MLS East Preview
MLS East Preview avatar

This weekend season 19 for Major League Soccer will get underway with 18 teams seeing action. The one team in the 19 team league that will not be in action is the team that everyone is most anxious to see, Toronto FC.

That in itself is quite a change. Since entering the league in 2007 on a wave of publicity for its energetic fan base, TFC have become best known for never having qualified for the playoffs. The league’s first Canadian club has also made headlines with a series of regime, and coaching changes.

Bradley (L) return to the MLS from Roma surprized many. (Getty Images)

Bradley (L) return to the MLS from Roma surprized many. (Getty Images)

Now the team is run by former L.A. Galaxy honcho Tim Leiweke, and “the man who signed Beckham” is at it again. Leiweke enticed Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe and Julio Cesar to the Great White North with a fistful of Canadian dollars each, and missing the playoffs this year is simply not an option.

While TFC were making waves, 2013 MLS Champion Sporting Kansas City and regular season winners New York Red Bulls were mostly standing pat. SKC lost goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to retirement and shipped forward Teal Bunbury to New England. Neither loss should slow Sporting too much.

Thierry Henry will serve one more year in the MLS (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Thierry Henry will be hoping that the Red Bulls sign extra fire power upfront.(ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Thierry Henry has one year left on his Red Bulls contract, and while the Bulls should contend this year, they still haven’t added a goal scorer to replace Kenny Cooper alongside Henry.

At the other end of the conference sit DC United. United were record breakingly bad in 2013 and they addressed that in the off-season by making big changes. U.S. MNT striker Eddie Johnson comes in from Seattle, joined by new center back tandem Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke, fullback Sean Franklin, and attacker Davy Arnaud.

DC can only be better, how much is the question.

Houston's Brad Davis  (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Houston’s Brad Davis has been consistent for Houston.(ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

In the 2013 playoffs the Houston Dynamo beat New York, before falling to SKC, just one game shy of a third straight MLS Cup appearance. Bobby Boswell has been a mainstay in the Houston defense, his departure could be unsettling. Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia are the midfield creators. The question this year is, can Giles Barnes, Will Bruin and Omar Cummings provide enough goals?

Houston may find themselves in a playoff dogfight with New England, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The Revolution look like a young team on the rise after making the playoffs last season. 19 year old Diego Fagundez leads the kiddie core. Long range bomber Kelyn Rowe and and second year defender Andrew Farrell should continue to improve. Juan Agudelo moved on to Europe, but New England might be the perfect landing spot for Teal Bunbury, in from SKC.

Chicago barely missed out on the post-season in 2013, and with MVP Mike Magee on hand from day one, new coach Frank Yallop may get this group that one step further. Former U20 standout Benji Joya is in from Santos Laguna, looking to jump start his stalled pro career and keeper Sean Johnson will be trying to stay on Jurgen Klinsmann radar, just in case.

Vincent Nogueira (Getty Images)

Vincent Nogueira should impress and make an impact for Philadelphia.(Getty Images)

The Union came close last year and have made some decent moves since missing out on the playoffs by just three points. Maurice Edu signed on to chase a World Cup place, and the better he plays in the Union midfield the better his chances. Vincent Nogueira will be expected to provide the playmaking nous that Philly have lacked. The 26 year old Frenchman comes in from Ligue 1 side Sochaux, and if he can provide the service for Jack McInerney and Conor Casey, Philadelphia could be on the rise.

The Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew are two teams with new coaches, and they could struggle make the post-season. The Impact barely made the playoffs last season after a late season slump. Things got worse in the playoff showdown against Houston when Montreal lost the game 3-0, and their composure in picking up three red cards.

Coach Marco Schallibaum paid the price for the whole mess, now ex- Chicago Fire manager Frank Klopas takes charge. Montreal were overly dependent on Italian veteran Marco Di Vaio for goals last year. His 20 were 15 more than team runner-up, Felipe. Can former number one draft pick Andrew Wenger step up and give Di Vaio a hand this year? He could use one.

The Columbus Crew have a new owner in Anthony Precourt to go along with new coach Gregg Berhalter. Berhalter is a former U.S. international who previously coached Hammarby, a second division team in Sweden. Just 38 years old Berhalter is thought to be a young coach on the rise, and he has Columbus feeling good after an unbeaten pre-season.

Michael Parkhurst is one of the returning U.S. MNT candidates, home from Germany to try and win a fullback spot in Brazil. The heady defender may play centrally for the Crew, but wherever he plays Parkhurst is a great addition for Columbus.

Federico Higuain (L) (Getty Images)

Federico Higuain (L)  in action for the Crew.(Getty Images)

Federico Higuain pulls the strings up front for the Crew and U.S. U20 midfielder Will Trapp will be counted on to keep things in check in midfield.

The Crew will be without center back mainstay Chad Marshall, who was traded to Seattle and Columbus will also feel the loss of talented midfielder Eddie Gaven who shocked the league with his retirement at 27 years old.

Here are our projected MLS East standings.

1. Sporting Kansas City
2.Toronto FC
3. New York Red Bulls
4. New England Revolution
5. Philadelphia Union
6.Houston Dynamo
7. Chicago Fire
8. DC United
9. Montreal Impact
10. Columbus Crew

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U.S. MNT Struggle against Ukraine
U.S. MNT Struggle against Ukraine avatar

Famed Sportscaster Howard Cosell used to refer to sports as the “toy department of human life,” in other words a break from the more serious stresses of the day. There are, of course, times when the real world intrudes on our fun and games, and this friendly between the U.S. and Ukraine was certainly one of those times.

Geoff Cameron ® in action in the Ukraine game. (Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron ® put in a good performance. (Getty Images)

Violence and political unrest in Ukraine forced the game to be re-located from Kharkiv, Ukraine to neighboring Cyprus. Cyprus soon proved far from tranquil when a referee Leontios Trattou’s car was bombed following a Cypriot league match. Fortunately the official was unharmed, but the league saw fit to cancel all games last weekend.

Not easily intimidated, Leontius refereed tonight’s game.

Meanwhile, understandably, the Ukrainian players were reluctant to travel to Cyprus, leaving family and country behind, to play what for them was a meaningless game. Rumors swirled all day Tuesday that Ukraine would not play before the relevant authorities announced that it was game on.

Still, it wasn’t until the glum looking Ukrainian soccer team stepped off the plane in Cyprus that the match seemed sure to take place.

With that backdrop the U.S. MNT were nearly run off of the pitch in the first half in Cyprus this evening on the way to a 2-0 defeat. It was a game said to have big implications for some players on the fringe of the World Cup squad, after tonight’s performance most of those players will find themselves beyond the fringe.

With 99 days until the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, this last FIFA date may have been the final chance for some of the Americans based in Europe to make an impression on Jurgen Klinsmann. The coach trotted out a new center back pairing in veteran Oguchi Onyewu and youngster John Brooks. Individually and collectively, the pairing flopped.

