MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

With spring finally entrenched across most of the country, it’s time for a look at the MLS standings.

1) FC Dallas and Sporting KC are the Early Leaders

2013 MLS Cup winning SKC’s fast start is no surprise, but what about FCD? New coach Oscar Pareja has Dallas off and running to the league’s best start, with a 5-1-1 record from their first seven games.

FC Dallas fans will be realistic. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

FC Dallas fans will be realistic. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Dallas fans won’t get too carried away just yet, however. They surely recall last season’s similar start that saw their boys rack up 8 wins and 4 ties from their first 14 matches. How did that turn out? FCD missed the playoffs and Schellas Hyndman was fired, and replaced by Pareja.

2) Donovan and Beckham- Reunited?

Now it’s time for our non-story of the week. TV sports host Dan Patrick asked LD if he might one day play for former teammate David Beckham and his Miami franchise.

Beckham knows first hand what Donovan can bring to a team. (Getty Images)

Beckham knows first hand what Donovan can bring to a team. (Getty Images)

Donovan’s answer? “Everyone has a price Dan,” followed by, “Potentially. Not for a few years. I’m in L.A. for a few more years.”
Going back to his famous sabbatical the, 31 year old Donovan has spoken often of retirement. And Beckham has a real battle on his hands, as far as building a stadium at the Port of Miami.

So, the timing makes this reunion highly unlikely.

3) Nick Rimando is Really Good.

You probably knew that already, or maybe you didn’t, either way the RSL number one and U.S. number three is about to make MLS history.

Rimando (ISI Photos)

Rimando will hopefully be selected for the World Cup in Brazil this year. (ISI Photos)

With his next shutout Rimando will catch Kevin Hartman at 112 for the most ever in Major League Soccer. Impressed? Consider that Rimando has played in 65 fewer matches than the man he is about to catch.

4) You Can Go Home Again?

Well, Shalrie Joseph sure hopes you can. The former Revolution star has labored quietly for Chivas USA and Seattle the last couple of seasons, after an All-Star career in New England.

Sharlie Joseph (L) in action for New England back in 2011. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Sharlie Joseph (L) in action for New England back in 2011. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Does the 35 year old midfielder have anything left in the tank? Returning to the scene of his greatest triumphs may be the best way to find out.

5) Stadium News

Both Atlanta and NYC FC let us in on their future homes in recent days. New York’s will be temporary, Yankee Stadium, while Atlanta announced their long term plans at their official welcome to the league.

Neither is a soccer specific stadium, once thought to be a prerequisite. Both are also sharing space. Atlanta will be rooming with the NFL Falcons, at a coming downtown stadium, which the owner of both clubs, Arthur Blank, assures will be downsized for soccer via high technology.

New York Yankees stadium will be the home for NYC FC for the time being. (Getty Images)

New York Yankees stadium will be the home for NYC FC for the time being. (Getty Images)

NYC FC, owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, will be be staying on the Yankees couch until they can navigate the rigorous political/real estate minefield that is New York City to build a home of their own.

Neither situation is perfect. Atlanta, never thought of the greatest sports town, will be playing on some type of artificial turf. Another no, no for new stadiums not so long ago. And while the Yankee Stadium turf will be the real stuff, NYC FC will clearly be the junior partner in this arrangement. That means no home soccer games in October, presuming the Yankees make the playoffs. It brings to mind a quote from John McMullen, who once held a stake in the Yankees, before buying the Houston Astros.

“Nothing,” McMullen said, “is more limited than being a limited partner of George’s.” McMullen was referring to George Steinbrenner, the late Yankee owner. George has since passed away, leaving the running of the ballclub to his far less volatile son Hal, but when it comes to the House That Ruth Built, the number one priority will always be the New York Yankees.

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Moyes Fired – End of an Error
Moyes Fired – End of an Error avatar

Just 11 months after signing a six year contract to replace Alex Ferguson, David Moyes has been let go by Manchester United, failing to complete even one season in the job.

Ferguson has to take some responsibility for Moyes selection - many question his fear of choosing a bigger name that could have immediately dismantled his empire. (Getty Images)

Ferguson has to take some responsibility for Man Utd’s downfall – many question his fear of choosing a bigger figure that could have immediately dismantled his empire. (Getty Images)

Moyes was Ferguson’s choice to succeed him, but from the start the job seemed too big for Fergie’s fellow Scot.

Moyes had built his reputation as an overachiever with Everton, and there was always fear among United watchers that the taciturn manager would wilt under the bright lights of Old Trafford.

Those fears appeared accurate as Moyes became increasingly uncomfortable as the negative results mounted. Even as the club stood behind him, Manchester United began to pile up some ignominious statistics, unfamiliar to United fans in the Premiership era.

Fellaini failed to reach the heights he did with Everton. (Getty Images)

Fellaini failed to reach the heights he did with Everton. (Getty Images)

Early signs were not good for Moyes when he had trouble attracting big names to Old Trafford during the summer. Everton refused to allow Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini follow their skipper to United, following what the Toffee’s called a derisory offer for the pair.

Fellaini eventually made the move, but the powerful Belgian midfielder was ineffective, then injured. Injuries played a role in United’s early struggles, with star strikers Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney seldom available for selection simultaneously. Ferguson also left Moyes with a team that seemed thin in the midfield and uncertain in defense, despite last season’s EPL title.

Although Rooney was forced in a deeper role - Moyes should get credit for getting Rooney to commit to United after he had made it clear under Ferguson that he wanted to leave. (Getty images)

Although Rooney was forced in a deeper role – Moyes deserves credit for getting Rooney to commit to United after he had made it clear under Ferguson that he wanted to leave. (Getty images)

But Moyes did himself no favors, often playing Rooney too far from goal, and losing support as his team failed not only to win, but to play the attractive brand of attacking soccer that Manchester United fans around the world have come to expect.

Now United sit in seventh place, guaranteed to finish outside of the top four, and to miss out on the Champions League for the first time in almost 20 years. Their place in the table will match Blackburn Rovers for the biggest fall for a defending champion since 1996.

Even the Europa League, Europe’s second tier competition, now looks beyond the Red Devils reach, as this humiliating season winds down.

Moyes was destined to fail from the start and in many ways he was the architect of his own downfall.

Moyes was destined to fail from the start and in many ways he was the architect of his own downfall. (Getty Images)

Embarrassing recent home losses to old rivals Liverpool and “noisy neighbors” Manchester City put Moyes on shaky ground, but the Glazer family, Manchester United’s American owners, finally had seen enough after Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Everton eliminated United from the Champions League spots.

Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs will take temporary charge of the team, while a full time manager is pursued, with Dutchman Louis van Gaal said to be the early favorite for the job. Charismatic Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp is also said to be in the running.

Van Gaal and Van Persie's connection is no secret. Many question the player's role in the firing. (Getty Images)

Van Gaal and Van Persie’s connection is no secret. Many question numerous players’ roles in the firing. (Getty Images)

As for Van Gaal, he will be available after this summer’s World Cup, where he will lead the Netherlands into Brazil. With stints at Ajax, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich on his resume, the Dutchman would seem well prepared for the job, and unlikely to be overawed.

Manchester United released a brief statement that said, “The club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he (Moyes) brought to the role.”

Unfortunately for all concerned those qualities failed to bring the desired results, and with United expected to spend up to $250 million in this summer’s transfer window to repair their team, van Gaal, Jurgen Klopp, or whoever is hired, will have plenty of backing.

United need to get it right this time, and so too will the new manager, who unlike David Moyes, can take some comfort in knowing that he will be replacing a man, not a legend.

