FC Kansas City Crowned NWSL 2014 Champions
FC Kansas City Crowned NWSL 2014 Champions avatar

FC Kansas City is the 2014 NWSL champion, defeating Seattle Reign FC 2-1 at Starfire Sportsplex in Tukwila, WA today.

Kim Little has had an outstanding inaugural season in the NWSL. (ISIPhotos)

Kim Little acknowledged that Kansas were just a bit more clinical in their finishing. (ISIPhotos)

“We did all we could to win but today they took their chances, and although we had more and dominated game they took it,” said 2014 NWSL MVP Kim Little.

Beautiful weather and an electrifying crowd was on Seattle’s side, and they controlled the majority of the game, but FC Kansas City was able to find the net with fewer shots to put them ahead on the scoreboard.

Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez were a dynamic duo, Rodriguez scoring a brace with Holiday on both assists to see the Blues through to victory.

Kansas' striker Rodriguez got on the scoresheet for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Kansas’ striker Rodriguez got on the scoresheet for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

“I felt like todays game wasn’t necessarily our best, but luckily I was able to get two chances and finish them,” said Rodriguez. “I can’t thank my midfielders and especially Lauren Holiday, enough. She has made me look so good this season and gave me two beautiful through balls and I was able to put them away.”

Seattle Reign exploded onto the scene in the first half, immediately taking possession and holding it without a fight. Of course, their attack was sound but Blues defense was all over them, thwarting their finish every time.

Lauren Holiday once again was the hero for Kansas. (ISI  Photos/Tony Quinn)

Lauren Holiday once again was the hero for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

FC Kansas City kept quiet on the attack in the beginning, but Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez would sneak under the radar in the 21st minute. Holiday won the ball in the midfield and charged down the right side alone. She crossed low to Rodriguez on the left and, still with no Seattle defense to be seen, she went head on with goalkeeper Hope Solo, lobbing the ball over her and into the net to put the Blues up 1-0.

The second half began the same way as the first with Seattle putting on the pressure, but unable to break through FC Kansas City’s impeccable back line. Kim Litle was able to shoot on goal twice, but goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was all over the net, shutting the chances down.

In the 55th minute, the Blues won the ball and went on the attack. Holiday once more sped away down the right side and crossed to Rodriguez at the last second. She wasted no time and blasting the ball past Solo to add some cushion to the FC Kansas City lead 2-0.

“I was trying to score myself but they closed me down. I saw A-Rod at the top and she had a great finish,” said Holiday.

Seattle tried their hardest to get on the board, and despite dominating possession, just couldn’t find the gaps they needed. Then in the 86th minute, their constant hounding paid off, and Megan Rapinoe delivered the goal they had been searching for all afternoon. Covered on all sides by defenders in the box, she found her way through and shot past Barnhart to cut the Blues lead in half 2-1.

Kansas lifting the trophy. (ISI Photos/Stephen Brashear)

Kansas lifting the trophy. (ISI Photos/Stephen Brashear)

Rapinoe had another chance to score at the very end of stoppage time. She had a clear shot to shoot from the top of the box, but decided to cross in to Blues defenders instead. The final whistle sounded and FC Kansas City prevailed, clinching the 2014 NWSL crown.

“Seattle has been great all season .They have a great attacking force but we were able to weather the storm and that’s a testament to our back line, they were phenomenal,” concluded Holiday.

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U.S. Women Prepare for Matches Against Mexico
U.S. Women Prepare for Matches Against Mexico avatar

The U.S. WNT will face Mexico on Sept. 13 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT and Sept. 18 at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, NY, but first, 28 players have been called up for training camp.

Ellis will be looking forward getting her players back in camp. . (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Ellis will be looking forward getting her players back in camp. . (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Head coach Jill Ellis released the fateful list Aug. 29 and it will be the first extensive training between coach and team. And, with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup around the corner, this stands as the final camp and set of friendlies before the U.S. ladies get down to serious business.

“It’s no secret that the battle for spots on the qualifying roster will be extremely competitive and we’re looking forward to the training environment and two tough games against a Mexico team that we will likely see again during the CONCACAF Championship,” Ellis said in a press release.

U-20 Standout Julie Johnston will hoping to make an impact at this outing. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

U-20 Standout Julie Johnston will hoping to make an impact at this outing. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Training begins in Salt Lake City on Sept. 5, with eight players starting on Sept. 8 after competing in the 2014 NWSL Championship on Aug. 31. Twenty-seven of the 28 players called up took part in this NWSL season, including Goalkeeper of the Year Alyssa Naeher, Defender of the Year Becky Sauerbrunn and Rookie of the Year Julie Johnston.

Naeher who made the cut – has yet to nail her first U.S. WNT cap. Midfielder Morgan Brian will be the only non-professional player in camp, joining after weekend games with University of Virginia.

Hope Solo is on a hunt to shatter records- one in particular, which she and Briana Scurry share. They currently have 71 career shutouts each under their belt, and Solo has been inching closer to surpassing it.

There is much to be observed and determined, because after this final stage in training, 20 players will earn a spot on the roster for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship held in Kansas City, KS, Bridgeview, IL, Washington D.C. and Chester, PA Oct. 15-26.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (10): Stephanie Cox (Seattle Reign FC), Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Whitney Engen (Houston Dash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Rachel Van Hollebeke (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Virginia), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Carli Lloyd (WNY Flash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Kristie Mewis (Boston Breakers), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (5): Sydney Leroux (Seattle Reign FC), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (WNY Flash)

 

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Seattle Reign hosts Kansas City in NWSL Final
Seattle Reign hosts Kansas City in NWSL Final avatar

Sunday marks the big day for the 2014 NWSL season. Not only is it a wrap for the league’s second year but also one team will walk away with the Championship title. That will be left up to No. 1 Seattle Reign FC and No. 2 FC Kansas City, who will clash at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, WA.

Seattle Reign lay at the bottom of the table for long periods in 2013 . (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Seattle Reign lay at the bottom of the table for long periods in 2013 . (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Looking back at 2013, Seattle Reign FC has come a long way; seemingly flipping the table from where they were for last year’s playoffs- they didn’t even make it.

“For the ones that were here last year and struggled so much, knowing that we have a good foundation and that the vision of Bill, Theresa and Laura was really bright was something we got into, “ said U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe. “Coming into this year we knew we had something special. People have been waiting for the hat to drop, and with the quality of this team- it doesn’t let that happen.”

In 2014, head coach Laura Harvey led the team to more than just the Championship. The west coast club established a new NWSL single season marks for points with 54, including 16 wins, a +30 goal difference and 50 goals scored overall. Seattle also set a new NWSL record for most consecutive wins (7) from April 13-May 14, going 16 straight matches without a single loss.

