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5 things we learned from MLS opening day 2020

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2020 Major League Soccer opening day had it all. A late winner, a late equalizer, a victorious debutant, a defeated debutant, and lots of great goals.

[ MORE: MLS opening day roundup ]

One things people should avoid is making any broad assumptions about a team’s season from just 90 minutes of action, but we can still draw plenty from the Saturday results. From in-form players to injuries and new boys, there are lots of lessons from the first slate of games.

1) Nashville S.C. won’t lay down and die

While Nashville couldn’t find an equalizing goal against one of the league’s best squads, they certainly showed fight and determination. The MLS debutants were thought to be a more defensive squad, but David Accam and Randall Leal had plenty of good chances, threatening one of the more stout back lines on numerous occasions. If the MLS new boys can get more cohesion as the minutes tick on this season, they will be able to produce more venom on the chances that seemed to just barely go begging on opening day. With this kind of more aggressive performance on a regular basis, Nashville will be a tough out this season and could push for a playoff spot.

2) USMNT stars will shine

For U.S. national team fans, it was a great day of individual results. Walker Zimmerman scored the first goal in Nashville S.C. history. Emerson Hyndman bagged a fabulous volley. Jonathan Lewis picked out a late winner for Colorado. Paxton Pomykal struck late for FC Dallas in a win. Brad Guzan was stout in goal for Atlanta United.

During a time when USMNT fans have seen nothing but brutal injury news over the past few months, it was good to see a number of Americans have good days on the field. That could be a storyline all season long.

3) Cristian Pavon has a real shot at MVP

The LA Galaxy were only able to work a point out of their season opening visit to Houston, but Cristian Pavon looks a dangerous one. In addition to his brilliant early goal, Pavon delivered three key passes and was a general menace in the Houston attack. It was all the more impressive considering that otherwise, the Galaxy had little to offer up front outside of Joe Corona’s 66th minute chance. If the Galaxy attack builds into the season and helps Pavon, he could have a real shot at the MVP award this season, especially if Josef Martinez misses significant time. Speaking of…

4) Atlanta United is in trouble without Josef Martinez

When Josef Martinez collapsed into a heap and pointed to his knee, Atlanta United fans – and frankly, all fans of exquisite soccer – held their breath. It’s tough to speculate, but by the looks of it, one of the most electric players in the league could miss a significant amount of time. No one wishes that on Atlanta, but it sure looked a serious one.

Martinez’s exit sucked the life from Atlanta United, and they absorbed pressure through the final 20 minutes. There’s plenty of positives for Frank De Boer to take from the road victory, but the finish is unlikely to be one of them. The withdrawal of Pity Martinez was another reason for their lack of incisive personality, but Josef’s absence is a real problem for Atlanta. If he is indeed to miss significant time this season, de Boer has his work cut out for him to keep this attack as one of the most dangerous in the league.

5) Thierry Henry can coach

The Montreal Impact handed Thierry Henry his first MLS win in spectacular fashion as Max Urruti delivered an absolute stunner to win it in the 80th minute. That’s nice and all, but Urruti’s boss Thierry Henry way able to coach his way to victory as well. With a defensive formation that featured three center-backs, Henry hoped to sit deep, absorb pressure, and counter his way to victory. Montreal eventually held 57% possession against New England, but much of that was ultra-conservative passing out of the back, with very little actual attacking third action. Still, it choked the life out of New England – not in a Man City or Liverpool high-energy asphyxiation, but instead in a lull you to sleep type of way. It worked, at least on opening day, and the Frenchman could be on his way to an enjoyable managerial career if he can manage to tweak his system to fit his opponents each week.

BONUS: Don’t worry, there will always be controversy

It took until the final few moments of the day, but there was a clear moment of refereeing controversy on opening day. With Nashville S.C. looking to pour forward in the dying minutes of the game, Atlanta United broke the other direction which forced Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis to come and challenge near midfield. As the ball pinged around in the chaos, Willis lept into the air to stop an Ezequiel Barco shot from just past the midway line. Willis clearly raised his arms into the air and stopped the effort well outside his box which should have led to a blatant red card. The on-field referee, however, only gave a yellow and the VAR review did not reverse the call. While it didn’t change much in the game coming in the dying minutes and benefitting the eventual losing team, it does mean that Nashville won’t lose its goalkeeper for a one-game suspension and reassures fans that – don’t worry folks – there will be plenty of controversy to savor this season.

Crystal Palace – Everton: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Crystal Palace – Everton: It’s a battle of perfect teams on Saturday when Everton visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (Watch live at 10 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

The Eagles have knocked off Southampton and Manchester United to open their 2020-21 Premier League season while Everton has handled Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Two legends of the game will be at the helm when Roy Hodgson and Carlo Ancelotti match wits on Saturday. Can the former continue to coax unexpected results of his Eagles against the strengthened and powerful Toffees?


Team news: Crystal Palace – Everton (INJURY REPORT)

James Tomkins (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Christian Benteke (ankle), Gary Cahill (thigh) and Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed) are all set to miss out for Roy Hodgson’s Eagles.

Fabian Delph returned for the midweek League Cup game but Everton won’t have Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle), Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf).


What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on how the Eagles won (again) at Old Trafford: “We made certain and kept them playing in front of us and they could not profit from those spaces they are skillful enough to find. And when we had the ball I thought we looked very dangerous and threatening so I don’t think it was a big surprise that we scored three.”