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NWSL Round Up: Week Two
NWSL Round Up: Week Two avatar

It’s a Draw for Portland Thorns and Sky Blue FC

The Portland Thorns and Sky Blue FC kicked off the weekend with a 1-1 draw on Saturday in New Jersey in front of over 2,000 fans.

The Thorns took the lead in the beginning, creating the most chances, but it would be Sky Blue who would get on the board first. In the 25th minute U.S. allocated player Christie Rampone scored off a corner kick, which would carry the 1-0 lead well into the second half.

A Sky Blue handball in the 75th minute gave the Thorns their chance to equalize, and midfielder Allie Long made that a goal a reality, successfully converting a penalty kick. With the draw, the Thorns remain unbeaten so far in the new season.

Scoring Summary

  • 26        Sky Blue FC           Christie Rampne
  • 75        Portland Thorns    Allie Long

Red Stars Celebrate Season Opener with Victory

The Chicago Red Stars played their first match of the 2014 season Saturday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL where they shut out WNY Flash 1-0 with a lone goal scored by defender Julie Johnston.

Both teams wanted the win badly, going head to head throughout the first half with defense standing strong. No one was able to score, with the Red Stars getting two shots on goal while the Flash registered three.

Finally, in the 59th minute of the second half, the Red Stars broke the stalemate. The goal came off a corner kick executed by Vanessa DiBernardo. Johnston connected, guiding the ball in with a nice header that sailed past Flash keeper Lydia Williams for the 1-0 finish.

“It took us a bit to settle in, and the Flash is not an easy team to solve,”Red Stars Head Coach Rory Dames told NWSL. “ But I think it was a good outing for us. I’m pleased with our younger players and I’m obviously pleased with the outcome.”

Scoring Summary

  •       59     Chicago                       Julie Johnston (DiBernardo)

Washington Spirit Find Redemption Against FC Kansas City

After a disheartening season opener, the Washington Spirit came back for their second match against FC Kansas City, defeating them 3-1 in Boyds, MD on Saturday.

The Spirit got right down to business, scoring in the 4th minute when defender Crystal Dunn made a speedy breakaway with the ball, crossing to midfielder Diana Matheson who notched the first goal.

Washington's Diana Matheson scored a brace to help lead her team past Kansas. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Washington’s Diana Matheson (L) scored a brace to help lead her team past Kansas. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

FC Kansas City looked to equalize and after forward Lauren Holiday failed on a penalty kick, an aggressive play ended in a goal for the Blues in the 29th minute. Liz Bogus got possession and charged from midfield, crossing to Amy Rodriguez in the box. She took a shot but Spirit goal keeper Ashlyn Harris deftly bumped it away. No matter though, she fired again and it was solid.

With the score 1-1, a tiebreaker was needed and Spirit bit the bullet to search one out. It didn’t take long for them to pull ahead, when scoring duo Dunn and Matheson collaborated once more, ending with Matheson curling the ball in to bump the score 2-1.

It would all be over within the first half. Midfielder Christine Nairn was awarded a free kick in the 45th minute, and promptly sent it home, garnering the 3-1 win for Washington Spirit.

Scoring Summary

  • 4          Washington Spirit            Diana Matheson
  • 29        FC Kansas City                 Amy Rodriguez
  • 38        Washington Spirit          Diana Matheson (Dunn)
  • 45         Washington Spirit          Christine Nairn

Dash Record First Historic Win

The Houston Dash recorded their first official win in club history, beating the Boston Breakers 3-2 at Harvard Stadium in Allston, Mass on Sunday.

Ella Masar and Cat Whitehill wrestle for the ball. (ISI Photos)

Ella Masar and Cat Whitehill wrestle for the ball. (ISI Photos)

It was an under dog finish, with Ella Masar scoring one and Teresa Noyola scoring a brace all in the second half to catch the Breakers and render the win. Things got off to a rocky start for the Dash, especially after U.S. allocated player Heather O’Reilly scored in the very first minute of regulation for the Breakers.

When Masar equalized in the 50th minute, it didn’t take long for the Breakers to bite back with a goal from Joanna Lohman just 10 minutes later.

With time running out, the Dash needed a miracle, and it came from Mexican international Noyola. She was subbed in for the final 10 minutes of the game, scoring in the 81st minute with Rafaelle Souza on the assist. Then, in the 85th minute, Souza was tripped by Breakers defender Courtney Jones and a penalty kick was issued. Noyola took the shot and it hit the net, grabbing the big win for the Dash 3-2.

Scoring Summary

  • 1    Boston Breakers   Heather O’Reilly
  • 50  Houston Dash      Ella Masar
  • 70   Boston Breakers   Joanna Lohman (O’Reilly)
  • 81   Houston Dash   Teresa Noyola (Souza)
  • 85   Houston Dash   Teresa Noyola   PK

 

 

 

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It’s Official – NYC FC to Yankee Stadium
It’s Official – NYC FC to Yankee Stadium avatar

Bronx, New York – New York City Football Club took one step closer to taking the field today, formally announcing that said field would be Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

The 2015 expansion team are co-owned by the New York Yankees baseball club and Manchester City, the English Premier League soccer team, but with no Manchester representatives on hand at Yankee Stadium, today’s event was strictly a New York Yankee production.

Reyna was present at the  (Getty Images)

Reyna will be looking forward to his team playing at the Yankees Stadium(Getty Images)

New York FC officials Tim Pernetti, Claudio Reyna and coach Jason Kreis were joined on the dais by Yankee officials Randy Levine and Lonn Trost, as well as recently retired Yankee pitching icon Mariano Rivera, who was announced as the first ever NYC FC season ticket holder.

Yankee President Levine was on hand to lend a little bit of Yankee gravitas, along with a touch of N.Y.C. swagger, while Trost was called on to explain the details of fitting a soccer season around the epically long baseball campaign.

Trost was convincing in his presentation, explaining that it takes three days to convert the baseball diamond into a soccer pitch. Trost added that it could be done in two and a half days, but that three was optimal.

Renderings provided by the team’s showed that the playing surface will be moved away from the third base dugout, thereby clearing the pitchers mound. Trost conceded that the mound would still need to be removed, although the mound will not have to be torn down. New technology allows the pitching surface to be picked up and removed, shaving valuable time off of the process.

Other important notes from Trost included the stadium capacity and the dimensions of what the baseball executive sportingly referred to as the “pitch.” Seats in the upper reaches of the stadium will be covered for most games, Trost explained, reducing the capacity from 49,642 for baseball to, a still large for MLS, 33,444.

Kreis managing Real Salt Lake. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Kreis managing Real Salt Lake. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Kreis, the Major League Soccer Cup winning coach that NYCFC enticed from Real Salt Lake, pronounced himself satisfied with the dimensions, which at 110 yards by 70 yards, satisfy FIFA regulations. “When I heard it was 70 yards wide,” Kreis shared, “I was very, very happy.”

The ability of the field to withstand the extra wear and tear was a subject of concern for the assembled media, but the Yankees believe that the additional use will not be a problem, with Levine saying that, “The Boss,” the late George Steinbrenner, always wanted the stadium to be seen as a year round venue. Levine also spoke of the Stadium having, “the best grounds crew in the world,” while Trost spoke of “glowlight technology” that allows grass to be grown at night.

When the floor was opened up to questions, Levine brought some of that swagger to bear when he was asked if Major League Baseball had any concerns regarding the playing field, as had been rumored.