Andriy Yarmolenko ® was outstanding for Ukraine. (Getty Images)

Andriy Yarmolenko ® was outstanding for Ukraine. (Getty Images)

Both goals came from poor positioning by the duo, who repeatedly failed to pick up deep runs from the aggressive Ukraine midfield. Edgar Castillo was called in from Mexico and he confirmed what most already thought, he is a poor defender. A problem for a fullback. It certainly was a problem against winger Andrij Yarmolenko. Yarmolenko opened the scoring in the 12th minute, the Ukraine number 7 looking like a certain Portuguese player who shares the same number, a scary thought as we contemplate the Americans second group game in Brazil.

Sacha Kljestan was another player fighting for a World Cup spot, and he was another found wanting. In fairness, the Anderlecht man showed better in the opening stages of the second half, a good period for the U.S., that ended in the 60th minute when Onyewu slipped at midfield, leading to the second Ukraine goal, this one from Marko Devic.

Onyewu was slow to recover and when Brooks was caught too far upfield, the break was on. Tim Howard made a great save on the first shot, but with help slow to arrive, Howard could do nothing with the rebound.

Klinsmann has consistently stood by forwards Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore throughout their recent struggles, his patience was not rewarded. Neither had a plethora of chances, but when chances came, they were spurned. Each man missed an open header, Altidore early and Dempsey late.

Of the starters, only Howard and Geoff Cameron can be said to have played well. Alejandro Bedoya, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones had their moments, while subs Aron Johannsson and Danny Williams did well in brief appearances. Johannsson almost scored a real gem, his volley was saved by the Ukraine defense with the keeper beaten.

Nothing was solved tonight for Klinsmann, the only answers he got were in the negative. Brooks isn’t ready, Kljestan and Castillo likely never will be. 99 days to go, Jurgen. Will that be enough time?

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
UKR 1 1 2

UKR – Andriy Yarmolenko (Denys Garmash) 12th minute
UKR – Marko Devic (unassisted) 60

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 20-Geoff Cameron, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 3-John Brooks, 2-Edgar Castillo (21-Brek Shea, 63); 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Jermaine Jones (14-Dani Williams, 80), 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.), 16-Sacha Kljestan (9-Aron Johannsson, 63), 23-Fabian Johnson;17-Jozy Altidore (19-Juan Agudelo, 85)
Subs Not Used: 4-Jonathan Spector, 6-Alfredo Morales, 12-Brad Guzan, 15-Will Packwood, 18-Terrence Boyd
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

UKR: 12-Andriy Pyatov; 3-Yevhen Khachiridi, 4-Anatoliy Tymoschuk (capt.), 5-Olexander Kucher, 7-Andriy Yarmolenko; 8-Roman Zozulya (22-Marko Devic, 66), 10-Yevhen Konoplyanka, 13-Vyacheslav Shevchuk, 14-Ruslan Rotan (21-Edmar Halovskiy, 78); 17-Artem Fedetskiy, 19-Denys Garmash (15-Roman Bezus, 46)
Subs Not Used: 1-Denys Boyko, 2-Denys Dedechko, 9-Oleg Gusev, 11-Yevhen Seleznyov, 16- Serhiy Sydorchuk, 18- Mykola Morozyuk, 20- Yaroslav Rakitskiy, 23-Rustam Khudzhamov, 24- Eugene Makarenko, 25-Andriy Piliavskiy, 27-Dmytro Khomchenovskiy
Head Coach: Mykhailo Fomenko

Stats Summary: USA / UKR
Shots: 7 / 9
Shots on Goal: 3 / 6
Saves: 5 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 5
Fouls: 6 / 9
Offside: 2 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
UKR – Artem Fedetskiy (caution) 65th minute
UKR – Roman Bezus (caution) 84

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U.S. WNT and Japan Draw in Algarve Cup Opener
U.S. WNT and Japan Draw in Algarve Cup Opener avatar

The U.S. WNT opened the 2014 Algarve Cup Group B play against Japan in Parchal, Portugal today, braving fierce wind to end in a tightly contested 1-1 draw.

Heather O'Reilly started for the U.S. (Getty Images)

Heather O’Reilly started for the U.S. (Getty Images)

Although the U.S. played a more dangerous and attacking role, Japan was able to match their efforts defensively, which made goals scarce. Both goals scored were and not quite as “action packed” as expected. Sydney Leroux scored the lone goal for the U.S. with no assist while Japan scored off a free kick.

“I thought we did more than enough to win the game, and we had enough chances to probably win two or three games,” head coach Tom Sermanni told USSoccer. “But, it’s the classic tale that if you don’t take your chances when the game is at one-nil. It’s always very dangerous, particularly when you are playing quality opposition. One free kick, which was a bit questionable, and suddenly the score is one-all.”

The teams wrapped up the first half keeping neck and neck with zero goals and four shots each. Despite the ongoing stalemate, the U.S. gave Japan heaps of trouble, with Christen Press and Sydney Leroux fervently working the back line.

The Japanese created chances off of stealthy long balls and corners, but to no avail. Only time would tell when that scoreboard would light up with a goal, and who would be the one to initiate it.

Sydney Leroux was the hero once again.(ISI Photos/Rick Osentoski)

Sydney Leroux was the hero once again.(ISI Photos/Rick Osentoski)

The answer became clear in the 59th minute and Leroux was the savior, taking advantage of some lackadaisical play on Japan’s part.

Defense went to clear the ball, not expecting any interference. Leroux charged forward and struck a low shot before tumbling to the ground. The guidance was accurate and the ball sauntered into the net past a perplexed goalkeeper to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

Japan's Aya Miyama did again - scoring an equalizer against the U.S. (Getty Images)

Japan’s Aya Miyama did again – scoring an equalizer against the U.S. (Getty Images)

With the stalemate broken the rest of the second half ensued, but Japan wasn’t going to let their guard down again after that easy Leroux goal. The U.S. continued to pressure and attack the back line, but despite shots from the likes of Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly, it would be Japan who would turn the tables. With 10 minutes left in regulation Aya Miyama was rewarded a free kick and fired a low ball into the net before Hope Solo could nab it, equalizing 1-1.

The U.S. will next take on Sweden at Estadio Municipal in Albufeira, Portugal on March 7. Tune in to GotSoccer for the match report.

