Bradley turns in Herculean performance after Herculean performance in 2019, shutting up his longtime haters and reminding those who might have jumped ship that he’s far from finished.


Meet the future of the Galaxy, Efrain Alvarez

Efrain Alvarez is a 16-year-old Mexican-American superstar in the making, and he already looks like he’ll be MLS’s next great teenage export to Europe. Making his MLS debut on Saturday, the Los Angeles-born Mexican youth international (he switch from the U.S. to Mexico at the U-15 level, in 2016) needed just eight minutes to make his mark and spark the Galaxy’s comeback.

Paging U.S. Soccer: let’s get on this, ASAP…

As for the Galaxy’s 2019 prospects, the only thing I feel comfortable saying with absolute certainty is this: they will be very fun to watch, and equal parts maddening, probably during the course of one every game. The best thing I can say for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side on his MLS coaching debut is this: after falling behind on a comically atrocious mistake that gift-wrapped Chicago’s opening goal, they knew how to play from behind without handing the Fire a second and/or third goal. Oh, yeah, and he’s already willing to play the Galaxy’s (considerably talented) academy kids.


Keep an eye on Minnesota

Minnesota United appear headed for respectability and a — dare I say it — push for a playoff place in 2019. Finally, after struggling defensively for two seasons, the Loons went out and make a trio of signings that might just prove franchise-altering in very short order: Osvaldo Alonso, Ike Opara and Jan Gregus.

While you’re undoubtedly familiar with the work of Alonso and Opara, Gregus probably has you thinking to yourself, Who? Who, indeed, but the 28-year-old Slovak international proved in Saturday’s 3-2 win away to the Vancouver Whitecaps that he is the midfield anchor Minnesota had been missing. Signed from Copenhagen this winter, Gregus was extremely tidy in possession (he completed 93 percent of the 84 passes he attempted) and provided solid cover for a backline that knew no such thing prior to his arrival.

Darwin Quintero remains one of the league’s biggest game-changers (one goal and two assists), which might not go to waste yet again now that the rest of the roster has a bit more quality and experience.


Orange ball alert

It is with great pleasure that I inform the masses that the Colorado Rapids were forced to break out the orange ball on the opening day of the season, thanks to near white-out conditions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the coldest game in MLS history (18 degrees at kickoff).

What did we learn about the Rapids or their opponents, the defending Western Conference champion Portland Timbers, on this day? Other than the fact that 3-3 draws and 94th-minute equalizers in heavy snow are tons of fun to watch, of course? Not a single thing, thanks to said weather conditions turning the game into a glorified Thanksgiving day pickup game in the backyard.

Full MLS scoreboard

Seattle Sounders 4-1 FC Cincinnati
LA Galaxy 2-1 Chicago Fire
Philadelphia Union 1-3 Toronto FC
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-3 Minnesota United
Colorado Rapids 3-3 Portland Timbers
Orlando City SC 2-2 New York City FC
Columbus Crew SC 1-1 New York Red Bulls
Houston Dynamo 1-1 Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Montreal Impact
FC Dallas 1-1 New England Revolution

Norwich City relegated

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Norwich City’s fifth Premier League journey is a one-and-done.

The Canaries were well-beaten 4-0 by a Michail Antonio haul for West Ham United at Carrow Road on Saturday and will head to the Championship after one season.

WATCH. NORWICH CITY – WEST HAM FULL MATCH REPLAY

Norwich’s 21 points are 10 back of 17th-place Watford with only three matches and nine points left for the Canaries.

The win conversely puts West Ham United on pretty safe footing, six points clear of the bottom three. The 16th place-Irons have a three-point edge on Watford.


Three things we learned

1. Norwich’s tortured season unredeemable: So many injuries at the back end and too many unlucky moments to count combined to make the Canaries the first and least surprising of three relegated teams. Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmerman missed 20-plus games over two stretches including the final weeks of the season, and Timm Klose has had to play nearly every minute since returning from a long-term injury.

Founding members of the Premier League in 1992, Norwich was first relegated in 1995 before rejoining the top flight a decade later. The club went back to the Championship after one year and sunk as low as League One in 2009-10.

This season was the Canaries’ third promotion of the decade and there were wonderful moments, many authored by Teemu Pukki and the electric Emiliano Buendia. Those two will join Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons, and Ben Godfrey as hotly-tracked transfer targets this summer.

2. The defense, fittingly, is the problem: Norwich City has been so bad at the back this year, some of it not their fault due to the injuries detailed above. The Canaries allowed six “big chances” according to SofaScore and it was just in the cards this season. The win over Man City feels ages ago.

