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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Sermanni Fired
Sermanni Fired avatar

Just hours after leading the the United States Women’s National Team to a 2-0 victory over China, coach Tom Sermanni was fired by U.S Soccer.

Tom Sermanni's dismissal will not be a shock to some. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Tom Sermanni’s dismissal will not be a shock to some. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

In a statement released by U.S. Soccer, President Sunil Gulati said,

“We want to thank Tom for his service over the past year and half, but we felt that we needed to go in a different direction at this time.” “We will begin looking for a new coach immediately to guide our Women’s National Team toward qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

Sermanni, a 59 year old Scot who made his reputation in the Women’s game coaching Australia, took over from Pia Sundhage on January 1st 2013. Sermanni attempted to integrate some new players alongside the established stars who had won the 2012 London Olympics just months before Sermanni took over from Sundhage.

A seventh place finish last month in the Algarve Cup was a shocker, the U.S. having won the prestigious Portuguese tournament nine times. Now

Tom Sermanni with Jill Ellis. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Tom Sermanni with Jill Ellis. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

U.S. Soccer Director of Development Jill Ellis will serve as interim head coach, starting with the USA’s next match against China PR on April 10 in San Diego.

“I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out, but I’d like to thank U.S. Soccer for the opportunity to have coached this team and also the staff and players for all their hard work,” said Sermanni.

Ellis previously served as interim head coach for seven matches at the end of 2012, going 5-0-2.

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EPL Week 33 – Benteke out, Sunderland fine and so much more
EPL Week 33 – Benteke out, Sunderland fine and so much more avatar

NEWS

Benteke ruled out for six months

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke has been ruled out for at least six months after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

The 23-year-old Belgium international sustained the injury during a training session with Villa and will now miss this summer’s World Cup for Belgium.

Villa manager Paul Lambert said: “It’s a terrible blow both for Christian and for the club.

“But he’ll work hard because that’s what he does and he’ll come back for us stronger than ever next season.”

Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany, Benteke’s international teammate also offered his support via Twitter.

He wrote: “Wishing you all the strength you need Christian Benteke and I hope you will recover quickly! We’re all with you together!”

Benteke joined Villa from Belgian side Genk in 2012 for $11.6m and has since score 34 goals in 67 games for the club.

 

Sunderland fined over ineligible player

Sunderland have been fined for fielding an ineligible player during four EPL games this season.

 Ji Dong-Won in action for Sunderland. (Getty Images)

Ji Dong-Won in action for Sunderland. (Getty Images)

The Black Cats fielded striker Ji Dong-Won, 22, against Fulham, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Manchester United before they informed the Premier League they had made an administrative error.

Sunderland failed to gain international clearance for Ji after he returned from a loan spell at German club Augsburg last season. The South Korean international required written confirmation from the German Football Association before he was eligible to play for Sunderland.

But the club claim they did not know they had to seek international clearance for a second time when Ji returned to England, and only realized their mistake in December, at which point they informed the Premier League.

Sunderland have been fined by the Premier League and also by the Football League, as Ji also appear in a League Cup game in August, but have not been deducted any points.

Ji joined the Black Cats for an undisclosed fee from South Korean side Chunnam Dragons in June 2011. In January he re-joined Augsburg until the end of the season, but soon afterward agreed a four-year deal to join fellow Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer in July.

 

Predictions

Week 32

Score

My Predictions

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

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 FIVE correct results including ZERO perfect scores to give me a combined total of FIVE-points.

Week 33

Score

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

Previews

SUNDAY

Man City v Southampton

Manchester City are four points behind leaders Liverpool, but have two extra games to play.

The Sky Blues got a good point last week drawing 1-1 away to Arsenal. They played well and took the lead, but Arsenal equalized and could have won late on as City begun to look frail. That point means City can move two-points clear at the top of the EPL if they win their games in hand.

Aguero's has been plagued with injuries this season. (Getty Images)

Aguero’s has been plagued with injuries this season. (Getty Images)

However, they face a tricky game on Saturday as they host in-form Southampton. The Saints bounced back from a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Tottenham by thrashing Newcastle 4-0 last week. The Saints have been this season’s breath of fresh air and they could have four players in the England squad for the World Cup this summer, with Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Ricky Lambert all in fine form.

Adam Lallana has been outstanding for Southampton and looks like he could be in the starting 11 for England in Brazil. (Getty Images)

Adam Lallana has been outstanding for Southampton and looks like he could be in the starting 11 for England in Brazil. (Getty Images)

Manchester City have no fresh injury concerns, though they look set to be without striker Sergio Aguero as he struggles to recover from a hamstring problem.

Southampton will assess Victor Wanyama’s leg injury, while Maya Yoshida, Nathaniel Clyne and Kelvin Davis are all ruled out, meaning the Saints could field the same side that beat Newcastle.

Manchester City have won all but one of their home league games this season and will be overwhelming favorites for this game. But Southampton are one of the better sides in the EPL and have won five of their last 10 Premier League games against Manchester City (D2, L3).

Southampton play attacking soccer and like to press teams high up the field, however defensively they are a little suspect—Southampton have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League (18)—and I think City will exploit their shortcomings.

Prediction: 3-1

 

Newcastle v Man Utd

Newcastle’s poor form continued, as they were thrashed 4-0 away to Southampton.  The Magpies were flying earlier in the season and there was talk of them challenging for a European place, but they have lost nine of their last 14 Premier League matches (W4, D1), and seem to be struggling in the absence of injured on-loan striker Loic Remy.

Kagawa (L) has looked good in recent games and has linked well with Rooney and Mata. (Getty Images)

Kagawa (L) has looked good in recent games and has linked well with Rooney and Mata. (Getty Images)

Manchester United bounced back from defeat by neighbors Man City by comprehensively beating Aston Villa 4-1. The Red Devils played well with Rooney, Kagawa, and Mata combining well, though the scoreline could have been a lot closer with Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke missing a hatful of chances.

