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MLS Wrap: What We Learned

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It was another busy evening of MLS action on Saturday. There were upsets,

Here’s a look back at what we learned from Week 17

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


Earthquakes continue hot form in rout of Galaxy

There weren’t any last minute heroics needed on Saturday evening in the first edition of the Cali Classico.

The San Jose Earthquakes routed the LA Galaxy, 3-0, in front of nearly 51,000 fans at Stanford Stadium in a battle of not only Argentine managers but also more strategic Designated Players v. the Galactico method. It was the Earthquakes fourth win in their last six MLS games, with the other two being draws as the Earthquakes are suddenly in playoff contention.

It took the ‘Quakes some time to get used to Matias Almeyda’s methods, but it’s paying dividends. Vako, who scored a brace on Wednesday in a win over the Houston Dynamo, bagged the first of the night against the Galaxy after a planned free kick routine bounced back to him at the top of the box. Vako’s curling effort in the 11th minute proved to be the difference in the match.

In the final ten minutes, Shea Salinas fired a cracking goal that bounced off the far post and in, while Tommy Thompson dribbled past three Galaxy defenders before his shot took a wicked deflection, leaving David Bingham helpless in goal.

Of course, the Earthquakes wouldn’t have won without their goalkeeper. Daniel Vega made a couple of world-class saves, one on a dipping, curling effort from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and another from Fabian Alvarez. The Galaxy controlled the match, especially in the second half, but thanks to last-ditch defending from the Earthquakes and saves by Vega, they didn’t score.

To add insult to injury, Sebastian Lletget, who continues to battle muscle injuries this season, suffered a right thigh injury, per the club, and was subbed off at halftime.


More drama in Atlanta? 

Thanks to recent acquisition Justin Meram, Atlanta United bounced back from a disappointing defeat at Toronto FC to knock off the Montreal Impact, 2-1. However, the game is partially overshadowed by the substitution of Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez.

The most expensive transfer in MLS history has found life difficult playing for a different coach than Martinez probably expected when he agreed to come to the U.S. (Frank De Boer instead of Gerardo “Tata” Martino) and the MLS style is different than what Martinez experienced in Argentina.

On Saturday, Martinez was subbed off in the 68th minute, well before Meram scored the winner and after the Impact had leveled the score in the 50th minute. Martinez had initially set up Meram’s first goal, but according to de Boer, Martinez wasn’t at his best as the game wore on.

“In the beginning,there was nothing wrong,” de Boer said after the match. “I think he played quite well. He was setting up the first goal, cutting inside, playing it to Justin (Meram), moves through to make the space for Justin to come inside, so I have no problem with that. But in the second half, especially around the 60th to 65th minute,he was making too many mistakes and then it’s a danger to the team in that moment. Then it is my choice to make a decision,and overall against Toronto, I think he played one of his best games. It was short notice that he’d play again and maybe he was tired, but he has to make those plays.”

Martinez spurned European offers to come to the U.S., but one may wonder if he’s regretting that now, midway through his first season here. Of course, this could just be a blip as well. Martinez went the full 90 and could have saved a point with a penalty kick in the eighth minute of stoppage time, but he failed to score.


Are the Revolution turning it around? 

Bruce Arena’s first match on the sideline came in a surprise 2-1 win on the road at his former home, the LA Galaxy. Since then, the New England Revolution has only lost once, which came in the U.S. Open Cup, without a full-strength squad.

In MLS play though, the team is unbeaten under Arena, and the Revolution picked up yet another win on Saturday, as Teal Bunbury’s second half stoppage time goal was the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo.

Everyone seems to be enjoying a new lease on their soccer lives. Carles Gil looks like the dangerous Designated Player he was supposed to be, Justin Rennicks made his first MLS start and Andrew Ferrell looks like a lock-down defender yet again. Arena also went with Matt Turner in goal instead of Cody Cropper, who had been preferred under former coach Brad Friedel.

Interestingly, Arena credited a tactical switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 as the reason the Revolution came back from being a goal down at halftime.

“I think I probably screwed them up in the first half a little bit,” Arena said. “I don’t think that formation they were
comfortable enough in, and not bad, as much as it was more favorable for Houston to play against. We
wanted to see [Justin] Rennicks up top with [Juan Fernando] Caicedo. So, we got that opportunity. I think
the second half, switching our formation a little bit helped. But at the end of the day, it’s still 11 against 11.
I don’t get entirely consumed with the discussion of formations. Of course, if the players know how to
move and work together, any formation you play can work.”