New York Yankee's president seemed (Getty images)

New York Yankee’s president didn’t give much away. (Getty images)

“No,” was Levine’s terse response, elaborated on following a brief pause by, “they (MLB) think we know what we’re doing, they know we know what we’re doing.”

No one present was admitting to any predetermined duration, despite earlier reports that the stay would be three years. As Levine put it, “it will last until it doesn’t last.”

Again, there was nothing new on a permanent home, with Tim Pernetti emphasizing once again, “we’re going to build a soccer specific stadium in New York City.”

Both Kreis and Reyna expressed excitement at playing in Yankee Stadium, with New Jersey born Reyna, the team’s Director of Football Operations, saying that, “I hope some of their (the Yankees) winning tradition will rub off on us.”
Standing behind home plate at the Big Ballyard in the Bronx, Reyna spoke about the challenges of creating a positive atmosphere in a non traditional soccer venue.

“We’re going to learn real quick,” Reyna said. “It’s going to be a collective effort of the guys on the ticket side on the soccer side, we’re all in this together.”

“We feel good about it, it is a fantastic venue, Yankee Stadium,” Reyna said. The former U.S. international was at the exhibition games in the summer and praised the atmosphere, while acknowledging the challenge ahead of NYC FC.

“Clearly, some of the seats are a little bit further away,” Reyna admits, “but we hope that putting out a good product on the field, developing our fan base as it’s growing every week, every month, by signing some players that we’ll get that momentum.”

Reyna says, “we’re confident with the momentum and the excitement that we can build around this team that we can have a large attendance at games and, more importantly, a big and committed fan base.”

There remains several challenges ahead for NYC FC, as they try to carve out a spot for themselves in New York’s perpetually crowded sorting landscape. One will be scheduling around the Yankees, which figures to see NYC FC shutout of their home stadium every October.

It is just one more challenge facing Major League Soccer’s 20th franchise, a challenge they will face beginning next March at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

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EPL Week 35 – All or Nothing
EPL Week 35 – All or Nothing avatar

NEWS 

Cardiff want Crystal Palace match annulled

Cardiff City have requested that their 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace earlier this month should not stand according to documents obtained by the BBC.

The document, which has been sent to the Premier League, alleges that Palace sporting director Ian Moody, who formerly worked for Cardiff, obtained the Cardiff’s starting eleven before the game.

Cardiff say they have proof that Moody obtained the sensitive information, which they say breaches the EPL rules.

Cardiff claim Moody mistakenly sent a text message with the starting XI to Bolton manager Dougie Freedman a day before the game. Freedman is then said to have tipped off Bluebirds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about the leak because they are friends, having attended coaching courses together.

Gunnarsson (R) denies the allegations. (Getty Images)

Gunnarsson (R) denies the allegations. (Getty Images)

The text message allegedly read: “Straight from Gunnarsson their line up is 4-4-2 Marshall, KTC, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Daehli, Medel, Mutch, Zaha, Campbell, Jones

Cardiff player Aron Gunnarsson denies he is the source of the leak, and Cardiff want the Premier League to find out who may have been responsible.

The Welsh club claim all this amounts to a serious breach of the spirit of the Premier League’s chairman’s charter, which requires clubs to behave with “utmost good faith and honesty to each other”.

Specifically, Cardiff say Palace have broken three Premier League rules: B15, B16 and B17. Rule B17 is potentially the most serious as it states that no club shall disclose or divulge confidential information.

Palace boss Tony Pulis has refused to comment on the situation, though Palace deny the allegations.

The Premier League has confirmed it has received a formal complaint from Cardiff and is assessing the evidence to see if there is a case to answer.

 

Four Liverpool players up for PFA awards

Liverpool players Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling have all been nominated for awards at the Professional Footballers’ Association’s player of the year awards.

Suarez surely is favorite for the PFA Player of the Year. (Getty Images)

Suarez surely is favorite for the PFA Player of the Year. (Getty Images)

Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge are joined by Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure, winger Eden Hazard of Chelsea and Southampton playmaker Adam Lallana who have all been nominated for the Professional Footballers’ Association’s player of the year award.

Hazard and Sturridge have also been named in the PFA young player award, along with Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, Everton’s Ross Barkley, and Southampton’s Luke Shaw.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Sunday, 27 April.

Liverpool’s Uruguay striker , Luis Suarez, 27, is favorite to win the award having netted 29 league goals in 29 EPL games for top-of-the-table Liverpool this season.

 

Predictions

Week 34

Score

Predictions

SATURDAY
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa 1-0 1-0
Fulham v Norwich 1-0 2-1
Southampton v Cardiff 0-1 3-0
Stoke v Newcastle 1-0 2-0
Sunderland v Everton 0-1 1-2
West Brom v Tottenham 3-3 2-2
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
Wigan v Arsenal 1-1 (Arsenal win on Pens) 1-2
SUNDAY
Liverpool v Man City 3-2 3-2
Swansea v Chelsea 0-1 1-3
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
Hull v Sheffield Utd 5-3 2-0

A correct result (ie picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.

Last week I got EIGHT correct results, including TWO perfect scores, to give me a grand total 13-points—which is the season’s highest score!

There are only four more weeks left to go, so time is running out for me to top that score, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Week 35

Predictions

SATURDAY
Tottenham v Fulham 2-1
Aston Villa v Southampton 1-2
Cardiff v Stoke 2-2
Newcastle v Swansea 1-1
West Ham v Crystal Palace 1-2
Chelsea v Sunderland 2-0
SUNDAY
Norwich v Liverpool 0-3
Hull v Arsenal 1-2
Everton v Man Utd 2-2
MONDAY
Man City v West Brom 3-0

Preview

SATURDAY

Chelsea v Sunderland

Sunderland’s got an excellent 2-2 draw away to Manchester City during the week, but remain at the bottom of the EPL and six-points adrift of safety. But the result will have boosted their confidence and the Blacks Cats will fancy their chances against second place Chelsea.

The Black Cats draw also helped Chelsea, as it means the Blues can now win the EPL if they win the rest of their games. The Blues edged past Swansea 1-0 during the week without playing well, but won’t care much as the result means they remain just two-points behind leaders Liverpool, who they face next week.

Hazard (L) who is up for both the PFA young player and player of the year will be mission .(Getty Images)

Hazard (L) who is up for both the PFA young player and player of the year will be mission .(Getty Images)

Chelsea will be without top scorer Eden Hazard who is still struggling with a calf injury.

Phil Bardsley is still suspended for Sunderland and is joined on the sidelines by Ki Sung-Yeung, who has tendonitis, meaning the Black Cats could name the same side that drew with Man City earlier in the week.

Chelsea face a pivotal couple of weeks, with a trip to Atletico Madrid midweek to think about before next week big game away to Liverpool, meaning the Blues might be tempted to rest some players.

However, Chelsea cannot afford to drop any points and I expect them to field a strong side. Sunderland need a result and will no doubt make things difficult for Chelsea, but I think they lack class all over the field and Chelsea should win this one.

Prediction: 2-0

 

SUNDAY

Norwich v Liverpool

Norwich lost a massive game against Fulham last week and are now in real danger of being relegated. The Canaries remain two-points ahead of Fulham, but have a hard run-in with games against Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal left to play.

Steven Gerrard is starting to believe his team can win the EPL title. (Getty Images)

Steven Gerrard is starting to believe his team can win the EPL title. (Getty Images)

Liverpool overcame Man City in a thriller 3-2 to really strengthen their chances of winning their first league title in 24-years. The Reds played magnificently and now hold a two-point lead over Chelsea who they face next week. After the game Captain Stephan Gerrard gathered the team into a huddle and asked them to approach this weekend’s game with the same desire and intensity.