Newcastle’s injury troubles mount as Moussa Sissoko joins Loic Remy (calf), Tim Krul (shoulder) and Mathieu Debuchy (groin) on the sidelines.

Manchester United remain without Robin van Persie, while defenders Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are doubts.

Newcastle won the reverse fixture 1-0 earlier in the season and victory would see them complete the league double over Manchester United for the first time since the 1930-31 season.

But the Magpies are really struggling for form at the moment and in United face the team with the best away record in the EPL this season—earning 30 points from a possible 48.

The Red Devils might rest players with an eye on next weeks Champions League quarter final against Bayern, but they need to build some confidence and momentum going into that game and I expect them to field a strong side and win.

Prediction: 1-3

 

Chelsea v Stoke

Chelsea’s title aspirations were dented last week when they suffered a shock 1-0 defeat away to Crystal Palace. The Blues didn’t play well and could have lost by more, but still should have equalized with Torres in particular guilty of missing a gilt-edge opportunity.

Geoff Cameron has been solid for Stoke all season. (Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron has been solid for Stoke all season. (Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho continues to lament their quality up top, though he did insist striker Fernando Torres does have a future at Chelsea.

Stoke’s fine form continued with a 1-0 win over Hull City. The Potters earned 13-points from a total of 15 in March, with four wins and one draw. In fact, they have lost just one of their nine league games (W5, D3, L1) since the start of February – that was a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City.

Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic should returns after being ineligible for the midweek defeat at Paris St-Germain, though Ramires will sit out to complete three-game suspension.

Stoke’s Jonathan Walters is available after completing a three-game ban, but Saturday’s game comes too soon for Oussama Assaidi who scored the winning goal for Stoke over Chelsea earlier in the season.

Stoke have changed their style of play under Mark Hughes and have begun to reap the rewards in recent months. The Potter’s 3-2 victory in the reverse fixture ended a 14-match winless run (D3, L11) against Chelsea in the league. However, they have not won a league match at Stamford Bridge since a 1-0 victory on 27 April 1974, and I can’t see them ending that barren run on Saturday.

Prediction: 2-0

 

SUNDAY

Everton v Arsenal

Sunday’s game is the biggest game of the weekend and could be one of the biggest games of the season for both clubs as they battle it out for the right to play Champions League soccer next season.

Lukaku's ®  has performed well for Everton and could cause Arsenal's back line trouble. (Getty Images)

Lukaku’s ® has performed well for Everton and could cause Arsenal’s back line trouble. (Getty Images)

Everton’s Champions League hopes looked to have petered out a couple’s of months back, but five straight wins in March have seen the Toffees move within four-points of Arsenal with an extra game to play.

The Toffees beat Fulham 3-1 last week and know a win against Arsenal will leave their Champions League fate in their own hands.

Arsenal were top of the EPL and fighting for the title a few weeks a go, but a series of defeats and draws has seen them drop down the table—the Gunners only picked up 5-points from a possible 15 in March—and now have to concentrate on securing Champions League soccer before thinking about winning the EPL.

Everton remain without captain Phil Jagielka and Steven Pienaar with hamstring and knee injuries respectively, though Ross Barkley is expected to be fit despite suffering a calf injury against Fulham last week.

Ramsey (L) goals have been missed by Arsenal. (Getty images)

Ramsey (L) goals have been missed by Arsenal. (Getty images)

Arsenal are expected to recall Aaron Ramsey for the first time since December, but Keiran Gibbs is a doubt with an ankle injury meaning Nacho Monreal could feature.

Everton are within touching distance of a Champions League spot and really need to beat Arsenal if they want to keep their hopes alive. The Toffees have improved immensely under new coach Roberto Martinez and gave Arsenal a good game earlier in the season.

But the Toffees are without a win against Arsenal in their last 14 matches in all competitions, and I don’t think they will end that run on Sunday.

Prediction: 2-2

 

West Ham v Liverpool

Andy Carroll has looked good since his return from injury.  (Getty Images)

Andy Carroll has looked good since his return from injury. (Getty Images)

West Ham continued their great form with a 2-1 win away to Sunderland. The Hammers have now won six of their last nine Premier League matches, and four of their previous five games at Upton Park.

Liverpool meanwhile jumped to the top of the EPL for the first time since December by thrashing Tottenham 4-0. The Reds have been the best side in the EPL in 2014, winning 11 of their 13 matches and drawing two since the turn of the year—their longest unbeaten run in the EPL run since November 2008 – February 2009 (15 matches).

Suarez and Sturridge continue to be menacing with a total of 49 goals between them, and look sure to break the current EPL strike partnership goals scored in a single season set by Andy Cole and Peter Bearsely set in 1993-94 (55).

West Ham are in good form and will be confident of causing the EPL leaders trouble. However, the Hammers have only won two of their previous 21 meetings with Liverpool in the EPL (W2, D4, L15), and I think they will struggle to keep Suarez and Sturridge out.

Prediction: 1-3

 

 

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US Youth National League Teams Qualify for US Youth Soccer Natl. Championships
US Youth National League Teams Qualify for US Youth Soccer Natl. Championships avatar

US Youth Soccer ushered in spring by announcing the U14, U15, U16, U17 and U18 girls and boys teams of the US Youth National League that have qualified to play in the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships held July 21-27 in Germantown, MD.

Congratulations to all and for more information on the championship please visit US Youth Soccer’s website.

2013-2014 National League representatives for the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships

Girls

Under-14

Under-15

Under-16

Under-17

Under-18

Boys

Under-14

Under-15

Under-16

Under-17

Under-18

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U.S. MNT Youth Training Camps
U.S. MNT Youth Training Camps avatar

While all eyes are on the United States vs. Mexico and the senior team’s preparations for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, the next generation of U.S. soccer stars are quietly continuing their work at home and abroad.

