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Chops

Chops

Chops is the executive producer of High Press Soccer. He's an unabashed Liverpool fan who will absolutely let that bias seep into his reporting and analysis.

Champions League Group E: Why Today Is Most Important Day for Liverpool, Red Bull Salzburg, and Napoli

Chops October 23, 2019

The second half of 2019-20 UEFA Champions League matchday 3 group games begin at 12:55pm ET today.

This season’s “Group of Death”–Group E–features three teams ranked in the top 14 of FiveThirtyEight’s Global Club Rankings (ClubElo agrees as well, with all three in the top 19). This will be a tightly bunched group at the top with razor thin margins separating who advances. The match-ups today between Genk vs Liverpool and Red Bull Salzburg vs Napoli have particular weight to the eventual group outcomes.

Here’s why.

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Napoli’s away draw to Genk opened the group up

Thanks to a BS call against Andy Robertson leading to a late penalty and win, Napoli took firm control of Group E on matchday 1. All they needed to do was hold serve at home and manage a win at Genk.

That didn’t happen. They drew 0-0 at Genk.

While oddsmakers still have Napoli heavily favored (-1000!!!) to advance out of Group E with Liverpool (-2500), that all could change quickly if Red Bull Salzburg (+285) take care of business at home. Amazingly, RBS and Napoli are basically even according to oddsmakers in this match.

The line: Red Bull Salzburg +145 | Draw +275 | Napoli +170

To be fair, the line is more or less in line with FiveThirtyEight’s match probability.

However, Napoli has not been very good on the road in Europe the past 14 months. They’ve won exactly 0 of 4 away games in Champions League competition. They won 1 of 3 away games in the Europa League after that.

Also! They played Red Bull Salzburg in the Round of 16 in the Europa League last March. They lost 3-1 away to a not-as-strong-as-they-are-today RBS side. And that match didn’t have an Academy Award winning halftime speech from Jesse Marshe either (NSFW).

Both squads know how important this match is, because…

…Nine points probably gets you out of the group

Last season’s “Group of Death” also contained Liverpool and Napoli. Here’s how it ended up:

Nine points is a pretty good delineation marker for advancing to Champions League knockout rounds. In the past three UCLs, only twice has a team with less than 9 points advanced (Benfica with 8 in ’16-17, Lyon with 8 last year).

In a group with three legit teams, 9 points and you’re probably good (unless you’re Napoli last year). 10 and you’re golden.

If Liverpool win at Genk, they’ll get to 6 points. Liverpool will win at Anfield against Genk, which gets them to 9. From there, it’s just an away draw at RBS or draw at home vs Napoli and they’re 100% advancing.

So for RBS and Napoli, this match really is everything. If Red Bull win and move to 6 points, Napoli may find themselves in a painfully close third place finish for the second year in a row.

Too bad a Zlatan to Napoli transfer can’t happen sooner.

Biggest Ballon D’or Finalist Snubs

Chops October 23, 2019

Yesterday, the 30 male and 20 female Ballon D’or finalists were named in an excruciatingly and unnecessarily long announcement process.

Seven (!!!) Liverpool players were named. Only one player in the entire Bundesliga was named (!!!).

So yes, there are some things out of whack. With that in mind, here’s a look at the biggest Ballon D’or snubs for both the men and women’s finalists.

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Ballon D’or finalists (men)

But first! Here’s a list of the 30 men finalists.

  2019 Ballon D'or Finalists  
Virgil van DijkMohamed SalahSadio ManeGeorginio WijnaldumAlisson
Trent Alexander-ArnoldRoberto FirminoLionel MessiCristiano RonaldoKylian Mbappe
Raheem SterlingKevin De BruyneRiyad MahrezBernardo SilvaSergio Aguero
Antoine GriezmannPierre-Emerick Aubameyang Karim Benzema Frenkie De Jong Matthijs de Ligt
Joao Felix Eden Hazard Kalidou Koulibaly Robert Lewandowski Hugo Lloris
Marquinhos Son Heung-Min Dusan Tadic Marc-Andre ter Stegen Donny van de Beek

Pleasant surprises here include non-de Jong and de Ligt Ajax players (Donny van de Beek and Dusan Tadic) and defenders (Kalidou Koulibaly and Trent Alexander-Arnold).

Ballon D’or finalists (women)

Here are the 20 women finalists.

 2019 Ballon D'or FinalistsFemale 
Alex MorganMegan RapinoeSam KerrTobin Heath
Lucy Bronze Rose Lavelle Ada Hegerberg Amandine Henry
Nilla Fischer Sofia Jakobsson Kosovare Asllani Dzsenifer Marozsan
MartaPernille Harder Lieke Martens Sarah Bouhaddi
Vivianne Miedema Wendie Renard Sari van Veenendaal Ellen White

Ballon D’or biggest snubs (men)

So who’s missing from the list? There’s actually not too many.

For someone to be snubbed, that means someone else is clearly not as deserving. We’ll get to that in a minute. The snubs are:

  • Andy Robertson, Liverpool: As important as his wing-back mate Trent Alexander-Arnold to Liverpool’s success. He had 13 assists across all competitions and was regarded as the best left-back in Europe by season’s end. Also captain’s Scotland’s national team.
  • Ederson, Manchester City: Played all EPL and UCL games for Manchester City and gave up only 1 more domestic goal than Alisson.
  • Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortumnd: The Bundesliga is criminally under-represented on the list. Sancho was the best player on the second best team in the league. He also made the Three Lions national squad. Also, the Bundesliga has fewer representatives (1!!!) than Ligue Ugh! How is that possible?
  • Luis Suarez, Barcelona: In an off-year, he tallied 21 La Liga goals and six assists. But it’s the press who votes and he’s not likable to them.
  • Hakim Ziyech: Ridiculous he’s not on the list. 16 goals and 13 assists in the Eredivisie and a total John Wick’ing of all UCL opponents.
  • Memphis Depay: He was awesome for Lyon (10 & 10). He did great in the UCL. And he was a rock for the Netherlands.