Norwich  could welcome back captain Sebastien Bassong, who was left out of the defeat by Fulham last weekend.

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is a major doubt with a hamstring injury, while midfielder Jordan Henderson is suspended.

Both sides need a win and may go all out to get it. Liverpool are the inform side in the EPL at the moment and will be heavy favorites to win this game. The Reds are the EPL’s top scorers with 93 goals and beat The Canaries 5-1 earlier.

Norwich are expected to lose all of their remaining games and probably will approach everyone as a cup. I expect them to them to give their best against Liverpool, but I just do not think it will be enough.

Prediction: 0-2

 

Everton v Man Utd

When Everton eased past Arsenal a couple of weeks ago, they looked like they were capable of finishing in the top four. However, a midweek 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace coupled with Arsenal beating West Ham has seen Everton drop below the Gunners, and I don’t think they will make the grade now.

Toffees manager Roberto Martinez said his side could suffer from the pressure of expectations, and he appeared correct as his side failed to lay their normal fluid soccer.

Juan Mata is starting to show his class in the midfield to United. (Getty Images)

Juan Mata is starting to show his class in the midfield to United. (Getty Images)

Manchester United beat Newcastle 4-0 away last week, which was perhaps their best performance of the season thus far. Juan Mata was the star of the show, scoring two and creating another. The Red Devils have improved in recent weeks with Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa all linking up well.

Everton captain Phil Jagielka and midfielder James McCarthy are fit again, though they’re both unlikely to start.

Manchester United have defensive troubles with Rafael and Johnny Evans both struggling with injury.

However, striker Wayne Rooney is available after a toe injury, while Marouane Fellaini should also be fit.

Everton have been imperious at home this season, losing only twice at Goodison all season. The Toffees won at Old Trafford earlier in the season and will be confident of getting a positive result against United on Saturday.

United have the best away record in the EPL this season, but they have struggled and are not the side they once were. The Red Devils don’t really have anything left to play for this season and the lack of pressure may help them express themselves.

Everton will be looking to hold onto the 5th spot and a Europa spot.(ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Everton will be looking to hold onto the 5th spot and a Europa spot.(ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

This game should be an intriguing one, as both teams have exciting forward players. Everton need the win and will probably go all out to get it, however, I think this game will end in a stalemate.

Prediction: 2-2

 

 

 

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AYSA and McDonalds Host Soccer Saturday for Scholarships
AYSA and McDonalds Host Soccer Saturday for Scholarships avatar

Courtesy of AYSA

Courtesy of AYSA

Please visit the Arizona Youth Soccer Association website for more information.

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U.S. MNT U20′s on to Dallas Cup Semifinals
U.S. MNT U20′s on to Dallas Cup Semifinals avatar

The U.S. MNT U20 side beat Mexican club UNAL Tigres 1-0 on Wednesday for their third straight Dallas Cup win, advancing to today’s semifinals behind a Rubio Rubin goal.

Tab Ramos’ Young Yanks topped Bracket C of the Gordon Jago Super Group with that perfect 3-0-0 record and will take on Brazil’s Fluminense squad at 7:00 Eastern time Friday night in the Cotton Bowl.

Fluminense claimed Bracket B with a 2-0-1 record, good for seven points. Tonight’s curtain raiser at 5:00 features Bracket A winners Coritiba (3-0-0), also a Brazilian club, against Argentine giants River Plate, the Bracket C runners-up with a 2-0-1 mark.

The Americans got Wednesday’s only goal just before the short whistle when Shaquell Moore fed Rubin, who took off on a snaky run through the Tigres defense before firing home an impressive goal.

The U.S. were unable to add to Rubio’s goal despite coming close several times, with Ben Spencer and the day’s captain, Paul Arriola, both pinging shots off of the crossbar.

Rubio Ruben shone once again for the young U.S. side.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Rubio Ruben shone once again for the young U.S. side.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Rubin also chipped in with a goal in the Americans opening game, a 3-2 come from behind victory over River Plate on Sunday afternoon. Ben Spencer was the opening day star for the U.S. with two goals, including a 79th minute penalty kick for the winner, converted after Kellyn Acosta was fouled.

The U.S. rolled to a far more comfortable victory in game two, downing German squad Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 on Monday, less than 24 hours after edging River Plate.

Philadelphia Union product Zach Pfeffer garnered the headlines with a goal and an assist, setting up Benji Lopez for the opening goal at the 43 minute mark, before giving the U.S. some breathing room, with a strike of his own just five minutes later.

Romain Gall set the final scoreline in the closing stages on a set up from Arriola.

Now, with three wins on the trot, including consecutive shutouts it is on to the semi’s, with the home team looking to advance to the Dallas Cup Championship game.

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MLS Welcomes Atlanta
MLS Welcomes Atlanta avatar

Major League Soccer turned the hype machine to high today when Arthur Blank and Commissioner Don Garber emerged from a helicopter to kick off today’s announcement that Atlanta has been awarded Major League Soccer’s 22nd franchise.

The team will take the field in 2017 in a brand new stadium that is already under construction in downtown Atlanta. Blank, the owner/founder of Home Depot, as well as the owner of the NFL Atlanta Falcons, trumpeted the stadium’s technology that will allow it to be downsized from 71,000 seats for Falcon games to 29,000 for MLS.

Blank explained that retractable seats in the lower bowl will allow for the field to be widened, and drew the loudest applause of the event when he stated that there would never be NFL lines on the pitch.

Soccer purists may not be as thrilled with Blank’s matter of fact announcement that the games would be played on artificial turf, although the retractable roof should be a boon in Atlanta’s summer heat.

This move completes Major League Soccer’s Southern strategy, and will give the league teams in Orlando, Atlanta and Miami, and puts a team in the largest American city currently without an MLS club.

MLS made it clear that the Atlanta franchise will be the league’s 22nd franchise, not Miami, despite the announcement earlier this year that David Beckham will head a new Miami team.

Beckham’s entree into the league is dependent on his group’s ability to close a deal on a new stadium.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

1) Slump, What Slump?

So says Clint Dempsey, after following last week’s hat trick against Portland with a two goal effort that handed FC Dallas their first loss of 2014.

Dempsey is peaking at the right time for his club and country. (Getty Images)

Dempsey is peaking at the right time for his club and country. (Getty Images)

And Deuce certainly made his goals count Saturday in Frisco, Texas, scoring an equalizer and the game winner.

That gives Dempsey six goals on this young season, so yeah, the slump is officially busted.

2) Fellow Nats Ring the Bell

It must have been an enjoyable weekend of MLS watching for U.S. MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann, with Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu all hitting the target, in addition to Captain Deuce.

Edu (R) will be hoping his performance caught Klinsmann's attention (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Edu (R) will be hoping his performance caught Klinsmann’s attention (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Beckerman and Edu each represented well in their battle for a midfield spot in Brazil, with Edu’s 90th minute tally matching Beckerman’s 85th minute strike, in a 2-2 draw at Philadelphia between Edu’s Union and the Rapids.

Meanwhile, San Jose needed Wondolowski’s 51st minute effort to claim a share of the spoils against Columbus, Sunday in San Jose.

3) Both Teams Stronger?

It is the rare trade that lives up to the cliche, and actually makes both teams stronger, but the early returns on Philadelphia and Montreal’s recent deal suggest that may be the case.