Kim Little has had an outstanding inaugural season in the NWSL. (ISIPhotos)

Kim Little has had an outstanding inaugural season in the NWSL. (ISIPhotos)

It seems like Seattle Reign has got all the boundaries covered, especially with a dream team of attackers made up of 2014 NWSL MVP and Golden Boot recipient Kim Little, U.S. forward Sydney Leroux, U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe and Japanese international Nahomi Kawasumi.

They were an overwhelming bunch against Washington Spirit in the semifinals last weekend, but though they created multiple chances, it was hard for Seattle to break through and score and it didn’t help that the few times Spirit created chances, they were deadly. Hope Solo was forced to make some difficult saves, although Spirit forward Veronica Perez was able to find a gap and get Spirit on the board first.

Enter the stone cold defense of FC Kansas City.

Little may have led the league in scoring, but FCKC defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who was just named 2014 NWSL defender of the year for the second year in a row, is sure to make their thwart their efforts, along with Leigh Ann Robinson and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who has consistently proven just how gritty she can get, no matter how hard the pressure.

2013 NWSL MVP Lauren Holiday, 2013 NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak and Amy Rodriguez are a solid attacking force as well. Remember that NWSL record Seattle set for most consecutive wins? Well, the Blues tied that record later on in the season.

Kansas' striker Rodriguez has been outstanding for Kansas.(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Kansas’ striker Rodriguez has been outstanding for Kansas.(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

All in all, this match will be as competitive as it gets with both sides attributing interchangeable skills that make this Championship really anyone’s game. Quality players, impressive regular season results and the desire for the 2014 NWSL crown provides the perfect hash up for an unforgettable finish to the season.

“To make it to the final is definitely very rewarding, but we still feel like we have some unfinished business from last year,” Robinson said in a press conference. “We’re hungry, ready and excited to get this far and I think we match up well with Seattle in terms of both teams liking to play through the midfield. It’s going to be a good match up and we’re super excited.”

 

 

 

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EPL Week 3 – Rooney to Captain England
EPL Week 3 – Rooney to Captain England avatar

It’s Week 3 of the EPL and after 2 games Spurs leads the way with Chelsea and Man City level on points in hot pursuit. As ever there are a whole bunch of mouth watering games for EPL fans to tuck into – with Tottenham v Liverpool the pick of the bunch, so get your knives and forks ready for an EPL feast of football A.K.A. soccer.

Rooney named new England captain

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney has been named England’s new captain by coach Roy Hodgson.

The 28-year-old replaces Steven Gerrard who retired after England’s first round eliminations at the World Cup.

Rooney was the obvious choice.'(Getty Images)

Rooney was the obvious choice.’(Getty Images)

It is the second time this month that Rooney has been selected to lead his team—the forward was named Manchester United’s club captain by Luis van Gaal earlier this month.

“It is something I will take massive pride in doing. To be appointed captain is beyond my wildest dreams. “, said Rooney on his official site.

Rooney made his England debut against Australia in 12 February 2003, at just 17 becoming England’s youngest ever player. Since then the forward has notched up 95 appearances for ‘The Three Lions’ and scored 40 goals.

Speaking on Rooney’s appointment England boss Hodgson said: “I gave it a lot of thought but Wayne is an obvious choice.

“He’s the right man and he’ll show enormous enthusiasm and responsibility.”

England Manager Roy Hodgson (Getty Images)

England Manager Roy Hodgson seems very confident and happy about his choice of Captaincy. (Getty Images)

Hodgson added: “I’ve had a long conversation with him and he’s prepared to accept the pressures that the England captaincy brings.

“In the two years that we’ve been working together I’ve had no reason to question his character, desire to play for the country and wholehearted willingness to offer himself in every situation.”

Rooney has captained England twice before – in a pre-tournament friendly with Brazil in 2009 and a World Cup qualifier against San Marino in 2012 – as well as having previously had a stint as vice-captain.

Rooney added: “As a kid I always loved the occasion of watching a big England game on the television. Back then I had a burning ambition to play for my country. Now to be appointed captain is beyond my wildest dreams.

“I would like to thank Roy and the coaching staff for having the belief and confidence in me to do the job.”

 

Warnock returns to Palace

Crystal Palace has appointed former boss Neil Warnock as their new manager.

Warnock, who was previously at Palace between 2007-2010, has a two-year deal after being chosen ahead of ex-West Brom boss Steve Clarke.

Neil Warnock at his unveiling. (Getty Images)

Neil Warnock at his unveiling. (Getty Images)

Palace chairman and co-owner Steve Parish has chosen Warnock as a successor to Tony Pulis after Malky Mackay was ruled out last week.

“He is the right appointment. He did a great job when he was here before and he understands the club,” said Parish.

Warnock revealed he discussed the possibility of rejoining Palace last season before the club eventually appointed Tony Pulis.

“Before Tony came there was a possibility that he wasn’t going to and we talked then. But then he changed his mind and they did fantastically.”, said Warnock.

“[Chairman and co-owner] Steve Parish has always known that I am available.”

Palace was sitting bottom of the EPL last November when Pulis joined and many pundits gave them little chance of surviving. However, Pulis managed to help turn the club’s fortunes around and led them to 11th place, which led him to be named the Premier League’s manager of the year award last season.

Warnock, who faces Newcastle in his first game in charge on Saturday, did not think he would work again after leaving Leeds in April last year, but grateful for a second chance at Selhurst Park.

“I wasn’t really looking to get back into management, but it’s not often you get a chance to repay a club that’s really helped you, so it’s great to have that chance.

 

PREDICTIONS

Week 2

Result

My Predictions

Samuel

James

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

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

Last week two people decided to try their hand at predicting the EPL scores and they did okay, with James scoring FIVE-points and Samuel scoring SEVEN-points.

However, they were unable to top my score of NINE-points for correctly predicting FIVE results including TWO perfect score, which just goes to show that predicting the scores is not as easy as it seems.

But Samuel, James and anyone else are welcome to challenge me again this week, so good luck to all and get predicting.

Week 3

My Predictions

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

 

PREVIEWS

SATURDAY

Burnley v Man Utd

Both of these sides are still looking for their first wins of the new season and will be hoping to get one at Turf Moor this Saturday.

Burnley lost 1-0 away to Swansea last week, but rallied late on and were unlucky not to leave the Liberty Stadium with a point. The Clarets then lost 1-0 at home in the League Cup during the week to make it three losses in a row.