Scoring Summary: 1          2          F
USA                         0          1          1
JPN                         0          1          1

USA – Sydney Leroux                        59th minute
JPN – Aya Miyama                              83

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 6-Whitney Engen, 14-Stephanie Cox; 9-Heather O’Reilly (17-Tobin Heath, 73), 7-Morgan Brian (19-Kristie Mewis, 73), 10-Carli Lloyd, 15-Megan Rapinoe; 23-Christen Press, 2-Sydney Leroux
Substitutions Not Used: 3-Christie Rampone, 5-Kelley O’Hara, 8-Amy Rodriguez, 12-Samantha Mewis, 13-Sarah Hagen, 16-Rachel Van Hollebeke, 18-Alyssa Naeher, 20-Abby Wambach, 21-Jill Loyden, 25-Meghan Klingenberg
Head coach: Tom Sermanni

JPN: 21-Erina Yamane; 2-Yukari Kinga, 3-Azusa Iwashimizu, 4-Saki Kumagai, 19-Saori Ariyoshi (5-Aya Sameshima, 38); 6-Mizuho Sakaguchi (22-Nanase Kiryu, 68), 8-Aya Miyama (capt.), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi (16-Mana Iwabuchi, 59), 10-Homare Sawa (13-Rumi Utsugi, 76); 11-Shinobu Ohno, 17-Yuki Ogimi (15-Megumi Takase, 76)
Substitutions Not Used: 1-Miho Fukumoto, 7-Kozue Ando, 12-Megumi Kamionobe, 14-Asuna Tanaka, 18-Ayumi Kaihori, 20-Kana Kitahara, 23-Emi Nakajima
Head coach: Norio Sasaki

Stats Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 20 / 8
Shots on Goal: 8 / 4
Saves: 6 / 3
Corner Kicks: 2 / 4
Fouls: 12 / 5
Offside: 2 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
JPN — Rumi Utsugi (caution)                           87th minute

 

 

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US MNT Take on Ukraine With World Cup Places in the Balance
US MNT Take on Ukraine With World Cup Places in the Balance avatar

Michael Bradley is the most noteworthy absentee of three U.S. MNT players forced to drop out of Wednesday’s jinxed friendly versus Ukraine. Midfielder Mix Diskerud and defender Tim Ream also had to be withdrawn.

Bradley has pulled out of Klinsmann's squad. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Bradley has pulled out of Klinsmann’s squad. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

According to a U.S. Soccer release Bradley is staying with Toronto in order to receive treatment for what it called a minor issue. Diskerud is said to be recovering from a right hip injury, while Ream is missing out due to “personal reasons.”

Bradley will want to be 100% ahead of his high profile Toronto debut, but his absence comes at the cost of more playing time with midfield partner Jermaine Jones, a relationship that will be key to U.S. chances in Brazil.

Mix Diskerud took to twitter to explain. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Mix Diskerud took to twitter to explain. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Here is what Mix Diskerud had to say via twitter about his situation, and it doesn’t exactly match up to U.S. Soccer’s statement.

RBK didn’t wish to release me today
US honored objection- Prior camp outside FIFAd
ME- very disappointed
G’luck everyone else

Rosenborg (RBK) may not be too pleased with Diskerud’s tweet.

Meanwhile Ream, who hasn’t donned the red, white and blue in quite sometime, was already a long shot for Brazil. Missing this game may have been the Bolton defenders last shot.

Although three players dropped out, Jurgen Klinsmann added only Birmingham City handyman Jonathan Spector to the roster.

Jonathon Spector (L) got a late call up. (Getty Images)

Jonathon Spector (L) got a late call up. (Getty Images)

Spector is trying to force his way back into the conversation for Brazil, but like most on this roster, the 2010 World Cup veteran has several players ahead of him on the depth chart.

This game crystallizes a power shift on the U.S. MNT, away from overseas based players and towards players who earn their living in Major League Soccer. Of the players on the now 21 man roster, and not counting training camp invitee Julian Green, just eight of this group are secure of their Brazil roster spot, and one of those is Clint Dempsey, of the Seattle Sounders.

Goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan lead the “secure” group, joined by defender Geoff Cameron, midfielders Jones and Fabian Johnson and forwards Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Aron Johannsson.

U20 netminder Cody Cropper is just in to have a look around, Real Salt Lake vet Nick Rimando has the third goalkeeper job on lockdown. Of the defenders in camp for Wednesday’s game, John Brooks and Oguchi Onyewu may be the closest to earning a ticket to Brazil. Gooch was far from the national team over the past couple of seasons, but Klinsmann has kept in touch as the big man struggled for playing time, and his World Cup experience may give him a leg up on the callow Brooks.

Will Packwood is an interesting case, the 20 year old has been starting regularly of late for Championship strugglers Birmingham, and will be trying to speed up the timetable on his international career.

Edgar Castillo has slipped in the fullback race, but Klinsmann has always liked the attack minded Tijuana defender, so he cannot be counted out.

The U.S. midfield will be a fascinating battleground in Cyprus with Alejandro Bedoya, almost on the secure list, fighting his corner as Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea and Danny Williams chase their own World Cup dreams.

Bedoya was a surprise inclusion. (ISI Photos)

Bedoya has looked likely to make the final roster for Brazil. (ISI Photos)

Bedoya is likely to make the roster as winger, the position Shea is pursuing. Williams has been working his way back into the group off of some good work for Reading in the English Championship, while Kljestan never quite seems to grasp the opportunities that are handed to him.

While Altidore and Dempsey are part of what Jurgen Klinsmann has described as the team’s spine, with Howard, Bradley, and Jones, Johannsson’s goal scoring form for AZ Alkmaar has the Icelandic-American firmly entrenched as the first forward off the bench.

Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd are battling for what may be the last spot up top, along with DC United’s Eddie Johnson, who is not part of this roster.

This game has already been moved from Kharkiv, the troubled capital of Ukraine to Larnaca, Cyprus.

The safety of the matches new location came into doubt when the Cyprus F.A. postponed all first division games this past weekend, following the bombing of a referee’s car.

Despite that unsettling incident the game appears to be ready to go ahead as scheduled for Wednesday night at the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus, at 2:00 pm Eastern time. The game will be broadcast in the U.S. on ESPN2 and UniMas.

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U20 Women’s World Cup Final Draw
U20 Women’s World Cup Final Draw avatar

On March 1 the final draw for the 2014 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup took place in Montreal, with the U.S. set to take on Germany, Brazil and China PR in Group B.

The tournament will kick off in Canada Aug. 5-24 with the U.S. opening against Germany on Aug. 5, Brazil on Aug. 8 and China PR on Aug. 12. The match against Germany will serve as a thrilling start for the U.S., with quite the competitive World Cup history between the two teams. They lost to the Germans in the 2012 FIFA U20 World Cup 3-0 but then beat them 1-0 in the final to steal the tournament title. Overall, the U.S. has won the tournament three times while Germany has won two times. This will be the first time the U.S. and Brazil take on each other in group play.

On the day the USA and China were drawn into the same group at the upcoming 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup they met for a second friendly match. The young Americans swept the board in both games, beating China 3-0 in the first match and 5-1 in the second. Star forward Lindsey Horan led the team, scoring a brace in each game while teammates Margaret Purce and Mallory Pugh added goals as well.

“The challenges and successes we have experienced over the past year were important moments for this group to remember and draw upon as we continue to prepare for the World Cup,” head coach Michelle French told USSoccer. “We’re looking forward to our final camps, particularly now that we know our group opponents.”