Jack McInerney (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Jack McInerney trade was a surprize. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

It looked a bit of a head scratcher when the Union shipped out young goal scoring striker Jack McInerney to Philadelphia for young non-goal scoring striker Andrew Wenger. It’s early days yet, but Wenger and McInerney each scored on their debuts, with Wenger looking quite lively.

4) Chivas MLS – Not Too Bad

We’re not getting carried away here yet, but the league owned club hasn’t been bad this season.

Erick Torres in action for the Chivas. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Erick Torres in action for the Chivas. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Saturday’s 1-1 tie at Portland gives the Goats six points from six games. Erick Torres scored in the 79th minute to match a seventh minute knock from Timbers midfielder Will Johnson.

The goal gives Torres five on the season, just one back of the slightly higher profile Clint Dempsey,who leads all MLS goal scores.

5) Kevin Alston’s 1st Goal

Alston's (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Alston finally scored. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

After 123 appearances for the New England Revolution Kevin Alston, the 25 year old fullback, finally scored his first MLS goal, the game winner in New England’s 2-0 home win over Houston on Saturday.

More impressive though, is that almost exactly one year ago, Alston was diagnosed with leukemia. Alston made it back to the Revs before the end of last season, and now this.

It is a great story so far, and whatever team you support, I’m sure all MLS fans are rooting for Kevin Alston.

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NWSL Round Up: Week 1
NWSL Round Up: Week 1 avatar

The 2014 NWSL is underway after teams competed this weekend across the country and the points started rolling in. The results were close, with some big wins, narrow losses and a draw, displaying the competitive energy and talent within each team as they vie for valuable points.

FC Kanas City and Sky Blue FC Start the Season with a Draw

FC Kansas City and Sky Blue FC went up against each other in front of 3,107 fans at the Verizon Wireless Field in Kansas City, MO, Saturday, opening with a clean 1-1 draw.

Amy Rodriguez missed out last season due to the birth of her son. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Amy Rodriguez missed out last season due to the birth of her son. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

It wasn’t until minutes before the half that the first goal was scored and it was FC Kansas City that broke the stalemate. In the 42nd minute FCKC defender and Kassey Kallman carried the ball into the box and crossed to forward Amy Rodriguez. With one deadly shot she sent the ball into the lower right corner of the net to give FC Kansas the 1-0 lead. Not only did Rodriguez open scoring for her team, but she notched her first NWSL career goal.

Sky Blue had some time to reflect before charging into the second half of the game and they did not dilly dally on bringing on the aggression either, instantly taking possession before equalizing early on in the 48th minute.

Midfielder Katy Freels jumped on an FCKC misclear, firing the ball into the back left corner. Both sides beefed up the defense after that goal, and no one scored for the remainder to end with a solid 1-1 score.

Scoring Summary

  • 42’,  FC Kansas City, Amy Rodriguiz (Kallman)
  • 48’,  Sky Blue FC,  Katy Freels

Thorns Celebrate First Game with a Win

Defending NWSL champs Portland Thorns opened their season up with a nice 1-0 win against expansion team Houston Dash on Saturday at BBVA Stadium in Houston, TX.

Although the Thorns took the win, it was hard earned, and thanks to some brilliant goalkeeping by Nadine Angerer, the early goal scored by midfielder Allie Long carried them through the remainder.

German international Nadine was able to keep a clean sheet for Portland.(Getty Images)

German international Nadine was able to keep a clean sheet for Portland.(Getty Images)

Long scored in the 24th minute off a header to get the Thorns up on the board and after that- it was a battle to keep that lead. The Dash got three shots on goal in the first half, but Angerer was able to keep the ball out of the net.

Although the Thorns held possession for the majority of the game, the Dash had some close chances from forwards Stephanie Ochs and Tiffany McCarty. Overall, they managed to outshoot their opponents 12-10.

Scoring Summary

  • 24’, Portland Thorns, Allie Long (McDonald)

Losada Leads WNY Flash to Victory Against Spirit

NWSL rookie midfielder Vicky Losada was the player of the afternoon, scoring a brace and assisting in a third goal to help the WNY Flash beat Washington Spirit 3-1 on Sunday in Boyds, MD.

Just 15 minutes into the game, the FC Barcelona standout riled up the crowd with a beautiful 30-yard shot that flew past goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris’ outstretched hands to put the Flash up 1-0.

Losado celebrated scoring against Washington in their season opener. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Losada scored a brace and also registered an assist against Washington in their season opener. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Determined not to fall behind, Spirit equalized just five minutes later when midfielder Christine Nairn scored off a corner kick. But, the 1-1 score wouldn’t last for very long. Minutes later Losada drilled a cross to center back Brittany Taylor at the far post, who slid to connect with the ball. It hit the back of the net and the Flash regained the lead once more 2-1.

The final goal came in the 67th minute when Losada intercepted a pass from teammate Adriana Martin in the box. It was an easy finish for Losada, who blasted the ball home to end the game 3-1.

“To see Vicky come in and have that sort of contribution is very fulfilling,” Flash head coach Aaron Lines told NWSL. “This is a good start to her Flash career.”

Scoring Summary

  • 15’, WNY Flash, Vicky Losada
  • 50’, Washington Spirit, Christine Nairn
  • 54’, WNY Flash, Brittany Taylor (Losada)
  • 67’, WNY Flash, Vicky Losada (Martin)

Seattle Reign Sweep Breakers 3-0

Seattle Reign FC finished up the weekend with a 3-0 shutout against the Boston Breakers on Sunday at home in Seattle, WA.

Seattle's Kim Little (L) got a brace to help lead her team to a 3-0 victory. (Getty Images)

Seattle’s Kim Little (L) got a brace to help lead her team to a 3-0 victory. (Getty Images)

Scottish midfielder Kim Little opened scoring in the 49th minute off a penalty kick and then scored a brace in the 54th, while midfielder Megan Rapinoe capped it off in the 88th minute.

Both teams came out fighting in the first half, exchanging dangerous shots while defense held up under pressure.

A handball on the Breakers side  gave Seattle a penalty kick in the beginning of the second half and Little delivered to get her team up on the board 1-0. She narrowly scored again just five minutes later, just barely staying onside before firing the ball into the net.

Rapinoe was searching for a goal all evening, taking three shots on goal that goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher promptly denied. The U.S. midfielder finally tasted victory in the last two minutes of the game, beating out the opposition and shooting the ball low to set the score at 3-0 before the final whistle.

Scoring Summary

  • 49’, Seattle Reign, Kim Little, PK
  • 54’, Seattle Reign, Kim Little (Fishlock)
  • 88’, Seattle Reign, Megan Rapinoe (Fishlock)

League Standings

# NWSL GP W L T PTS
1. Seattle Reign FC 1 1 0 0 3
2. Western New York Flash 1 1 0 0 3
3. Portland Thorns FC 1 1 0 0 3
4. FC Kansas City 1 0 0 1 1
5. Sky Blue FC 1 0 0 1 1
6. Chicago Red Stars 0 0 0 0 0
7. Houston Dash 1 0 1 0 0
8. Washington Spirit 1 0 1 0 0
9. Boston Breakers 1 0 1 0 0

 

 

 

 

 

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2014 NWSL Season Kick Off: Weekend Preview
2014 NWSL Season Kick Off: Weekend Preview avatar

NWSL fans rejoice: The 2014 season is finally here with Houston Dash taking on the Portland Thorns and FC Kansas City playing Sky Blue FC tomorrow to get the party started.

NWSL should be more competitive this season with most of the U.S. national players being involved, (ISI Photos)

NWSL should be more competitive this season with most of the U.S. national players being involved, (ISI Photos)

On Sunday Washington Spirit will play WNY Flash and Seattle Reign FC will end the first round of games against the Boston Breakers. The NWSL announced this month that every game of the 2014 NWSL regular season will stream live on YouTube- the largest global video sharing site which will offer fans across the globe visual access to the games.

All nine teams in the league have been busy these past few months, trading, cutting and signing players while getting some practice in with preseason before the big kick off.

The NWSL welcome Portland's new signing and Spanish starlet Veronica Boquiete(R). (Getty Images)

The NWSL welcome Portland’s new signing and Spanish starlet Veronica Boquiete(R). (Getty Images)

The first match of the weekend features the newest face of the NWSL, Houston Dash, going up against the 2013 NWSL Championship winner Portland Thorns. It will be a challenging opener for the team, but they’ve got a first class roster to back them up.

Houston signed all four of the teams’ picks from the 2014 college draft with Kealia Ohai, Rafaelle Souza, Marissa Diggs and Jordan Jackson rounding out the group of rookies. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod, a warrior in the net and midfielders Teresa Noyla and Brittany Bock will offer Portland plenty of trouble no doubt, as playing in the NWSL is nothing new for the veterans.

Morgan will miss start of the season as she recovers from a lengthy ankle injury . (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Morgan will miss start of the season as she recovers from a lengthy ankle injury . (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

The Thorns have a lot to prove this year as well, defending their title with new head coach Paul Riley at the helm. Although star forward Alex Morgan is out with an ankle injury with no word on her return to the field, the roster is looking sharp with talented players that include Christine Sinclair, Allie Long and defender Rachel Van Hollebeke. And, let’s not forget German International goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or finalist. Need I say more?

Also on Saturday, 2013 NWSL MVP Lauren Holiday will lead FC Kansas City against Sky Blue FC at their new home stadium at University of Missouri Kansas City. An intimidating squad that includes 2013 NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak, Goalkeeper of the Year Nicole Barnhart and Defender of the Year Becky Sauerbrunn joins her.

Sky Blue will most definitely bring the heat with tough defender Caitlin Foord, who snagged the 2013 NWSL Second XI honoree and U.S. international Kelley O’Hara. Returning to the field is Mexico international Monica Ocampo, who was a terror on throughout the last season, also leading Sky Blue in most goals scored.

On Sunday, 2013 Championship runner up WNY Flash will go up against Washington Spirit, which should prove interesting with new roster changes. The Flash have a stealthy 2013 track record with league’s best offense (36 goals) and defense (20 goals). Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch really put herself out there for the team and established herself as an integral part of the Flash defense. Unfortunately, she will be out for the entire 2014 season after tearing her ACL during preseason.

UNC's Crystal Dunn was  the NWSL's first pick overall as expected . (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

UNC’s Crystal Dunn was the NWSL’s first pick overall as expected . (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Washington Spirit had a rocky inaugural season, but perhaps 2014 will be their year. Besides signing defender Crystal Dunn, the No. 1 overall pick during the 2014 College Draft, Christine Nairn, Yael Averbuch and Ali Krieger make up one hell of a squad if I ever did see one.

Boston breakers will travel to the west coast to play Seattle Reign FC Sunday evening, wrapping up the first weekend of games.

After finishing in 7th place last season, Seattle has a fresh start with Hope Solo in the net after she was out for a good part of 2013 with an injury. Megan Rapinoe, Danielle Foxhoven and Wales international Jess Fishlock add some serious talent to the roster and luckily, all U.S. internationals will be available to play for Seattle from start to finish this year.

Seattle welcome new signing Ler(ISI Photos/Rick Osentoski)

Leroux was Boston’s leading scorer last season(ISI Photos/Rick Osentoski)

The Breakers are getting a fresh start as well with new head coach Tom Durkin taking over. They lose a valuable asset in U.S. forward Sydney Leroux, who was the second leading scorer in the league last year. Despite Leroux’s absence, Lianne Sanderson and midfielder Heather O’Reilly can fill the void easily with a shining backline that includes Courtney Jones, Cat Whitehill and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

 

 

 

 

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EPL Week 34 – Things Are Hotting Up
EPL Week 34 – Things Are Hotting Up avatar

News

Liverpool sweep monthly awards

Liverpool have made a clean sweep of the EPL monthly awards with midfielder Steven Gerrard and forward Luis Suarez being named joint players of the month, while coach Brendan Rogers has been named the EPL manager of the month.

Brendan Rodgers has led his team to surprize title contenders. (Getty Images)

Brendan Rodgers has led his team to surprize title contenders. (Getty Images)

Rogers steered The Reds to the top of the EPL thanks to a flawless March, by recording five straight wins and scoring 22 times in the process. The Liverpool coach picks up his second award of the season, and his third overall having won the award as Swansea Manager two years ago.

The player award was shared for only the sixth time in the EPL, as the vote was split by the judging panel. Gerrard wins the award for the fifth time after scoring four goals in March, including a brace in the 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Forward Luis Suarez picks up the award for the second time this season, having secured the award in December. Suarez scored six goals and provided two assists in March to help Liverpool to the summit of the EPL. The Uruguayan international has now taken his tally to 29 goals in 28 Barclays Premier League appearances in an extraordinary 2013/14 campaign.

 

Cardiff complain about leaks

Cardiff City have contacted the Premier League following allegations that important team details were leaked to Crystal Palace a day before last week’s crucial game between the two sides.

Cardiff look certain to go back down after their first season in the EPL. (Getty Images)

Cardiff look certain to go back down after their first season in the EPL. (Getty Images)

The Bluebirds allege Palace knew their line-up 24 hours before last week’s match and have accused them of obtaining that information by underhanded means.

Cardiff City lost 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace to leave them sitting in 19th place in the EPL and six-points from safety with only five games left to play this season.

The Premier League is not currently investigating the allegations as Cardiff has yet to make a formal complaint.

“What Cardiff have done is ask the Premier League to look into this,” said BBC Wales football correspondent Rob Phillips. “They were bitterly unhappy that it appears their starting line-up was leaked.”

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish has declined to comment saying he does not want to give the accusations “oxygen”.

Cardiff captain Steven Caulker believes the row could be a distraction from the fight to avoid relegation.

“For me it’s frustrating because we need to focus on what’s going on on the pitch and not what’s happening off the pitch,” Caulker added.

Predictions

Week 33

Score

Prediction

SATURDAY
Man City v Southampton 4-1 3-1
Aston Villa v Fulham 1-2 1-2
Cardiff v Crystal Palace 0-3 2-1
Hull v Swansea 1-0 2-1
Newcastle v Man Utd 0-4 1-3
Norwich v West Brom 0-1 3-2
Chelsea v Stoke 3-0 2-0
SUNDAY
Everton v Arsenal 3-0 2-2
West Ham v Liverpool 1-2 1-3
MONDAY
Tottenham v Sunderland 5-1 2-0

A correct result (i.e. picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.

Last week I got SEVEN correct results, including ONE perfect score, to give me a total of NINE-points.

Week 34

Predictions

SATURDAY
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa 1-0
Fulham v Norwich 2-1
Southampton v Cardiff 3-0
Stoke v Newcastle 2-0
Sunderland v Everton 1-2
West Brom v Tottenham 2-2
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
Wigan v Arsenal 1-2
SUNDAY
Liverpool v Man City 3-2
Swansea v Chelsea 1-3
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
Hull v Sheffield Utd 2-0

Previews

SATURDAY

Fulham v Norwich

This is perhaps one of the biggest games of the EPL season, as 18th placed Fulham face 17th placed Norwich in a game that could prove decisive to each team’s EPL fate.

After a series of good performances but poor results, Fulham finally managed to record a win by beating Aston Villa away 2-1. The Cottagers played well and deserved the win, but the character they showed by regaining the lead once being pegged back by Villa will have pleased their manager Magath and hints that the Londoners do have the stomach to fight in the relegations battle.

Norwich sacked coach Chris Hughton this week following their loss 1-0 to fellow strugglers West Brom. The Canaries decision is strange given there are only five games left and that the man they have chosen to replace Hughton is youth team coach Neil Adams who has no senior soccer management experience.

Darren Bent will be available to start for Fulham.(Getty Images)

Darren Bent will be available to start for Fulham.(Getty Images)

Fulham are bolstered by the return from injury of Scott Parker, Dan Burn and Giorgos Karagounis. However, record signing Kostas Mitroglou remains sidelined with a knee injury, though on-loan striker Darren Bent is available again after being ineligible to play against parent club Aston Villa last week.

Norwich will access the fitness of Leroy Fer, Joseph Yobo and Ryan Bennett before Saturday’s game, but could name the same side that lost to West Brom.

This is a massive game for both clubs and a loss for either side could all but seal their fate. Norwich do hold a five-point lead over Fulham, however, a loss would see that fall to only two-points with their remaining fixtures are against Liverpool (h), Chelsea (a), Manchester United (a) and Arsenal (h).

Fulham’s run-in is a tad easier on paper with Tottenham (a), Hull (h), Stoke (a) and Crystal Palace (h) left to play, but a loss would see them needing to win three of their remaining games which seem doubtful.

Both these sides would probably take a draw, but I think Fulham will go for the win as they are home and are running out of games. Norwich are not playing well and have lost four of their last six games, a win would more or less secure their survival. However, I doubt they will want to risk losing and I expect them to play conservatively and hope to nick a goal on the counter.

Prediction:  2-1

 

FA CUP SEMI-FINAL

Wigan v Arsenal

Wigan are vying to be the first team to reach consecutive finals since Chelsea did so in 2010, however, to do so they will have to get past favorites Arsenal who are aiming to end nine year wait for a trophy.

FA Cup holders Wigan overcame the odds in the quarters by knocking out favorite Man City 2-1 in Manchester. That game was a repeat of last year’s final where the Latics beat City 1-0.

Wigan's Nick Powell leads his team with 12 goals. (Getty Images)

Wigan’s Nick Powell leads his team with 12 goals. (Getty Images)

The Latics are currently in tremendous form in the Championship with just one defeat in their last 13 matches and nine wins in that time. New manager Uwe Rosler has made them well organized and playing high-tempo stuff. Against City they pressed high up the field and they will probably do the same against Arsenal on Saturday.

Arsenal are hoping to reach their first FA Cup final since 2005, when they beat Manchester United on penalties. That final was the last time the Gunner’s won any silverware, and former Gunner Ray Parlour believes Arsenal should prioritize winning the cup over securing a Champions League place.

“If I had to pick fourth and no trophy, or fifth and a trophy… I would take the trophy,” said Parlour.

“I know the Champions League is important and great for the club financially but you don’t want to be a professional footballer to make money for your club,”

Oliver Giroud ® has struggled with form lately.(Getty Images)

Oliver Giroud ® has struggled with form lately.(Getty Images)

I’m not sure the Arsenal board would agree, but Parlour does have a point, you just need to look at Man City for example, whose FA Cup win in 2011 was the spring board for their EPL title the following year.

The Gunners are the favorites, but they are not playing well and are suffering for a host of injuries with Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscienly, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Rosicky, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlande-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott all out.

Wigan played tremendously against Man City in the quarters and will try to do the same against, however, I think the Gunners will just edge this one.

Prediction: 1-2

 

SUNDAY

Liverpool v Man City

Sunday game could prove massive in where the EPL title ends up this season, as EPL leaders Liverpool host 3rd placed Man City.

The Reds have been the best side in the EPL since the turn of the year and are unbeaten in 14 Premier League matches, winning the last nine. They have score 46 goals during this unbeaten period, an average of 3.2 goals per game.

Steven Gerrard has looked like a rejuvenated player. (Getty Images)

Steven Gerrard has looked like a rejuvenated player. (Getty Images)

Last week they overcame a dogged West Ham side, winning 2-1 thanks to a late Steven Gerrard penalty, to remain top of the EPL and keep the pressure on the chasing pack.

Manchester City beat Southampton 4-1 at home last week, but the game was not as comfortably as the score line suggested, and Southampton were arguably the better side in the first half. However, the Sky Blues scored two goals just before half-time and easily controlled the first half.

Liverpool must decide to stick with Mamadou Sakho at centre-back or recall Daniel Agger following a knee problem.

Manchester City top scorer Sergio Aguero is set to return after missing the last five games with a hamstring strain.

Matija Nastasic remains out for City with a knee problem, but Yaya Toure should play despite a minor knock.

Yaya Toure's performance will be vital to Man City. (Getty Images)

Yaya Toure’s performance will be vital to Man City. (Getty Images)

This game sees the EPL’s two highest scoring sides come head to head—Liverpool have scored 90 goals, while Man City have score 84 goals—so there should be goals in this game.

Manchester City are unbeaten in their last five league games against Liverpool (W2, D3), though Liverpool have lost only once in 16 Premier League games at home to City (W10, D5) – a 2-1 defeat in 2003.

I think this will be fantastic and full of goals, Liverpool’s defense is leaky but I think their strike duo of Suarez and Sturridge will get them out of jail.

Prediction: 2-2

 

Swansea v Chelsea

Swansea lost 1-0 to Hull last week to remain precariously close to the relegation zone. The Swans have had looked decent recently, but are still failing to put the points on the board—the Swans have only picked up eight points form a possible 30 since February.

Chelsea should be confident after seeing off PSG mid week in the Champions League (Getty Images)

Chelsea should be confident after seeing off PSG mid week in the Champions League (Getty Images)

Chelsea bounced back from a defeat against Crystal Palace with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Stoke last week. The Blues remain only two-points behind leaders Liverpool and could go top of the EPL with a win on Sunday.

Swansea’s Nathan Dyer, Pablo Hernadez and Jose Canas are all pushing for a starting berth, but Kyle Bartley is out with a hamstring injury.

Chelsea’s John Terry and Eden Hazard are both major doubts with respective foot and calf injuries. However, the Blues should recall Mohamad Salah, who was cup-tied during Chelsea’s Champions League win midweek, while Ramires should return following a three-game suspension.

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last seven league games against Swansea, including a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, though the Swans did beat them in last year’s League Cup semi-final.

Wilfred Bony should cause Chelsea some problems. (Getty Images)

Wilfred Bony should cause Chelsea some problems. (Getty Images)

Swansea plays nice passing soccer and pose a threat up top with strikers Wilfred Bony and Michu. However, the Swans are a bit light weight when it comes to defending and I expect Chelsea to easily win this one.

Prediction: 1-3

 

FA CUP SEMI-FINAL

Hull v Sheffield Utd

Hull are in the FA Cup semi-final for the first time since 1930 and are aiming to make it to their first ever FA Cup final. However, they will first have to get past four-time winners Sheffield United, who are aiming to become the first non-EPL side to grace the final since Cardiff City did so in 2008.

Jelavic (L) will not feature for Hull as he is cup tied. (Getty Images)

Jelavic (L) will not feature for Hull as he is cup tied. (Getty Images)

Hull won 1-0 at home to Swansea last week to all but secure their survival in the EPL for another season. The Tigers have looked better since the arrival of strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic in January, who have struck up a good partnership upfront. However, the Tigers will have to without the duo for their trip to Wembley on Sunday as both Long and Jelavic are cup-tied having represented their former clubs in the FA Cup earlier in the season.

Sheffield United are this year’s surprise package and their progress to the semi-final epitomize why everyone around the world loves the FA Cup—anyone can win it!

Sheffield United are the underdogs and will hope their fighting spirit sees them through. (Getty Images)

Sheffield United are the underdogs and will hope their fighting spirit sees them through. (Getty Images)

Sheffield are four-time winners of the competition, but their last victory was in 1925, while their last appearance in final was in 1936 when they lost 1-0 to Arsenal. The Blades currently sit 11th in League One, which is the third tier of English soccer, however they have been superb in the FA Cup and are just one game away from a fairy-tale season.

Hull are missing Jelavic and Long, but should still have enough quality to win this game. Sheffield United have done well to get to the semi-finals and have beaten Premier League sides Aston Villa and Fulham in the process, however, I think Sunday’s game will be a game too far for the Blades.

Prediction: 2-0

 

 

 

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U.S. WNT Second Shut Out China Once More
U.S. WNT Second Shut Out China Once More avatar

The U.S. WNT met China PR for the second of two matches tonight, defeating them 3-0 in San Diego, CA with goals from Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux.

The U.S. ladies also came out with a 2-0 victory in the first match between the two teams last Sunday, but this was the first time they played without Tom Sermanni on the sidelines as head coach.

Carli Lloyd scored the winning goal for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Carli Lloyd scored ta brace for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

The U.S. got to work right off the bat with an antsy Lloyd causing trouble for China, supplying the first shot of the game. Though it was a miss, it wouldn’t be the last of Lloyd, who continued to put heavy pressure on Chinese defense

In the 20th minute Lloyd got her chance to shine and she scored, shooting from the top of the box and sending the ball flying past the goalkeeper. Then, just three minutes later, Lloyd upped the lead to 2-0, scoring a brace with a nice low 12-yard shot into the right corner of the net.

Leroux was on target once again. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Leroux was on target once again. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

The speedy goals didn’t stop there. As the game got underway after halftime, the players were barely back on the field when Leroux slid across the box, nailing the ball in past an unsuspecting goalkeeper to extend the U.S. lead to a comfortable 3-0 in the 45th.

Although China tightened their defense and no more goals were added, the Americans kept total control of the ball, creating chances to the end of the game and goalkeeper Hope Solo made a few well orchestrated saves of her own to cement the 3-0 shut out.

Scoring Summary:    1      2      F
USA                                  2      1      3
CHN                                 0      0      0

USA – Carli Lloyd (Lauren Holiday)                  20th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (unassisted)                        23
USA – Sydney Leroux (Megan Rapinoe)         46

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 16-Van Hollebeke (6-Whitney Engen, 7), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 25-Meghan Klingenberg, 7-Morgan Brian (20-Abby Wambach, 46), 10-Carli Lloyd, 15-Megan Rapinoe (17-Tobin Heath, 57), 9-Heather O’Reilly (23-Christen Press, 57), 12-Lauren Holiday (5-Kelley O’Hara, 64), 2-Sydney Leroux (8-Amy Rodriguez, 76)
Substitutions Not Used: 18-Alyssa Naeher
Head coach: Jill Ellis

CHN: 1-Zhang Yue; 3-Wang Lingling  (7-Xu Yanlu, 34), 6-Zeng Ying, 26-Li Dongna, 30-Liu Shanshan; 14-Wang Shanshan, 23-Ren Guixin (capt.), 25-Zhang Rui (13-Gao Qi, 87), 28-Zhang Xin (16-Wan Chen, 63); 10-Li Ying, 29-Yang Li (18-Han Peng, 66)
Substitutions Not Used: 9-Lou Jiahui, 11-Huang Yini, 17-Li Xianglin, 19-Zhou Feifei, 20-Song Duan, 21-Wang Lisi, 22-Wang Yun
Head coach: Hao Wei

Stats Summary: USA / CHN
Shots:  18 / 3
Shots on Goal: 12 / 2
Saves: 1 / 3
Corner Kicks: 7 / 1
Fouls: 11 / 9
Offside: 1 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
CHN – Li Ying (caution)                     59th minute

 

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U.S. U-20 MTN Named for Dallas Cup
U.S. U-20 MTN Named for Dallas Cup avatar

U.S. Soccer has named a 21 player U20 squad to compete in the Dallas Cup beginning Sunday in Texas. Tab Ramos will take charge of the group that will face German club Eintracht Frankfurt, Argentine giants River Plate, and Mexican side UNAL Tigres, in Group C of the Gordon Jago Super Group, U19 division.

Ramos will be .(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Ramos’ team should get some strong opposition in this tournament .(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

The Americans will feature in the marquee match on Sunday’s opening day when they take on River Plate at the famed Cotton Bowl at 6:30 Central time. The depth of Ramos’ squad figures to be tested when the team is faced with a quick turnaround, going against Frankfurt at 4pm the next day at Richland College. The U.S. conclude group play versus Tigres on the 16th, with the the time and place determined by other results.

Ramos is a busy man these days, having added the title of assistant coach to Jurgen Klinsmann’s senior squad to a rather full dance card that already features his U20 role as well as his responsibilities as the head of U.S. Soccer youth programs.

Kellyn Acosta in action for FC Dallas. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Kellyn Acosta in action for FC Dallas. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

This is the first appearance for the U.S. U20’s at the Dallas Cup since 2010 and the fifth overall. There are two holdovers from the team that contested the 2013 U20 World Cup last year in France, goalkeeper Zack Steffan and defender/midfielder Kellyn Acosta.

The U.S. failed to advance from a tough group that included Spain, Ghana and winners, France, but the team impressed with some good soccer and earned a 1-1 draw with France.

The U-20's have showed a lot of flair in recent tournaments. (ISI Photos)

The U-20′s have showed a lot of flair in recent tournaments. (ISI Photos)

This group is preparing for Concacaf World Cup Qualification which will select four teams from the region to participate in the 2015 U20 World Cup taking place in New Zealand from May 30 – June 20, 2015.

GOALKEEPERS (2) : Santiago Castano (NewYork Red Bulls; Union City, N.J.), Zack Steffen (Maryland; Downington, Pa.)
DEFENDERS (9): Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake; Rochester, N.Y.), Michael Amick (UCLA; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Sullaiman Dainkeh (Maryland; Reston, Va.), Trevor Haberkorn (Furman; Roanoke, Texas), Matthew Miazga (New York Red Bulls; Clifton, N.J.), Shaquell Moore (Unattached; Powder Springs, Ga.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting KC; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), John Requejo Jr. (Real So Cal; Carpinteria, Calif.), Jesus Vazquez (UANL Tigres; San Luis Obispo, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; Plano, Texas), Marco Delgado (Chivas USA; Glendora, Calif.), Luis Felipe (Cruzeiro; Ouro Branco, Brazil), Romain Gall (FC Lorient; Herndon, Va.), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland; Santa Cruz, Calif.)
FORWARDS (5): Benji Lopez (Real Salt Lake; San Diego, Calif.), Amando Moreno (Club Tijuana; Morganville, N.J.), Zach Pfeffer (Philadelphia Union; Dresher, Pa.), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; Beaverton, Ore.), Ben Spencer (Indy Eleven; Albuquerque, N.M.)

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