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August 10, 2019

Manchester United vs Chelsea Matchday 1 Preview

August 10, 2019

Who: Manchester United vs Chelsea
When: Sunday, August 11th @ 11:30 am ET on NBC Sports
Where: Old Trafford
LineManchester United +117 | Draw +240 | Chelsea +240

The 2019-20 Premier League schedule kicks off in just one week!

In the marquee game of the opening weekend, Manchester United host rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford. 

After missing out on the top-four again last season, United will surely be looking to start this season on a banger. Chelsea, under new management again, aims to get Frank Lampard’s reign started on a positive note by putting on a show at the Theatre of Dreams.

Let’s take a look at the match, from projecting the starting XI’s to talking tactics.

Chelsea Likely Starting XI

Chelsea: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Luiz, Emerson, Kovacic, Jorginho, Pedro, Barkley, Pulisic, Giroud.

Lampard will want to play his strongest XI for his first match. For me, that means he keeps Mason Mount on the bench to reserve his Premier League debut for a later date. N’Golo Kante is still injured,  making him a doubt for the first game along with Antonio Rudiger.

Manchester United Likely Starting XI

Man U: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw, Pogba, McTominay, James, Lingard, Martial, Rashford.

So for Manchester United, the transfer business is heating up in the last few days of the window. They are being linked to multiple last-minute moves. I reckon they should nab a few players before it ends.

Harry Maguire’s looking closer to a potential $100million move. He should be slotted right into the backline for Smalling if he signs on, while Paulo Dybala could also get his debut if he agrees to join United. 

Manchester United vs Chelsea match preview

Two sides on the road to reclaiming their status among the Premier League’s best, United vs Chelsea should serve up a special treat on Sunday. With both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as well as Lampard opting for modern, attacking styles, I feel the game should be a high-octane battle.

United are on the road to redemption and after the end of last season’s debacle, they must pour their heart into the game to win back the confidence of the fans. Now, I know the last time these two met at Old Trafford it didn’t produce the most exciting contest, but United have looked a rejuvenated side in pre-season.

With the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba all looking to make a statement, we’ll probably witness them operating with a higher intensity to produce thrilling attacking football. But how the defence holds up against Chelsea’s electric attacking line is only something the footballing gods can answer.

Lampard hopes to replicate his heroics with Derby County last season by sneaking another famous win at Old Trafford. He’s already integrated an exciting philosophy at Chelsea. Watching him let the young players express themselves comes as a breath of fresh air.

All eyes will be on Christian Pulisic, who’ll be making his Premier League debut after an impressive pre-season campaign. The 20-year-old’s taken to Lampard’s style superbly, making him the player to watch out for. His sublime dribbling ability and clutch work in the final third will be decisive in winning the game for the Blues.

Prediction

Manchester United and Chelsea have both enjoyed equally successful pre-season campaigns. I think they’ll cancel each other out in the first match. It should be an exciting, goal-scoring draw with plenty of drama to get the league started on a high note.

A Complete List of MLS Players Who Could Play in the Premier League

August 10, 2019

In thinking about the Aaron Long transfer saga, I came upon an interesting question: How many MLS players could step into the Premier League right now and handle themselves? I’m sure Long could. We’ve seen players like Miguel Almiron and DeAndre Yedlin do it. 

But MLS is obviously a few ticks lower in quality than the Premier League. MLS is more physical, focused less on passing and a bit more on athleticism. The primary difference between MLS and top leagues is the speed of play, and how fast the ball moves. Top players think the game at a higher level and possess the ball skills required to execute their ideas.

The key for any player from a lower-level league entering the Premier League is finding a way to hang in with the increased pace. Not every star in MLS would be capable of stepping into the EPL. Houston’s Alberth Elis, for example, has a good scoring record for the Dynamo and can run past players anywhere, but he struggles to stay consistent and isn’t much of a passer. Elis’s abilities off the dribble, while at times effective in MLS, are based less on ball skills and more on pure acceleration.

There are plenty of MLS players who could do well in the Premier League, though. To complete this thought exercise, let’s go position-by-position. 