Javier Perez has caledl (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Javier Perez has called up 24 players to his camp in Carson) (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Sticking close to home, the U18 team, under coach Javier Perez, will go through 10 days of  prep work at the U.S. Soccer Training Center in Carson, California. Perez has called in 24 players, and the highlight of these sessions will be games between North America’s three nations.

The training camp runs from April 4-13, with the Young Yanks taking on Canada on April 8 and Mexico on the 12th. The biggest name on the roster is undoubtedly goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. The invite is the first for the son of U.S. MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s since 2011, when the Irvine Strikers netminder was called in by the U15’s.

Also on hand will be seven of the team that competed in February’s Copa del Atlantico in the Canary Islands. Leading that group is Mukwelle Akale, who was named the Copa del Atlantico’s Player of the tournament. Other standouts include Tommy Redding, Ben Swanson and Kyle Scott, a Chelsea youth, who is the only foreign based player in this camp.

U.S Soccer has freshened the squad by adding three newcomers to the mix, bringing in Patrick Jean-Giles, Stephen Payne and Mauricio Pineda.

The U18’s follow up this tournament with a trip to Portugal in late May to compete in the Lisbon International Tournament in Lisbon, Portugal.

Here is the U18 Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Christian Herrera (Real Salt Lake AZ; Las Cruces, N.M.), Jonathan Klinsmann (Irvine Strikers; Newport Beach, Calif.), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; Alamo, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (8): David Chavez (De Anza Force; Redwood City, Calif.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake AZ; Tucson, Ariz.), Malcolm Jones (LA Galaxy; Chino Hills, Calif.), Quentin Pearson (Colorado Rapids; Longmont, Colo.), Pablo Pelaez (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Alex Ramos (LA Galaxy; Reseda, Calif.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Mukwelle Akale (Minnesota Thunder; Minneapolis, Minn.), Kyle Scott (Chelsea; Bristol, England), Collin Fernandez (Chicago Fire; Downers Grove, Ill.), Patrick Jean-Giles (D.C. United; Lorton, Va.), Cameron Lindley (Chicago Fire; Carmel, Ind.), Stephen Payne (Chicago Magic PSG; Birmingham, Ala.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake AZ; Casa Grande, Ariz.), Ben Swanson (Crew Soccer Academy; Grove City, Ohio), Jackson Yueill (Minnesota Thunder; Bloomington, Minn.)
FORWARDS (4): Coy Craft (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Sebastian Elney (Boca United; Boca Raton, Fla.), Christian Lucatero (Houston Dynamo; Pasadena, Texas), Jorge Ruiz (LA Galaxy; Mission Hills, Calif.)

Dropping down one age group, coach Richie Williams is bringing a 22 player panel to Bosnia-Herzegovina for the Josip Katalinski International Tournament (April 3-6), before moving on to Zagreb, Croatia to play the Croatian national team in a pair of friendlies.

Head coach Richie Williams . (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Head coach Richie Williams (R) team has done all under him . (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The U.S. opens the Katalinski Tournament against Montenegro on April 3 and takes on a Sarajevo Select team the next day. Also participating are the national teams of Bosnia and Macedonia and Belgrade Select. All teams are U17 and all of the matches take place in Sarajevo.

Williams will have most of the group that won the Aegean Cup in February at his disposal, led by the dangerous strike force of Joe Gallardo (Monterrey) and Haji Wright (L.A. Galaxy). Christian Pulisic and Fulham youth Luca de la Torre are standout midfielders and Daniel Barbir, currently training with Manchester City, leads the defense in front of goalkeeper William Pulisic.

This group shows signs of having real talent and will be interesting to follow their path as they look to make their way to the senior ranks.

U.S. U-17 MNT SCHEDULE:
Josip Katalinski International Tournament:
April 3: U.S. U-17 MNT vs. Montenegro; Otoka Stadium
April 4: U.S. U-17 MNT vs. Sarajevo Select; Otoka Stadium
April 6: U.S. U-17 MNT vs. TBD (Placement Match); Grbavica Stadium

International Friendlies:
April 8: U.S. U-17 MNT vs. Croatia; Stadium SRC Zapresic (NK Inter Zapresic)
April 10: U.S. U-17 MNT vs. Croatia; GNK Dinamo (Field No. 3)

U.S. U-17 MNT ROSTER:
GOALKEEPERS (2): William Pulisic (Richmond Strikers; Mechanicsville, Va.), Kevin Silva (PDA; Bethlehem, Pa.)
DEFENDERS (8): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls Academy; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Hugo Arellano (Chivas USA Academy; Norwalk, Calif.), Daniel Barbir (Unattached; Allentown, Pa.), Tanner Dieterich (TN Soccer Club; Nashville, Tenn.), Edwin Lara (De Anza Force; San Leandro, Calif.), John Nelson (Internationals; Medina, Ohio), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy; Trenton, N.J.), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): George Braima (Crew Soccer Academy; Columbus, Ohio), Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal; Palmdale, Calif.), Luca de la Torre (Fulham; San Diego, Calif.), Thomas McCabe (PDA; South Orange, N.J.), Christian Pulisic (PA Classics; Hershey, Pa.), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas Academy; El Paso, Texas)
FORWARDS (6): Pierre Da Silva (New York Soccer Club; Port Chester, N.Y.), McKinze Gaines (Lonestar SC; Austin, Texas), Joe Gallardo (Monterrey; San Diego, Calif.), Weston McKennie (FC Dallas Academy; Little Elm, Texas), Elijah Rice (Chicago Magic PSG; Highland Park, Ill.), Haji Wright (LA Galaxy Academy; Los Angeles, Calif.)

