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De Boer takes over Atlanta United with big shoes to fill

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MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) Frank De Boer was sacked by Inter Milan after less than three months on the job.

He lasted just four Premier League games at Crystal Palace.

Now, after two short-lived coaching stints, de Boer has a chance to revive his career with the wildly popular champions of Major League Soccer.

[READ: Report: Kane could miss at least a month with injury]

The longtime stalwart of the Dutch national team has taken over at Atlanta United, which won the MLS Cup in just its second season while breaking numerous attendance records.

De Boer said it is a shot at redemption, while also stressing that his chances of success are much greater in Atlanta.

“Of course, you have to learn from your mistakes, but also about organizations that aren’t good and organized and structured like Atlanta United,” he said Monday during a news conference at the team’s suburban training facility.

With his two previous employers, de Boer added, “There was no cohesion between all the departments. Everything was separate. Now, we have a feeling, `OK, I don’t have to look around for the dead body in the closet or behind the closet.’ Everything is very clear and structured.”

He represented his country 112 times on the field, most notably delivering a towering 60-yard pass that set up Dennis Bergkamp’s winning goal against Argentina in the closing minutes of a 1998 World Cup quarterfinal. De Boer moved into coaching after his playing career ended, leading Dutch powerhouse Ajax to a record four straight Eredivisie titles.

Taking over at Inter Milan in 2016, de Boer failed to match the success he had in his native country. The Italian club struggled in both Serie A and Europa League competitions, which led to his firing on Nov. 1 with the club mired in 12th place.

His tenure lasted just 85 days.

The following summer, de Boer was hired by Crystal Palace. Despite modest expectations – the team was coming off a 15th-place showing the previous season, finishing just five points above the relegation zone – the coach was quickly fired again after Crystal became the first team in 93 years to lose its first four matches in the top flight without scoring a goal.

Atlanta United is in a much different position, having quickly become MLS’ flagship franchise on and off the field. The team has a clear power structure led by owner Arthur Blank, team president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra – a setup that was appealing to de Boer.

“For me, that is so much easier,” he said. “The 5 1/2 seasons that I was working for Ajax as a head coach … it cost me less energy than the eight months at Inter and Crystal Palace. I was already starting to get gray hairs.”

De Boer certainly has some big shoes to fill.

In two years as United’s coach, Tata Martino instilled an attacking style of play that was a big hit with the fans and hugely successful on the field. The club averaged more than 53,000 per game this season, easily eclipsing its own record, and thrilled the city by capturing the MLS Cup championship in December.

Martino stepped down to take over as Mexico’s national coach.

The expectations remain the same.

“Everybody expects a lot from Atlanta United,” de Boer said. “That’s normal when you’re a champion.”

De Boer’s team is still a work in progress. MVP runner-up Miguel Almiron was expected to transfer to the Premier League during the January window, but no deal has been reached. He reported Monday for the start of Atlanta’s training camp.

River Plate star Pity Martinez announced last month that he had a deal to come to Atlanta, supposedly as Almiron’s replacement in the midfield, but that’s on hold for the moment. United already has three designated players who are exempt from the salary cap: Almiron, record-setting goal scorer and league MVP Josef Martinez, and 19-year-old Ezequiel Barco.

Less than six weeks removed from its MLS Cup triumph, Atlanta United reported for camp to begin preparing for its first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. The team opens with a home-and-home series against Costa Rican club Herediano late next month, just ahead of the MLS season opener.

Atlanta United is eager to become the first MLS club to win the continental championship since the league format began in 2008. Mexican teams have won 10 straight titles, including Chivas’ thrilling victory over Toronto FC last year that came down to penalty kicks.

“We need to have an MLS club win it,” Eales said. “It would be great if that could be Atlanta United.”

But pulling off a CONCACAF title, while also maintaining success in league play, presents a daunting challenge for the new coach. Toronto put its emphasis on winning the Champions League and wound up missing the MLS playoffs.

“We’re not naive. We saw what happened to Toronto,” Eales said. “It’s going to be tough. But we want to be competing on all fronts.”

Watford comes back to win at Crystal Palace (video)

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  • Cathcart own goal puts Palace ahead
  • Redemption for Cathcart makes it 1-1
  • Substitute Cleverley with rare goal to win it

Craig Cathcart scored for both sides, including an equalizer for his Hornets, as Watford beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Tom Cleverley scored Watford’s other goal as Javi Gracia‘s men used the comeback to climb into seventh with 32 points.

Palace stays in 14th place with 22 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford hit consecutive posts in consecutive seconds through Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra, and will be wishing they did the same in their own end.

Palace went ahead of a wild goal mouth scramble that finished with Abdoulaye Doucoure smashing the ball off Craig Cathcart and into his own goal.

The Eagles could’ve gone ahead 2-0 when Luka Milivojevic‘s shot through traffic was blocked by the hand of a Watford man and was caught by Ben Foster, but no call arrived at Selhurst Park.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Cathcart will have been pleased to reverse his o.g., even if he knew little about the first. This one had plenty of intent, a header over Wayne Hennessey with a little more than 20 minutes to play.