I’ve listed 22 players who I am fully confident in, plus numerous others who I’m a bit more skeptical about, but who are still worth mentioning.

Goalkeepers

Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders

Frei will have to play for a lower-table team that doesn’t keep a ton of possession, because his passing skills are not really at PL level. But he rarely makes errors and can make big saves.

A lot of the players on this list are here because they could play well in theory if plopped in England. But only a few might actually be candidates for transfers. Frei is 33. He’s not going to the Premier League any time soon.

Any others? Brad Guzan and Tim Howard used to play in the PL, but they’ve both declined in the years since they left. Tim Melia from 2017 could do it, though he hasn’t been as good in the last couple of years. You could talk me into Luis Robles. Outside of that, I’m not willing to put any other keepers here. Maybe a guy like Maxime Crepeau or Jesse Gonzalez develops.

Zack Steffen, of course, was transferred to Manchester City this summer and is now on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga.

Defenders

Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls

Walker Zimmerman, LAFC

Ike Opara, Minnesota United

Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez, Atlanta United

Long and Zimmerman are consistent US national teamers. Zimmerman is the runaway favorite for the Defender of the Year award. 

Opara can pass and is the best in MLS at defending in space. His ranginess would be very useful in the Premier League. Gonzalez-Pirez has a stronger build than Opara and can muscle players off the ball. LGP can dribble and take his space, too — if he were to play in the Premier League, his manager would have to make sure he doesn’t go rogue on dribbling exhibitions too often.

Any others? Philly’s Jack Elliott almost ended up on this list. He’s played every minute for the Union this season and has continued to excel. 

TFC’s Laurent Ciman used to be a Belgian national teamer, so a few years ago he could have played well in the Premier League. (He is worse now.) Graham Zusi and Matt Besler could have in their primes, but Zusi only converted to right back a couple of years ago. Matt Hedges is a borderline pick.

Midfielders

Julian Gressel, Atlanta United

Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas

Eduard Atuesta, LAFC

Maxi Moralez, NYCFC

Alejandro Bedoya, Philadelphia Union

Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers

Diego Chara, Portland Timbers

Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders

Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC

There are a lot of good players on this list, many of them attackers. Gressel is best as a wingback — that’s the job I’d love to see him do in the Premier League — but can play pretty much anywhere in the midfield. Chara is still the best d-mid in MLS, and Atuesta is elite as a ball-mover and ground-coverer for LAFC.

Bedoya has been very good as a diamond shuttler in Philly. He was the one who required the most thought on this list, but watching him in the Union’s win over D.C. United last weekend convinced me that he deserves to be here. Pomykal is young (19) and will probably be transferred to a top league sooner rather than later. His field vision is his best asset.

Lodeiro, Moralez, and Pozuelo are game-changers as forward-thinking midfielders. Lodeiro — a World Cup vet with Uruguay — and Moralez might be the two most important players in the entire league, based on how much their teams need them. Valeri is a bit older now, but he remains a cerebral player.

Anyone else? Michael Bradley was the biggest snub here. The 2017 version of him would play well in the Premier League, but I found it hard to look at Toronto FC this year and put MB on this list.

Cristian Roldan, Alex Ring, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing, Sebastian Mendez, Sebastian Blanco, Darlington Nagbe, Jamiro Monteiro, and Jackson Yueill were all contenders. I really thought about putting Kaye and Ring on there. They are very close. I’d still be confident in them if they showed up in the starting lineup of Bournemouth.

Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco are not there yet.

If we could bring back 2017 Jonathan Osorio, he would be a shoo-in here. (Sensing a theme with TFC players?)

Forwards

Josef Martinez, Atlanta United

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, LA Galaxy

Carlos Vela, LAFC

Diego Rossi, LAFC

Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC

Wayne Rooney, D.C. United

Out of these players, I waffled only on Rossi. I still want to see him create stuff without Vela doing everything, but if Rossi walked into a team with one or two other very good attackers, he is the perfect complement.