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U.S. Ties Mexico
U.S. Ties Mexico avatar

Dos a cero became dos a dos Wednesday night in Arizona, when bitter rivals the United States and Mexico battled to the final kick of the ball in a 2-2 thriller.

The U.S. MNT were as bright as their new uniforms when the game kicked off at the University of Phoenix Stadium, racing out to a 2-0 first half lead with goals from Michael Bradley and Chris Wondolowski.

Jurgen Klinsmann had a couple of surprises in store when he released his lineup, none bigger than leaving Landon Donovan out of the starting 11. Brad Davis got the start in Donovan’s stead, with Klinsmann citing Donovan’s indifferent form in training as reason for the move.

Wondowlowski will be hoping that his goal will help secure a spot on the Roster for him. (ISI Photos/Brad Bernal)

Wondolowski will be hoping that his goal will help secure a spot on the Roster for him. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Right fullback yielded another surprise, with Tony Beltran getting the start over U20 star DeAndre Yedlin. Beltran was shaky early, his giveaway put the U.S. under pressure, but the Real Salt Lake defender atoned with a fine cross that led to Wondolowski’s goal to put the Americans up 2-0.

Michael Parkhurst and Kyle Beckerman were two top performers in the opening stanza, but it was Michael Bradley that dominated from the start. With Beckerman operating in front of the back four, Bradley was free to push forward and the Toronto FC man reveled in his freedom, leading virtually every American attack in the opening 45.

Michael Bradley got a goal and assist for the U.S. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Michael Bradley got a goal and assist for the U.S. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Bradley got free at the back post to open the scoring in the 15th minute, tapping home Graham Zusi’s corner kick on the half volley. Bradley then keyed Wondolowski’s 28th minute tally, heading Beltran’s cross for Wondo to poke home.

But Mexico showed some resolve on the restart, a trait that had been in short supply for El Tri throughout the World Cup Qualifying process. When the two sides last met in Columbus on September 10, 2013, Mexico looked like a team that couldn’t wait to quit once they fell behind. Herrera was not in charge that night, and he must be credited with his team’s new attitude.

Mexico raced out the locker room Wednesday night and less than five minutes from the resumption of play Rafael Marquez had headed a corner kick past Nick Rimando to halve the U.S. lead.

Marquez, of all people. The 35 year old center back has always been happy to be one of the lead villains in this rivalry, and this goal won’t hurt his status.

Julian Green came off the bench  (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Julian Green came off the bench and didn’t look out of place. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Mexico swarmed the U.S. looking for the equalizer with Rimando forced into a couple of key saves. At the 58th minute Klinsmann stuck with his planned introductions of Donovan, Clarence Goodson and wonderboy Julian Green, with Davis, Zusi and Matt Besler giving way.

Little changed, and in the 66th minute Mexico had its equalizer. Alan Pulido was first to react to a rebound off of Rimando’s upright, finishing alertly. Reacting too slowly once again, was Omar Gonzalez, who was left watching as Pulido tapped home. Gonzalez has been too slow to react, too often, and Klinsmann should reassess the L.A. Galaxy defenders place in the center of the U.S. MNT World Cup defense.

In the 71st minute two more subs came on for the Americans, and both showed well. Maurice Edu and DeAndre Yedlin took over from Beckerman and Beltran, neither of whom had maintained their first half levels. Edu defended well, closing ground on the speedy Mexican attackers, while Yedlin showed the pace and attitude to make a difference.

At the 76 minute mark Yedlin took off on a field length run, feeding Clint Dempsey, who freed himself with a fine turn, earning a corner kick. Just a taste of what the Seattle Sounder fullback can bring.

Johnson had a perfectly good goal disallowed. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Johnson had a perfectly good goal disallowed. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Two late decisions would go against the home U.S. team, who must have felt like visitors in front of a huge pro Mexico crowd. First Eddie Johnson was denied a goal on an incorrect offside call. Johnson was put through by Dempsey and finished well, only to be denied by the official.

Young gun Green was also victimized by a poor call, when he was tripped just outside the penalty area. Green was taken down after an aggressive run at the Mexican defense, but no foul was given.

Each team had chances in a mad scramble to the final whistle, with Dempsey firing wide after Donovan had earned the free kick with a long run.

Klinsmann will have a lot to dissect when he reviews the game tape with an eye to his World Cup roster, but for the fans dos a dos was simply thriller.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 2 0 2
MEX 0 2 2

USA – Michael Bradley (Graham Zusi) 15th minute
USA – Chris Wondolowski (Michael Bradley) 28
MEX – Rafael Marquez (Marco Fabian) 49
MEX – Alan Pulido 67

Lineups:
USA: 1-Nick Rimando; 6-Tony Beltran (2-DeAndre Yedlin, 72), 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler (21-Clarence Goodson, 59), 15-Michael Parkhurst; 14-Kyle Beckerman (7-Maurice Edu, 72), 19-Graham Zusi (10-Landon Donovan, 59), 11-Brad Davis (9-Julian Green, 59), 4-Michael Bradley; 17-Chris Wondolowski (18-Eddie Johnson, 64), 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.)
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Sean Johnson, 16-Luis Gil, 22-Bill Hamid
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

MEX: 23-Moisés Muñoz (1-Alfredo Talavera, 46); 28-Rogelio Chávez (22-Paúl Aguilar, 63), 6-Juan Carlos Valenzuela, 4-Rafael Márquez (capt.), 2-Francisco Javier Rodríguez; 27-Carlos Peña (9-Raúl Jiménez, 46), 17-Jesús Zavala, 7-Miguel Layun (16-Miguel Ángel Ponce, 68); 11-Alán Pulido, 18-Isaac Brizuela (10-Luis Montes, 57), 8-Marco Fabián
Substitutions Not Used: 5-Enrique Pérez, 26-Juan Carlos Medina
Head coach: Miguel Herrera

Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 9 / 13
Shots on Goal: 3 / 6
Saves: 4 / 1
Corner Kicks: 3 / 9
Fouls: 16 / 15
Offside: 3 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
MEX – Miguel Angel Ponce (caution) 76th minute
USA – DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 83

 

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USA take on Mexico
USA take on Mexico avatar

Tonight the U.S. MNT go against old rivals Mexico with a two game winning streak and, oh yeah, World Cup places on the line.