2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup

Group A (Toronto, Moncton, Montreal):
A1 – Canada
A2 – Ghana
A3 – Finland
A4 – Korea DPR

Group B (Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal):

B1 – Germany
B2 – USA
B3 – China PR
B4 – Brazil

Group C (Moncton, Edmonton, Toronto):

C1 – England
C2 – Korea Republic
C3 – Mexico
C4 – Nigeria

Group D (Montreal, Edmonton, Toronto):
D1 – New Zealand
D2 – Paraguay
D3 – France
D4 – Costa Rica

U.S. 2014 FIFA U-20 World Cup Schedule:

Date Opponent Time Venue
Aug. 5 Germany TBD Commonwealth Stadium; Edmonton
Aug. 8 Brazil TBD Commonwealth Stadium; Edmonton, Canada
Aug. 12 China PR TBD Moncton Stadium; Moncton, Canada

 

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EPL Week 28 – Pellegrini Banned, Moyes Failings, League Cup Final and more
EPL Week 28 – Pellegrini Banned, Moyes Failings, League Cup Final and more avatar

NEWS

Pellegrini banned for two games

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has been issued with an immediate 2 game touchline ban by UEFA for criticising the referee after his side’s Champions League match against Barcelona.

Pellegrini will miss the next match against Barcelona.Getty Images)

Pellegrini will miss the next match against Barcelona.Getty Images)

Pellegrini claimed the Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson was not “impartial to both teams” following Man City’s 2-0 defeat.

He was charged with misconduct and will be the stands for in City’s second leg on 12 March, plus one more match.

A further one-game ban is suspended for two years, but Pellegrini can appeal.

“The City manager will be banned for his team’s round-of-16 second leg against Barcelona in Spain on 12 March,” Uefa said in a statement.

“This means that Pellegrini may follow the game from the stands only; he may not enter the dressing room, tunnel or technical area before or during the match; and he may not communicate directly or indirectly with his players and/or technical staff during the game.”

 

Moyes would have been sacked in Italy says Vialli

Former Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli has claimed Manchester United boss David Moyes would have been “sacked three times” if he were managing in Seria A.

David Moyes poor results have shocked many and is time running out for him. (Getty Images)

David Moyes poor results have shocked many and is time running out for him. (Getty Images)

Vialli, 49, has not managed a club since he was sacked as manager of Watford in 2002. However, the Italian said he is keen to manage again, though not in his native Italy, where he believes managers are under too much pressure.

“In Italy, managers are judged simply by results,” he told BBC Radio 4. “Italian managers don’t enjoy themselves at all.”

Eight Premier League managers have been sacked this season, compared to 10 in Serie A.

“David Moyes, in Italy, would have been sacked three times now,” said Vialli, referring to Manchester United, who have won only four of their last 12 games in all competitions and are out of the FA Cup and League Cup.

“In the Premier League you get the feeling they give you a bit longer to sort out problems.

“They are more understanding and, most importantly, owners of football clubs don’t think they know more than managers.

“They let managers run it for a while and don’t just sack you after the first two or three defeats.”

 

Prediction

Week 27

Score

My Predictions

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

A correct result is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.

Last week I got FIVE correct results with ZERO perfect scores to give me a combined total of FIVE-points.

Week 18

Predictions

SATURDAY
Everton v West Ham 2-1
Fulham v Chelsea 0-2
Hull v Newcastle 1-1
Stoke v Arsenal 1-2
Southampton v Liverpool 2-3
SUNDAY
Man City v Sunderland (Capital One Cup final) 2-1
Aston Villa v Norwich 1-1
Swansea v Crystal Palace 1-0
Tottenham v Cardiff 1-0

PREVIEW

 SATURDAY

Fulham v Chelsea

It’s the west London derby and this one could be a bit feisty as both teams have everything to play for.

Fulham currently sit bottom of the EPL on 21-points four points adrift of West Brom who sit just outside the relegation zone in 16th position with 25 points. The Cottagers appointed new coach Felix Magath last week and managed to earn a decent point away to West Brom. The German has  a good track record in Germany and reckons six wins from Fulham’s last 11 games will guarantee them safety, but that is a big ask from a team that has so far only won six games from their 27 games this season.

John Terry got (Getty Images)

John Terry got the injury time winner for Chelsea.(Getty Images)

Chelsea stayed at the top of the EPL last week thanks to an injury time winner by captain John Terry to give them a 1-0 victory over Everton. The Blues were outplayed at home for most of the game by Everton, but once again managed to scrape a result out and that is the sign of a championship winning side.

Fulham’s record signing Kostas Mitroglou will play no part against Chelsea, as new boss Felix Magath is not convinced he’s ready for the demands of Premier League football. However, Darren Bent is available again after missing last weeks visit to West Brom due to personal reasons.

Chelsea have no injury worries other than in defense, with David Luiz is out with a muscle injury, while Gary Cahill and John Terry reportedly have minor knocks.

Table toppers Chelsea have the equal-best Premier League record of 2014, alongside Liverpool, with 20 points from a possible 24. And I expect them to make it 23 points from a possible 27, against a Fulham side who have lost more Premier League games (18), conceded more goals (59), lost the most home games (9) and conceded the most home goals (28) in the EPL.

Prediction: 0-2

 

Stoke v Arsenal

It a clash of styles as the no nonsense long ball specialists Stoke meet the fancy Dans Arsenal, or at least that is how this game has been portrayed in recent years.

However, Stoke have changed their style since Mark Hughes has taken over, playing a more progressive and expansive style of soccer, and while it has worked wonders for their league position, it has helped them against the big teams—The Potters have beaten Chelsea and Manchester United, and also taken points off of Man City at home this season.

Ozil has looked tired and has not been as effective as earlier in the season.(Getty Images)

Ozil has looked tired and has not been as effective as earlier in the season.(Getty Images)

The visitors Arsenal have traditional struggled against Stoke and their tough style of play—the Gunners have only won once in their last seven visits to the Britannia Stadium in all competitions. That was a 3-1 victory in February 2010. But this season the north Londoners seemed to have toughened their act up and will fancy their chances of taking all three points.

Stoke forward Peter Odemwingie is a fitness doubt with a calf problem, but Jon Walters should be available despite suffering illness earlier in the week.

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has overcome injury and could deputise at left-back with both Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal struggling with injury.

Arsenal have struggled at the Britannia down the years, but I think Stoke’s new style of soccer will suit Arsenal to a tee and I expect them to get all three points.

Prediction: 1-2

 

Southampton v Liverpool

Southampton lost 3-1 away last week to West Ham, though they could easily have put the game out of sight in the half hour. The Saints have had a terrific, but have gone off the boil in the last few months—Mauricio Pochettino’s side have only won one of their previous seven home fixtures in the league (D3, L3). That was a 1-0 victory over West Brom on 11 January.

This is probably as they haven’t really got anything to play for, they too many points ahead to be relegated and too many behind to fight for a European place, which makes Pochettino’s decision to field a reserve team in the FA Cup a few weeks back all the more bewildering.

Sturridge is looking like a man with a mission. (Getty Images)

Sturridge is looking like a man with a mission. (Getty Images)

Liverpool won a thrilling game against Swansea last week to stay within four points of EPL leaders Chelsea. The Reds, who sit foruth in the league, continued their rich scoring form winning the game 4-3, and are now the EPL’s top scorers with 70 goals in 27 games.

Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama and defender Jos Hooiveld are both unlikely to feature due to injury, though they will be assessed before the game.

Liverpool pair Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva have both returned to full training following injuries, though Saturday’s game looks to have come a bit too soon for either to feature.

Southampton beat Liverpool at Anfield earlier in the season, and actually have a terrific record against the Red n their home patch—The Saints have won four of their five Premier League games against Liverpool at St Mary’s, including the last three in a row. However, Liverpool are currently the form team in the EPL at the moment and with Luiz Suarez and Daniel Sturridge both creating and scoring goals I expect the Reds to buck the trend and bag a rare win at St Mary’s.

Prediction: 2-3

 

SUNDAY

Man City v Sunderland (League Cup Final)

Talk of the quadruple has all but disappeared since Man City lost 2-0 in their first leg of the Champions League, but the Sky Blues have the chance to keep the dream alive when they meet Sunderland on Sunday.

Manchester City bounced back from the Barcelona defeat with a sound 2-0 victory at home to Stoke. The Sky Blues did not look back to their best, but still easily beat the Potters and will be heavy favorites to beat Sunderland who lie 15 places and 32 points behind them in the EPL.

Aguero's absence has been a huge lose to Man City and that has shown in some of their results.(Getty Images)

Aguero’s absence has been a huge lose to Man City and that has shown in some of their results.(Getty Images)

However, City will not be taking anything for granted after they lost last year’s FA Cup final to Wigan, who were eventually relegated. City were heavy favorites that day and the pressure seemed to get to them as they put in a flat performance and deservedly lost 1-0.

Sunderland will be hoping the same thing happens again, but will be confident either way as they have already beaten City this season in the EPL with Phil Bardsley scoring the only goal at the Stadium of light. On that day they played with high intensity and didn’t let the City players settle and they will have to do the same if they are to have a chance on Sunday.

Manchester City are boosted by the return of Sergio Aguero who is fit to return to match-day squad for Sunday’s League Cup final after a five-match absence with a hamstring problem.

However, fellow striker Stevan Jovetic will miss out with a hamstring injury, while Matija Nastasic is also unavailable.

Sunderland’s only significant absentee will be midfielder Liam Bridcutt, who is cup-tied having played for Brighton in the competition earlier this season, while Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood remains sidelined by a shoulder injury.

Sunderland have done well against Manchester City on their home patch in the last few years, but have not beaten Sky Blues outside of the north-east in nine attempts since a 1-0 away victory in January 1998.  The Black Cats are not expected to do well and will enjoy the tag as underdogs.

City are the clear favorites and have been the best team in the competition this year—City have won all five of their League Cup matches this season, scoring 19 goals and conceding only once. On paper they should comfortably win this one, but I expect Sunderland to give them a good challenge and give the big spenders a run for their money. However, I think Sunderland’s lack of cutting edge limits their chances of getting any result and I expect City to just edge this one.

Prediction: 2-1

 

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U.S. MNT Game Moved to Cyprus- 23 Called In
U.S. MNT Game Moved to Cyprus- 23 Called In avatar

Jurgen Klinsmann has released his 23 man roster for the re-located March 5 U.S. MNT friendly versus Ukraine, and as expected European based players dominate.

Bradley has been named to the squad. (Getty Images)

Bradley has been named to the squad. (Getty Images)

But the coach has called in two Major League Soccer standouts for the match, which was moved away from the political unrest in Ukraine, to Lamaca, Cyprus. National team captain Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC’s big winter signing, Michael Bradley, join Tijuana, Mexico based Edgar Castillo, as the only North American based players in the group.

None of the three were in the national team’s January camp that split time between California and Brazil, before ending with a 2-0 friendly win at the StubHub Center over South Korea.

Cody Cropper was a surprize addition to the squad. (Getty Images)

Cody Cropper was a surprize addition to the squad. (Getty Images)

U.S. U20 goalkeeper Cody Cropper (Southampton) was handed an invite as were youthful defenders, John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), and Will Packwood (Birmingham).

Packwood’s experienced and versatile teammate Jonathan Spector, just back from injury, did not get a call, nor did Eric Lichaj, who like Spector has been battling the injury bug for his club (Nottingham Forest).

Jermaine Jones (Besiktas) and Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday) have also been on the injured list of late, but that didn’t cost either a call up. Jones has yet to make his debut for Besiktas, having moved to the Turkish side on a January loan from Schalke. Onyewu gets his first chance with the nats since lining out last July in the Gold Cup.

Youth has certainly been given the opportunity - Julian Green of Bayern Munich (Getty Images)

Youth has certainly been given the opportunity – Julian Green of Bayern Munich (Getty Images)

Danny Williams (Reading) and Tim Ream (Bolton) have also been out of the national team picture of late, and will be looking to make the most of this recall.

18 year old Bayern Munich attacker Julian Green has been invited to train with the team, although the German-American is not eligible to play for the U.S. at this time.

This is the only FIFA date on the calendar between now and May, when Klinsmann will select his final 23 man roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading)
FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (Utrecht), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar)

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U20 WNT Defeat China PR During Training Camp
U20 WNT Defeat China PR During Training Camp avatar

The U.S. U20 WNT wrapped the first of two friendlies against China PR yesterday in the midst of a training camp held in Lakewood Ranch, FL, coming out as the victors with a 3-0 shut out.

Lindsey Horan was on the scoresheet.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lindsey Horan was on the scoresheet.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Star forward Lindsey Horan and Harvard freshman Margaret Purce were the big scorers of the night, with Horan tallying a brace. She kicked things off in the 24th minute of the game, collecting a pass behind the Chinese back line from midfielder Rachel Hill. She then charged the box, going head to head with the goalkeeper before firing it in from six yards out.

China PR put up a hefty fight after that stunning goal, with defense becoming impenetrable throughout the remainder of the first half and well into the second. Finally in the 76th minute,  it was the brilliant teamwork of Mallory Pugh and Purce that breached the second U.S. goal. Pugh got the ball at the top of the box and drove a low cross into the middle. A furious battle ensued as players on both sides scrambled for possession, but the ball popped out, landing at Purce’s dangerous feet. She quickly capitalized to up the U.S. lead 2-0.

The Chinese lost composure a bit after that second goal, and Horan was able to score just minutes after. Stephanie Amack crossed to her from the right side and headed the ball well over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net to steal the win 3-0. The U.S. and China will clash again on March. 1.