Louis van Gaal has found his appointment much more challenging than he anticipated.(Getty Images)

Louis van Gaal has found his appointment much more challenging than he anticipated.(Getty Images)

Burnley’s opponents Manchester United haven’t been much better so far this season, the Red Devils staggered to 1-1 draw away to Sunderland last week, before being humiliated 4-0 away to MK Dons during the week in the League Cup. United did rest a number of players, but there were no excuses as the MK Dons took advantage of some school boy defending to easily win the game.

Burnley has a full squad to choose from and could name the same side that lost to Swansea last week.

Manchester United are likely to hand British record ($99M) signing Angel Di Maria his debut on Saturday.

However, fellow new recruit Marcos Rojo is still awaiting a work permit so will not feature.

This is the 121st meeting between the sides. Manchester United has won 57 times, Burnley 44 and there have been 19 draws. Manchester United won the last encounter 3-0 at Old Trafford, but Burnley did win the last meeting at Turf Moor.

Manchester United look like a team in disarray at the moment and do not look comfortable playing the 3-5-2 system van Gaal has employed. However, the Red Devils do have an abundance of attacking talent up top and that is why I think they will edge this game.

Prediction: 1-2

 

Man City v Stoke

Manchester City sent a message out to the rest of their EPL rivals last week with a convincing 3-1 win over Liverpool.

Stevan Jovetic  was outstanding against Liverpool. (Getty Images)

Stevan Jovetic was outstanding against Liverpool. (Getty Images)

The game was actually quite even for large periods, but City just have so many class players to call upon and that eventually made the difference. Stevan Jovetic scored two and will be a handful for defenses if he can stay fit, while Sergio Aguero came off the bench to get his first goal of the season.

Stoke drew 1-1 away to Hull last week and are looking for their first win of the season. However, they will probably settle for a point, as they have a dismal record in Manchester—the Potters have endured six defeats at City and six defeats at United since promotion in 2008. Indeed, they haven’t even managed to score at City!

Edin Dzeko has recovered from a thigh injury picked up against Liverpool, while reports of an injury to Sergio Aguero have been dismissed. However, Eliaquim Mangala is not ready to play.

Phil Bardsley is a doubt with a knee problem and fellow defender Geoff Cameron could be out for a two weeks due to injury. However, summer signing Bojan Krkic is fit again and should be involved.

City have been immense at home the last few seasons and when you couple that with Stoke’s poor away defensive record. The Potter have failed to keep a clean sheet for 12 consecutive Premier League away matches—I think this game can only go one way.

Prediction: 3-0

 

Everton v Chelsea

Everton looked odds on for three points last week, but managed to throw away a two goal lead against Arsenal with less than 10 minutes to play, to end the game with only one point.

The Toffees bossed the game for 80 minutes, and look like they will once again be challenging the big boys for a spot in the Champions League. But they ran out of energy in the end and will need to learn how to see games out if they want to secure a spot in the top four.

Diego Costa has looked good but could be a doubt. (Getty Images)

Diego Costa has looked good but could be a doubt. (Getty Images)

Chelsea, meanwhile, maintained their good start to the season with a 2-0 home win over Leicester. Diego Costa scored another goal and already looks like he has settled into the hustle and bustle of the EPL.

Everton’s new signing Samuel Eto’o could make his debut against his former club, while Fellow former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku could also feature despite picking up a knock against Arsenal last week.

Diego Costa is a doubt for Chelsea after picking up a hamstring strain, meaning Didier Drogba could be given his first start of the season.

Chelsea have looked strong so far this season, but they face their sternest test yet with a trip to Goodison Park, where they have lost four of their last five games. In fact, since the 2009-10 season, only Manchester City have beaten Chelsea more during that period with five victories.

I think this game will be close, competitive and end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

 

SUNDAY

Tottenham v Liverpool

Tottenham continued their perfect start to the season last week with a convincing win over London rivals QPR.

It was the second week in a row that Spurs had faced a London side. While they were fortunate to win against West Ham in Week 1, they thoroughly deserved their 4-0 over QPR in Week 2.

Eric Lamela has looked sharp. (Getty Images)

Eric Lamela has looked sharp. (Getty Images)

One of the biggest pluses for Spurs was the performance of record signing Eric Lamela. The Argentine struggled with injury and form last season, but was at the heart of much of Spurs’ good attacking play and created two of their goals.

Liverpool has not looked like the side they were last season, but has still been decent enough. They lost 3-1 away to Man City last week, but matched their opponents for a large part of the game before City got their goals.

Tottenham will assess Roberto Soldado, who missed midweek’s game because of neck and back problems, while new signing Federico Fazio is available.

Liverpool will assess injured defenders Glen Johnson, Alberto Moreno, Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique, but could hand debuts to new signings Mario Balotelli and Adam Lallana

Prior to last season, Spurs had won six successive home games against the Reds in all competitions. But they lost both their meetings against Liverpool last season, including a 5-0 loss at home.

However, I think this game will be a lot closer and I think with Spurs will just edge this one.

Prediction: 2-1

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Klinsmann Calls in Young Squad
Klinsmann Calls in Young Squad avatar

Youth has been served in Jurgen Klinsmann’s first post-World Cup roster, as the U.S. MNT coach makes good on his promise to give some new players a national team opportunity.

Klinsmann's frist squad selection since his World Cup exit.(Getty Images)

Klinsmann’s frist squad selection since his World Cup exit.(Getty Images)

Following the Americans loss to Belgium in the round of 16, Klinsmann revealed that he planned to blood some younger players in the team’s first friendlies after Brazil.

Today’s roster release for the September 3 match against the Czech Republic in Prague, shows that the U.S. coach and technical director was serious. Klinsmann has named a young squad, heavily weighted toward European based players, with just one Major League Soccer player, goalkeeper Nick Rimando from Real Salt Lake, and three Mexican based players making the European jaunt.

Jordan Morris selection surprized many. (Courtesy of Stanford Photos)

Jordan Morris selection surprized many. (Courtesy of Stanford Photos)

In what may be the biggest surprise on the roster, Klinsmann has selected Stanford University sophomore forward Jordan Morris to his first senior squad.

Also traveling from North America are three Liga MX players, Tijuana duo, midfielder Joe Corona, and fullback Greg Garza, and Puebla central defender Michael Orozco.

Klinsmann’s young group includes six players looking for their first full cap, 11 players with 10 appearances or less for the nats and just 10 members of this summer’s U.S. World Cup team in Brazil.

Jozy Altidore’s 71 caps are by far the most in this inexperienced bunch, with Alejandro Bedoya’s 32 a distant second. Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman is, at just 18, the youngest player on the roster.