Mexican Liga MX club Puebla upset Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans with its refusal to release defenders DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco, further depleting a U.S. defense that was already missing Brad Evans from its expected starting line up.

Hernandez will be missing from the Mexican line-up as he played in last night's Champion league

Hernandez will be missing from the Mexican line-up as he played in last night’s Champion league

So who will start versus El Tri, and which players have the most to gain, or lose tonight in Arizona.

First let’s have a look at our projected starting 11.

In goal there is seldom much controversy. The pecking order has been firmly established, Tim Howard is number one, followed by Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. Of the three only Rimando will be on hand tonight at the University of Phoenix Stadium, and he will get the nod.

Clarence Goodson has shone in his role for the national team(Getty Images)

Clarence Goodson has shone in his role for the national team(Getty Images)

The back four is where things get interesting, at least on the wings. Central defense pairing Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are near certain to get the start, with Clarence Goodson and possibly Maurice Edu backing up.

With Beasley and Evans unavailable at the fullback spots Klinsmann has just three possible replacements for the two. I look for Michael Parkhurst, a more natural ride sided player, to take Beasley’s place on the left and DeAndre Yedlin to be the pick over Tony Beltran on the right side.

Kyle Beckerman (R) has been quietly consistent for the U.S. national team.(Getty Images)

Kyle Beckerman (R) has been quietly consistent for the U.S. national team.(Getty Images)

Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman will be the defensive midfielders in Klinsmann’s 4-2-3-1, with Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan operating further up the pitch.

Klinsmann will choose between Eddie Johnson and Chris Wondolowski to man the striker position just ahead of Dempsey, who plays as a forward/midfield hybrid.

Klinsmann’s use of his bench tonight will tell us much about who is still in the running for Brazil, and who is just along for the ride. The back up keepers fall into the second category, there just isn’t an available position to play for.

Beltran doesn’t seem like a real candidate for the World Cup, unlike center back reserve Goodson, who is all but assured of a place in Brazil and could start if Gonzalez continues to be shaky. A potential wildcard is Maurice Edu. Klinsmann has used the rangy midfielder as a defender against Mexico in the past, if that happens tonight it could have significant World Cup ramifications.

Edu is still a midfielder though and it is his good start as a midfielder for Philadelphia that has him back in the World Cup conversation. Brad Davis is in camp and trying to win a wing position. His dead ball and left footed crossing skills make Davis a potential late match weapon, and he will be trying to showcase those talents against Mexico.

Julian Green will hoping to impress after choosing the U.S. over Germany..(Getty Images)

Julian Green will hoping to impress after choosing the U.S. over Germany..(Getty Images)

Of course all eyes will be on 18 year old Bayern Munich phenom Julian Green, as he chases his first cap since declaring for the U.S. Green, a forward/winger who figures to be used out wide by Klinsmann, will push Davis for that late game sub role.

U20 midfielder Luis Gil has been on the rise, but is his push too late? Tonight will tell a big part of that story. If Gill doesn’t get off the bench, he won’t get on the plane.

Eddie Johnson is likely ahead of Wondolowski at the moment, but if Wono finds the net after his two goal performance against South Korea, this could get interesting.

And speaking of interesting. The most interesting player on the field tonight for the U.S. MNT, with the possible exception of Green, will be fullback Yedlin. Seattle’s U20 star has been working his way into picture, but we don’t know just how seriously Klinsmann regards him for a World Cup berth.

Is he bringing along an exciting prospect as it first seemed, or can Yedlin really make this World Cup squad. With a big performance tonight, Yedlin may just convince Klinsmann that he is for real,  right now.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

 

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UEFA Champions League Second Set
UEFA Champions League Second Set avatar

Wednesday 2nd April

Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund

Real Madrid have looked a much more convincing team this year and have had some great wins in the CL. (Getty Images)

Real Madrid have looked a much more convincing team this year and have had some great wins in the CL. (Getty Images)

Wednesday’s quarterfinal sees Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund reunited once again for the chance to play in the Semis. These two sides faced one another four times in last year’s competition, with German side prevailing in a thrilling semi-final, although their Spanish rivals will be hoping they can turn the tables on this occasion.

How they got here

Real Madrid

Los Blancos (The Whites) have been immense in this year’s Champions League and have yet to lose a game. They breezed through the group stage dropping only two points in a 2-2 draw with Juventus to top the group on 16-points. In the round of 16 they brushed German team Schalke aside winning both legs with an aggregate score of 9-2.

Borussia Dortmund

Last year’s runners-up have not been quite as good as they were last year, but have still managed to progress to the quarters. They just about squeezed out of their group topping Group F level on 12 points with Arsenal and Napoli. In the round of 16 they faced a tough Zenit side and managed to edge past them 5-4 over two scintillating games.

Key Players

Cristiano Ronaldo

This seems like it could be Ronaldo's year - he certainly will be hoping to take his team all the way.. (Getty Images)

This seems like it could be Ronaldo’s year – he certainly will be hoping to take his team all the way.. (Getty Images)

The Portuguese international has been in sensational form this season and was deservedly crowned the world’s best player earlier in the year. Ronaldo has scored a whopping 44 goals in 40 games this season for Real, including 13 in 7 Champions League matches.

Marco Reus

Marco Reus has definitely came into his own in the Champions League campaign. (Getty Images)

Marco Reus has definitely came into his own in the Champions League campaign. (Getty Images)

With star player Robert Lewandowski suspended Dortmund will be looking for Reus to give them some cutting edge. The German international had a terrific first season at Dortmund last year, scoring 19 goals. He has pushed on this season and already has 17 goals, including 3 in the Champions League. Quick, strong and good at dribbling, Reus will be Dortmund’s danger man.

