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MLS Conference Finals preview and predictions

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Can I interest you in a well-worn MLS Cup Final pairing?

Away sides Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC enter the conference finals as significant underdogs against LAFC and Atlanta United, but they won’t be too worried about that.

[ MORE: Dest a win for Berhalter ]

Greg Vanney and Brian Schmetzer’s sides each won a title against each other in 2016 and 2017 at BMO Field in Toronto, and won’t be too worried about the pressure in Georgia and California, respectively.

What odds do they have of springing the upsets? It’s not great, to be honest — LAFC and Atlanta are a combined 27W-3L-6T this season — but you wouldn’t be surprised if MLS was denied the all-golden match-up it so desperately desires.

And, hey, we could get a Bradley v. Bradley final. Do we deserve any less, or any more?

LAFC v. Seattle Sounders — 10 p.m. ET Tuesday

A quirk of scheduling means these sides are meeting for the first time since April, when LAFC took four of six points in an 8-day stretch.

Here’s what I love about LA: They kill you everywhere. Thirty-three percent of their attack comes from the right, another 33 from the left, and 35 right up the middle. There’s no lack of courage from Bob Bradley‘s side, and no other side in MLS can claim the same level of guts (Portland was second at 31% heading up the center of the defense).

Here’s another crazy stat for you: LAFC has five of the top 19 players this season when it comes to the amount of successful dribbles (Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta, Diego Rossi).

Nicolas Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, and Jordan Morris can bring plenty of creativity, too, and the Sounders have the ability to challenge for an upset, but we’re thinking LAFC guarantee’s one more loud day in California.

Atlanta United v. Toronto FC — 8 p.m. ET Wednesday

TFC took points in 11 of 17 away matches this season, but lost 2-0 to Atlanta early in the season at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The Reds did, however, outlast the Five Stripes in the reverse fixture, which came in late June.

Atlanta has the best possession number of any home team this season, holding the ball 57.7 percent of the time. Remarkably, though, TFC managed the fifth best possession number away from home this season and will like the idea of Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, and Jonathan Osorio keeping hold of the ball.

I think TFC has the physical defenders to flummox Atlanta’s attack in Chris Mavinga and Omar Gonzalez, but the biggest question is how much if anything Jozy Altidore will be able to contribute at the other end. Alejandro Pozuelo is wonderful but the Reds need their powerful striker to have hope of an upset. Since we can’t be sure he’ll be ready to go, we’ll peg Atlanta to return to the MLS Cup Final.

Predicting the rest of the Women’s World Cup

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The Women’s World Cup is into the final eight, with seven of the eight teams hailing from Europe.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup Power Rankings ]

The lone outlier is some team from North America who may or may not have won the last World Cup and can become the first team to win four of the things.

Who thinks they will? Our staff weighs in on the matter below.


Joe Prince-Wright

Quarterfinals
England defeats Norway
France defeats USA
Netherlands defeats Italy
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
England v. France
Netherlands v. Germany 

Final
France defeats Germany
Wendie Renard of France celebrates with teammates (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Nicholas Mendola

Quarterfinals
England defeats Norway
USA defeats France
Italy defeats Netherlands
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
USA defeats England
Germany defeats Italy 

Final
USA defeats Germany

Andy Edwards

Quarterfinals
England
defeats Norway
France defeats USA
Italy defeats Netherlands
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
France
defeats England
Germany defeats Italy

Final
Germany defeats France

Dzsenifer Marozsan of Germany  (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Dan Karell
Quarterfinals
England defeats Norway
USA defeats France
Netherlands defeats Italy
Germany defeats Sweden
Semifinals
USA defeats England
Netherlands defeats Germany
Final
USA defeats Netherlands

Kyle Bonn

Quarterfinals
England
defeats Norway
France defeats USA
Netherlands defeats Italy
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
France
defeats England
Germany defeats Italy

Final
France defeats Germany

Revisiting PST’s preseason Premier League predictions

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Back in August, we asked our staff to pick its 1-20 table and answer a bevy of roundtable questions.

[ MORE: Atleti wins Europa League ]

The crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear.

The table

— Five of six writers had Manchester City lifting the Premier League trophy, with Nick Mendola’s (me) audacious 90-point total the closest to City’s actual 100 points. Kyle Bonn picked Manchester United to win the league.

–Nick Mendola’s (me) equally audacious prediction that Burnley would finish 20th with 18 total points has had him apologizing on this page for months. Way to go, numbskull.

— No one called more than one relegated team correctly. Swansea had three people pick it for the drop, while I was the lone one to tab West Brom. JPW and Andy Edwards failed to name a single relegated team.

— Who had a team finishing the most spots higher than they did? JPW and Andy Edwards had 16th place Southampton finishing 8th. I had eventually relegated Stoke in 11th, while JPW had them 10th, and Andy Edwards had them 7th!

— Chelsea’s fifth place finish was a surprise to everyone; Only JPW had them finishing lower than second… in third.

— Surprised Arsenal finished in sixth? Kyle Bonn, Andy Edwards, and Matt Reed aren’t.

The roundtable

— We asked who’d go the further in the Champions League, and JPW was the only one to name Liverpool (although he hedged in a bit by saying the Reds and Man City).