Emerson Hyndman in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Joe Toth)

Emerson Hyndman in action for Fulham. (ISI Photos/Joe Toth)

Hyndman is just about one month younger than fellow age group standout Rubio Rubin, who picked up an assist earlier this month in his professional debut for his Dutch club Utrecht.

The U.S. roster is dotted with young players, players toiling in European second divisions, and players like Altidore struggling for playing time with their club teams.

Familiar names like team captain Clint Dempsey, goalkeeper Tim Howard, who is taking an international break, and Michael Bradley won’t be making the trip. Instead Klinsmann has called in the likes of Bobby Wood, the 21 year old Hawaiian forward with one cap in a friendly last August versus Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cody Cropper, the reserve Southampton goalkeeper, who was the U.S. number one at the 2013 U20 World Cup, and Alfredo Morales a German-American of Peruvian descent, who plays for 2 Bundesliga club FC Ingolstadt.

Geoff Cameron is out due to injury. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Geoff Cameron is out due to injury. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Klinsmann has selected just seven defenders, including Stoke wantaway Geoff Cameron, who is injured and presumably unable to play. Versatile defender Tim Ream has earned a recall after a fine season with Bolton in England’s Championship, while Klinsmann continues to ignore Nottingham Forest defender Eric Lichaj. Lichaj has recently returned from injury, so that could be the reason for his omission.

The United States MLS contingent can expect to be called in for the U.S. match against Ecuador on October 10, in East Hartford, Connecticut, a game that will also serve as Landon Donovan’s Farewell Match.

GOALKEEPERS (3) : Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7) : John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Tim Ream (Bolton)
MIDFIELDERS (7) : Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Brek Shea (Stoke City)
FORWARDS (5) : Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund II), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich)

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NWSL Announces 2015 Season Schedule Format
NWSL Announces 2015 Season Schedule Format avatar

The NWSL announced today the 20 game schedule for the 2015 season, in accordance with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

NWSL commissioner Cheryl Bailey. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

NWSL commissioner Cheryl Bailey. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

“We are very pleased to announce the new schedule for the upcoming 2015 NWSL season, which will allow us to have a March to September format with more weekend dates,” NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey said in a press release. “The 2015 NWSL season will also feature a short break at the start of the Women’s World Cup, which will allow the clubs and fans to fully focus on the excitement of the 2015 FIFA World Cup.”

Because it’s a big year for the women, the two-week break will be observed during the group stages of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. NWSL preseason training camps will kick off in March with the regular season starting in early April. Two semifinals will be held September 12-13 while the Championship will take place September 26-27.

The U.S. last meeting with France ended in victory.(ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

The U.S. players will be absent for several games due to international duty..(ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Allocated players from the Canada Soccer Association, Federation of Mexican Football and United States Soccer Federation will be committed to the NWSL season, but are expected to miss 7-8 games due to national team duty.

“We have been able to find a balance with Canada, Mexico and the U.S. that will enable the players to participate in training camps with their National Teams but will also allow them to re-join their clubs for some games prior to the start of the World Cup,” Bailey added in a press release.

 

 

 

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Landon Donovon to have USMNT ‘Swan-Song’
Landon Donovon to have USMNT ‘Swan-Song’ avatar

Originally billed as a welcome home match for the United States Men’s World Cup team, the U.S. friendly versus Ecuador on October 10 in East Hartford, Connecticut, has morphed into a Farewell Match for Landon Donovan.

Donovan will be missed by many and deserves to have a sending off with the national team. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Donovan will be missed by many and deserves to have a sending off with the national team. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Donovan, who announced his retirement from the sport earlier this month, will have one last chance to add to his all time U.S. national team record totals of 57 goals and 58 assists when the he takes the field for the U.S. MNT for the 157th, and final time, at Rentschler Stadium versus Ecuador.

Donovan made his senior national team debut for the U.S. in 2000, going on to win the award as the Best Young Player at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan.

Donovan's exclusion out of the world cup shocked many. (Getty Images)

Donovan’s exclusion out of the world cup shocked many. (Getty Images)

A dangerous and versatile attacker, Donovan would go on to represent the U.S. at the 2006 and 2010 World Cup’s, before Jurgen Klinsmann left Donovan off of the 2014 roster in what was a stunning, and controversial omission.

Donovan is widely considered to be the best American national team field player ever, and his added time goal versus Algeria will be remembered as one of the great moments in American soccer.

Donovan is delighted to have one last chance to represent his country, as he makes clear in this statement.

Donovan chatting at the press conference on Thursday. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

It will be an emotional event for Donovan. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

“Playing for the U.S. National Team has been a huge part of my career and I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to play for my country one last time.” “I’m so grateful to all the fans that have supported me and this game will give me the chance to say thank you to all of them. I look forward to a great evening and I’m thankful to U.S. Soccer for making this happen.”

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

Jermaine Jones is the big story this week in Major League Soccer, but he’s not the only one. So without further ado, here is your MLS Big – 5.

1) Crew’s Gonzalez Moves to Palermo

CONCACAF minnows Costa Rica were one of this summer’s biggest stories with their run to the World Cup quarterfinals, and one of the Ticos best performers in Brazil was center back Giancarlo Gonzalez.

Giancarlo Gonzalez and his team have won many fans at this tournament and walk away with their head held high. (Getty Images)

Giancarlo Gonzalez and his team have won many fans at this summer’s World Cup and has rightly so been rewarded. (Getty Images)

Gonzalez impressed enough to receive consideration for the World Cup Top 11. Several teams were in for Gonzalez, but Palermo won out with what Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter called, the highest transfer fee ever paid for an MLS defender.

Although Columbus will miss Gonzalez on the field, on the ledger sheet this move is a good bit of business for the Crew. Gonzalez only came to Major League Soccer prior to this season from Valerenga in Norway, for what Berhalter described as a small fee.

2) Mexico Call Up Torres from Chivas USA

22 players from eight countries, if we include NYCFC signee David Villa with Spain, represented MLS at the World in Brazil. The majority came from CONCACAF nations the U.S., Costa Rica, and Honduras.

Mexico, the region’s fourth World Cup side, conspicuously ignored MLS when selecting its team. So, it is significant then that El Tri has called up Erick “Cubo” Torres for their first post-Brazil games.

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

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

The 21 year old is on loan to Chivas USA from the former parent club in Guadalajara, and his 14 goals are good for third in MLS, as well as that national team invite.

Torres seems to be a perfect illustration of what Chivas Guadalajara had in mind when they got involved in MLS. Struggling for playing time in Mexico, the 21 year old has flourished in L.A. Ironically though, Torres and his success come just after MLS bought the franchise back from Chivas Guadalajara.