With the win, the Revs sit just three points outside of the playoffs. We’re not saying that they can win the whole thing, but a late-season surge to make the playoffs? We’ve seen weirder things happen.

Watch Live: Wolves v. Liverpool

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Liverpool has the opportunity to go 16 points ahead of the pack still with a game in hand as they visit Wolverhampton Wanderers at 3:00 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ STREAM LIVE: Wolves v. Liverpool ]

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has decided to keep Joe Gomez in the starting lineup alongside Virgil Van Dijk at center-back, with Joel Matip on the bench. Matip has not featured since returning from a knee injury. Van Dijk, meanwhile, continues to power along as Liverpool’s rock, making his 23rd start of the season having played every single minute of the Premier League campaign thus far.

Liverpool has Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield alongside captain Jordan Henderson and creative force Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Fabinho sits on the bench.

For Wolves, the hosts make no changes from the wild 3-2 win over Southampton last time out. Portuguese boss Nuno sees Raul Jimenez lead the line yet again, looking to follow up his game-saving brace against the Saints that leveled the scoreline in the 65th minute before giving Wolves the lead for good 10 minutes later. The pair marked the first two goals of the new year for the Mexican, who hadn’t scored since the December 27th win over Manchester City.

Adama Traore also looks to continue his good form, having assisted two of the goals against Southampton and generally terrorizing Premier League clubs since the turn of the calendar year.

Wolves has scored just one goal in its last six league games against Liverpool, all losses. They do, however, have moxie this season, having gained gained 18 points from losing positions this season, seven more than any other club.

NCAA D1 soccer to vote on expanded season

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A report by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald has revealed that NCAA Division 1 men’s soccer is close to heading towards a full-season schedule, expanding the current fall schedule that sees the College Cup finish up around mid-December.

Tannenwald’s report, which cites Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski who has led the charge for a full calendar season, states that the new proposal would drop the regular season schedule from 25 to 23 total games, but would expand the campaign across the entire school year. The first half would consist of 13 games and end around Thanksgiving, before picking back up in the spring with nine official games. Three exhibitions would be spread around the season, as opposed to the current setup of five meaningless exhibition games all set in the spring offseason.

The main goal of the plan, which is years in the making, is to eliminate midweek games, helping to cut down on missed class time for players. At least, that’s what Cirovski is selling to the NCAA. His true goal is to help players get used to a full professional schedule, knowing that currently, collegiate players tend to hit a wall in their first few professional seasons, holding their careers back.

Tannenwald reports that the eventual vote, which will be held in April, will consist of 64 total submissions. Each Power 5 conference will have four votes each, while the Group of 5 conferences get two votes each and the remaining conferences get one vote each. To pass, the proposal needs a full majority, meaning 33 yes votes are required out of the 64. The report states that the Atlantic 10 confirmed to the Inquirer that they will vote yes to the proposal, while the Ivy League said it will vote no.

“The college coaches on the men’s side are going to be working hand in hand for the next three months to try to get us to the finish line, to do something that is transformational, an evolutionary and positive change, and a game-changer in this country for not only college soccer, but we feel for soccer in general,” Cirovski said.

The report states that Cirovski has solid support from inside the college soccer space, and also in the pro soccer community where there is excitement that the new proposal will help development and transition from college soccer to professional life. It says that while this would only cover the Division 1 men’s schedule for now, it’s likely that the women’s ranks would follow soon after should this initial proposal pass through, and D2 and D3 could also tag along.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Chelsea searching for striker

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Chelsea is still determining how long the club will be without talismanic striker Tammy Abraham after an ankle injury saw him limp his way through the final few minutes of the 2-2 draw with Arsenal. Chelsea had run out of substitutes so Abraham was forced to stay on, but he was clearly struggling at the end and now the club waits on further testing.

While the Blues were already linked with strikers before Abraham’s ankle trouble, they have now reportedly stepped up the chase for a short-term injury replacement. Widely reported as the club’s first choice, it appears that Edinson Cavani – who handed in a transfer request at PSG, the French club confirmed – will likely move to Atletico Madrid.

That has seen Chelsea look to other options, and according to multiple tabloids across England as well as some fringe reports in France, the Blues have reopened talks with Lyon over the availability of Moussa Dembele. The 23-year-old former Fulham youth product has been prolific this season for the French club, scoring 11 goals in 19 Ligue 1 games plus another four in four domestic cup matches. Still, Lyon reportedly rebuffed a $44 million bid earlier this month which at the time ended the conversation.