Zlatan and Vela are obvious. Rooney is older, but still very good. Josef is undersized, but he is persistent, and goal-scoring translates. He puts himself in good positions and he finishes his chances. Jozy Altidore is evidently not undersized, and he’s been a stud of late for TFC. I know he had a not great stint for Sunderland in 2013-2014, but I think he’s too good not to be here. In a better situation, he would score goals.

Anyone else? Similar to Josef, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Chris Wondolowski are good enough as scorers and poachers to succeed basically anywhere. BWP and Wondo are getting older, though, so I decided to leave them off.

Mauro Manotas deserves a shout here. He could have a future in a good league. Ignacio Piatti would have been amazing a few years ago in the PL, and even now he could be effective. Portland’s Brian Fernandez was close, though his recent cold spell was enough to exclude him.

Here’s the final XI:

Preview: Atlanta United vs New York City FC

Peter Nolan August 10, 2019

Match: Atlanta United vs. NYCFC
Date and Time: Sunday, Aug 11 at 4:00pm ET
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Line: Atlanta United-136 | Draw +290 | NYCFC +330

Third place NYCFC is coming to town to battle second place Atlanta United, the top deck is open and tickets are going like __ (insert favorite Atlanta or Southern food here). This game is set up so well it could be an MLS regular-season game to excite even Zlatan!

And if not, why not? Both teams are coming off wins and looking to chase down first place Philadelphia Union (42 points) as we head into the business end of the season.

After a slow start to the campaign, 2018 MLS Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez is back leading the Atlanta attack. Don’t look now Carlos Vela, but Martinez has scored in nine consecutive matches, tying his MLS record.

That scoring run has Martinez, who set the single season league record last year with 31, on 18 goals, just four behind Vela.

Atlanta is, of course, a different team this year without Miguel Almiron and with Frank de Boer behind the bench in place of Tata Martino.

Gone too is Atlanta’s expansive, easy on the eye style. The switch to de Boer’s more rigid ways took some adjusting to for 2018 MLS Cup Champions, as they seemed to be asking if it’s not broke, why fix it?

The one player that has benefitted from the new way is center back Miles Robinson, a 22-year-old American that finds himself in contention for the U23/Olympic team, having become a regular under de Boer, playing all 24 of United’s games in 2019, starting 23.

Interestingly, Robinson’s situation is a virtual echo of the one James Sands faces with NYCFC. Sands also went from a spare part under Torrent and his successor Partick Vieira in 2018 to a key piece of the puzzle for his club, starting at the center of a three-center back set.

Sands missed some time recently with a broken arm and Torrent rested the 19-year-old for Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Houston but expect the Rye, New York native back in the lineup Sunday against Martinez and company.

Sands is teamed with veterans Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens with the experienced pair also providing some beef that the 5’11” Sands, listed at 162 pounds lacks, allowing the former midfielder to showcase his ball-playing skills from the center of the defense.

It was a big moment for NYC against Houston when Maxi Moralez checked into the game Thursday night, mere moments after 10 man Houston had taken a 2-1 lead with a Mauro Manotas goal, decidedly against the run of play.

Moralez is the key to New York’s attack, teaming with Alexandru Mitrita and striker’s Heber and Valentin Castellanos who came off the bench to score the tying and winning goals versus Houston.

Atlanta has been extremely reliant on Martinez for goals this season. The Atlanta marksman’s 18 goals are a far cry from the four each tallied by Julian Gressel and Ezequiel Barco, next on Atlanta’s goals list.

Barco has yet to live up to the hype generated by his big money move to Atlanta prior to the 2018 season. Doubts were swirling around Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez earlier this season, but the tide seems to be turning. If Pity is synched up with Josef Martinez come playoff time, then Atlanta could mount a serious defense of its title.

As for Sunday, Atlanta’s home record of 9 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws makes United a favorite against any team coming into Mercedes Benz, with the possible exception of LAFC. New York should make it tough on United and a draw isn’t out of the question, but with 70,00 plus screaming fans behind them Atlanta should enjoy some home cooking come Sunday.

Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. LAFC

Peter Nolan August 10, 2019

Who: LAFC vs NY Red Bulls
When: SUN AUG 11, 10:00 PM ET on FS1 · TSN 1/4 · FOX Sports GO
Line: LAFC -315 | Draw +440 | +700

Already the best team in MLS by a wide margin, the Los Angeles Football Club has just added highly rated 19-year-old Uruguayan midfielder Brian Hernandez from Penarol as a Young Designated Player.

Diego Rossi also came to LAFC from Penarol, signing with the new LA side in December of 2017. Hernandez starred for Uruguay at the recent U20 World Cup and has experience playing in both the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.

As L.A.’s Bob Bradley-led juggernaut welcomes the New York Red Bulls to the Banc of California Park for a Sunday night showdown, NYRB has some transfer news of its own. The Red Bulls have just put pen to paper on a loan deal for 22 year-old winger Josh Sims, who comes to New York from Southampton on a Young DP contract for the rest of 2019.

Sims has made 20 Premier League appearances for the Saints, earning important minutes at the end of last season as Southampton successfully fought to secure its Premier League status.

With visa issues still to be resolved neither newcomer will be available on Sunday, although there will be plenty of talent on hand, particularly in the black and gold of the home team.

LAFC vs New York Red Bulls Match Preview

At 9 wins, 0 losses, and 1 draw, Los Angeles has a near-perfect home mark. They are not too bad on the road either, where they are 7-3-3.

The Red Bulls, third now in a tightly packed Eastern Conference, cannot come close to LA’s numbers and are 3-4-3 away from Red Bull Arena. If Chris Armas’ men are to get a result out of their cross country jaunt they will need to take some steps toward re-establishing the defensive chemistry that led New York’s MLS originals to the league’s best defensive record in 2018.

Perhaps the closing of the MLS transfer window on midnight Wednesday, August 7 will do the Red Bulls some good in that respect, now that Aaron Long knows where he will be playing his soccer for the immediate future.

The 2018 MLS Defender of the Year was reportedly close to a move to the Premier League’s West Ham, with other clubs in other league’s also said to be bidding for him. Long is a professional and seems unlikely to go into a funk, but performance levels have been known to drop when players are denied a move.

Long, goalkeeper Luis Robles and all the Red Bulls will need a big performance against L.A. who leads the league with 61 goals, 14 goals better than Philadelphia, second in MLS with 46.

Of course, goalkeeper Tyler Miller, center backs Walker Zimmerman and Eddie Segura have led LAFC to the best defensive record in the league, with LA having surrendered just 23 goals.

Of late, however, that defensive shield has shown a crack or two, with LA conceding twice after having built a 3-0 lead versus Atlanta on July 26. LAFC managed to close out that win, badly needed after Zlatan Ibrahimovich had hung a hattrick on them the previous week in a 3-2 loss to the L.A. Galaxy.

LA got back on track with a 2-0 win Saturday at New England behind goals from Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing. Rossi is second on the team and fourth in the league with 13 goals, with likely MVP Carlos Vela setting the pace with his MLS leading 22 goals and 13 assists, level with NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez for the top spot on the helpers chart.

With a very impressive record of 16 wins, 3 losses, and four draws, LAFC has obviously been consistent all season. From a points dropped standpoint, LA’s worst stretch was when they drew consecutive matches, 1-1 at Seattle on April 28 and 0-0 at home to Chicago on May 4.

As for the Red Bulls, consistently inconsistent might be the best way to describe their 2019 season. Going back to a pair of wins, 4-0 over Real Salt Lake on June 1, and 2-0 versus Cinncinatti on May 25, the Red Bull have alternated wins with losses, with just a 3-3 draw with Atlanta on July 7 breaking the win, lose, win, lose pattern.

NYRB are heavy underdogs at +700. With a +7 goal differential compared to LAFC’s +38, and on the road, they should be. Oddsmakers have the most likely outcome a 3-0 LAFC win (+800), meaning this could be a long night for the Red Bulls.

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