NWSL had momentum heading into now suspended season

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Morgan Weaver laughed it off when her agent told her she was going to be the second pick in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft.

A four-year starter at Washington State, Weaver wasn’t among the names getting a lot of buzz heading into the January draft.

“He told me and I was like, ‘OK, right. Whatever. I don’t believe you,’” she said, recalling the conversation she had before her name was announced. “Then it actually happened.”

Weaver went to the Portland Thorns, who also got the first overall pick, Sophia Smith out of Stanford.

Weaver said one of her greatest strengths as a player is that she’s a good learner. But for now, like the rest of the NWSL’s players, she’s learning to be patient.

The league was supposed to start its eighth season this weekend with plenty of momentum behind it courtesy of an enthusiastic new commissioner in Lisa Baird and a new TV deal with CBS.

The league was also riding a surge in attention following the United States’ victory in the Women’s World Cup last summer. The national team’s players are scattered throughout the NWSL, with U.S. Soccer paying their salaries.

The league averaged 7,337 in attendance last season, a 21.8% increase over 2018 – the so-called “World Cup Bump”

The nationally televised opener between the Washington Spirit and OL Reign was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Audi Field. The Thorns were supposed to host the Utah Royals on Saturday night.

Becky Sauerbrunn, a defender who was on that winning World Cup team, was about to make her Thorns debut after a trade from the Utah Royals in the offseason.

“It’s been a little bit of a bummer to get the trade done, join the Thorns and then not actually meet any of the Thorns in person. And so that’s been a sad part about this for me personally, is that I didn’t get to start preseason and kind of get my feet wet with the team,” Sauerbrunn said.

Saturday might have also marked Weaver’s debut on the Thorns’ roster.

The rookie forward has had a whirlwind six months. First, she helped lead Washington State to the semifinals of the NCAA College Cup for the first time in school history.

The unseeded Cougars were the tournament’s Cinderella after knocking off top seed Virginia in the second round, downing West Virginia 3-0 and blanking South Carolina 1-0 in the quarterfinals. The run came to an end in the Final Four, when Washington State fell 2-1 to North Carolina.

“I knew we had it in us and I knew that we had the fight and the grit. I think we just all had to believe in ourselves — and I think that’s what happened,” Weaver said. “Once we hit the tournament, we all believed in each other, knew what we had to do to get to that spot. And I think that was what helped us through everything.”

Weaver had 15 goals as a senior and finished her Washington State career with 43, second-most in program history.

The Thorns traded up to the second pick to select Weaver. After she was drafted, she got a shoutout on Twitter from Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, who also played for the Cougars.

She said she went into the draft not knowing where she might land.

“I was just going in with an open mind. I didn’t really read any of the articles saying where I should have gone or what I should have done, or why I went No. 2,” she said. “I kind of just left it alone, and was like ‘I earned this and I’ve worked as hard as I can.’”

Weaver had already reported to her first pro training camp when the NWSL was shuttered. Currently, she spends her days working out with her roommate, Thorns defender Christen Westphal.

Weaver understands there are much bigger things to worry about than sports right now. But she can’t help but feel disappointed.

“I mean, yes. But also, this thing, coronavirus, it’s just crazy what’s been going on,” she said. “Everyone just needs to stay safe and I think that’s been more important than starting this season.”

Newcastle vs West Ham, live: Score, updates, stream link, video highlights

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Newcastle United can become the third Premier League team this season to cross the 40-point marker when it meets West Ham on Saturday at St. James’ Park (watch live, 12:30pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Magpies have been terrific at home in all competitions, including at midweek where they finished off Southampton to claim a spot in the League Cup Final.

STREAM LIVE NEWCASTLE vs WEST HAM

And while the 40-point marker used to just mean safety, Newcastle would stay within sight of second-place Man City and first-place Arsenal.

Meanwhile, West Ham’s mix of bad luck and substandard performances have them just a point above the drop zone, in 16th. A win here would be huge,

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Newcastle vs West Ham.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


Newcastle vs West Ham score: Mad start at St. James’ Park has it 1-1

Callum Wilson goal video

Lucas Paqueta goal video


How to watch Newcastle vs West Ham live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

The Magpies won’t have their best all-around player in influential Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, and center forward Alexander Isak will miss out following a head injury suffered against Saints. Sean Longstaff will need to shine again after scoring twice against Saints.

As for West Ham, they have three attackers out but can look to Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen to continue upturns in form.


Newcastle team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Bruno Guimaraes (suspension), Alexander Isak (concussion), Javier Manquillo (undisclosed), Matt Targett (foot), Emil Krafth (knee)

West Ham team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Gianluca Scamacca (knee), Maxwel Cornet (calf), Kurt Zouma (thigh), Danny Ings (knee)

Tottenham vs Manchester City: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester City can gut the gap to Premier League leaders Arsenal to just two points with a win over Tottenham in north London on Sunday (watch live, 11:30 am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com). 

STREAM LIVE TOTTENHAM vs MANCHESTER CITY

Arsenal (50 points) were handed just their second defeat of the season on Saturday, beaten 1-0 away to Everton as Sean Dyche made his debut as Toffees manager. Now level on games played for just over 24 hours, Manchester City (45 points) are once again within striking distance, but Tottenham (36 points – 5th place) have given them fits in recent seasons, when few others could.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham vs Manchester City

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Tottenham vs Manchester City live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 11:30 am ET, Sunday
TV channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

When these sides met just two weeks ago, Tottenham found themselves 2-0 up at halftime and threatening to cause the Man City upset yet again, effectively handing rivals Arsenal a three-point boost in the title race. Then the second half kicked off, and the two-time defending champions poured in four games, including three in the first 18 minutes. Another fantastic half wasted by Tottenham, though it was typically a poor start followed by a frantic finish of their own. Harry Kane will pass Jimmy Greaves as Spurs’ all-time top scorer when he scores his next goal, taking his total in all competitions to 267. If Kane scores that goal in a Premier League fixture, the record goal will also be his 200th in the league.