Head-to-head

These two sides have met eight times in European competitions with Real Madrid edging the encounters with 3 wins to Dortmund’s 2, and 3 draws. However, the Germans prevailed during their last meeting in last year’s semi-final. Lewandowski scored all four goals – a European Cup semi-final first – in the 1st leg to give Dortmund a 4-1 lead in Germany. But late goals from Karim Benzema (83) and Sergio Ramos (88) set up a frenzied finish to the second leg, though Dortmund held on to progress to the final.

Tactical breakdown

Dortmund had this game more or less wrapped up after the first leg in last year’s semi-final, as Madrid struggled to come to terms with their high-tempo and pressing game.

However, Los Blancos have moved-up a gear in the attacking department with the acquisition of Gareth Bale this season and are many people’s favorites for this year’s title.

Dortmund are struggling with defender Neven Subotić, midfielders Sven Bender, İlkay Gündoğan and Jakub Błaszczykowski all out injured. While star player Robert Lewandowski misses out through suspension.

Robert Lewandowski suspension will be a huge blow for Dortmund (Getty Images)

Robert Lewandowski suspension will be a huge blow for Dortmund (Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s only fresh injury concern is left back Marcelo who misses out with a thigh strain, with Fábio Coentrão likely to deputize.

Dortmund are known for their high-tempo and high-pressing game, but with Madrid possessing so much explosive speed upfront, I expect Dortmund to sit deep, try and keep the game tight, and hit on the counter. However, I doubt they have the ability to keep Marid’s BBC (Benzema, Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo) trio at bay and I expect Madrid to win.

Prediction: 2-0

 

PSG v Chelsea

PSG are now able to compete with the big boys. .(Getty Images)

PSG are now able to compete with the big boys. .(Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho faces the side who were his first Champions League opponents as Chelsea Manager and will hoping for the same result that he earned in 2004. However, the Parisian outfit have been transformed in the last few years with huge investment from new owners the Qatar Investment Fund, and are now many people’s dark horses for this year’s tournament.

How they got here

PSG

The Ligue 1 champions topped Group C with 13 points, losing and drawing only once. In the Round of 16 they faced German side Bayer Leverkusen and easily dispatched of them, winning the first leg 4-0 away in Germany before securing a 2-1 victory in Paris.

Chelsea

Chelsea struggled during the group phase losing twice, but still managed to top their group on 12-points to progress to the next round. In the round of 16 they faced Turkish champions Galatasaray and progressed relatively comfortably drawing the first leg 1-1 in Turkey before winning 2-0 in London.

Key Players

Zlatan Imbrahimovic

PSG Ibrahimovic has proven time and time again that he is world class.(Getty Images)

PSG Ibrahimovic has proven time and time again that he is world class.(Getty Images)

The maverick striker was made PSG captain this season by new coach Laurent Blanc and has been in spectacular form thriving under the extra pressure. Imbrahimovic has scored 40 goals in 42 games for PSG, including 10 goals in only 7 Champions League games.

Eden Hazard

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)

“The little pony” has been linked with a big money move to PSG following a terrific season in the EPL. The 23-year-old is Chelsea’s top scorer this season with 16 goals, but it is his dribbling, speed, power and passing that have really caught the eye and when Chelsea play well it is usually because of this young man.

Head-to-head

These two sides have only met twice before, which was during the 2004/2005 group stages of the Champions League. The first game in Paris was actually Jose Mourinho’s first European game as Chelsea manager and the Blues were 3-0 victors. The second game in London finished in a 0-0 draw.

Tactical Breakdown

Mourinho's Chelsea will have their work cut out to keep PSG at bay (Getty Images)

Mourinho’s Chelsea will have their work cut out to keep PSG at bay (Getty Images)

A few eyebrows were raised when Laurent Blanc was appointed to replace the outgoing Carlos Ancelotti. Blanc was reportedly the club’s eighth choice to replace Ancelotti, but has transformed the side from a counter-attacking unit into a possession obsessed and attacking side.

Chelsea have progressively improved throughout this season and remain a well organized and tough team to play against. However, they still lack cutting edge up top and may find it hard to breakdown the bigger teams.

I expect PSG to push hard and try to earn a good result to take to London with them. Chelsea will sit back make things tight and hope to steal an away goal on the counter, however, whether or not they can shut out the deadly duo of Imbrahimovic and Cavanni remains to be seen.

Prediction: 2-1

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U.S. MNT – Puebla Refuse to Release Beasley and Orozco
U.S. MNT – Puebla Refuse to Release Beasley and Orozco avatar

Mere hours after coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced a shake up to his coaching staff, the U.S. MNT was further roiled by news that Liga MX club Puebla, had refused to release DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco for Tuesday night’s game against Mexico. Klinsmann had already been forced to replace his projected World Cup starter at right fullback, Brad Evans, due to injury, now he will have to do without Beasley, number one on the left back depth chart.

DaMarcus Beasley exclusion will definitely be disappointed for Klinsmann.  (ISI Photos/Don Feria)

DaMarcus Beasley exclusion will definitely be disappointed for Klinsmann. (ISI Photos/Don Feria)

Klinsmann was none too pleased with Puebla’s action, saying in a U.S. Soccer statement, “we are very disappointed in the decision by Puebla.” “When the match was scheduled, it was with the spirit that both teams would have access to their domestic-based players for what is a very important game for those competing for spots in the World Cup. Both MLS and most clubs in Liga MX honored that idea. While we understand their position, it’s a huge opportunity lost for DaMarcus and Michael and doesn’t contribute to the continuation of this respected rivalry.”