Match: U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team vs. China U-20 WNT

Date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Competition: 
International Friendly
Venue: 
Premier Sports Campus; Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
Kickoff: 
4 p.m. ET
Weather: 
70 degrees

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

USA-Lindsey Horan (Rachel Hill) 24th minute
USA-Margaret Purce (Mallory Pugh) 76
USA-Lindsey Horan (Stephanie Amack) 78

Lineups:

USA: 18-Katelyn Rowland; 8-Andi Sullivan (2-Laura Liedle, 46), 14-Cari Roccaro, 22-Katie Naughton, 11-Brittany Basinger, 19-Stephanie Amack, 12-Rose Lavelle (20-Mallory Pugh, 46), 13-Rachel Hill (5-Morgan Andrews), 9-Summer Green (4-Margaret Purce, 46), 15-Lindsey Horan, 17-Savannah Jordan (3-McKenzie Meehan, 64)
Subs not used: 1-Morgan Stearns, 6-Christina Gibbons, 7-Maddie Bauer, 10-Claire Wagner, 16-Mallory Weber, 21-Jaycie Johnson, 23-Ashley Meier, 24-Jane Campbell

Head Coach: Michelle French

CHN: CHN: 1-Lu Feifei, 12-Lo Xiang, 3-Zhong Xiudong, 4-Wang Xi (15-Lyu Siqi, 70), 2-Yao Lingwei (13-Li Mengwen , 55), 16-Zhao Xinzhai (11-Shi Tianlun, 87), 21- Tan Ruyin, 20-Lv Yueyun (14-Wu Chengshu, 33), 17- Zhu Beiyan, 18-Tang Jiali, 10- Song Duan (19-Xiao Yuyi,55)

Subs not used: 5-Sun Shudan, 6-Jiang Tingting , 7-Liu Yanqui, 8-Dong Jiabao, 9-Zhang Chen, 22-Wang Xin, 23-Li Mengyu

Stats Summary:

USA / CHN
Shots: 7 / 2
Shots on Goal: 6 / 0
Saves: 0 / 3
Corner Kicks: 6 / 0
Fouls: 4 / 9
Offside: n/a

Misconduct Summary:
None

 

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MYSA Welcomes Two New Club Members
MYSA Welcomes Two New Club Members avatar

Missouri Youth Soccer welcomes two new club members this month- Congratulations to KC Blaze Soccer Club and Freedom Futbol Club! Read about the new MYSA additions below, and for more information please visit the MYSA website.

kc-blaze-soccer-club-tryouts-89

Courtesy of MYSA

KC Blaze Soccer Club is a not-for-profit organization committed to providing a superior inclusive soccer experience for all of the Kansas City-area’s youth by offering both Academy and highly competitive travel team opportunities.  The commitment is accomplished through an organization of volunteers and soccer professionals who administer the training programs.  It is our intent as an organization to promote honor, integrity, teamwork, diversity, perseverance, confidence and sportsmanship both on and off the field.

Courtesy of MYSA

Courtesy of MYSA

Freedom Futbol Club is a community-based, all volunteer, independent, competitive soccer program based in south Kansas City.  They are an organization devoted to promote and expand competitive youth soccer in the local areas surrounding Raymore, Missouri and to instill sportsmanship, individual and community responsibility and team player skills in a competitive soccer environment.

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U.S. MNT Match Moved from Ukraine
U.S. MNT Match Moved from Ukraine avatar

Common sense has prevailed and the U.S. MNT game versus Ukraine on March 5, has been moved from Kharkiv, Ukraine to an as yet unnamed location in Cyprus.

The Football Federation of Ukraine made the announcement today citing safety concerns from U.S. Soccer, who the Federation said had requested the move.

Klinsmann will be. (Getty Images)

Klinsmann must surely have been worried for his players safety.. (Getty Images)

This is good news, not only for U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but for the U.S. MNT contingent playing in Europe, who figure to have just this last chance to impress the boss before the final World Cup roster is selected in May.

Goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are certain to be called in as are outfield players Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya, and Sacha Kljestan. That group should be joined by some who have been out of the national team picture of late. John Brooks and Danny Williams are good bets for an invite, with Eric Lichaj, Tim Ream, and even Oguchi Onyewu hoping for a final chance to make an impression.

Tim Chandler had been making a late push for inclusion before a knee injury earlier this month ruled him out of the March game, severely damaging his World Cup hopes.

Although March 5, is an official FIFA date, the squad that faces Ukraine is expected to come primarily from players already in Europe, with Klinsmann unlikely to call in many of his MLS mainstays, just three days before the Major League Soccer season is set to begin.

Mexico have struggled since their young side won the  Olympic gold. (Getty Images)

Mexico have struggled since their young side won the Olympic gold. (Getty Images)

The only other confirmed friendly game for the U.S. MNT before the roster for Brazil is finalized is an April 2, encounter with arch rivals Mexico in Glendale, Arizona.

The April date is not on the FIFA calendar, so coaches are not required to release players, opening the door for U.S. and Mexico based players to state their cases.

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Play Soccer with U.S. WNT Forward Lauren Holiday
Play Soccer with U.S. WNT Forward Lauren Holiday avatar

U.S. forward Lauren Holiday got on the scoresheet for the US. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

U.S. forward Lauren Holiday got on the scoresheet for the US. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Have you ever dreamed of playing soccer with one of the world’s best current U.S. WNT forward’s? Louisiana Soccer Association is giving its members the chance to not only play soccer but enjoy lunch with two time Olympic gold medalist Lauren Holiday on March 22.

Holiday will come to Louisiana to support a fundraiser for the state’s TOPSoccer and Soccer for Success programs. Those who wish to attend with a parent or guardian must raise $250 each to enjoy lunch, pictures, autographs and a Q&A session with her. The top 48 that raise the most money will get to play soccer with Holiday. Top 10 overall will get to sit with her at lunch and the top two will get to sit right next to her at lunch.

This is a thrilling opportunity you don’t want to miss out on! Please visit the Louisiana Soccer Association website to register.

 

 

 

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McBride, Lilly and Bradley Elected to Hall of Fame
McBride, Lilly and Bradley Elected to Hall of Fame avatar

The National Soccer Hall of Fame has announced that Brian McBride, Kristine Lilly and Bob Bradley have been elected as the Class of 2014.

There can be little argument against Lilly or McBride who were justly honored for their contributions on the field, while Bradley’s credentials in the Builder category are equally noteworthy.

Brian McBride with the Chicago Fire in October 2010. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Brian McBride with the Chicago Fire in October 2010. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

McBride is remembered almost as much for his fearless style of play as he is for his goal scoring prowess for the U.S. MNT and clubs like Fulham, the Chicago Fire and the Columbus Crew. A two time Player of the Year at Fulham, McBride was so popular with the Fulham faithful that the club named a pub at their Craven Cottage home McBride’s.

McBride is both the first player ever selected in the MLS SuperDraft and the first American man to score a goal in two World Cups. McBride scored in both 1998 and 2002. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have each matched McBride’s accomplishment since.

Kristine Lilly (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Kristine Lilly holds the record for the most ever capped player. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Lilly was there almost from the beginning of Women’s soccer, earning her first cap as a 16 year old in 1987. Lilly would amass an astounding 352 caps, more than any other player, male or female. Lilly won two World Cups and two Olympic Gold medals as she straddled generation’s, doing more than her share in establishing the U.S. WNT as the standard bearer in the women’s game.