So who gets bumped for these six?

  • Hugo Lloris, Tottenham: Underrated as a goalie for sure. But Ederson was better.
  • Gini Wijnaldum, Liverpool: See, I’m not a total Liverpool homer! While Gini was a driving force for Dutch international success, Robbo was more vital to Liverpool’s overall success.
  • Marquinhos, PSG: If the Bundesliga only gets 1 finalist, how does Ligue Ugh have more? It’s basically MLS with one super elite all-star squad. Defending Ligue 1 talent isn’t the same as doing it day-in, day-out in La Liga or the Premier League. That was highlighted in the UCL, as Marquinhos’ overall performance dropped against Liverpool, Napoli and Man U. Give this spot to Depay.
  • Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City: When healthy, I think KdB is the best player in the Premier League and top 5 in the world. He wasn’t very healthy last season. Ziyech was healthy had more of an impact.
  • Riyad Mahrez, Manchester City: Caveat: I think Mahrez will be deserving of a top 30 selection after this season. He was more of a bit player for City last season. Would you really rather have Mahrez over Suarez?
  • Karim Benzema, Real Madrid: This one hurts as I think Benzema is underrated. But his stats were no different than Suarez’s. He didn’t play internationally. And game-to-game Sancho had more of an overall impact.

Ballon D’or biggest snubs (women)

This one is more or less on point. Or better put: it’s harder to make a case for removal of some over others. The couple of notable snubs would be:

  • Lindsay Horan, Thorns / USA: Third in the NWSL in goals in 2018 (13) and more or less the best central midfielder in the world. She’d get the nod over Tobin Heath.
  • Eugénie Le Sommer, Lyon / France: Thin margins here but Le Sommer had an equal impact at Lyon as her teammate Dzsenifer Marozsan. She accomplished more at the international level too.

 

Genk vs Liverpool Champions League Match Preview

Chops October 21, 2019

Who: Genk vs Liverpool
When: Wednesday, October 223rd @ 3:00pm ET
LineGenk +800 | Draw +550 | Liverpool -360

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The road has been unkind to Liverpool in the Champions League group stage of late.

Last season, they lost all of their group stage games (including to Red Star Belgrade!). This season, they were on their way to a draw at Napoli before a ridiculous penalty was called against Andy Robertson in the box.

So Liverpool can’t win away from Anfield then, right?

Nah. They won 17 straight domestic games until this weekend. And in 2017-18 they had a +17 goal differential and no losses in the group stage. They’ll be fine.

Genk vs Liverpool match preview

First, for the majority of our readers, it’s probably worth spending a few sentences on the following: Who is Genk?

Genk play in the Belgium first division (same as Club Brugge). They’re currently seventh in the table.

Their Global Club Rank puts them as the 109th best squad in the world. For comparison’s sake, Norwich is 104th and LAFC is 111th.

If Liverpool faced Norwich or LAFC away, you’d think they’d win comfortable, right?

Genk are a compact defensive squad. Their best players (Carlos Cuesta, Sander Berge, Joakim Maehle, Jhon Lucmi, gk Gaetan Coucke) are all defensive contributors (Berge at DMC being the fulcrum).

If they’re going to score, it’ll either be from a set piece or in open play from Mbwana Samatta. You maybe saw some tweets recently about Samatta being the first Tanzanian to score in the Champions League. Of the team’s 15 domestic league goals this season, Samatta has 5 of them.

Those 15 domestic goals are the lowest of any Belgium team in the top 7. Genk don’t score. That’s their problem.

Genk vs Napoli shows Liverpool a worst case scenario

Napoli is a close approximation to Liverpool. At home, Genk held Napoli to a 0-0 draw. That result flipped the group odds to Liverpool’s favor.

The stats in that match more or less will mirror Liverpool’s on Wednesday. Napoli had 63% possession. They outshot the Belgiums 18 to 14. Napoli were just wildly unlucky.

The Italians hit the woodwork early. Coucke came up with some huge saves and was bailed out with a goal-line clearance from his defense once.

Napoli should’ve won.

Mo Salah injury update and impact

According to Jurgen Klopp, Mohamed Salah wasn’t “close” to playing against Manchester United. Given this is the Reds most forgiving UCL away match, I’d expect Salah to sit it out too.

This is an obvious problem for Liverpool. While Roberto Firmino (when “on”) is the most important player on the Reds, Salah is still the best.

It was evident on Sunday against Manchester United. Salah’s gravitational pull on other defenders opens up opportunities that simply don’t exist without him. It was most apparent on Sadio Mane, who had exactly zero shots on goal (to be fair, he scored a goal that was ruled off due to a BS handball VAR review, but moving on…).

No Salah, less shots. The Genk vs Napoli match from a personnel perspective actually becomes a closer approximation of how this should go.

Genk will park the bus and Liverpool will have to break them down

Even with Genk’s solid defensive work, Napoli still managed 18 shots on goal. They were massively unlucky to not see one find the back of the net.

The strategy here isn’t complicated. Genk will park the bus. They’ll ride the tide of emotion from their home crowd and play aggressive and with purpose. They’ll try to contain and frustrate Liverpool while being opportunistic on a counter or set piece. Genk will be playing for a draw.

Prediction

Just can’t see Genk scoring on Liverpool. They don’t have enough offensive weaponry. Klopp will look to add some defensive composure by inserting James Milner in the line-up. Divock Origi will get a start, having an inspired performance against his home country crowd. Liverpool find a goal or two and win this 2-0.

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Manchester United – Liverpool Remain Unbeaten

Chops October 20, 2019

Editor’s Note: Come back throughout the Manchester United vs Liverpool match for updated player ratings. 

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Here we are! The marquee match-up (in brands only) of Premier League matchday 9.

Interesting set-up by Ole Gunnar Solskjær today. He opts for a 3-4-3 with Ashley Young and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the midfield flanks. Expect a heavy heat map up Trent Alexander-Arnold’s side against Young.

So…other than one brilliant run, TAA hasn’t exploited that side much. If you look at the first half heat map, most of the attack is from Robbo’s flank. However…Man U spending more time in Liverpool’s half. The 1-0 half-time lead, while aided by VAR, is also deserved. 

In the second half, it was all United. Klopp made substitution and formation changes that didn’t work…until it did!

Naby Keita (!!!) came on late and hockey assisted Andy Robertson to Adam Lallana for the equalizer.

Statistically, Liverpool were the better side. They had 68% possession and 10 shots / 4 on target to 7 / 2. But Man U looked better for large stretches. What you notice with Mo Salah’s absense though is how his gravitational pull impacts Liverpool’s attack. His ability to draw defenders creates shot-making opportunities that were lacking today (only 10 shots).

Check out the heat map at the end of the game. Crazy.

At the end of the day, Liverpool have been somewhat lucky this season. Man U had been unlucky. It all evened out today. Liverpool escapes with a 1-1 draw to remain unbeaten and six clear of City. 

Finally, special credit given to Daniel James. That’s one tough bugger. 

Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (6) – Rests Mo Salah which is understandable when you’re facing a bottom-half club and have a Champions League match mid-week.

So…Klopp is usually solid at half-time adjustments but we look worse after the half. He opts to sub Origi off in the 60th minute, but Divock has been among the better players. Why not Henderson? Klopp clearly irritated and not pulling the right strings today. Shifts tactically to a 4-3-1-2 with Gini as a #10 and Mane and Bobby up top. Interesting. See if that works. 

Nope. With the sub of Lallana for Hendo, Klopp moves to a 4-4-2.

Then subs off one of our better big game players in Gini for our worst player in Keita🤦‍♂️ and shifts to a 4-2-3-1. Lots of changing there.

AND GENIUS!

Keita plays a key role in the Lallana equalizer. Brilliant.

Goalkeeper

Alisson (5) – Welcome back! This is the perfect match against an offensively challenged, average-at-best opponent to ease Alisson back in. Looks a little rusty early, bobbling an easy ball on ground and some confidence-lacking distribution. Nothing he could do on the goal, left to dry.

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arnold (6) – First real drive up the flank with a brilliantly paced run in the 15th minute. More lively in second half. Ambitious strike at end of regulation to take lead just misses.

Virgil van Dijk (5) – Some poor early defending, leaving a gap for Man U to exploit. Rashford got the best of him in a phsyical showdown in the 21st. Came up big to clear a gorgeous AWB cross in the 28th. We should buy AWB. Terrible casualness jogging to goal on the Rashford opener. 

Joel Matip (6) – The PFA Player of the Month is back in after missing some time with a minor knock. Solid defending early. Poor defending on Rashford opener. Must get body on it. Otherwise solid.

Andy Robertson (7.5) – Should be an interesting match-up with AWB all over him. Wonderful defending on set piece in 10th minute to block and clear out a threat. Gets the assist on the Lallana goal. Best of the backline today.

Midfielders

Jordan Henderson (4) – Having what would be described as a “Bad Gini” first half of anonymous and sometimes reckless play. Off for Lallana in the 71st. Poor display.

Fabinho (6.5) – These white kits make Fabinho pop out more on the pitch for some reason. Anyway, perfectly positioned in opening minutes to clear a dangerous cross in the box. Continually stealing Fred’s lunch money. However, earned another yellow on a [wise] challenge on a James penetration. 

Georginio Wijnaldum (6.5) – Gini always looks best in a more front-footed role. He’s feeling confident from his international break brace as he ambitiously goes for goal in the 13th. Great footwork and calm under pressure today. I bet Gini gets our first goal today.

Nevermind, goes silent in second half and subbed off for Keita.

Forwards

Roberto Firmino (4) – Looks way off early. Heavy heavy touches. Utterly rec league muffing of a shot in the 10th. Should’ve been more clinical on finish in 34th minute. Have to put those away. Couldn’t link up at all. Worst domestic showing of season.

Sadio Mane (7) – Odd sequence in 18th minute. Received ball from Firmino in the box and instead of challenging the two defenders or making a clear pass back to Henderson, just stood with it until closed out and passed further back to TAA. However, showing GREAT physicality today. Great ball in to Firmino in 34th that should’ve been a goal with a better finish. 

Utterly robbed of goal by VAR review by Atkinson. Awful reffing. 

Liked what I saw today. Lots of fight. However, minus the incorrectly called handball goal, he registered zero xG for the day. Need more offensively. Again, shows how Salah opens things up for him.

Divock Origi (6) – Gets the start over a resting Mo Salah. Shows great physicality early. Unjustly yanked early in second half for Ox. 

Substitutions

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (7) – Came in 60th minute for Origi. Almost nets winner on great strike outside the box in stoppage.

Adam Lallana (7) – On for Henderson in the 71st. Gets the equalizer! Well done, Lallana. 

Naby Keita (NR) – First appearance of season, on for Gini. Plays key role in Lallana equalizer. Looked lively.

MAN OF THE MATCH

While over the course of 90, Robbo was our best player today…Lallana deserves it for netting the equalizer and looking solid throughout. 

Mauricio Pochettino Is an Elite Manager. Tottenham Should Sack Mauricio Pochettino.

Chops October 19, 2019

Yes, Mauricio Pochettino is an elite manager. And yes, Tottenham needs to sack Mauricio Pochettino.

These two things don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

The fact that Spurs achieved a draw today at home to Watford, the 20th team in the table, shouldn’t overshadow the larger problem. On the heels of yet another embarrassing showing, Spurs may need to make the uncomfortable decision and get rid of their elite manager.

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Tottenham lucky to draw Watford 1-1

Watford should’ve won this game. They had their chances.

Watford didn’t have a player today who can finish a sentence. Quique Sánchez Flores needs to line his squad up old school style in a single-file line and just shoot at the goal in practice all week. That was rec league quality finishing. They were also very unlucky, with two VAR decisions going against them.

Regardless, Watford looked the better side moving forward for all but the final 10 minutes today. Watford, who started the day at the bottom of the table. Watford, who started the day with a -16 goal differential and were playing Spurs AWAY. Look at the shot chart. Note that about half of those Spurs chances came in the final 10 minutes.

The understat timing chart shows how Watford were the steadier club in creating chances over the course of 90 minutes.

Other than Son Heung-min (constant threat) and an occasional burst from Harry Winks, Spurs were lifeless. Spurs were out-hustled. At home. To Watford.

Yes, that falls on the player’s shoulders. But it also falls on Poch, who has clearly lost the ability to inspire his side.

This is only amplified when you look at Spurs’ contemporaries today who are also challenging for Champions League qualification.

Leicester went down at home early to Burnley. Brendan Rodgers got the Foxes to dig deep and pull out a 2-1 win.

Chelsea were 0-0 at home late against Newcastle. Frank Lampard subbed in Christian Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic and boom, goal and 1-0 win.

Poch simply isn’t pulling those strings and inspiring those responses. Spurs did manage to pull a draw out today thanks to one moment of semi-brilliance from Dele Alli. However, for 75-80 minutes, Spurs were DOA.

The burst Spurs showed at the end was more a display of how unorganized they are. They were not composed. Alli was fortunate that his goal wasn’t ruled a handball. The entire squad’s frustration showed at the end as they nearly started a brawl. With Watford. At home.

This isn’t an aberration

Spurs have been poor domestically all of 2019. They’re a literal last second comeback against Ajax in the UCL semis from this “Should Poch really be sacked?” conversation from being more of a “POCH SHOULD BE SACKED!” conversation.

Sometimes managers lose their way with a squad. It happens to the best of them.

Spurs should move on. They have the talent to still finish top 4.

Poch should move on. He’ll be the #1 choice of every major club looking for a new manager (we’re looking at you, Manchester United).

Not all divorces are a bad thing.

Here’s A List of Coaches Jay Berhalter Could’ve Hired Instead of His Brother Gregg

Chops October 17, 2019

Current USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter was under-qualified for the job. He was a year ago, and still is today. He got the job singularly and solely because his older brother, Jay Berhalter, is the #2 or #3 (depending on who you ask) at USSF.

As like with most nepotistic hires, this isn’t going well. And it’s not getting better.

How did we get here?

The original ESPN story about Berhalter’s hiring is making the rounds again after the USMNT laid another 💩, losing to Canada 2-0 in the CONCACAF Nations League. Especially getting attention is the farce of a “coaching search” leading to the hire of Gregg Berhalter that wasted a year of crucial player development:

This is a top down problem. Yes, it starts with the impotent powers that be at US Soccer. But this lack of progress falls squarely on Gregg Berhalter’s slender shoulder. From pulling Christian Pulisic out in the 60th minute on Tuesday night to his sleepy sideline demeanor, lack of urgency, and inability to read the room (like in the below vid), Berhalter is doing himself no favors.

 

If US Soccer really is focused on fielding the best national program it can, then a coaching search should happen immediately.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen.

Since it might be awhile until Berhalter gets sacked, let’s take a look at all of the coaches our national team could’ve hired instead. Prepare to be maddened.

Coaches the USMNT could’ve had instead of Gregg Berhalter

WARNING: This only gets more aggravating the more that you read.

WhoQualifications at the timeWhy wasn't he hired?What's he done since?
Gregg Berhalter- Played professionally in Europe for 15 years, including with Crystal Palace
- 44 national team caps
- 38% winning average as coach
- Won MLS Cup as player for LA Galaxy
- No trophies or honors as coach
- He was hired. By his brother. - Lost to Venezuela, Mexico (2x), Jamaica, and Canada with no wins of note
Jesse Marsch- Princeton
- 14-year MLS career (321 games)
- 3-time MLS Cup winner as player
- 3-time US Open Cup winner as player
- USMNT player (2 caps)
- USMNT assistant coach
- All-time winningest New York Red Bulls coach
- Led Red Bulls to Supporters Shield
- Not Jay Berhalter's brother
- Also, wasn't interviewed 🤷‍♀️
- Took over Red Bull Salzburg in Austrian Bundesliga
- Improved RBS to the 14th best squad in the world per 538 Global Club Rankings
- First American manager to EVER win a Champions League match
- Almost overcame 3-0 deficit against UCL champs Liverpool AT ANFIELD
Tata Martino- Distinguished 20+ year coaching career
- Coached a little never-heard-of-before club called BARCELONA
- Led Barcelona to a 20-game unbeaten streak
- Built Atlanta United to MLS's most successful new franchise
- Won MLS Cup in 2018
- Heavy experience at national level with Paraguay and Argentina
- MLS Coach of the Year in 2018
- Not Jay Berhalter's brother
- Martino had a "lack of proficiency in English" which clearly held him back at ATLUTD (?!)
- Not Jay Berhalter's brother
- Also, wasn't interviewed 🤷‍♀️
- Took over Mexico's national team
- Mexico has lost once in 15 matches since he took over
- Mexico has not lost to the US once since he took over
Peter Vermes- Imagine Gregg Berhalter, just slightly more successful
- 14 years as a player internationally and domestically
- 66 caps (11 goals)
- 1988 US Soccer Athlete of the YEar
- MLS Defender of the Year
- Soccer Hall of Famer
- Coach of Sporting KC since 2009, with one MLS Cup and three US Open trophies
- Not Jay Berhalter's brother
- Also, wasn't interviewed 🤷‍♀️
- Continues being a more successful MLS coach than Berhalter ever was
Tab Ramos- 14 year playing career internationally (Real Betis) and domestically
- 81 national caps, 8 goals
- Won the 2017 CONCACAF U20 title
- Current head coach of the U20 team
- Not Jay Berhalter's brother
- Also, wasn't interviewed 🤷‍♀️
- Just plugging along
Julen Lopetegui- Played for Real Madrid and Barcelona
- Coached Real Madrid
- Coached Spain's national team
- Lifetime 61% winning record is almost double Berhalter
- Won U19 & U21 championships with Spain (i.e. HE CAN DEVELOP YOUNG PLAYERS)
- THEY DIDN'T EVEN RETURN HIS CALL! HE INQUIRED!
- Not Jay Berhalter's brother
- Also, wasn't interviewed 🤷‍♀️
- Took over at Sevilla, who will likely qualify for the Champions League

Other than Tab Ramos, is there one coach on that list who wasn’t clearly more qualified than Berhalter?

But we’re kind of stuck with Berhalter, right?

Yeah, basically.

Berhalter has no titles or trophies as a manager. Not in MLS. Not internationally. In MLS, he’s not even a 50% manager. Ultimately, the results he’s getting shouldn’t be surprising. It’s the results he’s been getting his entire career.

But Berhalter, for better or for worse, is going to be the manager until US Soccer decides that the way they approach everything right now is broken. Berhalter is bang average at best, but he’s far from the only problem. The problems run deep up the ranks of the US Soccer men’s program.

In a year when the USWNT dominated play on the field and headlines off of it, is there a more fitting whimper for the men’s program to end their season with than by losing to Canada 2-0?

If you love US soccer and you’re not outraged, you should be. There is enough talent to be competitive. This isn’t about the players. It’s the about the coach and a wayward national program.

Gregg Berhalter Yet Again Shows He Was the Wrong Hire for USMNT: Canada 2-0 Upset of US

Chops October 16, 2019

Here we are again, friends. Barely a month since the last disappointment. Another match, another opportunity for Gregg Berhalter to show he wasn’t the right hire for the USMNT.

Canada hasn’t beaten the US in 34 years. 1985. Until tonight. Canada beat the US 2-0 in the CONCACAF Nations League.

How is this a surprise?

Is anyone truly surprised that an unqualified nepotistic hire isn’t working out for the US?(

Berhalter changes his styles and tactics as much as he changes his outfit. Every match, it’s the same sweater and collared shirt. Every game, it’s the same tired shit from the US.

When asked after the match by Sebastian Salazar what his thoughts were, Berhalter declared with the emotion of someone who just woke from a nap that he was, “Disappointed we didn’t match what Canada was bringing.”

Berhalter is the disappointment

Consider the following:

  • Canada outshot the US 9 (5 on target) to 7 (3 on target)
  • Canada defeated the US for the first time since RONALD REAGAN WAS PRESIDENT
  • Sergino Dest looked at guaranteed playing time for the US vs not even a promise of playing time with the Dutch and said, “Yeah, I’m good. I’ll sit this out.”
  • Berhalter alienated his best player, Christian Pulisic, and the best player in the history of the US men’s program, by yanking him off the pitch after one hour

How’d that last one go?

 

Steffen, Long show up and shine

Even though the rest of the US team was lifeless and unorganized, credit must be given to Zack Steffen and Aaron Long. Both showed up big tonight. Too bad their manager couldn’t put the team in a position for success.

Manchester United vs Liverpool Matchday 9 Preview (Liverpool Edition)

Chops October 13, 2019

Who: Manchester United vs Liverpool
When: Sunday, October 20th @ 11:30am ET
LineManchester United +340 | Draw +310 | Liverpool -137

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For many reasons, the biggest game in next weekend’s Premier League slate is Manchester United vs Liverpool.

If United get smashed, is  Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s job in jeopardy? Can Liverpool tie the Premier League record for most consecutive wins? Will Harry Maguire ball up in a fetal position while deeply sobbing over his knucklehead decision to leave Leicester for Man U?

Despite the massive disparity in talent, I don’t expect Manchester United to come out flat. This games means a lot to them. OGS has the entire international break to get their tactics right and implement a strategy. Liverpool have shown casualness lately that can be exploited.

This will be fight.

Manchester United vs Liverpool Preview

First, let’s start with this: a lot has been made of Manchester United’s xG and xPTS this season. Here’s the EPL table adjusted by xPTS:

Manchester United have been soooo unlucky, amirite? And boy, Liverpool sure do have a horseshoe up their ass, don’t they!

No. Not necessarily.

Liverpool have elite finishers. Manchester United do not. Hence the over and under performing xGs, holmes.

Part of United’s scoring issues revolve around their shot selection. They’re the anti-Red Bull Salzburg. They’re not creating easy chances within the 18 yard box.

Throwing out the anomaly of their first match against Chelsea, Man U’s most similar opponents to Liverpool this season have been Arsenal (1-1 draw) and Leicester (1-0 win).

Against Arsenal, they took 3 shots from within 18 yards. Against Leicester, they had 4 from within 18. One of those was from the spot, which Marcus Rashford converted for the win.

Liverpool’s shot charts…look…much…different.

Occasionally, Scott McTominay creates a moment of brilliance and scores from outside the 18. More often though, Scott McTominay doesn’t get a shot on target.

Liverpool dribble into the attacking third more. They complete more passes in the attacking third. And they finish more of those chances.

Sometimes, it’s not any more complicated than that.

Prediction

Manchester United will put up a fight. Could even see them rallied by a boisterous Old Trafford crowd and scoring the first goal of the game. But as soon as Liverpool scores, the crowd, the players, and OGS’ sphincter will tighten. Liverpool will come away with a 3-1 type win and tie Manchester City’s consecutive win streak of 18 matches.

Checking In: How Are Christian Pulisic and Other USMNT Players Doing in Europe This Season?

Chops October 11, 2019

The CONCACAF Nations League is underway. On Friday, the USMNT play Cuba. Next week, they’ll play Canada.

While the squad will be missing Ajax regular Sergino Dest (possibly forever), most of the other major US squad members currently playing in Europe were called up this go-around.

Let’s check in on how they’re progressing this season.

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Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

Stats: 5 games (3 starts) in Premier League, 287 minutes, 0 goals & 2 assists, 6.73 WhoScored

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Christian Pulisic’s playing time at Chelsea.

Pulisic has fallen out of favor with manager Frank Lampard for a variety of reasons, none of which are panic-button-inducing (yet).

Just like last season at Borussia Dortmund when Jadon Sancho’s emergence (along with a series of injuries) knocked Pulisic from regular starting XI duties, this season sees the American ceding time to stars new and old. Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have emerged as Chelsea’s best players.  Jorginho, Willian and Pedro all deserve minutes. Pulisic has not been bad at all. He’s just been bang average so far.

If the constant pressure and questions about playing time don’t break him down, he’ll emerge from this stronger.

Also Read: Three Things Christian Pulisic Can Do to Start at Chelsea 

Zack Steffen, Fortuna Duesseldorf

Stats: 7 games in Bundesliga, 630 minutes, 1 clean sheet, 7.17 WhoScored

Zack Steffen is on loan from Manchester City to Fortuna Duesseldorf in the Bundesliga.

City rarely whiff on well-known prospects, and they clearly saw something in Steffen. Until last week, he was statistically the best goalkeeper in all of Europe. He’s been the best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga for the past month.

Nobody is displacing Ederson or his giant neck tattoo at City any time soon. Don’t be surprised if Steffen is old to a big club this summer.

Matt Miazga, Reading

Stats: 6 games in English Championship (2nd division), 462 minutes, 6.88 WhoScored

Matt Miazga has been pretty solid for relegation candidate Reading this season.

While still prone to the occasional lapses in concentration, Miazga gets it done on the pitch. He’s been a monster winning aerials (over 5 per game) and on clearances (5.3 per game). Miazga is Reading’s best defensive player this season. He’s the best center-back option on Berhalter’s squad (yes, over Aaron Long).

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle

Stats: 2 games (1 start) in Premier League, 106 minutes, 6.59 WhoScored

‘Member him?

DeAndre Yedlin is only 26 but seems like he’s been around forever now. It also seems like he’s been injured forever.

Coming back again from injury, Yedlin is just re-integrating into his Newscastle squad. He’s a physically solid and focused player when fit and should be the starting right-back for the USMNT. At 26, he’s in his prime the next year or two. For his sake and the USMNT, let’s hope he stays healthy.

Tim Ream, Fulham

Stats: 10 games in Championship, 900 minutes, 6.68 WhoScored

At 32, Tim Ream actually has been around forever.

The left-back has been solid though not “Matt Miazga solid” for Championship side Fulham. What he lacks in traditional defensive metrics like tackles won, aerials, and clearances he makes up for with his build-from-the-back qualities.

Regardless, it would be odd (or a poor testament to upcoming US defensive talent) for Ream to earn starter minutes through this next Olympics and World Cup cycle.

Weston McKennie, Schalke 04

Stats: 7 games (5 starts) in Bundesliga, 504 minutes, 6.59 WhoScored

The book on Weston McKennie isn’t complicated. Start him at defensive center-mid and he’ll shine. Start him elsewhere and he’ll disappoint.

He’s performed at bordering on elite-esque levels in his three starts at defensive center-mid for Schalke. When put in a more attacking role, he hasn’t been comfortable.

Given his proclivity at dark defensive arts, it’d be interesting to see Berhalter give McKennie some center-back minutes.  Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco tried McKennie there with positive results. However, that level of experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking isn’t Berhalter’s forte.

Tyler Boyd, Besiktas

Stats: 5 games (4 starts) in Turkey’s Super Lig, 267 minutes, 6.14 WhoScored

No way to sugar coat this one: Tyler Boyd hasn’t been that good for Besiktas (i.e. Loris Karius’s club) this season.

He’s contributed nothing offensively. No goals. No assists. Less than one shot per game. Just .2 key passes per game.

Not all of this is entirely his fault. The 24 year-old hasn’t played one match in the same position this season. It’s hard to build continuity and chemistry when you’re constantly shifted around the pitch.

Boyd definably does one thing well: finish. He’ll need help from his teammates getting him the ball in blocks of space where he can rip shots off. Otherwise, he doesn’t add much right now.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen

Stats: 6 games (4 starts) in Bundesliga, 352 minutes, 1 goal & 1 assist, 6.62 WhoScored

Josh Sargent is 19. He’s (sometimes) starting as a center-forward for a mid-table Bundesliga squad. These things are all positives.

While he’s only scored one domestic goal this season, it was a dazzler.

Berhalter should start Sargent up top both Nations League friendly matches. Sargent is the striker of the future (for now) for the USMNT. Especially if Jozy Altitore is injured, Sargent is the best option.

Of course, Berhalter will start Gyasi Zardes instead.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig

We’d be remiss not to mention one of the most promising of the entire bunch, Tyler Adams.

The 20 year-old RB Leipzig stand-out has been injured since May (he won’t be participating in the Nations League). However, it sounds like he’s set for a return at the end of this month.

Adams posted impressive numbers after moving to the Bundesliga last season. He could prove to be the compliment needed to unlock Pulisic, Sargent et al during this cycle.

Liverpool Are Premier League Title Favorites! And Checking In On USMNT Abroad Players on the High Press Soccer Podcast

Chops October 7, 2019

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The latest High Press Soccer Podcast is up! Play it below or subscribe and download from the Apple Podcast Center.

Chops is joined by Tyler Everett. Discussed in this episode:

  • Eibar! Manchester City 💩 the bed.
  • Liverpool as Premier League favorites!
  • Leicester is good!
  • After transferring from Leicester to Manchester United, would you trust Harry Maguire to make any decision for you?
  • How bad is Manchester United and how long will it really take to turn it around?
  • Is Antoine Griezmann going to be the odd man out at Barcelona?
  • Sergino Dest dissing Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT.
  • Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea problems.

Listen to “High Press Soccer Podcast Episode 31: Liverpool are Premier League favorites! And checking in on USMNT internationals” on Spreaker.

Liverpool Are Now Odds-On Favorites to Win Premier League

Chops October 7, 2019

Well, it only took a UEFA Champions League title, 17 straight domestic wins, 25 straight domestic games without a loss, and going 8 points clear of  Manchester City after just 8 games, but Liverpool are odds-on favorites to win the Premier League.

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Liverpool Premier League Title Odds

After Liverpool beat a solid Leicester team 2-1 in front of a sold-out and boisterous Anfield crowd on Saturday, and City laid an 0-2 💩 to Wolves in front of a lifeless Etihad crowd, oddsmakers have given the Reds the edge for their first EPL crown.

Here are the odds as of October 6th:

Liverpool -150 Manchester City +130 Chelsea +8000

Every other team is +10000 or more.

Liverpool Premier League Title Probabilities

Liverpool also are listed as title favorites for the first time all season on FiveThirtyEight.

Basically, odds and probabilities for Liverpool and City flipped from Friday until today.

Amazingly, Manchester United are still given 15% probability of UCL qualification. Even more amazingly, Crystal Palace (!!!) have a 6% shot.

Where to Bet the Premier League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Leicester (October 5, 2019): 17 Wins in a Row!

Chops October 5, 2019

This is the first match of the Premier League season that just feels big. Leicester are rising. Liverpool have won 16 domestic games in a row. Let’s get right into it. Here are the Liverpool vs Leicester player ratings.

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But First!

What a game! Liverpool dominated in large stretches, but Leicester began figuring it out right around the 78th minute when Klopp made his substitutes. Ayoze Perez’s addition for Leicester particularly tilted the game towards the Foxes. 

Mane’s goal to go up 1-0 was brilliant. James Maddion’s equalizer further proves why we should buy him this summer. James Milner burying the penalty in stoppage was clutch. 

We called this a 2-1 Liverpool win and it was. Liverpool deserved the win. While possession was even, Liverpool got 18 shots (8 on target) to Leicester’s 2 and 1. Liverpool were a bit unlucky as well, with 3.75 xG to Leicester’s .1. 

This game will be remembered if Liverpool win the Premier League this season. It’s 17 in a row, one off the record.

Lastly, this:

 

Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (7) – Was wise to start Lovren, who he should’ve given the nod to against Red Bull Salzburg. Also wise to site Henderson for Milner. The subs were made at the right time. Still needs to tighten up the backline though. Defending too sloppy.

Goalkeeper

Adrian (6.5) – Not much to do in the first half. Did well coming off his line to stop Vardy. Made an all-world save on what was ultimately a Leicester off-sides. Could’ve gotten a hand on Maddison’s shot but it was tricky. 

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arndold (7) – Offensively poor, defensively solid. Service off today. But was our best defender of the day and actually led the lads in possession.

Virgil van Dijk (5.5) – VVD needs to find his 2018-19 form, stat. Wasn’t bad by any means but not the monster he has been. 

Dejan Lovren (7) – Welcome back to the starting XI! I think people forget how not-terrible Lovren can be. Actually thought he was better than van Dijk today. Good on tackles (winning 2), aerials (4 clearances). No real mistakes. Well done. 👏

Andy Robertson (7) – Constant menace. Offensively and defensively was everywhere. Needed to bury that 1vs1 in second half. Really like seeing him going for goal more though. 

Midfielders

James Milner (8) – Earned the start over Hendo and no complaints. His left-footed curling assist to Mane on the opener was all-world. Cooley buried his penalty despite Schmeichel’s gamemanship. 

Fabinho (6) – Solid but not spectacular. Felt he needed to get more involved after Ayoze came in. 

Georginio Wijnaldum (6.5) – This was a “Good Gini” game. Played more on front-foot. Appreciate the ambition of how he went for goal in the 71st. Liverpool fans recognized it too on his exit for Henderson in the 78th.

Forwards

Roberto Firmino (6) – Another match where he might’ve played one pass too many, got too cute. Good on the ball and penetrating though. Rightfully came off in the 78th minute for Origi. 

Sadio Mane (8) – Mane was freaking awesome today. He was Firmino-esque in his tracking back and defensive contributions. His opening goal showed a great touch (gotta give credit when it’s due) and clinical-ness. It was his 50th in the EPL. Earned the penalty in stoppage to set up the winner. 

Mohamed Salah (6) – Habit of dribbling into defenders continues. Too many heavy passes.  Like Firmino, good penetration on dribbles. Five shots, a little unlucky to not score even though not all shots were quality. However, he grinded all game and had the crap beat out of him, especially in the 89th with a cheap shot. Had to come off in stoppage. 

Substitutions

Jordan Henderson (NR) – One for Gini in the 78th minute. Was a bully and strong defensively.

Divock Origi (7) – On for Bobby in the 78th minute. Brilliant touch and run that set up the penalty for Mane. 

Adam Lallana (NR) – Late addition after Salah had to go off. 

MAN OF THE MATCH

This was all wrapped up for Mane until Milner buried his pk. Mane and Milner were involved in both goals today though. They both earn Man of the Match honors today. 

Liverpool vs Leicester Premier League Matchday 8 Preview

Chops October 4, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Leicester City
When: Saturday, October 5th @ 10:00am ET
LineLiverpool -230 | Draw +360 | Leicester +650

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UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect Alisson’s potential availability and Joel Matip’s continued absence. 

The marquee match-up on the Premier League matchday 8 slate is Liverpool vs Leicester.

As you’re well aware, Liverpool are perfect this season, sitting atop the table with an impressive 7-0-0 record. Leicester is third with a less impressive 4-2-1 record and +8 goal differential.

