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September 14, 2019

Previewing Philadelphia Union vs. LAFC

Avatar September 14, 2019

Who: Philadelphia Union vs LAFC
When: Saturday, September 14th @ 06:30 pm ET
LinePhiladelphia Union +160 | Draw +300 | LAFC+132

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LAFC and the Philadelphia Union play in Saturday in the most intriguing MLS match of the week.

The Union will have a chance to host LA for the first time ever, after losing 4-1 in southern California in June of 2018, and a win would be huge — Philly are hanging on by a thread in the race for first in the Eastern Conference, trailing NYCFC by three points. First-place gets you a crucial bye in the playoffs.

Philadelphia Union vs LAFC match preview

Against a full-strength LAFC, a Philly win isn’t the most likely outcome. But recent LAFC results give the Union a certain amount of hope. Here are a couple of storylines in the lead-up:

1- This is a very nice opportunity for Philly to go against an elite opponent, and test whether they can win a one-off home game against a very good team. The 3-1 win over Atlanta in their last game before the international break was a positive sign. A draw or loss to LA wouldn’t write the Union off, but a harsh loss would tamper some excitement heading into the playoffs.

The concern with Jim Curtain’s team is a lack of game-breaking talent, specifically attackers. Ilsinho is the league’s most impactful super-sub (possibly of all time), but he isn’t as effective as a starter, and the Union don’t have elite attackers in their XI. It’s hard to compete for trophies in MLS without a reasonable counter to players like Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi.

Philly need Kacper Przybylko to prove he can put the ball in the net at a consistent rate, which he’s shown in the past few weeks — he’s scored four goals in the last five games, scoring 13 on the year and going 90 every game since an April 27 draw in Vancouver. When the Union play Brendan Aaronson, Marco Fabian, and Jamiro Monteiro in midfield (MLSsoccer.com projects them all to start), they lack scorers beyond Przybylko.

2- As ever, the big tactical question in a game involving the Union is whether Curtain plays a diamond formation. Bob Bradley won’t shift from a 4-3-3, but he could adjust his team’s tactical approach to match numbers in the midfield. If Vela plays (and he hasn’t since being removed from the last El Trafico with a minor muscle injury, though he has been removed from the injury report), the Union could attempt to condense his space centrally with the diamond.

One of the more impressive elements of Philly’s rise this season has been their tactical flexibility. Curtain’s Coach of the Year case (which is very real, against Bradley’s and Matias Almeyda’s) is based partly on that flexibility. Playing a diamond against such a dominant and talented team like LA could be a risk. Whatever Curtain puts out, it will be a calculated decision, and Bradley will likely have some counter.

Haris Medunjanin’s mobility will be tested against the fast, ball-moving LA midfield. Medunjanin has been great this season, and his ability to hit exquisite balls out of the back has been huge for Philly, but he isn’t amazing as a ground-covering defensive midfielder. If Latif Blessing and Eduard Atuesta can find a way to isolate him, they could put Philly’s defense on its heels and set Vela up to devour the damage.

3- Rumors this week have had LA as being in contention to sign Mario Mandzukic, the 33-year-old Croatian forward who is out of favor at Juventus. That would certainly be a coup. Mandzukic, as an aerial power and an effective defender from the front, would fit as the head of an LA front three. His arrival would indicate that Rossi is likely to be sold in the summer, to create a front three of Brian Rodriguez, Mandzukic, and Vela. Philly can be glad they’re not going against that on Saturday.

Despite Loss to Norwich, Manchester City STILL Odds-On Favorites to Win Premier League

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Raise your hand if you saw that coming!

Manchester City lost at Norwich today 3-2. Over on DraftKings Sportsbook NJ, Norwich was +1500 underdogs.

Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey (left) and Sam Byram celebrate at the final whistle after the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

Unlike when they drew Tottenham, City actually deserved to drop points today. They committed several individual errors. xG favored City but not by an unreasonable amount (1.74 Norwich to 2.34 City). As a whole, Norwich’s players performed better.

After five games, City are now five points (!!!) behind Liverpool. When most of us saw the 2019-20 Premier League schedule, consensus opinion was that City would coast until they traveled to Anfield in November. Suddenly, City’s match at Anfield may be an absolute must-win for their title hopes.

City are still favorites…because why?

Over at FanDuel Sportsbook, City are still ODDS-ON FAVORITES to win the Premier League, though not as heavily as previously.

Manchester City -180 Liverpool +140 Tottenham +3200


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Why?

FiveThirtyEight probability models have them even with Liverpool.

Liverpool have won 14 straight Premier League games (tied for 4th all-time). They’re the fifth based team EVER based on ClubElo. They’re reigning European champs. Um, they’re FIVE CLEAR of City already.

City very clearly missed Aymeric Laporte today. The backline is not the same without him. Laporte will potentially miss the remaining 2019-20 campaign. With razor thin margins for error (remember, Liverpool were 11 millimeters from winning the EPL last season), Laporte being out may be the difference in this year’s title race.

Liverpool definitely miss Alisson, but he’s coming back next month and Adrian is holding down the fort just fine for now.

Regardless, despite appearances before the season began, we most certainly have a title race. Despite what oddsmakers say, it is Liverpool’s to lose.

Manchester United Player Ratings vs Leicester City (Matchday 5)

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Manchester United (-125) hosts Leicester City (+350) in a crucial Premier League fixture at Old Trafford. The Red Devils started the game brightly and after an early scare, took the lead through Marcus Rashford’s penalty in the 8th minute. It was a very tight first-half, with Leicester also having some promising shots on goal. 

The Foxes dominated the second-half looking for the equalizer, but United defended well as a unit to see through an important win to start off September on a high. Here are the Player Ratings for the day.

Manchester United Player Ratings

Manager

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (6.5) –

Despite having very little options with all the injuries, Ole did well to shape his side to survive the onslaught throughout the game. Seems to have his back-line well set-up and must be boosted by De Gea’s heroics.

However, needs improvement in attacking transitions as well as integrating some of his own striker’s instincts into Rashford. Good substitutions to kill the game as well.

Goalkeeper

David de Gea (7.0) –

DDG pulls off a fantastic save off his leg Maddison early on to bail out his defenders. Pulls off another stunner to tip off Chilwell’s powerhouse before the half-hour mark. A vintage performance from United’s number 1, who seems here to stay after allegedly signing a new contract recently. 

Defenders

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (6.5) –

Despite being presumably not 100%, but AWB still maintains the defensive vigour. Made one crucial clearance early on. Had Old Trafford purring by not stopping Chilwell in his tracks after the hour mark.

AWB got his defensive moves tuned late on, making numberous interceptions and challenges to keep his side safe. Sill needs to get final delivery right going forward. 

Harry Maguire (7.0) –  

Perhaps the nerves are getting early to the former Leicester man, as he uncharestically botches a clear headed clearance to compromise De Gea. However, grew a thick skin after that. Making thumping clearances, forward passes while also keeping Vardy quiet so far.  Outpaced by him in the 49th, but lucky to see it resulting in nothing. 

Showcases mad composure to stop a dangerous counter-attack afterwards. Almost scores a dream goal in the 56th, but sees his header saved. Pulls off another crucial interception in the 63rd.  A commanding performance to prove why United were so desperate for him. 

Victor Lindelof (7.0)-

Looks shaky early on, letting Maddison beat him to an early shot on goal. Did improve his concentration going forward, mirroring Maguire to keep Vardy at bay. 

The Iceman showed nerves of steel as the going got harder, making last-ditch tackles as well as clearances to keep his side’s clean-sheet in tact. Developing a solid partnership with Maguire as well.

Ashley Young (6.5) –  

Young’s been pretty good with some passes forward from the back. Grown to be frustrated with some looped balls forward, but doing decent defensive work to make up. Experienced showcase to get the job done. 

Midfielders

Nemanja Matic(5.5) –

In his first start this season, Matic is almost like an invisible passenger so far. Barely making tackles nor showing any urgency. He’s too slow to work in OGS’ side. Rightfully substituted in the 68th after a poor showing. 

Scott McTominay (7.0) –

Looks more authoritative with his approach. McTominay’s made some clever penetrative passes and regained possession multiple times to frustrate Leicester. Confident with clearing set-pieces as well. Got Maddison booked int he 72th with a clever touch.  A strong, matured performance from the youngster to prove why he’s here to stay in the starting XI. 

Andreas Pereira (6.5) –

The Brazilian proves his set-piece prowess with a thunderous early free-kick rocking Schmeichel. Much smarter with his movement and link-up play today. Seems to be enjoying a feisty battle with Chilwell. Had the perfect chance to round up a curler in the 72nd but his poor touch cost him. Did have a shot on target later on, but was too weak to beat Schmeichel. A definite improvement after being invisible at Southampton. 

Forwards

Marcus Rashford (7.0) –

Rashford puts his penalty nightmare to bed. Phew! Composed penalty which he won cleverly with a nice dash fooling Soyuncu. Looks to be enjoying himself, darting past defenders and rattling Soyuncu.  Kept quiet after that but woke up in the 83rd when his pitch-perfect free-kick unluckily struck the post.

Still must improve his aerial ability as well as getting in promising areas inside the box.

Daniel James (6.0) – 

James continues his bright spark, winning an early free-kick with an electric cut-in. His burst of acceleration is thrilling, but no final product so far.  Lit up in the 50th, swooping past his man and taking a shot which thundered just over. Got booked late on for a clumsy challenge. Subbed after running his socks off. 

Juan Mata (5.5)

Mata just doesn’t seem to have his link-up style on today. Not connecting as well with Rashford nor James as he normally does. Made a clever run inside the box in the 51st, before forcing a strong save off Schmeichel.  However, he was outmuscled and outwitted apart from that, forcing OGS to sub him off. 

