MLS Defender of the Year Zimmerman speaks MLS Playoffs, USMNT

MLS Playoffs
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MLS Playoffs: The play-in games for the MLS Cup Playoffs begin Friday with in an international tete-a-tete prior to brand new clubs matching in the Western Conference.

[ MORE: MLS scoreboard and schedule ]

New England hosts Montreal just after dinner before expansion sides Inter Miami and Nashville SC tangle in Tennessee.


Nashville SC v Inter Miami CF

9 pm ET Friday

Two expansion teams meet in Tennessee, where Nashville hopes its MLS Defender of the Year can thwart one of the best scorers of the last decade in Europe.

Walker Zimmerman is the defender in question and Gonzalo Higuain the forward, as two teams with very different first seasons tangle in a play-in game.

MLS announced Zimmerman’s award on Wednesday. He remains a fierce tackler and well-positioned defender, but he’s advanced the ball more this season and is having his best season in key passes.

ProSoccerTalk asked Zimmerman about what’s different this year, especially given his coach is known for a strict and demanding defensive set-up.

“With every team you’re asked to do different things,” Zimmerman said. “When you play with two holding mids who are diligent in their defensive work, I feel comfortable knowing that Dax and Godoy can move over and step into that space (if he advances). It’s been fun to attack a bit more. I’ve been caught a couple of times this year. It’s my job to make sure I go forward in a smart and controlled manner.”

Nashville is led by a former MLS Cup-winning coach in Gary Smith, whose 2010 Colorado Rapids surprised the field with a run to the cup from the league’s seventh-best record.

Led by Zimmerman, Dax McCarty, and Anibal Godoy, Smith’s men are going to grind against the 10th-seed IMCF.

“They’ve gone about their business very differently to us and that’s easy to see in the way that they’ve put this group together,” Smith said of Miami. “What you see with the two teams is soccer in general… We feel as though we’ve created some very strong foundations and I would suspect maybe there’s a little bit more disappointment in their camp.”

[ MORE: Top 25 USMNT players right now ]

The Georgia-born USMNT back, 27, has been considered one of the best center backs in the league dating back to his partnership with Matt Hedges.

Back then, we were asking him about his future USMNT hopes. Now he’s a mainstay who may be the best match for the national team’s No. 1 left center back in John Brooks.

Now Zimmerman has 12 caps and two goals for the U.S., whose head coach Gregg Berhalter is weighing up the best options for a center back corps that includes Brooks, Matt Miazga, Chris Richards, Tim Ream, and others.

Zimmerman told ProSoccerTalk he was just as excited as USMNT fans to watch young prospects like Giovanni Reyna and Yunus Musah make their first starts for Gregg Berhalter.

“Really excited, lot of debuts,” Zimmerman said. “I know the staff was excited to get back out there. I know when the next camp rolls around, a lot of MLS guys will be looking forward to doing the same.”

Zimmerman’s award coming while Miazga had one subpar and one poor match in the U.S. shirt has moved him up in our Top 25 players in the USMNT pool.

Nashville and Inter Miami met twice in late summer, with Inter failing to score as Nashville won in Tennessee and drew in Florida.

New England Revolution versus Montreal Impact

9 pm ET Friday

It’s old versus new when legendary MLS coach Bruce Arena goes up against first-time manager Thierry Henry in the 9-10 match-up.

Arena is giving a lot of credit to the former Arsenal, Barcelona, and New York Red Bulls star for his success despite playing away from home for most of the season due to COVID-19 restrictions at the United States border.

He also appreciates the way Henry has marshaled his team.

“He’s been pretty determined about the fact that he wanted his team to play and they build out of pressure and they’ve been pretty consistent with that,” Arena said, via MLSSoccer.com. “That’s not easy to do in a first year with a team, so I give him a lot of credit for that.”

Montreal beat New England on Feb. 29 but has since thrice lost to the Revolution.

MLS betting odds
(Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

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

New England (-160) v Montreal (+400) | Draw (+320)

Nashville (+140) v Inter Miami (+200) | Draw (+225)

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


How to watch MLS playoffs, stream and start times

Match No. 1: New England versus Montreal
Kickoff time: 6:30 pm ET Friday
TV Channel: FS1
Stream: Fox Sports Go

Match No. 2: Nashville SC v Inter Miami CF
Kickoff: 9 pm ET Friday
TV Channel: ESPN2
Stream: ESPN

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola