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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U.S. U-17 MNT – Hat Trick of Titles
U.S. U-17 MNT – Hat Trick of Titles avatar

With the Tom Sermanni firing dominating U.S. Soccer headlines, the U.S. MNT U17’s quietly annexed their third title in a row Sunday in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Joe Gallardo shone once again at this level. (ISI Photos/John Norton)

Joe Gallardo shone once again at this level. (ISI Photos/John Norton)

Led by the dynamic trio of Christian Pulisic, Haji Wright and Joe Gallardo, the Richie Williams led crew claimed the Josip Katalinski Tournament with a 4-1 win over the host team.

Christian Pulisic was the star against (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Christian Pulisic bagged a hat-trick in Sunday’s game. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Pulisic was the star of Sunday’s victory, his hat trick to leading the way, but winning this event was a team effort. Williams’ claim that Pulisic, Wright and Gallardo are among the best players in the world at their age group is becoming increasingly hard to argue with, should you be so inclined is hard to argue with. As proof Williams need only point to the nine goals the threesome racked up between them in this three game tournament.

L.A. Galaxy man Wright notched four goals in the opening 5-0 win against an overmatched Montenegro side, with Gallardo chipping in the other score, while Pulisic and Pierre Da Silva contributed two helpers each.

The Young Yanks faced a sterner test in the middle game of the tournament, falling behind the Sarajevo Select squad, before pulling level via a Alejandro Zendejas 71st minute equalizer.

Wright added to the Pulisic hat trick in Sunday’s win, and not to overlook the less glamorous end of the pitch, Andrew Arellano was selected as the Defensive Player of the Tournament.

This tournament follows victories at the Nike International Friendlies, last December in Florida and the Aegean Cup in January, in Turkey. The U17’s will play friendlies against Croatia on Tuesday and Thursday before heading home, a steadily growing reputation in tow.

The U.S U18 team play Canada today (Tuesday) and Mexico on April 12. The two matches are the culmination of a 10 day training camp at the U.S. Soccer Training Center under U18 coach Javier Perez.

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Gulati – No Player Mutiny Behind Firing
Gulati – No Player Mutiny Behind Firing avatar

Less than a day removed from firing Tom Sermanni as the coach of the U.S. WNT, Sunil Gulati spoke to the press on a conference call, to explain his decision, well sort of.

Sunil Gulati explained the reasons behind Sermanni's dismissal. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Sunil Gulati explained the reasons behind Sermanni’s dismissal. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Sort of, because there was no one reason that led directly to Sermanni’s dismissal according to the President of U.S. Soccer. Contrary to rumors, there was no player revolt, nor was the ax wielded as a direct result of the team’s historically poor performance at the Algarve Cup last month in Portugal.

But then again it was, well sort of. Gulati described the evaluation process as ongoing. “We monitor our teams pretty carefully,” Gulati said. And while there was not, “a group of players seeking us out,” to complain about Sermanni, Gulati did say that, “dialogue with our players is ongoing.”

The team's direction was listed as one of the main reasons..(ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

The team’s direction was listed as one of the main reasons..(ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Similarly, while there was no one event that led to the change, the results of the “Algarve were not what we had hoped for.” Gulati and U.S. Soccer C.E.O Dan Flynn were also unhappy with, “where the team is heading,” and with World Cup Qualification just months away, the pair decided to act.

Asked about Sermanni’s feeling that he had been blindsided, Gulati admitted that, while there had been conversations with the coach there had been no one conversation where Sermanni was told, “we need to change A, B, and C.”

Sermanni may have been up against it from the start in replacing the popular and successful Sundhage, who won two Olympic Gold Medals with the U.S. WNT and came within a penalty kick loss of claiming a World Cup title, as well.

Sundhage’s outgoing personality and reluctance to tinker with the lineup stood in stark relief to the constant team shuffling from the laid back Sermanni. The contrast may have been too abrupt for the veteran led team.

Ellis has a long history with the U.S. program and has proven success with America players. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Ellis has a long history with the U.S. program and has proven success with America players. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Now the search is on for a new coach and once again the interim tag has been handed to Jill Ellis. Ellis took herself out of the running when Sundhage was replaced, perhaps she intuited that it is better to replace the replacement, as many a coach has found out the hard way over the years. David Moyes, anyone?

Gulati has a group of candidates on had from the search to replace Sundhage, but it was hard not to get the impression that Ellis will be a difficult candidate to beat if she throws her hat into the ring this time around.

Gulati called Ellis, “a strong candidate,” and when asked if gender was an issue Gulati admitted that it could be. In answer to the question, “should a woman coach this team,” Gulati said that if there were two equal candidates, “I’d prefer to go with a woman.”

Gulati also said that, all things being equal, he would prefer an American coach. Ellis, an Englishwoman, has been in the U.S. since coming here to attend North Carolina State in 1988, so she might get a pass.

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I Wouldn’t Have Missed The Ride
I Wouldn’t Have Missed The Ride avatar

When GotSoccer first spoke to Tom Sermanni in December 2012, as he watched Jill Ellis lead the U.S. WNT over China, oddly enough, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Sermanni was looking forward to taking on, what he called “the job that you can’t turn down.”

Ellis (R) is interim coach until a new one is assigned. (ISI Photos/)

Ellis (R) is interim coach until a new one is assigned. (ISI Photos/)

Ellis was coaching the Olympic Champions on interim basis as the team wound down the Fan Tribute Tour. Sermanni would observe the star studded U.S. team through the final two games of that 10 match tour, 4-0 and 4-1 wins over China.

If Sermanni was nervous that afternoon in Houston, or again a few days later in Boca Raton, as he watched the second of those two wins, he didn’t betray it.

Sermanni would take over in January 2013, aware that he faced the difficult task of integrating some new players into a team that didn’t necessarily feel that it need any. Sermanni told GotSoccer that day in Houston that he wanted to “create stronger competition within the squad.”

Sermanni immediately set about his task, altering lineups from game to game, and with the team continuing to win, all seemed well as Sermanni built toward the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

The ageing Wambach hasn't seen as much time as she would have liked. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The ageing Wambach hasn’t seen as much time as many would have liked. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Player power has been cited since Sermanni was let go late Sunday night, but the coach didn’t see it. Sermanni spoke to GotSoccer Monday afternoon as he made his way back to Los Angeles from Colorado, where he had coached the U.S. to a 2-0 win over China on Sunday.

“I didn’t sense any player unhappiness,” Sermanni said. The genial Scottish coach added that, “as a coach, relationships with my players has always been my strength.” Sermanni did concede that some players, “could have been disappointed that I changed the team.” But the coach stressed, “I’ve always felt that communication was open and honest with the team.”

The U.S. WNT are not used to failure. Getty Images)

The U.S. WNT are not used to failure. Getty Images)

The shocking seventh place finish at the Algarve Cup in Portugal was the first sign that the team was off track. Remarks that Alex Morgan made at the time were widely read as critical of Sermanni, but the coach didn’t agree.

Not familiar with the quotes, Sermanni asked that they be read back to him. Morgan, injured and unavailable for the Algarve Cup, spoke after her teammates had tied Japan and lost to Sweden and Denmark in Portugal.

Alex Morgan's absence was a huge factor in the U.S. results - she is their modern day Mia Hamm.(Getty Images)

Alex Morgan’s absence was a huge factor in the U.S. results – she is their modern day Mia Hamm.(Getty Images)

“I think that Tom and the coaching staff and the players all need to get together and work something out.” Morgan added, that maybe, “the lineup changes could be a factor.”

The Japan and Sweden results were hardly embarrassments, although with Sweden coached by Sermanni’s predecessor Pia Sundhage, that had to sting at least a little. The Denmark result though, a 5-3 loss, was harder to swallow.

The U.S. WNT had never conceded five goals in any match, and Denmark are hardly a powerhouse. Sermanni said, “there was nothing particularly offensive,” about Morgan’s remarks, as he heard them through the phone lines on Monday afternoon. Further, “Alex wouldn’t say that with malintent,” Sermanni told GotSoccer.

Sermanni kept Sundhage’s coaching staff in place when he first took over and when we asked whether he regretted that move Sermanni admitted that it may have been a mistake.

While being sure to praise the professionalism and abilities of the current coaches, Sermanni conceded that’ “it would have been advisable to bring in some people I’d worked with before.” “At the very start, an assistant who knew how I coached, how I worked,” Sermanni mused to GotSoccer.

Tom Sermanni gave more younger players opportunities than previous coaches. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Tom Sermanni gave more younger players opportunities than previous coaches. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Despite the disappointment Sermanni leaves with his head high, grateful that, “around 20 players came to see me to thank me and say goodbye.” Grateful too for the job, “I still wouldn’t turn down.” “It was a great opportunity, a great job, an outstanding group of players to work with and,” and Sermanni concludes, “I wouldn’t have missed the ride.”