Erling Haaland (25 goals) is the only player with more PL goals than Kane (16) this season, and though his numbers are certainly eye-popping, his arrival has clearly unsettled Pep Guardiola’s tactical system to some degree. A season ago, Manchester City conceded just 26 goals in 38 games (0.68 per game). This season, 20 goals in 20 games, up nearly a half-goal per game.


Tottenham team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Lucas Moura (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Richarlison (adductor)

Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: John Stones (thigh), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Phil Foden (foot)

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Kaoru Mitoma delivers (again) as Brighton breaks Bournemouth

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Kaoru Mitoma’s superstar turn has Brighton looking to the sky as the limit following a 1-0 win over stubborn Bournemouth at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Brighton held more than 70 percent possession and rifled off 20 shots but only one, Mitoma’s 87th-minute header of a Jeremy Sarmiento cross, beat Cherries’ goalkeeper Norberto Neto.

WATCH BRIGHTON vs BOURNEMOUTH FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM – LINK

Mitoma has four goal and an assist in six appearances all competitions since Dec. 31 and four of those games are Brighton wins. The Seagulls are back into sixth place, two points off fifth-place Spurs with a match-in-hand, and give points behind Newcastle before the Magpies meet West Ham.

Bournemouth sits 19th, a point off safety and two points above 20th-place Saints.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


Bournemouth shows hope but Brighton keeps class

Kaoru Mitoma certainly looks to be comfortable in the Premier League, and who needs a 20-yard banger or intra-box juggle-and fire every week? This time Mitoma turned up with a late header for his show-stopper.

It was fitting for Brighton in this match with two goalkeepers who looked locked-in for zeroes, as the Seagulls are very much a team that’s kept mojo from Graham Potter to Roberto De Zerbi and is finding new wrinkles under the latter.

But Bournemouth can and should feel renewed optimism after new owner Bill Foley sanctioned moves for some badly needed flair players.

One of those, Dango Ouattara, looks downright dangerous, while Ivorian attacker Hamed Traore and Ghanaian striker Antoine Semenyo are proper alternatives to Kieffer Moore and injured Dominic Solanke.

When the Cherries get Marcus Tavernier back, the puzzle will be much closer to their best. How many pieces remain missing is what will dictate whether Bournemouth keeps its puncher’s chance to stay up.


Stars of the Show

Kaoru Mitoma

Joel Veltman

Norberto Neto

Robert Sanchez

Jordan Zemura


What’s next?

Brighton goes to Palace at 10am ET Saturday before Fulham pays a visit to the Amex one week later.

Bournemouth hosts old friends Eddie Howe, Callum Wilson, and Newcastle United at 12:30pm ET Saturday before going to Wolves a week later.


Kaoru Mitoma goal video: Brighton breaks through


How to watch Brighton vs Bournemouth live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Brighton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Alexis Mac Allister (suspension), Jakub Moder (knee), Adam Lallana (undisclosed), Levi Colwill (undisclosed), Evan Ferguson (ankle)

Bournemouth team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: David Brooks (thigh), Lewis Cook (knee), Neto (thigh), Dominic Solanke (knee), Marcus Tavernier (thigh), Ryan Fredericks (undisclosed), Junior Stanislas (undisclosed)

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Nottingham Forest vs Leeds: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Leeds will try to snap their six-game winless skid when they visit fellow relegation battlers Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Sunday (watch live, 9 am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com). 

STREAM LIVE NOTTINGHAM FOREST vs LEEDS

After creeping close to mid-table with back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Bournemouth before the World Cup break, Leeds (18 points – 16th place) have taken just three of a possible 18 points. Nottingham Forest (21 points – 14th), in the same timeframe, have lost just once and taken 11 of 18 points on offer, launching them out of the bottom-three and on the verge of mid-table.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Bournemouth vs Leicester

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Nottingham Forest vs Leeds live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
TV channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Though some fans have started to turn on Jesse Marsch, the American manager has seemingly been fully backed by the club’s hierarchy, not through their words but through their actions. Chris Armas was hired as Marsch’s assistant head coach, and then Weston McKennie was signed ahead of deadline day, affording Marsch the opportunity (and money) to further shape the club into his own. When Leeds kick off on Sunday, the only thing separating them from the relegation zone will be five goals in the goal difference column.

After winning just one of their first 12 games back in the Premier League for the first time since 1999, Steve Cooper’s side has gelled and picked up wins over Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Leicester since late October. The key to their success? Just five goals conceded in their last six games, with three of the five coming in a single game against Manchester United. Winning with clean sheets, picking up score-draws, after conceding 33 goals in 15 games to start the season.


Nottingham Forest team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Morgan Gibbs-White (ankle), Taiwo Awoniyi (groin), Dean Henderson (thigh), Cheickou Kouyate (thigh), Giulian Biancone (knee), Omar Richards (calf), Moussa Niakhate (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Chris Wood (illness), Ryan Yates (illness), Jack Colback (illness)

Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Stuart Dallas (thigh), Crysencio Summerville (ankle), Adam Forshaw (groin), Archie Gray (ankle), Robin Koch (suspension) | QUESTIONABLE: Tyler Adams (knock), Liam Cooper (knee)

Follow @AndyEdMLS