3) Bradley Wright Phillips Sets Club Record-Chases League Mark

While legendary goal scorer Thierry Henry has turned setup man for the New York Red Bulls this season, tied with Robbie Keane with a league high 11 assists, former English journeyman Bradley Wright-Phillips has become a record setting striker. Wright-Phillips scored twice in Saturday’s 4-2 home win to equal, and then surpass Juan Pablo Angel for the Red Bull record of 19, set by the Colombian in 2007.

Bradley Wright-Phillips (Howard C. Smith)

Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored a record of 20 goals thus far for the Red Bulls. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Henry set up number 19, Peggy Luyindula number 20, leaving the Englishman with 10 games remaining to chase the league standard of 27, held jointly by Chris Wondolowski and Roy Lassiter.

Whether Wright-Phillips catches Wondo and Lassiter or not, this season has put the Englishman in line for a nice payday, if not from the Red Bulls, then a club back in England, where he is reportedly garnering serious interest.

4) Reo-Coker to Chivas USA for Morales

Speaking of hyphenated English players, the Vancouver Whitecaps have sent Nigel Reo-Coker to Chivas USA in exchange for set up man Mauro Rosales.

Nigel Reo-Coker (ISI Photos/Michael Burns)

Nigel Reo-Coker in action. (ISI Photos/Michael Burns)

With the Caps trying to hang on to the fifth playoff spot in the Western Conference, this is a win now trade for Vancouver. 33 year old Morales is among the top assist men in MLS, although he doesn’t provide an awful lot else. In contrast, with just one goal since joining Vancouver in 2013, Reo-Coker doesn’t exactly fill up the scoresheet. What the 30 year old will bring to Chivas is his box to box game, complete with plenty of hard tackling.

5) DC Go From Worst to First

It is not often in sports that the worst to first becomes a reality in a single season, but that’s what is happening with DC United in the MLS Eastern Conference.

And not only did DC taken over first place this weekend, they did it in style, hammering defending MLS Champion Sporting KC 3-0 at home to move one point ahead of KC in the standings.

Ben Olsen(ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Ben Olsen has turned his team around.(ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Last year Ben Olsen’s crew only managed to earn 16 points all season. Olsen unexpectedly survived to coach another day, and now United look down on SKC and the rest of the conference with 43 points, with 10 games still to play.

The playoffs are assured and DC are just getting started on CCL play, by virtue of having won the 2013 US Open Cup. DC may not hold on to the top spot, but for now at least, DC has gone from worst to first.

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U.S. Star Jermaine Jones joins the MLS
U.S. Star Jermaine Jones joins the MLS avatar

The Jermaine Jones saga is over with the U.S. MNT World Cup star landing in New England. The Revolution won an only in Major League Soccer, “Blind Draw,” over Chicago to acquire the services of the original Germerican, who started all four U.S. matches in Brazil.

Jermaine Jones gained a lot of fans at this summer's World Cup. (ISI Photos/)

Jermaine Jones gained a lot of fans at this summer’s World Cup. (ISI Photos/)

Although the league does not release contract terms, Jones is said to have signed a Designated Player contract worth $4.5 to $4.7 million for 18 months. Jones had been out of contract after his deal with Bundesliga club Schalke expired. Jones last played for in Turkey for Besiktas,, on loan from Schalke.

The rugged, energetic Jones scored what was perhaps the best American goal of the World Cup when he struck from distance to tie the game against Portugal at 1-1. Clint Dempsey went on to put the U.S. ahead 2-1, before Silvestre Varela headed Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross past Tim Howard in added time to end the match at 2-2, breaking American hearts the world over in the process.

Jermaine Jones (Getty Images)

Jermaine Jones (Getty Images)

“I’m very excited to come to MLS and join the Revolution,” Jones stated. “New England is an exciting team on the rise, and I believe I can come in and help the team make a push toward MLS Cup. Playing with the U.S. National Team has given me a great connection with the American fans and I’m looking forward to playing in front of them every weekend. I’m ready to get started with the Revs.”

Jones certainly demonstrated that affinity for the U.S. spending time spending time all over the United States after the World Cup, filling social media with pictures of himself and a variety of celebrities.

Jones was originally linked with the Chicago Fire, and manager Frank Yallop stated on more than one occasion that the team was close to signing the midfielder. But with MLS being a single entity league things are never simple, and once the league got involved things got weird. MLS has final say over player transactions, and when Jones to Chicago hit a snag, New England entered the picture.

Both clubs were anxious to sign Jones, bringing about the blind draw. Here is how New England explained the process. “As a designated player of a certain threshold, Jones was not subject to allocation ranking for dispersal to an MLS team. The Revolution and Chicago Fire expressed an interest in Jones, and had the available salary budget and a designated player slot to accommodate him. Following a blind draw between the two clubs, Jones was assigned to the Revolution.”

MLS has been known to tweak the rules in the past to assure that star players land at their preferred destinations, and Jones apparently also received additional financial incentives to accept a move to New England, instead of first choice Chicago.

U.S. MNT teammates of Jones’s, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, received similar considerations when they returned to the league, and Commissioner Don Garber once famously stated, “that as an emerging league, there are times when we are figuring out those rules as we go along.”

This would be seem to be one those cases, where the league is willing to accept a bit of ridicule in order to assure that a player of Jones’ caliber lands in MLS.

Another one bites the dust - Frank Yallop was another casualty of a struggling team. (ISI Photos/Kelley L Cox)

Yallop expressed his disappointment of not signing Jones. (ISI Photos/Kelley L Cox)

For their part Chicago took the news well, at least publicly, with Yallop releasing this statement. “The Chicago Fire Soccer Club has pursued Jermaine Jones as a free agent signing over the past month and a half, and have gone to great lengths to bring him into Major League Soccer and our organization. We thought that he’d be a great fit in Chicago,” said Yallop.

“While we’re deeply disappointed that he will not be a part of the Fire, we respect the system employed by MLS and wish Jermaine well with his new club. This result does not alter our vision of building a complete side and we’ll continue to move forward with this process as planned.”

This is an atypical move for the Revs, who have never been known to splash the cash, even though they are owned by New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft.

Jones, who will turn 33 in November, will likely need some time to get into game shape following his post World Cup activities, but when he steps onto the field at Gillette Stadium, the Revolution, and their playoff prospects, should be immediately improved.

New England currently sit just two points back of New York for the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff slot, with Columbus and Toronto just two points better than the Red Bulls. First place DC United and second place Sporting KC are ahead of the pack with 43 and 42 points.

Jones will add some spine and guile to a young and talented New England midfield that features attack minded players like Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez.

Scott Caldwell will pair alongside Jones. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Scott Caldwell will pair alongside Jones. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Revs coach Jay Heaps may opt to team Jones with defense first Scott Caldwell, so that Jones has the freedom to roam. Despite his age Jones showed in the World Cup that he is not a player to be tied down, making it key for the Revolution to have cover for his occasional flights of fancy.

Jones can deliver a killer pass, make crunching tackles all over the field, as well as chipping in with the occasional goal. And with his vast experience, including UEFA Champions League with Schalke, Heaps will be looking for Jones to provide leadership for this somewhat callow group.

The league may have massaged their own rules to make this happen, and why New England instead of Chicago is something we may never know, but ultimately Major League Soccer is a better league with players the caliber of Jermaine Jones playing in it.

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Germany Crowned 2014 FIFA U20 Champs
Germany Crowned 2014 FIFA U20 Champs avatar

A single goal scored by Lena Petermann in overtime earned Germany the 2014 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup crown in Montreal Sunday, edging out Nigeria 1-0.

“Today, we had enough opportunities to win this match in the first half alone,” said Nigerian head coach Peter Dedevbo in a press conference. “But while we had chances and didn’t take them, Germany had one chance and took it. That’s the nature of football.”

 Lena Petermann scores the winner for Germany. (Getty Images)

Lena Petermann scores the winner for Germany. (Getty Images)

Petermann’s goal wasn’t an easy one to muster, as the Super Falconets lived up to their reputation, using physical strength and speed to overwhelm the Germans and cut short any chances.

But, in true German fashion, they kept their cool and stayed diligent in the pursuit, all while goalkeeper and player of the match, Meike Kamper boldly stood up to tournament top scorer Asisat Oshoala.

Oshoala, though able to outrun defenders and make the German back line sweat, was unable to capitalize on her chances, falling short at the last crucial second.

Nigeria's Oshoala won the tournament's Golden Boot. (Getty Images)

Nigeria’s Oshoala won the tournament’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball. (Getty Images)

She fumbled an early opportunity 22 minutes in, going one-on-one with Kamper but missing the mark and shooting into the side of the net. Then, seven minutes before the break, she lost another chance, receiving a great ball from Chiwendo Ihezuo at the byline and firing wide.

The Germans weren’t too far behind the Nigerians, also failing to finish their chances. Nigeria outshot them 16-15, and with the struggle to find the back of the net on either side, regulation would end 0-0 and push into overtime.

Pauline Bremer initiated the battle that would render the winning goal. Left-back Gladys Abasi had the ball, but Bremer was able to steal it and race towards goal, cutting back at the perfect moment to deliver the ball at Petermann’s feet. The German forward wasted no time in drilling in a six yard shot to take the Championship title.

Gemany Coach Maren Meinert was adamant that her team deserved to win the tournament.(Getty Images)

Gemany Coach Maren Meinert was adamant that her team deserved to win the tournament.(Getty Images)

“Every one of my girls put in 100 per cent and the win, in my opinion, is definitely deserved,” German head coach Maren Meinert said in a press conference. “We showed again today that we are strong physically and that has a lot to do with our fitness coach. But it also has a lot to do with our players’ mentality as they want to give everything until the very last minute. They know it hurts in the last 20 minutes but they keep going anyway, and today our physical strength towards the end of the match was definitely a factor.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Seattle Secure Spot in the Final
Seattle Secure Spot in the Final avatar

Washington Spirit gave them a run for their money, but Megan Rapinoe’s late goal secured Seattle Reign FC’s ticket to the 2014 NWSL Championship, winning 2-1 tonight in Seattle, WA.

Seattle. goalkeeper Hope Solo was once again outstanding.(Getty Images)

Seattle. goalkeeper Hope Solo was once again outstanding.(Getty Images)

The pace of the first half was quite fast as both sides got down to business creating chances. Hope Solo was tested within the first five minutes of play, pulling a nice double save to keep Spirit scoreless.

As the half wore on, Seattle controlled possession, with Megan Rapinoe, Nahomi Kawasumi and Sydney Leroux raining shots on goal from all angles. But, Spirit’s back line was on point, crumbling Seattle’s never-ending attacks, and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris made some stunning saves herself. Spirit managed fewer shots on goal, but they made them count, and Solo was pushed to the brink, making point blank saves to keep the ball out.

The first half was physical, but the second half was another story. Seattle stormed the goal, with Rapinoe blasting shot after shot, but with defender Crystal Dunn hot on her heels, finishing was a difficult feat. Although Seattle dominated once more, Washington would get on the board first.

Veronica Perez (L) scored for Washington to put them ahead.(Howard C. Smith)

Veronica Perez (L) scored for Washington to put them ahead.(Howard C. Smith)

In the 65th minute Veronica Perez won the ball in the box and found a gap in Seattle’s back line. She used that opportunity to shoot the ball high, just out of Solo’s reach.

Seattle would get the equalizer soon after though. A handball was called on Spirit in the 71st minute and Kim Little stepped forward for the penalty kick. She drilled the ball low to the left and Harris just couldn’t catch it in time, setting the score at 1-1.

Six minutes later, the tables were turned and Spirit was awarded a pk- but Solo saved the day again, blocking the high-flying shot and sending the crowd into an ecstatic uproar.

Rapinoe rose to the occasion and got the winner for Seattle.. (ISI PhotosAndrew Katsampes)

Rapinoe rose to the occasion and got the winner for Seattle.. (ISI PhotosAndrew Katsampes)

But, the winning ball belonged to Rapinoe, who had worked relentlessly to find the net all night. In the 81st minute she battled with the opposition midfield and won the ball. She didn’t waste any time, streaking down the right side and volleying her shot high. Harris jumped but it was too late, ending the game at 2-1.

Seattle Reign FC and FC Kansas City will face off at Moda Pitch Field Memorial Stadium next Sunday in the 2014 NWSL Championship.

 

 

 

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Germany and Nigeria Clash in FIFA U20 WWC Final
Germany and Nigeria Clash in FIFA U20 WWC Final avatar

It’s 2010 all over again for Germany and Nigeria.

The powerhouses are back in the final of the 2014 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, after a long journey that will render a single victor in Montreal tomorrow. In 2010, the two met in the final with then hosts Germany lifting the trophy in the aftermath. Now in 2014, the Nigerians are looking for revenge.

Nigeria were just too strong for Korea DPR and cruised past them.(Getty Images)

Nigeria were just too strong for Korea DPR and cruised past them.(Getty Images)

The Super Falconets has been an intimidating force throughout the tournament, using early goals to crumble their opponent’s confidence and lying on the physical pressure to render wins. The athletic prowess of these girls is overwhelming, evident especially after their 6-2 defeat of Korea DPR in the semis.