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

With the U.S. vs. Mexico in the rearview it’s time to turn our attention back to Major League Soccer, so here is our weekly MLS – Big 5.

1) Hotlanta!

Although no official announcement has come yet, all signs point to Atlanta being confirmed as the latest entrant into MLS. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has long been considered a virtual shoe in to bring a team to the new stadium that will be built for both the Falcons and the expected MLS team.

 Arthur Blank (R) is the p (Getty Images)

Arthur Blank (R) is one of the main persons that could bring an MLS team to Atlanta. (Getty Images)

Atlanta completes the league’s aggressive move back into the southeastern region of the United States, which had been without a team since MLS contracted the Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001.

2) Dempsey and Bradley Come Up Big

Fresh off of their exciting 2-2 tie with the national team against Mexico, U.S. MNT stars Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley stepped up big for their clubs.

Dempsey bagged a hat-trick on the evening and looked back to his old self. (Getty Images)

Dempsey bagged a hat-trick on the evening and looked back to his old self. (Getty Images)

Bradley followed his one goal, one assist effort with the nats by scoring the opener in TFC’s 2-0 win over Columbus, while Dempsey banged home a hat trick to spark a late Seattle comeback in a 4-4 draw with arch-rivals Portland.

If these two U.S. MNT leaders can keep this standard of play up through the World Cup, a lot of questions regarding the level of play in MLS will be answered positively.

3) 2013 Supporters Shield Winner’s Can’t Get a W

Last season the N.Y. Red Bulls ended a drought of 19 years with any hardware winning the Supporters Shield as the league’s regular season champions. It was a big moment for the team, but it didn’t translate into playoff success, and so far it hasn’t carried over to the new campaign.

The Red Bulls have struggled to get a win this season.(Getty Images)

The Red Bulls have struggled to get a win this season.(Getty Images)

Normally a road point is a good thing, but the Red Bulls need a win. Playing without turf averse duo Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, the Red Bulls tied Montreal 2-2 in a seesaw game at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

The Impact are also without a win in this young season. Montreal sit at the bottom of the East with two points from five games. The Bulls are just one place better with four points from a 0-1-4 record.

4) Dallas Out To Flying Start

It’s early days yet, but check out what FC Dallas is up to. Under new coach Oscar Pareja, undefeated Dallas lead the league with 13 points from a 4-0-1 record. On Saturday Dallas took the lead in the Texas sweepstakes when they topped Houston 4-1 in Houston.

Je-Vaughan Watson in action for Dallas. (ISI Photos/Bill Barett)

Je-Vaughan Watson in action for Dallas. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Je-Vaughan Watson scored his second and third goals of the season against the Dynamo, notable because that matches the Jamaican international’s career total in 65 MLS games.

Now, we’ll see if Dallas can keep this up.

5) Jack McInerney Traded

Philadelphia surprised just about everyone this week when they traded 21 year old forward Jack Mc straight up to Montreal for former number 1 SuperDraft pick Andrew Wenger.

McInerney ® was a shock trade. (ISI Photos/ Howard C. Smith)

McInerney (R) was a shock trade. (ISI Photos/ Howard C. Smith)

Philadelphia coach John Hackworth said that Wenger fits his system better, but McInerney scored 12 goals last season, while Wenger who came into the league with questions about his best position, has tallied six in 51 league appearances.

Oh, and at 21 years old McInerney is two years younger than the former Duke standout.

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Oklahoma Soccer and Energy FC to Offer Free Coaching Courses
Oklahoma Soccer and Energy FC to Offer Free Coaching Courses avatar

Courtesy of OSA

Courtesy of OSA

Oklahoma Soccer Association and USLPRO League club Energy FC have partnered up to bring free coaching courses to Oklahoma soccer members.

OSA’s director of coaching and player development, Kurt Luitwieler worked together with Energy FC spokesman Jason Hawkins and Energy FC to develop the concept.

Hawkins made the monumental announcement at the OSA workshop in February. The partnership will encourage clubs across the state to host coaching courses and thereby not place an undue burden on volunteers who would like to attend, but cannot afford the cost.

“OSA appreciates Energy FC’s contribution to the development of coach training in Oklahoma,” Luitwieler said in a press release.