Carlo Ancelotti after Jordan Pickford made a gaffe against Fleetwood Town: “I think the first goal was not an individual mistake because we passed the ball back to Jordan, it was a really difficult ball and we could behave differently. Of course you have to improve there. We want to build up from the back, but when there’s no risk. If it’s risky it’s no good because we can concede a goal like we did. It can be a good lesson for the future. I didn’t speak to him and, as I said, I have to speak with players that were involved when we build-up.Jordan was not the only one.”

Jordan Pickford
FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Jordan Pickford of Everton is challenged by Josh Morris of Fleetwood Town (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Palace is an underdog despite beating United and it’s perhaps a bit surprising to see them at +275 with a draw at +220. An Everton win delivers +110.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Crystal Palace – Everton prediction

Hodgson has coaxed some tremendous midfield performances out of James McArthur, James McCarthy, and Luka Milivojevic in his tenure at Palace but out-performing Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, and Andre Gomes is a big ask even for that steely crew. James Rodriguez is in incredible form but so is Wilfried Zaha. Couldn’t this one go either way? Yes, but if Everton’s moving in the direction many believe it will be able to take all three points in a composed 2-1 win.


How to watch Crystal Palace – Everton stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Brighton – Manchester United: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Brighton – Manchester United: Impressive Brighton and Hove Albion hopes to continue Manchester United’s winless league season when the Red Devils visit the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

It will be the first two meetings in several days, as Brighton’s win at Preston North End and United’s takedown of Luton Town set up a League Cup fourth round date at the Amex.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

United handled Brighton well last season, winning 3-1 and 3-0, so this will be a great test at the acumen of both managers: Graham Potter in his second full season with the Seagulls and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempting to prove his doubters wrong.


Team news: Brighton – Manchester United (INJURY REPORT)

The Seagulls will not have Yves Bissouma, who was suspended three matches for his no-look, studs-up kick into the face of Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis. Brighton manager Graham Potter revealed that the long-term recovery of Jose Izquierdo is about two weeks away from being complete.

Manchester United will be without Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones.


What they’re saying

Potter on the League Cup win setting up consecutive Man United tests: “It’s a big week for us with those two matches and then Everton before the international break. That’s what we wanted because we wanted to go through in this competition. Players always want to play and the best thing for them is to be out on the field on nights like tonight to keep everyone in the group ready for when they’re needed. You saw that today. There was a willingness to run and fight for the team and get the result and that’s why I’m very happy.”

United’s Solskjaer after goalkeeper Dean Henderson starred on his senior debut: “The goalkeeping department and training level has been really high, of course, you can see driven and dedicated people and I’ve enjoyed watching them. Dean in goal, good save, you can see he’s having to concentrate and it’s a different job to what he’s done a few times last season and he came up with the save when he had to.”

League Cup results
LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Dean Henderson of Manchester United saves a shot at Kenilworth Road (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Brighton is +375 to win at home, while a draw nets the wagerer +260. Manchester United is expected to win and thusly -130 to take all three points.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Brighton – Manchester United prediction

The only thing keeping us from pegging a very impressive Brighton team to collect another win is the shadow cast by Manchester United’s 2019-20 season (and long tradition of winning). United was rusty in its loss to Crystal Palace and had to work hard to defeat Luton Town in the League Cup. If that rust was there last week, how do the legs feel after a week? Anyway, the Red Devils still have Bruno Fernandes and it just doesn’t seem like this team starts 0-2 (or even 0-1-1). I grimace as I write 2-1 to Manchester United.


How to watch Brighton – Manchester United stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Lampard gushes after Thiago Silva debut, Havertz hat trick

Frank Lampard reaction
Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Chelsea rebounded from its weekend loss to Liverpool by getting the good vibes going through a number of new faces Wednesday in a League Cup blowout of Barnsley.

Kai Havertz scored three times, Ben Chilwell came off the bench to chip in an assist on debut, and Thiago Silva went 60 minutes in his first match in a Chelsea shirt as the Blues pounded the Championship side 6-0.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

We’ll start with the longtime PSG defender, who had four clearances, an interception, and a tackle while winning both of his duels.

He passed at 94 percent including six-of-seven long balls. Even accounting for the competition, that’s solid.

Lampard called Silva’s outing “a perfect 60 minutes” via Football.London:

“He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others,” Lampard said. “He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight. Yes, I am very very pleased with Thiago. It is what I expected of a player of his level but it is very refreshing to have him here at the club.”

ProSoccerTalk talked about Chelsea’s need for a leader at the back during this week’s “Unfiltered,” and Lampard has clearly been waiting for someone like Silva.

As for Havertz, you only needed the box score to see his influence on the game.

Two of Havertz’s three goals were assisted by Tammy Abraham and a third from Mason Mount.

The German phenom also racked up five tackles and two key passes against Barnsley.

“He makes the recovery tackle for Ross (Barkley)’s goal, but then to also just have some freedom on the ball in central areas roaming behind Tammy,” Lampard said. “The combinations he had with Tammy, the way he grew into the game and had confidence and the three goals. It was a great night for Kai and the first of many for him.”

Havertz scored seven braces for Bayer Leverkusen, but this was his first hat trick. Barnsley may play in the second tier, but they had allowed three goals in their last four games.

Whoops.

Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
Photos by Amy Sussman/Getty Images and Jim Spellman/WireImage
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1864 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.