Substitutions

Fred (6.5)- 

The Brazilian made his first appearance of the season and seemed energized by winning the ball off Pereira before creating a decent chance which was skied in the 72nd. 

Tahith Chong(6.5)- 

The youngster was sharp with his movement, buzzing past Pereira on multiple occasions. Must start in the mid-week Europa League match.

Axel Tuanzebe(N/A) –

Did well to help keep the clean-sheet and get the win.

MAN OF THE MATCH

So I’m a bit tied up with this one as McTominay, Maguire and Lindelof were all solid, but I’ll give it to the Maguire for keeping his former side quiet in such a big, personal game for him.

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Newcastle United (Matchday 5)

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The 2019-20 Premier League season is back after the September international break. Liverpool hosts the first match, as Newcastle United visit Anfield. The Reds sit atop the table at 100%.

Surprisingly, manager Jurgen Klopp only rotated two regulars out of the line-up: captain Jordan Henderson and 2019-20 MVP so far, Roberto Firmino. Here’s how Liverpool lined up.

Liverpool went down 1-0 in the 7th minute after a brilliant Jetro Willems strike. After that, they were on their front foot. Liverpool utterly dominated possession as Newcastle parked the bus. Sadio Mane leveled the game in the 28th and put the Reds ahead in the 37th. At half-time, Liverpool had 81% possession and 10 shots on goal (3 on target) to Newcastle’s 2/1. 

It wasn’t just that Liverpool was dominating possession, they were dominating it in Newcastle’s half / third. That’s usually is a recipe for success. 

(NOT SELFISH) Mohamed Salah added another brilliant link-up goal in the second half and Liverpool cruised to a 3-1 win. The Reds now have 14 wins in a row, tied for 4th best in Premier League history. So yeah, this is in play now:

 

Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (7) – Opted to only rotate out Henderson and Firmino. Coming out of the international break and with two important matches next week, we expected maybe Fabinho and either / or TAA or Robbo resting as well. Wisely subbed Firmino in for Origi, who had an instant impact. And he gave Shaqiri some run finally.

This was a game where the defense really drove the offense. Lots of building and attacking from the back. It’s a good plan for success for this team.

Goalkeeper

Adrian (6) – Nothing he could do on the Jetro Willems opener. Not much to do after that. The goal was the only shot on target he faced. 

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arnold (6) – Could’ve played Willems tighter on the opening goal. Gave him enough space in the box to get  a quality shot off. 

Servicing was on point though. Tightened up defensively in second half.

Virgil van Dijk (7) – Good showing. Got his big noggin on some headers that didn’t convert, but still had three shots on goal. Tidy on defense. Successfully completed an absurd 96% of his passes.

Joel Matip (8) – Another strong performance. Matip continues to slightly out-play VVD, which is just insane. Got a shot off. Won 12 (!!!) aerials. Made three tackles. Just a boss. 

Andy Robertson (8) – Hasn’t looked 100% this season but was back to his full-throttled booming self today. Actually led the team in touches today with 143, so he was very involved in all aspects of the game. This is the Robbo we need the rest of the campaign.

Midfielders

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (7) – Ox looks back to normal. Playing with great pace and confidence. Classic Ox sequence in the 11th minute, cutting through Newcastle to drive a shot that went just wide. Subbed out in the 75th for James Milner. An encouraging outing. 

Fabinho (6) – Should’ve rested this game. Was fine. Fewer touches than normal but completed a bunch of short passes (93% success rate).

Georginio Wijnaldum (6) – Got off a couple of quality shots. Better than the more anonymous performances he had in August. Klopp needs to let Gini be more aggressive / offensive. He’s better in a more advanced role. Subbed out in the 84th for Shaqiri. 

Forwards

Divock Origi (5.5) – Had some opportunities but couldn’t find the magic of LITERALLY CONVERTING EVERYTHING like last year. Went out in the 37th minute due to injury.

Sadio Mane (9) – First goal was a great, confident finish.

Second goal was just the tenacity of wanting a goal.

No temper tantrums either today, so that’s a win!🙌

Mohamed Salah (8) – At times felt like a “last season” Salah performance, with lots of effort but little results. That all changed in the 72nd minute. Salah linked up with Firmino who beautifully back flicked it to Mo as he continued his run and waltzed into the box for a goal. Just gorgeous. 

Selfish tho.🙄

Substitutions

Roberto Firmino (9) – Came on for Origi in the 37th. Instant impact, threading the through ball to Mane for the second goal. His back-flick pass to Salah was just awesome. Everyone is in love with Bobby this season.

James Milner (NR) – Came on for Ox to help shut Newcastle down. 

Xherdan Shaqiri (NR) – Late sub but good to see him on the pitch finally. Too late to make an impact though.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Almost permanantly want to start giving this to Bobby, but Mane scored two critical goals when Liverpool really needed them. Sadio gets it today.

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