To check out the coaching courses currently offered and for more information on the partnership please visit the Oklahoma Soccer Association website.

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Semifinals Added to 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships
Semifinals Added to 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships avatar

Changes have been made to the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships format and a semifinal round has been added for the U14-U18 boys and girls age groups.

The championships will commence at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, MD July 21-27, where top teams from across the nation will compete. The addition of the semifinal round marks the first big change to the championship format since 1999. The U13 and U19 boys and girls age groups will keep the original format.

With semifinals added, two pools of four teams will play three round robin games Tuesday through Thursday with semifinals held Saturday and the championships held Sunday.

For more information, please visit the US Youth Soccer website.

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UEFA Champions League Quarters
UEFA Champions League Quarters avatar

It’s starting to get really interesting as we head into the 2nd legs of this year’s Champions League quarter-finals. A couple of teams look like they have one foot already in the semi-finals, but if there is one thing we all love about soccer is that you never can really predict what will happen. Nevertheless, we at GotSoccer will try and give you a run down of what we think will occur.

Elite 8 - 1st leg has been played - who will make ti through?. (Getty Images)

Elite 8 – 1st leg has been played – who will make ti through?. (Getty Images)

Tuesday 8th April

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid (0-3)

These two sides met in last year’s semi-final and the contest looked more or less over after Dortmund won the 1st leg 4-1 in Germany. Real Madrid look to have achieved the same feat this time round by winning the 1st leg in Spain comfortably 3-0, with Bale, Isco and Ronaldo all finding the back of the net.

Real Madrid may be just too strong this time round. (Getty  Images)

Real Madrid may be just too strong this time round. (Getty Images)

However, the Record 9 time champions know better than anyone that they cannot afford to be complacent, especially as they almost turned last year’s semi-final around with a 2-0 win in Spain with two goals in the last seven minutes of game of the 2ng leg.

Dortmund are likely to recall star striker Robert Lewandowski to the starting fold after the Polish international sat out the last leg through suspension. The striker, who has already signed a pre-contract with Bayern Munich, scored four goals against Real in Germany last season—the first for a player in a Champions League semi-final—and will be critical to any hopes Dortmund hold of reaching the semi-finals this year round.

Madrid could be without star player Cristiano Ronaldo, who was substituted during the 1st leg win in Spain with a knee injury, though the Portuguese winger is reported to be back in training.

Real Madrid against Dortmund in Spain last week. (Getty Images)

Real Madrid against Dortmund in Spain last week. (Getty Images)

World record signing Gareth Bale is also a worry for Madrid after been given stitches on his knee for a challenged received during Real’s 4-0 win over Sociedad at the weekend.

Real are the favorites, but Dortmund are a different beast at the Westfalenstadion—which is regarded as one of the most intense atmosphere in Europe—and with striker Robert Lewandowski back should pose Madrid a lot more trouble.

I think Dortmund will dominate this game and probably win this game, but I doubt they can score enough goals or keep Madrid from scoring.

Prediction: Madrid to progress to the semi-finals.

Chelsea v PSG (1-3)

2012 Champions League winners Chelsea face an uphill battle after losing the first leg 3-1 in Paris.

Mourinho criticized his defense at the press conference. (Getty Images)

Mourinho criticized his defense at the press conference. (Getty Images)

PSG made a sensational start scoring after only four minutes through Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi. Chelsea restored parity when Eden Harzard converted a penalty in the 27th minute, though an own-goal by David Luiz on the hour mark gifted PSG the lead. Despite being a goal down Chelsea looked comfortably and content with a 2-1 score line before a spectacular solo effort in injury-time by Javier Pastore left Chelsea’s Champions League fate hanging in the balance.

Chelsea are 3-1 down, but will take heart from their 2012 2nd leg triumph over Napoli. That year the blues also lost the 1st leg 3-1 away, before winning the 2nd leg 4-1 to progress to the quarter-final 5-4 on aggregate.

The Blues are accessing the fitness of striker Samuel Eto’o, who injured his hamstring during Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Arsenal two weeks ago, and hope he will be fit to lead the line against PSG. However, if he isn’t Fernando Torres is likely to start up top ahead of midfielder Andre Schurrle who played up top in Paris.