“We’re in the final now and we’re not scared of anyone. If you want to win big things, you need to keep your wits about you on the pitch and have a player who can make the difference,” Nigeria coach Peter Dedevbo told reporters.

And that player to make the difference must be none other than Asisat Oshoala, who impressed all with four goals in the playoffs- a feat accomplished by only two others in a match in tournament history.

But though their confidence and powerful attack has shaken other teams, Germany may prove to be the side to rise up and thwart Nigeria’s plans. The Germans have made few mistakes in Canada; utilizing patience, clean cut passing and calm composure from start to finish to score goals. And, they have proven that they can keep it together no matter the status of the scoreboard, producing goals early in the game or in the final minutes.

Germany beat the U.S. in the group stage.(Getty Images)

Germany beat the U.S. in the group stage.(Getty Images)

They were tried several times over against China PR in group play, ending in a stunning draw that saw both sides exchanging goals till the end result stood at 5-5. The valiant performance from China was unexpected, but Germany matched their opponent’s goal for goal, in the pouring rain, never faltering.

Head coach Maren Meinert is relying on that well- cultivated German perseverance and teamwork to give the Nigerians a run for their money.

“We know that they’re athletic and have unbelievably quick players,” Meinert said in an interview with FIFA. “It’ll come down to us staying true to our style, focusing on working as a team and not too much on moments of individualism.

 

 

 

 

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FC Kansas City Dethrones Thorns in NWSL Playoffs
FC Kansas City Dethrones Thorns in NWSL Playoffs avatar

FC Kansas City persevered through the second half of the first semifinal of the 2014 NWSL Playoffs, defeating defending champs Portland Thorns 2-0 at Verizon Wireless Field in Kansas City.

Alex Morgan has had a quiet season by her standard.. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Alex Morgan has had a quiet season by her standard.. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

It was Deja vu as the Portland Thorns met up with their 2013 playoff opponents in the ultimate rematch, the same meeting that led them to knock the Blues out and go on to win the inaugural NWSL championship title.

Now, it was FC Kansas City’s time for redemption.

Sweltering weather conditions accompanied both sides as it took awhile to coax a faster game pace and momentum out of the players. Few chances were created all around and possession was exchanged evenly, but that caused certain players to get creative and display their unique styles from time to time.

Erika Tymrak got a goal and an assist for Kansas.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Erika Tymrak caused the Portland defense trouble with her fancy footwork.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

2013 Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak pulled out some of her signature fancy footwork to baffle Portland defenders, flicking a perfect back heel through a defender’s legs and grabbing possession once more before getting tackled in the 20th minute.

Before the break, Amy Rodriguez left Thorns pursuers in her dust, showcasing her intimidating speed with a huge breakaway. She had an easy shot on goal alone in the box, but the ball flew just over the crossbar.

Someone needed to step up and break the deadlock in the second half, and Rodriguez came back to get the job done. After Alex Morgan threatened the Blues with a close chance that Nicole Barnhart narrowly snatched, FCKC began taking over. In the 63rd minute Lauren Holiday played a beautiful ball through to Rodriguez outside the box and all it took was her blazing speed to shake off the opposition and nail the back of the net.

The Blues kept that 1-0 lead solid, gaining in possession with a championship spot on the horizon. In the 86th minute, they were able to add some cushion to make that final slot a reality.

Lauren Holiday was once again the star getting a goal and an assist for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lauren Holiday was once again the star getting a goal and an assist for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sarah Hagen held the ball at the corner of the box and found a nice gap to execute a foolproof play. She quickly threaded her pass to Holiday in the box and the U.S. forward shot high and strong, whizzing past German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer for the win.

With vengeance served, FC Kansas City will play the winner of tomorrow’s final semi match in the Championship next Sunday. Tomorrow’s semi pits No. 1 Seattle Reign FC against No. 3 Washington Spirit at Moda Pitch Memorial Stadium.

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EPL Week 2
EPL Week 2 avatar

It’s EPL time again Guys and Gals and as always we have another action packed round of games with Everton hosting Arsenal on Saturday , Tottenham and QPR squaring off in a London derby on Sunday, before Man City and Liverpool bring the curtain down on week 2 on Monday. So buckle up and sit tight as GotSoccer takes you through some of the News, Predictions and Previews for Week 2.

Liverpool close in on Balotelli deal

 Liverpool is close to completing the signing of AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli for a fee of $26.5m.

The Reds want the Italian international to help strengthen their attack following the sale of last season’s top score Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

(Getty Images)

Balotelli has shown moments of his potential at AC Milan (Getty Images)

The move could be completed as early as Friday afternoon with Liverpool ready to offer the forward a five year deal worth almost $200k a week, though talks continue with Liverpool reportedly placing behavioral conduct clauses into Balotelli’s contract.

However, it is unlikely that the deal will be completed in time for Balotelli to face former club Manchester City in the EPL on Monday.

The 24-year-old played for Manchester City for three seasons from 2010-2013, scoring 20 goals. However, Balotelli’s tenure at City was plagued with off-field incidents, including a punch-up with former boss Roberto Mancini.

Nevertheless, Balotelli was a big hit and remains a popular figure with the City fans, especially as he provided the assist that helped the club win their first league title since 1968.

Wenger has no regrets over Fabregas

Arsene Wenger says he has no regret about not re-signing Cesc Fabregas over the summer.

The Spanish international made an impressive debut for Chelsea in the EPL assisting two goals in the Blues 3-1 win over Burnley.

Arsenal had first choice on Fabregas, who signed for Barcelona from the Gunners in 2011, but decided against the buy-back option.

Fabregas (R) in action for Arsenal during a league match at the Emirates in 2010. (Getty Images)

Fabregas (R) in action for Arsenal during a league match at the Emirates in 2010. (Getty Images)

“I have no regret about that at all. My regret is that he left,” said Wenger, whose side play Everton this weekend.

“It was difficult for him to leave us, but after that you accept he can move to some different clubs,” he added.

Wenger believes Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey has more than filled the void left by Fabregas.

“What is good in life is that someone moves out and someone else takes over and he has developed,” he said. “He is younger than Cesc and the potential is there to get more out of him.”

Nevertheless, Wenger could be back in the market for a midfielder following the injury of Mikel Arteta, who injured his ankle during Arsenal’s 0-0 Champions League qualify game at Besiktas.

“If it is a long-term injury, that puts us in a position where we have to be creative.

“We are open as well to any opportunity, until the end of the transfer window, who can strengthen our defensive department in quality and number.”