3. Noble very good in return: West Ham’s captain returned to the starting lineup and was the proverbial straw that stirs the drink. He was economical in his challenges but won almost all of them and showed an array of passes while producing a terrific “hockey assist” to Fredericks on Antonio’s fourth.

Man of the Match:

Antonio — The hat trick hero has been out-working back line almost from the moment the Premier League returned to the pitch, and his goals were well-deserved. Mark Noble might be the club’s emotional guts, but Antonio’s been its heart and motor. Four goals? Come on. Antonio now has 36 career PL goals and is one away from his single-season best.


Norwich City – West Ham United recap

Tomas Soucek was lively early and drove a pass from Michail Antonio wide in the first eight minutes.

It was Antonio who put the Irons ahead with a firm back post finish of Issa Diop’s flicked corner.

Onel Hernandez clipped a Norwich chance wide but West Ham had most of the danger and Jarrod Bowen asked a big save of Tim Krul.

The Irons put Norwich effectively in the Championship when Antonio turned Mark Noble’s free kick home.

Krul stopped Antonio’s 54th-minute charge past Godfrey but Antonio leapt to head the rebound into the open net for 3-0.

The final goal came off a nice Noble ball to spring Ryan Fredericks into the right of the box, and the defender spotted Antonio for a slick backheeled finish.

Liverpool – Burnley stream: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

Liverpool - Burnley stream
Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images
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Premier League champions Liverpool continue their pursuit of history with a visit from Europa League-chasing Burnley at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

STREAM LIVERPOOL – BURNLEY LIVE

Liverpool looks for win No. 31 in 35 tries this league season, the hosts opening the day with 92 points and a 23-point lead on second-place Man City.

Burnley is in 10th with 49 points and can go eighth with a draw or seventh with a win.

Team news

Jurgen Klopp hands starts to youngsters Neco Williams and Curtis Jones.

Chris Wood is back in the lineup for Burnley, who moves Jay Brownhill inside to face the champions.

 

How to Watch Liverpool – Burnley

Start time: 10am ET
TV Channel: NBCSN
Stream Online: NBCSports.com

Leeds United legend, World Cup winner Jack Charlton dies

Jack Charlton dies
Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images
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One of English football’s brightest stars passed away on Friday.

Longtime England and Leeds United center back Jack Charlton, 85, suffered from a “long illness,” reports Sky Sports.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Charlton played every game of the 1966 World Cup for champions England and was a one club man with Leeds. He’s the older brother of Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton, a teammate on the World Cup-winning side.

Coming up with their academy, Charlton played 762 times for Leeds with 95 goals. He was the 1967 Football Writers Association’s Player of the Year and won both the Second and First Division with Leeds.

Charlton went on to manage Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday, and the Republic of Ireland.

This is from a Charlton family statement, via Sky Sports:

“We cannot express how proud we are of the extraordinary life he led and the pleasure he brought to so many people in different countries and from all walks of life. He was a thoroughly honest, kind, funny and genuine man who always had time for people.”

Norwich-West Ham, Watford-Newcastle: Stream, start time, how to watch

Watford-Newcastle
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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The Premier League weekend kicks off with two matches that could clear up the relegation picture.

First Norwich City can essentially see its fate sealed as a member of the bottom three if it cannot get full points when 17th-place West Ham United visits Carrow Road on Saturday (Watch live at 730am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

STREAM NORWICH CITY – WEST HAM LIVE

Also, Watford tries to move six points clear of the bottom three when it welcomes Miguel Almiron and Newcastle United to Vicarage Road (Watch live at 7:30am ET on NBC Sports Gold at NBCSports.com).

STREAM WATFORD – NEWCASTLE LIVE

Newcastle can move 11th with a win away from St. James’ Park.

Team News / Lineups

The Canaries hope Teemu Pukki can recapture his finishing magic and will have Todd Cantwell available off the bench.

Mark Noble is back in the lineup for West Ham, who has plenty of weapons on the bench in Manuel Lanzini, Andriy Yarmolenko, and Sebastien Haller.

Dwight Gayle will lead the line for Newcastle, with DeAndre Yedlin and Joelinton among those on the bench.

 

How to Watch Norwich – West Ham

Start time: 7:30 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBCSN
Stream Online: NBCSports.com

How to Watch Watford – Newcastle

Start time: 7:30 a.m. ET
Stream Online: NBCSports.com