Bradley has been the quintessential American coach, making his name as college coach, then moving on to Major League Soccer, before eventually taking over as the national team coach.

Bob Bradley during his time when he managed the U.S, MNT. (Getty Images)

Bob Bradley during his time when he managed the U.S, MNT. (Getty Images)

Bradley was a success at all of those stops, winning an MLS Cup in 1998 with the Chicago Fire, and coaching the U.S. MNT to the top spot in its group in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Bradley’s team also reached the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup, beating Spain along the way.

In recent years Bradley has become something of a trailblazer for American coaches, taking charge of the Egyptian national team before moving on to Norway, as coach of Stabaek, where he beame the first American to coach a division one club in Europe.

The date and location of the induction will be announced at a later date, the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y. having closed its doors in 2010.

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U.S. WNT Roster Released for 2014 Algarve Cup
U.S. WNT Roster Released for 2014 Algarve Cup avatar

Head coach Tom Sermanni has named a 24-player roster for the 2014 Algarve Cup when the U.S. WNT will travel to Portugal March 5-12.

Klingenberg sees herself back in the squad. (ISI Photos/Thomas B. Shea)

Klingenberg sees herself back in the squad. (ISI Photos/Thomas B. Shea)

The U.S. will enter the tournament undefeated so far this year, opening against Japan March 5 for Group B. They will take on Sweden next on March 7 and close out group play against Denmark on March 10.  The Americans are the reigning Algarve Cup champs, with nine total titles under their belt.

This time around, 15 of last years tournament players adorn the roster, including many of the usual suspects. Forward Alex Morgan, who scored a brace in the 2013 Algarve Cup final to defeat Germany, will not play however, due to an ankle injury. Defender Crystal Dunn also will not make an appearance as she recovers from as ankle injury as well.

Some players will join the team later than usual due to international duty. This includes midfielder Tobin Heath, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, Sarah Hagen from Bayern Munich and Christen Press, Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg- all coming from Sweden.

Sarah Killion (R) had a standout year with UCLA. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sarah Killion (R) had a standout year with UCLA. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Three rookies have been called up as well to try and make their mark with the U.S. national team oversees. Midfielder Morgan Brian has been blazing a path to the top and has earned a spot on the roster following her second career goal against Russia Feb. 13. UCLA standouts Samantha Mewis and Sarah Killion are two fresh faces that will make the trip as well.

“The group we’re in at the Algarve Cup will probably be the most significant test since I’ve come aboard and a different kind of challenge as we will be playing teams that have the belief and aim to come out to attack us and beat us,” said Sermanni. “The dynamics of these games will be different than some of the more recent matches, and that’s something that we want, that we need and that the players are looking forward to.”

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jill Loyden (Sky Blue FC), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (9): Stephanie Cox (Seattle Reign FC), Whitney Engen (Tyresö), Meghan Klingenberg (Tyresö), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kristie Mewis (Boston Breakers), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Rachel Van Hollebeke (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Virginia), Tobin Heath (Paris Saint-Germain), Sarah Killion (UCLA), Carli Lloyd (WNY Flash), Samantha Mewis (UCLA), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (5): Sarah Hagen (Bayern Munich), Sydney Leroux (Seattle Reign FC), Christen Press (Tyresö), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (WNY Flash)

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EPL Week 27 – Rooney Commits to Man Utd, Pellegrini Apologizes and much more
EPL Week 27 – Rooney Commits to Man Utd, Pellegrini Apologizes and much more avatar

After a short break due to weather chaos and the FA Cup, the EPL kicks back into action with Week 27. As usual there are a whole bunch of competitive and exciting games to look forward to with Chelsea hosting Everton undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. So grab some refreshments and sit back as we at GotSoccer take you through some of the News, Predictions and Previews for week 27.

NEWS

Rooney agrees new Man Utd contract

England international Wayne Rooney has agreed a new five-and-a-half year contract with Manchester United.

The striker’s old contract was due to expire next year, but Rooney has now extended that deal a further four years tying him to United until 2019.

Rooney deal is . (Getty Images)

Rooney’s deal has been rushed to make a statement about the club. (Getty Images)

The new deal will see Rooney pocket $500k a week, meaning he will earn more a year than both Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo ($23.77m) and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi ($20.15m) with an annual wage of $26.2m, which amounts to a staggering $116.7m over the next five years. However, once Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have had their cut of the pie Rooney will ‘only’ see $266.8k of his $500k.

Manchester United has yet to officially confirm the contract but sources close to the club say the deal had been agreed.

Speaking at a United news conference on Friday, manager David Moyes said: “As soon as we have the information to give you, we will give you it.

“Everyone knows how important a player he is. He is a terrific football player and if we can get it done it will be great.”

Rooney joined Manchester United from Everton in 2004 for $45m and has since scored 203 goals in 430 appearances for the Red Devil, leaving him just 42 goals shy of Sir Bobby Charlton’s record total of 249 for United.

 

Pellegrini apologizes for referee rant

Manuel Pellegrini has apologized for criticizing the referee following Manchester City’s defeat by Barcelona in the Champions League.

The City manager claimed Swedish official Jonas Eriksson favored the Spanish side during their 2-0 victory at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

“We lost the game,” said Pellegrini. “You are frustrated and angry. Maybe I said something but I don’t think that way. I want to apologize.”

Pellegrini seemed really emotional after the Barca defeat. (Getty Images)

Pellegrini seemed really emotional after the Barca defeat. (Getty Images)

Pellegrini was incensed by the referee’s decision to award a penalty and dismiss Martin Demichelis for denying Lionel Messi a clear goalscoring opportunity. The initial contact appeared to take place outside the penalty area and followed what Pellegrini believed to be a foul by Sergio Busquets on City winger Jesus Navas.

“I didn’t say he was a bad referee, that he was not honest, that he cannot referee in Uefa,” said Pellegrini, 60.

“I felt from the beginning his criteria was not the same for both teams, I think he had a bad day – everyone can have a bad day – but I didn’t say that intentionally he didn’t give fouls for us or did give fouls for Barcelona.”

Pellegrini also suggested that the ref might have been trying to make amends for an error that hindered Barcelona in a previous European tie.

“I repeat I didn’t have any serious accusation, not against Uefa, not against the referee, not against Sweden, not against anyone so it was my way of thinking and I was angry,” added Pellegrini.

“I am sure this is a good referee because Uefa are always evaluating all the referees and if he is not a good referee, he is not in the Uefa staff. The thing I said in that moment doesn’t mean what I think.”

UEFA will welcome Pellegrini’s apology, but it may not be enough to stop him facing a touchline ban, as the European governing body have already appointed a disciplinary inspector to review Pellegrini’s post-match remarks.

 

Predictions

Week 27

My Predictions

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

A correct result is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.

 

PREVIEW

SATURDAY

Chelsea v Everton

Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw at West Brom last week and will be hoping they can get a win on Saturday to stretch their lead at the top of the EPL. However, they face a tough task against Everton, who beat them in Liverpool earlier in the season.