Ibrahimovic was subbed in through injury in the 1st round. (Getty Images)

Ibrahimovic was subbed in through injury in the 1st round. (Getty Images)

PSG will be without their mercurial striker Zlatan Imbrahimovic, after the Swedish international strained his hamstring during the 1st leg. However, Imbrahimovic’s absence may paradoxically help PSG, as it means they may adopt system where players make runs in behind the Chelsea backline. This happened in the first leg when Lucas replaced Imbrahimovic and it seemed to cause the Blues a lot of trouble.

Chelsea are used to big European nights down at Stamford Bridge and I expect a big performance from them on Tuesday. I think they will win this game, though I’m not sure they can score too many goals. The key to this game will be Chelsea’s defense, if they play well and keep PSG out then I think they will progress. But if they PSG score twice then Chelsea will need to score five goals and I doubt they can do that.

Prediction: Chelsea to just edge this one, probably on away goals.

Wednesday 9th April

Bayern Munich v Manchester United (1-1)

Champions Bayern Munich went to Old Trafford as heavy favorites and demonstrated their class by thoroughly dominating possession of the ball—Bayern’s 74% possession was the most by a Champions League side this season.

Schweinsteiger  (R) saw read on the evening and will miss out on the game. (Getty Images)

Schweinsteiger (R) saw read on the evening and will miss out on the game. (Getty Images)

However, despite their possession the German champions failed to create clear-cut opportunities and indeed Manchester United arguably had the better chances. Danny Welbeck harshly had a goal disallowed, while later in the game he fluffed his lines by indecisively trying to dink the ball over Neuer from a one-on-one opportunity, when a placed or well-struck shot may have been better options.

The Red Devils found a break through a corner when unmarked United captain Nemanja Vidic headed in on the 58th minute. However, Bayern remained composed and eventually leveled eight minutes later to keep the tie finely balanced.

Kagawa (C) has started to shine for Manchester United. (Getty Images)

Kagawa (C) has started to shine for Manchester United. (Getty Images)

United Striker Wayne Rooney is a doubt with a toe injury picked up in the draw against Bayern, meaning Javier Hernandez could play up top supported by Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa behind.

Bayern will be without midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger after the German international was sent-off in the first leg, though they will welcome back Brazilian defender Dante.

Bayern are considered to be the best team in Europe and are heavy favorites to progress. The German champions will once again dominate possession and will probably create a lot more chance at the Allianz Arena. However, their defense does seem a little leaky and United may find joy on the counter, especially as Bayern like to play a high line.

Prediction: Bayern to progress

Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona (1-1)

Atlectico lived up to their billing as dark horse for the competition with a tremendous display against Barcelona in the first leg. Los Rojiblancos (The Red and Whites) made a terrific start to the game an could have been ahead after only four minutes, with former Barcelona striker David Villa missing a glorious chance. But Barcelona soon found their rhythm, with Messi at the heart of all their good play.

It was always going to take something special to break the deadlock with both teams playing with such high intensity, and that something came from Brazilian midfielder Diego, who rifled in a shot from out wide when nothing seemed on.

Messi's performance could be the difference. (Getty Images)

Messi’s performance could be the difference. (Getty Images)

The Camp Nou was momentarily stunned, but Barca soon recovered their composure and got an equalizer through Brazilian Neymar who was expertly found by Iniesta.

The Catalans cranked up the pressure in search of a winner but Atlectico defended resolutely to keep the game finely poised.

Atlectico will be without star man Diego Costa who injured his hamstring in the 1st leg, so David Villa will likely start up top as a lone striker with Diego slotting into a five man midfield.

Barcelona have defensive troubles with keeper Victor Valdes, and central defenders Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique all out. Those injuries mean Barcelona will start Wednesday’s game with 23-year-old Marc Bartra as their only recognized central defender, with Javier Macherano likely to slot in beside him.

Atletico's Diego Costa (R) absence will be a huge loss to them. (Getty Images)

Atletico’s Diego Costa (R) absence will be a huge loss to them. (Getty Images)

Ateltico play some high intensity soccer and are likely to press Barcelona high up the field from the first minute to try and stop them getting into their passing Rhythm. Nevertheless, I think Barcelona will dominate possession and with Lionel Messi in their team, they will always pose a threat.

The last four games between these sides has ended in a draw and I wouldn’t be surprised if this games is one too. However, I think there will be goals because Barcelona have Messi—who seems to always score or create a goal—and because their defense looks extremely weak.

Prediction: Barcelona to progress on away goals.

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