 

Predictions

 

Week 1

Result

My Predictions

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

 

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

Last week I got FOUR correct results, including ONE perfect score, to give me a modest total of SEVEN-points. However, with one week under my belt I’m feeling confident of upping my tally and hope to reach double figures.

Anyone who thinks they can do better is free to leave their predictions below. So good luck to all and get predicting!

 

Week 2

Predictions

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

 

Previews

 

SATURDAY

Chelsea v Leicester City

Chelsea got a good win away to Burnley last week and look like they could be a formidable force this season. The Blues came from a goal behind to eventually win 3-1.

Summer signing Diego Costa got his EPL career of to a great start with a goal and looks like he will strike fear into defenses up and down the country. Cesc Fabregas also impressed on his return to English football and appears to be an even better player than when he left.

Getty Images

Chelsea new faces Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas both made impressive debuts. (Getty Images)

The Blues face another newly promoted side this week in the form of Leicester City. The Foxes put in a tremendous performance last week by twice coming from a goal down to draw against Everton at home. However, they face a severe test on Saturday and will need to be at their best if they are to leave with a result.

Chelsea has a full squad to choose from and could field the same side that beat Burnley last week.

Leicester, however, will be without central midfielders Danny Drinkwater and Matty James, who have respective hamstring and shin injuries. Defender Mathew Upson is also missing with a foot problem, though striker Jamie Vardy and winger Marc Albrighton should be available after injury.

Chelsea has a good recent record against Leicester winning the last six meetings between the two sides, scoring 20 goals. In fact, the Blues have only lost four of their 45 meetings against Leicester at Stamford Bridge, so on paper they should easily win this one, but then again crazier things have happened in soccer.

Nevertheless, I predict a comfortable win for Chelsea.

Prediction: 4-0

Everton v Arsenal

Arsenal clinched their 100th win at the Emirates Stadium last week with a last-gasp winner against Crystal Palace, and has the chance to reach another milestone— 100 wins against Everton in all the games they’ve played since first meeting in 1905.

However, the Gunners face a tough task against an Everton side that many pundits predict as dark horses for a Champions League spot. The Toffees drew 2-2 away to Leicester last week, but were unlucky not to leave to with all three-points after going ahead twice.

(Getty Images)

Arsenal had to battle hard for victory against Palace last weekend (Getty Images)

Everton midfielder Darron Gibson is nearing a return from an ACL injury and could be available, but Ross Barkley, Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo are absent through injury.

Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta joins Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

But Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski could all return after extended post-World Cup breaks, while Yaya Sanogo may be fit after a hamstring injury.

Arsenal have failed to win their last four EPL games against Everton (D3, L1), and lost last season’s game 3-0 at Goodison Park. However, the Gunners have won six successive EPL games since that defeat and would rack up their seventh with a win on Saturday.

This will be a tough game for both sides and Everton could edge with the home fans behind them, but I think this will be a draw.

Prediction: 2-2

 

SUNDAY

Tottenham v QPR

This London derby will have some added spice as former boss Harry Redknapp returns to White Hart Lane with QPR.

 

Harry Redknapp was badly treated by Tottenham and will be glad that QPR are showing some loyalty. (Getty Images)

Harry Redknapp was badly treated by Tottenham and will hoping to get one over his old side. (Getty Images)

Tottenham have gotten rid of two managers since Redknapp left last summer, with Mauricio Pochettino the latest man to take the job. The Argentinean got off to a good start last week with a win, though Spurs did leave it late with 20-year-old defender Eric Dier scoring the winner in the 90th minute.

QPR, meanwhile, dominated most of their opening game against Hull, but lost 1-0  with James Chester heading in the winner early in the second half. Boss Harry Redknapp was positive despite the defeat and will be hoping for a response when his side meets Spurs on Sunday.

Tottenham will be without Kyle Naughton who serves a suspension after picking up a red card last week, but otherwise they have a full squad to choose from.

QPR new signings Leroy Fer and Mauricio Isla could make their debuts on Sunday, but Chilean compatriot Eduardo Vargas is not in contention as he still requires a work permit.

Tottenham has a great record against QPR at home losing only 3 in 26 games against at White Hart Lane in all competitions, with their last defeat coming back in May 1994. Ironically, Tottenham’s only defeat in their last six Premier League games against QPR came when current Rangers boss Harry Redknapp was in charge.

QPR should put up a decent fight, but I expect them to lose this one.

Prediction: 2-0

Sunderland v Man Utd

Sunderland scored a late goal last weekend to secure a 2-2 away to West Brom. The Black Cats actually took an early lead through Lee Cattermole’s fine long-range effort, but conceded twice before Sebastian Larsson leveled things with five minutes to go.

Meanwhile, Manchester United picked up where they left off last season, losing 2-1 at home to Swansea. The Red Devils had impressed during pre-season winning all their games, but they weren’t playing a friendly last weekend and looked like a nervous and vulnerable side.

(Getty Images)

Things did not go to plan for Van Gaal in United’s opening game (Getty Images)

Sunderland may recall defenders Billy Jones and Santiago Vergini who have both recovered from injury. However, Italian midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini is expected to be out for another three weeks with a groin problem.

Manchester United could hand new signing Marcos Rojo his debut, while Robin van Persie could also return.

Manchester United are a side that are still in transition and looked low on confidence last week, however, they are unbeaten in 12 league games at Sunderland (W9, D3) since a 2-1 defeat in March 1997, and I expect them to continue that streak on Sunday.

Prediction: 1-2

Monday

Man City v Liverpool

Week 2 ends with a blockbuster of a game as EPL champions Man City take on last year’s almost men Liverpool.

Manchester City did not put in a vintage performance last week but still managed to beat Newcastle 2-0 and will be the team to beat this season. The Sky Blues have not spent the vast amount of money they have in previous seasons, but they have strengthened their defense with the signing of French international Eliaquim Mangala.

The title race will go down t the final whistle.(Getty Images)

Liverpool and City went toes to toes for the EPL title last season (Getty Images)

Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1 to get their campaign off to the right start last week. Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for the Reds, before Nathaniel Clyne equalized for the visitors. However, Daniel Sturridge spared Liverpool’s blushes by netting a winner 11 minutes from time.

Man City won this fixture last season 2-1, but did lose the return fixture at Anfield 3-2. Liverpool have spent a lot of money during the summer strengthening their squad, but whether or not they are a better team without Luis Suarez remains to be seen.

On paper this game suits Liverpool, as they can sit back and hit on the counter. Games between big sides tend to be cagey affairs, but as this game is so early in the season I think we could be in for an open game. Nevertheless, I think City will win this one.

Prediction: 3-1

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