— We asked who’d score the most league goals between Romelu LukakuHarry Kane, Alvaro Morata, Alexandre Lacazette, or Sergio Aguero? Four correctly went with Kane, with Kyle Bonn wrong with Lukaku and this humble writer wrong with Lacazette.

— We asked which Premier League player would feel worst about his decision to leave his previous PL club, and we were all wrong (except perhaps JPW’s choice of Wayne Rooney, but that’s debatable). Dan Karell said Virgil Van Dijk, Matt Reed said Nemanja Matic, and I said Kyle Walker. All are probably quite happy with the manner of their seasons.

— We asked who’d fare better between manager Marco Silva, Frank De Boer, or Mauricio Pellegrino. They were all fired, though Silva’s departure was least his fault. So JPW wins again.

— We predicted who’d get fired first. The winner was Frank De Boer, but we all named men who’d get the sack. Craig Shakespeare (JPW), Paul Clement (me), Marco Silva (Matt Reed and Kyle Bonn), and Mark Hughes (Dan Karell).

— We asked which newly-promoted club will finish higher. Four of the five said Newcastle, with someone trying to hide his bias by saying Brighton.

— We asked who’d finish highest and lowest of this group: Southampton, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Leicester City.

Leicester finished highest and West Brom finished 20th. Dan and I correctly tabbed Leicester, while four of us correctly pegged the Baggies as the lowest.

— As for who would get promoted from the Championship, so far we’re 1/12. That could move to three if Dan and Kyle are correct in picking Fulham. Matt tabbed Cardiff City.

Picking the 2017 Confederations Cup

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The Confederations Cup leapt into American consciousness in 2009, when the United States knocked off Spain in the semifinal before losing a two-goal lead in the final against Brazil.

The Yanks didn’t qualify for the tournament in 2013 or this year, but the Cup is the top legit tournament in international football this summer and will attract the eyes of many as Russia gets its dress rehearsal for next summer’s World Cup.

[ MORE: Southampton sacks Puel ]

Both groups present tricky prediction choices. Group A has talented but injury hit Mexico and the hosts, while Cameroon’s strong form asks questions of Chile and Germany.

Here’s how PST sees it all going down.

Group A

  1. Portugal
  2. Russia
  3. Mexico
  4. New Zealand

The read: EURO champion Portugal takes care of group, while hosts Russia sneak past superior but injury-hit and travel-weary Mexico. New Zealand is in a tough group.

Group B

  1. Germany
  2. Chile
  3. Cameroon
  4. Australia

The read: The Germans find good footing with an early match against Australia, while Chile beats the Socceroos on the final day after a pair of draws. Don’t look past Cameroon, which only has one loss in the last year. That was a 3-2 defeat in France.

Semifinals

Germany over Russia
Chile over Portugal

Final

Germany over Chile

MLS 2017 Predictions: PST picks the standings

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Here goes nothing.

Predicting Major League Soccer standings is a dicey proposition, though this year there seems to be some consensus.

[ MORE: MLS Week 1 preview ]

The same clubs will race for byes in each conference, another group will battle for a playoff spot, and a third will wallow near the bottom.

Our staff, led by editor Joe Prince-Wright, weighs in here. Read how Matt Reed, Andy Edwards, Nick Mendola, and Kyle Bonn think it will all go done.

JPW Nick Mendola Andy Edwards Kyle Bonn Matt Reed
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
1. Toronto 1. Toronto 1. Toronto 1. Red Bulls 1. Toronto
2. NYC 2. NYC 2. NYC 2. Toronto 2. Atlanta
3. Red Bulls 3. DC 3. Red Bulls 3. Atlanta 3. Red Bulls
4. Montreal 4. Atlanta 4. Orlando 4. DC 4. NYC
5. Philadelphia 5. Chicago 5. DC 5. Montreal 5. Montreal
6. Atlanta 6. Red Bulls 6. Chicago 6. NYC 6. Philadelphia
7. Orlando 7. Columbus 7. New England 7. Orlando 7. Columbus
8. DC 8. Philadelphia 8. Philadelphia 8. Philadelphia 8. DC
9. New England 9. Montreal 9. Montreal 9. New England 9. New England
10. Chicago 10. Orlando 10. Atlanta 10. Chicago 10. Chicago
11. Columbus 11. New England 11. Columbus 11. Columbus 11. Orlando
WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE
1. Seattle 1. Seattle 1. Dallas 1. Dallas 1. Dallas
2. Dallas 2. Dallas 2. LA 2. LA 2. Seattle
3. LA 3. LA 3. Vancouver 3. Seattle 3. Portland
4. KC 4. Colorado 4. KC 4. Portland 4. Vancouver
5. Portland 5. RSL 5. Seattle 5. Colorado 5. Colorado
6. Colorado 6. Vancouver 6. Portland 6. Vancouver 6. Minnesota
7. Vancouver 7. KC 7. RSL 7. KC 7. KC
8. RSL 8. Portland 8. Colorado 8. RSL 8. LA
9. San Jose 9. Houston 9. Houston 9. San Jose 9. Houston
10. Minnesota 10. San Jose 10. Minnesota 10. Minnesota 10. San Jose
11. Houston 11. Minnesota 11. San Jose 11. Houston 11. RSL