Hazard (L) has been Chelsea's player of the season thus far.(Getty Images)

Hazard (L) has been Chelsea’s player of the season thus far.(Getty Images)

Chelsea dominated last week away to West Brom, but their lack of quality upfront came back to haunt them as the Baggies grabbed a late equalizer. Eto’o and Torres have both shown glimpses of their quality this season, but have yet to have a sustained run of form, which could cost the Blues in the race for the EPL.

Everton went down 1-0 away to Tottenham to dent their chances of finishing in a Champions League position. The Toffees have fallen off the pace in recent weeks as injuries to key players such as Romelu Lukaku have taken their toll on their thin squad. Nevertheless, they still are in with a shot of finishing in a European position and everyone will be looking over their shoulders for the traditionally strong finishers.

Chelsea captain John Terry will face Everton after overcoming injury, but David Luiz is ruled out with a muscle injury near his hip.

Everton’s on-loan forward Romelu Lukaku has recovered from an ankle injury but is ineligible to face his parent club, though Steven Naismith is fit to play after recovering form a head knock suffered against Swansea.

Everton beat Chelsea earlier in the season, but they have not beaten the Blues at the Bridge for 20-years. In fact, Chelsea appear to enjoy playing against Everton in their home yard and have scored more goals against Everton than any other team in their history: 261.

Jose Mourinho has never lost an EPL game at Stamford bridge, and with Everton’s form dropping recently I think Mourinho’s amazing run will continue for at least another game.

Prediction: 2-0

 

Arsenal v Sunderland

Arsenal will want to raise their spirits again following their disappointing defeat at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

The Gunners played excellently for the first 15-minutes of the game and could have scored on a couple of occasions. However, their spirits seemed to dampen when Mesut Ozil missed his penalty and once they were reduced to 10-men the game was effectively over as a contest. Despite the 2-0 defeat Arsenal showed they could mix it with the best and will want to focus their concentration on the EPL.

Sunderland’s game away to Manchester City was postponed due to extreme weather, but they did play last week in the FA Cup and beat Southampton to progress into the quarterfinals. The Black Cats are in good form having only lost two of their last 10 league games (W4, D4, L2), with both defeats coming at home against Hull and Aston Villa.

Oliver Giroud ® omission from Arsenal's starting line-up surprized most .(Getty Images)

Oliver Giroud ® omission from Arsenal’s starting line-up against Bayern surprized most .(Getty Images)

Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs is out with a hamstring injury, though striker Olivier Giroud is expected to return to the side after he was rested for their Champions League match.

Sunderland will be without defender Wes Brown who is suspended, but fellow defender Carlos Cuellar may feature after recovering from a hip problem.

Sunderland have won just one of their last 20 league games against Arsenal, but they are unbeaten in last of their six away games and have managed to pick up three draws in their last five visits to the Emirates.

However, the Gunners will be hurting after their defeat to Bayern Munich and will probably take it out on Sunderland.

Prediction: 3-0

 

Man City v Stoke

Manchester City, like Arsenal, lost 2-0 at home in the Champions League and will be looking to bounce back with a good result at home.

City surprisingly started negatively against Barcelona, playing only one striker and five defenders. However, they did still cause Barcelona problems from crosses, but will be regretting not taking the game to Barca from the start, as they looked a lot more threatening once they were down to 10-men and forced to attack.

Stoke drew 1-1 at home Swansea in their last EPL outing and are currently unbeaten in their last three. The Potters have changed their style under Mark Hughes and slowly seem to be finding their feet after a difficult start to the season.

City players looked totally deflated after the Barca defeat.(Getty Images)

City players looked totally deflated after the Barca defeat.(Getty Images)

Manchester City have defensive troubles with captain Vincent Kompany a doubt with hamstring strain and Matija Nastasic definitely out with a knee problem.

On-loan Stoke winger Oussama Assaidi is out with a knee injury pick-up in training, while fellow on-loan player, John Guidetti, is ineligible to play against his parent club.

Manchester City have won all but one of their homes games in the EPL this season, while Stoke have lost every one of their EPL games against Man City at the Etihad stadum, conceding 14 and scoring zero in the process. So this should be a straightforward win for City.

Prediction: 2-0

 

Crystal Palace v Man Utd

Crystal Palace got a terrific 3-1 win over West Brom in their last game to move them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.

The Eagles have done terrific since Tony Pulis took over—Palace have won 19 points since Tony Pulis took charge on 30 November, only two points fewer than Manchester United (21) despite playing a game less.

Manchester United currently sit seventh in the EPL and are in a bad run of form with no wins n their last three (D2 L1). However, despite their poor form this season United actually have the fourth best away record in the league (21 points) along with Manchester City, though they are without an away win in 2014 (D1, L2).

Crystal Palace’s only injury doubt is Jerome Thomas, who has a back problem

Man Utd's Adnan Januzaj will be welcomed back in the starting line-up.(Getty Images)

Man Utd’s Adnan Januzaj will be welcomed back in the starting line-up.(Getty Images)

Manchester United are expected to recall Adnan Januzaj at the expense of Ashley Young.

Phil jones is doubt for the champions, while Johnny Evans is definitely out, but fit-again summer signing Marouane Fellaini could start for the first time since early December.

Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 11 league meetings with Crystal Palace (W9, D2). But the Eagles are enjoying a four-match unbeaten home run in the league, winning the last three—they have never won four straight home games in the Premier League. Tony Pulis has made them well organized and hard to play against, however, I think United have a lot of quality up top and will just edge this one.

Prediction: 0-1

 

SUNDAY

Liverpool v Swansea

Liverpool got a last-gasp penalty to rescue a win against Fulham in last game. The Red went behind twice before Gerrard coolly slotted home at the end to give them a 3-2 victory.

The Reds then lost 2-0 away to Arsenal in the FA Cup, though they played well and could easily have been two goals up in the first 10-minutes if not for poor finishing.

Swansea earned a good 1-1 draw to Stoke in their last EPL outing, but were then comfortably brushed aside by Everton in the FA Cup. However, they did play extremely well against Napoli in the Europa Cup midweek and were only denied a win by some excellent goalkeeping.

Suarez is currently the most inform striker in Europe. (Getty Images)

Suarez is currently the most inform striker in Europe. (Getty Images)

Jordan Henderson is expected to return to the staring line-up for Liverpool, after being rested in the FA Cup. Glen Johnson (knee) is back in the squad, but Lucas and Jose Enrique (both knee) and Mamadou Sakho (hamstring) are all still out.

Swansea’s former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey should feature after returning from a hamstring injury as a substitute against Napoli, but striker Michu is still out.

This game finished 2-2 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season with Jonjo Shelvey involved in every goal. However, Liverpool have progressed a lot since then and look like the best attacking side in the country at the moment.

Liverpool are currently in terrific form and have only dropped four-points in 2014.  They have never lost to Swansea at Anfield (W9 D3) so will be confident of winning this game. The Swans may have played well midweek, but I think they will be in for a long afternoon on Sunday.

Prediction: 4-0

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