If you had Cleverley as your match-winner, well, that was an odd wager. He scored his second goal in the last two and a half seasons, the substitute potting a loose ball.

Palace fought hard for an equalizer, but Watford kept its spacing and managed a number of interventions in its own box.

Cardiff held by Huddersfield (video)

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  • Huddersfield end run of 8-straight defeats
  • 1 win in six for Cardiff
  • Terriers remain bottom of table

Cardiff City and Huddersfield played out a tight, tense scoreless draw at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday as the away side had the better chances and their bad luck continues.

In the second half Huddersfield’s Florent Hadergjonaj had won a penalty kick but referee Lee Mason consulted with his linesman and decided to overturn the decision.

With the draw Huddersfield have 11 points, while Cardiff have 19 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

The first big chance of the game fell to Huddersfield as Jason Puncheon fired just wide from distance.

At the other end Nathaniel Mendez-Laing found Junior Hoilett at the back post with a wonderful cross, but the Canadian winger was just put off by Florent Hadergjonaj at the crucial moment.

Huddersfield continued to look bright as Jason Puncheon played in Elias Kachunga but Joe Bennett blocked superbly to deny the Terriers.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Neil Etheridge then pushed the ball over after Steve Mounie mishit an effort and it spun up into the air awkwardly.

Huddersfield were by far the better team in the first half as Cardiff just couldn’t get going.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

In the second half Huddersfield continued to look sharper in attack as Cardiff couldn’t get anything going.

Puncheon’s shot from distance was headed wide by Sol Bamba and Huddersfield just kept pushing Cardiff back. Callum Paterson‘s deflected shot looped just over as the Bluebirds finally woke up late in the game.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Huddersfield thought they had been given a penalty kick as Hadergjonaj was pushed in the box by Bennett, but referee Lee Mason consulted with his linesman and they then decided it was not a penalty kick. The contact was minimal but Huddersfield had every right to feel hard done by.

Late on Etheridge denied Laurent Depoitre’s header, as both teams had to settle for a point.

Watch Live: Five Premier League games, 10am ET

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Five Premier League games take place at 10 a.m ET on Saturday, with Liverpool in action at Brighton headlining the morning slate.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Leicester host Southampton and Watford head to Crystal Palace in intriguing clashes, while two relegation six pointers see Fulham travel to Burnley and Cardiff host Huddersfield.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley v. Fulham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Cardiff City v. Huddersfield – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

PL odds: Tottenham highlights betting favorites for Matchweek 22

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Tottenham Hotspur will try to keep the upper hand at home against a resurgent Manchester United in one of the highlight matchups on this week’s Premier League slate.

Tottenham Hotspur is the +110 favorite on the Premier League odds for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with Manchester United coming back at +265, the draw also at +265 on the three-way moneyline, and a 3.0-goals total.

Tottenham has won six of its last seven league matches and also has three consecutive home wins against Manchester United, which has won four in a row on the bounce under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

One hallmark for Tottenham, whose striker Harry Kane (+350 first goal scorer, -110 anytime) is the best to score, is their fast starts, which could create a kind of early pressure that United has not seen during a soft recent schedule. United, thanks in large part to the playmaking of Paul Pogba, is a capable counter-attacking team, and as such bettors should give consideration to various Both Teams To Score (BTTS) props, with Either Team 2-1 (+400) being a higher-risk play than simply taking Spurs to win.

West Ham United (+255) has not defeated Arsenal (even, draw +280) in their last six home matchups, but the Gunners are also winless in their last four away games in the league entering this Saturday matchup. It should be a high scoring chance game, with West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic (+500 first goal scorer, +135 anytime) and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (+350 first goal scorer, -120 anytime) being strong gets to score.

Brighton & Hove Albion (+950), which has been a pesky side at home, takes on first-place Liverpool (-335, draw +475), which has a center-back conundrum due to Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip both being unlikely to play. Taking Tie/Yes (+550) in Both Teams To Score props is one value play available to those who think Brighton might shock the league leaders.

Burnley (+140) hosts Fulham (+225, draw +220) having won three in a row on the bounce (all competitions). Fulham has conceded at least two goals in eight of its last 10 away matches but has tightened its defensive play of late. The Either Team 2-1 (+400) in correct score group props might be the best way of straddling doubts about either side.  Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (+400 first scorer, +135 anytime) scored twice in these teams’ reverse fixture in August.

Crystal Palace (+125) hosts Watford (+245, draw +240) and 10 of its last 11 home games have gone UNDER 2.5 goals, with Crystal Palace also failing to score in seven of its last 10 home fixtures. Watford (+140 on the double chance) should be motivated to get a result since it has a chance to move up to seventh in the overall table, while Jordan Ayew (+650 first scorer), +235 anytime) might be Palace’s best scoring threat.

Everton (-130) and Bournemouth (+370, draw +285), who meet in a Sunday matchup, have gone OVER 2.5 goals in their last four games (all competitions), and the visiting Cherries have also topped that total in 10 of their last 12 games. Along with yes/over 2.5 (even) in BTTS props, the most promising value on Everton may be in the 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2 correct score prop (+450).

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.