Manchester United’s public chase of Sporting CP midfielder Bruno Fernandes has taken yet another twist.

According to a report by Portuguese publication Record, an unnamed agent of Fernandes has a signed agreement with the club for a $5.5 million fee should he arrive with a $55 million transfer bid that the club rejects. This could potentially put pressure on Sporting to sell the 25-year-old whereas the club had been playing hardball on his valuation.

The report does not specify which agent the clause is connected to, which is notable because it could either be Fernandes’s personal agent or superagent Jorge Mendes who reportedly struck a deal with the club to help broker this transfer. Mendes is on record saying that Fernandes will leave Sporting, but they may wait until the summer to pull the trigger.

Even former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had jokes about the drawn out transfer saga regarding Bruno Fernandes. After Tottenham’s win over Norwich on Wednesday, Mourinho jabbed with a reporter, approaching him about his assignment in Portugal covering the transfer rumor. “How was Lisbon?” Mourinho asked in jest. “Lisbon was good? So Bruno Fernandes come to United or no?” Mourinho said. “So you go to Lisbon and he’s not coming? But coming or no?”


According to Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio, Newcastle is nearing a loan deal for 23-year-old Inter wide player Valentino Lazaro. The report states that Newcastle has entered a loan bid involving a $1.7 million fee that includes a $26 million option to buy at the end of the season.

Lazaro joined Inter this past summer from German club Hertha Berlin for about $25 million, but has failed to make an impact at his new home, with just six Serie A appearances to date and just three of those starts. He has not collected a goal and has just one assist, resulting in significant time on the bench. With the arrival of Victor Moses and Ashley Young this winter, Inter is hoping to offset the additions to the squad with the sale of Lazaro.

The Austrian international scored three goals and assisted seven others last season with Hertha, earning his move to Inter. As a right-sided player, he would be direct competition for USMNT international DeAndre Yedlin who is currently on the shelf after suffering a hand injury.


Multiple Italian tabloids have picked up on the rumor that Carlo Ancelotti has plugged back into his Napoli roots in the hopes of convincing Brazilian midfielder Allan to join Everton this winter.

According to both Gianluca di Marzio and Tuttomercadoweb, Ancelotti has made contact with Napoli regarding the striker, although he has heavy competition from Inter. The 29-year-old has been with Napoli since joining in 2015 from Udinese, and he has logged significant time this season, making 14 Serie A appearances and five more in Champions League play.

Known as a tough tackler, Allan would take a significant investment by Everton to pry him loose mid-season, given his importance in the Napoli squad and his current contract that runs through the summer of 2023.


Italian publication Tuttosport thought it prudent to report that Manchester United is considering bringing Carlos Tevez back to the Premier League on loan. He’s started one game for Boca Juniors since late August. Yea, that ain’t happening.

Aston Villa signs 16-year-old Barry from Barcelona youth squad

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On Thursday morning, Aston Villa announced the signing of 16-year-old Barcelona youth player Louie Barry, who will move straight into the academy squad at Villa Park.

Barry, an England youth international who moved from West Brom’s youth program to Barcelona last summer, has reportedly struggled to integrate in Spain and eventually opted to move back to his home country. According to the Barcelona release on Barry’s departure, Villa paid the Spanish club around $1.16 million for Barry’s signature, and reports suggest that could increase significantly with bumpers in the deal.

“It sends a powerful message about the ambition of this football club,” Academy manager Mark Harrison told VillaTV upon the initial club release of the news. “We’re delighted – Louie is a local person and his family are all Villa fans, as is Louie. He is still a very young man but as he’s developed, he’s always been one player that you always recognize as having outstanding attributes. He’s got a fantastic mentality, he’s desperate to do well for this football club.”

Barry’s departure from West Brom is still being resolved, with Barcelona still yet to pay the English club the standard $308,000 fee for international youth players that turn down professional contracts.

Aston Villa has dipped significantly into its academy products this season, with Indiana Vassilev, Cameron Archer and Jacob Ramsey all making first-team debuts at certain points. Vassilev, a USMNT youth international, has made two Premier League appearances at just 18 years old, coming off the bench for decent spells against Brighton and Watford this month. Archer played a substitute role in an EFL Cup game against Crewe Alexandria, while Ramsey played in an EFL Cup game against Brighton and saw action in the FA Cup loss to Fulham.