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Vela’s latest golazo one-upped as LAFC lose late to Portland

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This much is certain about Los Angeles FC: there’s never — ever — a dull moment when Bob Bradley‘s expansion side is on the field.

[ MORE: Toronto FC score late to beat Orlando, get season back on track ]

Not only are the goals plentiful — for both sides (23 scored, 18 conceded in their first 11 games) — but they tend to be of the highest quality — again, for both sides.

Take, for example, Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers, a result which extends Portland’s winning streak to five games and sends Giovanni Savarese’s side third in the Western Conference, now just three points behind LAFC (with a game in hand).

LAFC fell 1-0 behind when Cristhian Paredes scored his first MLS goal in the 52nd minute, then a pair of world-class stunners saw the visitors pull level in the 74th and fall behind once again in the 81st.

[ MORE: Chelsea top Man United to win 8th FA Cup | Three things ]

First, the latest bit of curling genius from Carlos Vela…

It’s not the first — and almost certainly won’t be the last — time we’ve seen that exact goal scored by LAFC’s Mexican superstar. Only this time, Vela was immediately upstaged by Samuel Armenteros, who up to that point had been held without a goal in his first two-plus months in MLS. This is one way to formally introduce yourself to the Rose City faithful…

Report: Saudi Arabia holds key growing influence in FIFA matters

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According to a story by the New York Times, Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a growing influential power in the FIFA world, and could have a significant impact on matters such as the 2026 World Cup vote.

Written by London-based journalist Tariq Panja, the New York Times story talks about how Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a massive financial backer of numerous FIFA projects, and as a result, has growing power within the organization, not just as a benefactor but also as a leader of other countries in the Middle Eastern region.

Saudi Arabia’s financial influence stems from a pair of projects the country has backed, including the 24-team league for clubs across Europe. They are also involved in the proposal of a second, unnamed tournament. The report states that the increase in focus on soccer for the country is part of a larger-scale goal to diversify away from oil as the country’s main source of income.

By financially bankrolling these new potential ventures, Saudi Arabia has grown in influence across the region, leading to the formation of the South West Asian Football Federation, a group of 10 countries that will be based in Jeddah and led by Adel Ezzat, the president of the Saudi Football Federation. This group could carry serious weight in the upcoming 2026 World Cup election if they decide to vote as a bloc.

As a result, the report states that members of the 2026 North American World Cup bid, including US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, traveled to Saudi Arabia “recently” to make a pitch to the group.

However, plenty are opposed the the governments of any country getting involved as financial investors or decision makers of any FIFA matters. Nevertheless, the country is doing its best to position itself within FIFA to not only gain influence but secure financial investments in the sport.

Swansea City, Carlos Carvalhal part ways

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In news that was expected after its relegation, Swansea City announced that it is parting ways with manager Carlos Carvalhal.

Carvalhal took over the Swans on December 28 with the club in the bottom of the Premier League standings and he was quickly able to lift Swansea out of the relegation zone. But a run of nine games without a win to finish the season, including five straight defeats in the last five games, ended all hope for the Welsh side.

[READ: 3 Keys to the FA Cup Final]

“We’d like to put on record our thanks to Carlos for his enthusiasm, hard work and commitment since arriving at the club in December,” Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said. “Naturally, we are all disappointed with the club’s relegation from the Premier League, and following discussions with Carlos, we felt it was in the best interests of both parties that we move in a new direction.

“We will now be looking to appoint a new manager in readiness for the 2018-19 season.”

Despite the disappointment with Swansea, Carvalhal should have no issues finding a new club, whether in England in the Championship again or in his native Portugal.

Meanwhile, Swansea City has a huge decision ahead on who will manage the side in its bid to bounce back up to the Premier League. It will be a tough sell at first, with a decimated squad after years of selling off the club’s best players.

But if they get their transfer strategy correct, with the parachute payments, the club can afford to spend big this year and make it back to the Premier League.

PST’s Premier League Best XI

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We asked each of our writers to select their Best XI from the Premier League in the 2017/18 season.

[ MORE: PST’s 2017/18 season reviews ]

It’s safe to say stars from Manchester City dominated, but there are quite a few surprises in these squads too with varying formations used.

Below you can pick apart our lineups, and feel free to get involved in the comments section and send in your best XI’s too.


Joe Prince-Wright (4-3-3 formation) 

Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Virgil Van Dijk, Jan Vertonghen, Ashley Young
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Roberto Firmino


Nicholas Mendola (3-2-2-3 formation) 

Goalkeeper: David de Gea
Defenders: Jan Vertonghen, Nicolas Otamendi, James Tarkowski
Midfielders: Kante, Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Leroy Sane


Kyle Bonn (4-4-2 formation)
Goalkeeper: Ederson
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, James Tarkowski, Marcos Alonso
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane


Matt Reed (3-4-3 formation)

Goalkeeper: David de Gea
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta, Nicolas Otamendi, Jan Vertonghen
Midfielders: Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Christian Eriksen, Riyad Mahrez
Forwards: Leroy Sane, Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah


Dan Karell (4-3-3 formation) 

Goalkeeper: David de Gea
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, James Tarkowski, Ashley Young
Midfielders: David Silva, Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Leroy Sane

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.