Because this is not a FIFA International Date, clubs are not required to release their players, and the last place Gladiators apparently decided that they needed to keep Beasley and Orozco available for training.

Puebla’s move leaves Klinsmann short of defenders for this showdown with Mexico, and it robs the back four of a much needed chance to build continuity with Brazil looming. The first choice U.S. defense, Beasley, Evans, Besler and Gonzalez, had all been expected for this match, but with his fullbacks missing others will have a chance to step forward.

Michael Orozco will be disappointed and surely this will damage his chance of selection.  (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Michael Orozco will be disappointed and surely this will damage his chance of selection. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Just six defenders will travel to Phoenix, and unless Klinsmann opts for midfielder Maurice Edu in a defensive role, Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin should get the start. The experienced Parkhurst has stepped in at a moments notice in the past, most recently last September 10, in Columbus when the U.S. shutout Mexico 2-0 to book their passage to Brazil. Parkhurst came on at halftime of that match for an injured Fabian Johnson, and gave a solid performance.

Yedlin and Tony Beltran are Klinsmann’s remaining fullbacks, and the young Seattle player figures to get the nod over Beltran, who was called in to replace Evans. Yedlin impressed Klinsmann in the January camp, and a good game against Mexico could give his longshot World Cup run a significant boost.

Of the two Puebla men, Orozco seems to have the most to lose. Klinsmann has repeatedly singled out Beasley as his first choice left fullback, while Orozco is in a dogfight to make the roster as a reserve center back. Orozco’s chances presumably were on the rise following the 2-0 U.S. loss to Ukraine on March 5, a loss that reflected poorly on center backs Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks. Missing out against Mexico deprives Orozco of an important chance to impress, and with time running out, there won’t be many more.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

U.S. Soccer announced that Beasley and Orozco will not be replaced.

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UEFA Champions League Quarters
UEFA Champions League Quarters avatar

Tuesday 1st April

Manchester United v Bayern Munich

This is arguably the biggest game of the quarters as two giants of the European stage battle it out for a place in the semi-final.

Ryan Giggs in action in the final in 1999 and should see some playing time for United. (Getty Images)

Ryan Giggs in action in the final in 1999 and should feature again in Tuesday night’s match. (Getty Images)

The two clubs met in one of the most dramatic European Cup finals back in 1999, with Manchester United trailing by one goal to nil with only added time left to play. Bayern Munich fans and players were already half celebrating their victory, but the Red Devils then managed to score twice in the space of two minutes to overturn defeat and snatch the trophy from Bayern Munich.

However, the Red Devils’ fortunes have taken a turn for the worse this season and they will need all the spirit and fighting power of the team of 1999 if they are to overcome a Bayern team that is arguably the best in Europe at the moment.

Bayern will be looking to retain their title.  (Getty Images)

Bayern will be looking to retain their title. (Getty Images)

The Bavarians won an unprecedented treble last season and have moved up a gear under new coach Pep Guardiola. They won the Bundesliga with a record seven games still to play last week, winning a record 19 games in a row during the process.

How they got here

Manchester United

Despite struggling at home in the EPL, Manchester United have done extremely well in Europe this season. The Red Devils sailed through their group undefeated winning four of their six games. In the round of 16 they were made to sweat when they lost 2-0 away to Olympiakos, but they managed to turn the tie around in the 2nd leg winning 3-0 at home thanks to a hat-trick by Robin van Persie to progress to the quarters for the first time since 2011.

Bayern Munich

The reigning European champions have picked up from where they left off last season, blitzing past all on comers. Bayern coasted through their group, winning all but their final game in the group stage, which they lost 2-3 at home to Manchester City. In the round of 16 they faced Arsenal, who made Bayern look human for the first 20 minutes of the game. However, a missed penalty by Mesut Ozil coupled with the sending off of keeper Wojciech Szczęsny all but ended any hope for the Gunners and Bayern easily ran out winners, winning the first leg 2-0, before drawing the second leg in Germany 1-1.

Key Players

Wayne Rooney

Rooney will need to perform well to give Man Utd any chance of winning. (Getty Images)

Rooney will need to perform well to give Man Utd any chance of winning. (Getty Images)

The England international was rumored to have been unhappy and close to leaving Manchester United last summer, but stayed and has been United’s best player this season scoring 17 goals in all competitions, including two in the Champions League. However, it is not just Rooney’s goal scoring that has been vital to United this season, but also his ability to create goals—Rooney is top of the assist charts in the Champions League this season, creating seven goals.

 

Arjen Robben

Bayern winger Arjen Robben is one of themany danger players of Bayern.(Getty Images)

Bayern winger Arjen Robben is one of themany danger players of Bayern.(Getty Images)

Regarded as a ‘nearly man’ for so long, Arjen Robben finally put that tag to bed when he scored the winning goal in the Champions League final last season. Despite being an integral part of Bayern’s success last season many thought the Dutch wingers days were numbered when new coach Pep Guardiola was appointed. However, Robben has thrived under Guardiola and is having another great season, he has scored 18 goals in all competitions and is Bayern’s top creator in the Champions League with 3 assists.

Head-to-head

Bayern edge the head-to-head encounters with 3 wins over United’s 2, and 4 draws. The Bavarians also edge the last encounter at the same stage of the competition in 2011, when they beat United on goals difference after winning the 1st leg 2-1 at home before losing the 2nd 3-2 away.

Tactical Breakdown

Both sides have key players missing through injury and suspension with Manchester United defender Patrice Evra and Bayern Munich defender Dante both suspended, while United forward Robin van Persie and Bayern Midfielder Thiago Alacanatra both miss out with injuries.

Bayern have been the outstanding team in Europe this season and will start this game as overwhelming favorites, especially as Manchester United are enduring a turbulent season.

The Bavarians like to suffocate teams into submission with their high-pressing and possession style of soccer, and will no doubt try to stamp their authority on the game from the start.

United have not been anywhere near their free flowing best this season, but what has really cost them is their lack of steel when defending. The Red Devils have just been too easy and soft to play against and it has cost them dearly. Against Bayern they will have to accept they won’t have the ball for long periods of the game and instead concentrate on making the game compact and hard for Bayern to play with rhythm. Bayern like to press high up the pitch and pen teams in, which leaves them vulnerable to balls in behind, so United may find joy on the counter.

However, I don’t think United really have the players to defend doggedly, get in the opposition’s faces and make life difficult, and that is why I can’t see them getting a result against this strong Bayern side.

Prediction: 1-3

 

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

Another mouthwatering game lays in wait for soccer fans around the globe with an all-Spanish encounter as Barcelona lock horns with Atletico Madrid.

Atletico have been the surprize package this year and could very well get to the semis(Getty Images)

Atletico have been the surprize package this year and could very well get to the semis(Getty Images)

These two clubs lead the way in Spain with Atletico only a single point ahead of their rivals Barcelona at the top of La Liga. The Los Rojiblancos (The Red and Whites) have been this season’s surprise package in Spain and Europe, sweeping aside all that have come their way.

Iniesta (R) will be key for Barcelona in midfield.  (Getty Images)

Iniesta (R) will be key for Barcelona in midfield. (Getty Images)

Barcelona, meanwhile, have had a mixed season. They started magnificently, but tax scandals and a few defeats have got people saying they no-longer have what it takes to win big tittles, though recent wins over Manchester City and Real Madrid appear to suggest otherwise.

How they got here

Barcelona

Barcelona topped their group comfortably dropping just five points in the process. They then went to Manchester in the round of 16 and saw off Man City with a sublime display winning 2-0. The 2nd leg in Barcelona was a closer affair with Barca once again the victors winning 2-1.

Atletico Madrid

Atlectico stormed through the group stages, drawing just one and winning the rest as they topped their group with 16-points. In the round of 16 they faced the mighty A.C Milan, but they didn’t let Milan’s European pedigree daunt them. Atlectico beat Milan 1-0 in Italy before thrashing them 4-1 in Spain to make it to their first quarterfinal since 1997.

Key Players

Lionel Messi

Messi has had somewhat of quiet season by his standards. (Getty Images)

Messi has had somewhat of quiet season by his standards. (Getty Images)

The Argentinean maestro has supposedly had a poor season and is now only the second best player on the planet. However, the 26-year-old has still scored 36 goals in 36 games this season, including 8 in the Champions League. Injuries have disrupted his form, but Messi is looking back to his best and if Atletico give him a sniff of a chance you can be sure he will take it.

Diego Costa

Diego Costa should definitely cause Barcelona trouble.(Getty images)

Diego Costa should definitely cause Barcelona trouble.(Getty images)

The big forward has been in spectacular form this season and was at the center of a tug of war battle between Brazil and Spain. Costa was born in Brazil but never played there professionally, he was called up for two friendly games in 2013 and actually played in one replacing Fred as a substitute. However, he wasn’t called up for the Brazil squad during last summer’s Confederations Cup and when he gained Spanish Citizenship in 2013, he surprized many by accepting the invitation to play for Spain.

 

Head-to-head

These two sides have never met in a European competition, but Barca are far ahead in the domestic meetings with 60 victories compared to Atletico’s 19.

Their last Camp Nou encounter in La Liga brought a 4-1 win for Barcelona in December 2012. Radamel Falcao gave Atlético a 30th-minute lead but the hosts hit back through Adriano, Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi (2).

Tactical Breakdown

Barcelona are still the kings of tiki-taka soccer and have looked impressive in recent weeks with victories over Manchester City and Real Madrid. However, their central defense still looks weak and they don’t appear to be pressing and hurrying teams as much as they did during their peak.

Atletico have been tremendous this season and play in the same vain as their Manager Diego Simone played. Los Rojiblancos (The Red and Whites) play with a high tempo and will no doubt try to stop Barcelona getting into their passing rhythm.

Barcelona are at home and may be forced to come out and attack, however, I think they will be wary of conceding a goal and may play a bit more cautiously than they usually do. Atletico probably will try and keep it tight and hope to steal an away goal. I expect the game to be high intensity and tight, but I think Barca will just edge it.

Prediction: 2-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GotSoccer is Hiring: Office Manager/PA to CEO
GotSoccer is Hiring: Office Manager/PA to CEO avatar

Manager/PA to CEO | Neptune Beach | Permanent

GotSoccer is a software/media online company looking for a proactive and independent Office Manager/ PA to start immediately. Candidate must live in Jacksonville, FL (our office is located in Neptune Beach).

This is a full time position, M-F, 40 hrs a week. Starting salary is $30,000-$35,000 depending on experience, with a three-month probation period after which, candidate can receive full medical and dental benefits.

SKILLS: Office management, secretarial support, PA, diary management, travel arrangements and Microsoft Office

THE ROLE: Your role will be a split of office manager responsibilities and being PA to the CEO. Office manager duties include meeting and greeting guests, office housekeeping, organizing company events, health and safety, liaising with HR, accounts and IT, building maintenance, supplier negotiation & liaison and assisting with petty cash and basic accounts. As PA to the CEO you will be responsible for diary management, organizing meetings, making travel arrangements and collating & processing the CEO’s expenses.

ABOUT YOU: You should hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least 2-3 years experience as an Office Manager/PA. You will also need to have excellent administration and organization skills, along with the ability to work proactively and independently.

GotSoccer LLC provides software products to over 800 clients throughout the country. All products are linked and fully integrated, yet can be used as stand alone modules, which includes state-management, club and association online registration, referee assignment, tournament management, league scheduling, facility management, websites and college recruitment.

If interested in applying, please send a resume to Courtney Lambert:courtney@gotsoccer.com

 

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