Liverpool were challenged at Anfield on Wednesday in their Champions League group stage match by a potent and fearless Red Bull Salzburg squad. The Reds squandered a 3-0 lead with an entitled, sloppy, casual performance. They still made it out with a 4-3 win, but Jurgen Klopp was given plenty of mistakes/material to keep his team motivated.

For Reds fans, the hope is they learn from that experience as opposed to being satisfied with another win and feeling of invincibility.

Liverpool vs Leicester match preview

Since the start of the 2019 calendar year, Leicester have very easily been the third best team in the Premier League. Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is maximizing the talent of the squad. They play excellent, possession-based football. By any measurement, they’re one of the 20 best teams in the world (20th and rapidly rising on FiveThirtyEight, 22nd and rising on ClubElo, and 12th best performing squad on WhoScored).

It’s utterly hilarious Harry Maguire left Leicester for a more poorly managed organization and less talented team in Manchester United.

Leicester are king powered offensively by a pair of 22 year-old future Liverpool midfielders (kidding, kidding 🙄) in James Maddison and Wilfred Ndidi as well as by the ageless Jamie Vardy. The 32 year-old Vardy is having a second-wind under Rodgers, scoring 5 goals in 7 games. Playing all 630 minutes so far of this campaign at center-forward, Vardy is on track for his best statistical season since the 2015-16 championship year.

This is in part due to the excellent job that Maddison, Ndidi on the pivot, and Youri Tielemans do in unleashing Vardy for quality chances. Amazingly, Vardy’s 5 goals have come off just 13 shots (1.9 SpG). All three of Liverpool’s attacking force of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino average more per game.

Defensively, the Foxes are tight and organized. They’re tied with Liverpool [until Saturday evening that is] for fewest goals conceded this season (5). Ricardo Pereira is challenging Andy Robertson for “best left-back in England” status. Çaglar Söyüncü and Jonny Evans have formed an effective duo that leaves the Foxes not missing Harry Maguire at all (seriously, they’re both rated higher than him as of today, utterly hilarious).

While everyone’s favorite Danish goalkeep Kasper Schmeichel has only kept two clean sheets to date, he’s also not given up more than one goal in any game.

As for the Reds…

Even though Liverpool played Wednesday, don’t expect much squad rotations. However, Jordan Henderson probably should and will be given a breather, with either James Milner or more likely Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earning the start.

The Reds will not have Joel Matip back for this one, as Klopp announced on Friday that he’s out. Joe Gomez didn’t look up to speed just yet against RBS, and it seems like Virgil van Dijk plays better when paired with Matip. So that’s a major knock for the squad. Van Dijk will need to be in top form (which he was not on Wednesday) to stifle the Vardy threat.

Alisson is back in training and Klopp said he looks great, but it’d be surprising if he earns the start. Adrian has filled in just fine minus one or two near-gaffes.

And so, expect the regular Reds XI, save for Matip’s injury and Hendo likely sitting.

Tactically, don’t expect Liverpool to make any adjustments from what they did Wednesday or having been doing all year. They’ll attack up the flanks. They’ll press the hell out of Leicester and hope that leads to a bit of magic from Bobby-Mo-Mane. It’s the same recipe for success. They just need to defend better, which they were completely too careless doing on Wednesday.

Prediction

Rodgers is a bit more of a shape-shifter than he’s given credit for, but Leicester won’t change what’s working for them here. Look for the Foxes to aggressively force turnovers and create their chances off counters.

The big concern for Liverpool is if Jurgen Klopp doesn’t get his defense tightened up, Leicester could go up early and sit on the lead. They’re excellent at closing out games.

But Liverpool should be motivated from their Red Bull Salzburg performance. I read in places how Wednesday was like watching the 2017-18 season all over again. I couldn’t disagree more. Liverpool were starting Alberto Moreno and (god love him) Dejan Lovren early on then. Their defensive quality is massively upgraded. Liverpool’s problem Wednesday was arrogance and entitlement.

They know Leicester shouldn’t be taken lightly. They’ll get the defense fixed.

Expect Liverpool to be a bit more clinical in their finishing. One less cute pass, one more emphatic finish.

Oddsmakers believe this will most likely be a 2-0 or 2-1 Liverpool win. I agree. This feels like a game where Liverpool pulls out a 2-1 hard-fought victory to remain 100% for the season.

 

 

 

Why Isn’t Sergino Dest on the USMNT Nations League Roster? Because He Chose Not to Be On It

Chops October 2, 2019

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter announced his CONCACAF Nations League roster today.

Sergino Dest was not on it.

And according to the Washington Post, Dest chose not to be on it to keep his “options open.”

If you don’t view this as an indictment on Berhalter and the direction of the men’s program, you’re kidding yourself.

What Gregg Berhalter said about Dest

Berhalter commented on the Dest omission to USSoccer.com:

“I understand there is going to be a lot of attention surrounding the availability of Sergiño in this next camp. I’ve had conversations with Sergiño, the conversations were positive, and the content of these conversations is going to remain private.”

Fair enough. And that’s certainly one way to spin it.

The other way to spin it though is this: Dest, a talented 18 year-old playing for powerhouse Ajax, is a dual national. He’s eligible to play for the US and Netherlands. After experiencing a rough go of it with the USMNT during the previous international break, Dest doesn’t have faith in Berhalter or the program.

And we don’t blame him for that one bit.

Is Dest worth the fuss?

Yes and no.

While Dest is playing for Ajax, he’s statistically towards the bottom of the roster. And he was mostly poor for the US in the humiliating 3-0 loss to Mexico.

But, he’s 18. He frequently shows flashes of elite talent. He’s a player you want to grow up with the Pulisics, Westons and Sargents.

This is a blow delivered across Berhalter’s bow.

USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 61/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 16/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 8/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 13/2), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 10/0), Matt Miazga (Reading/ENG; 17/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 36/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 59/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 11/2)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 150/17), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 11/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 15/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 32/13), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 16/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 20/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 3/0)

FORWARDS (7): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 115/42), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 28/5), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 4/0), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas/TUR; 7/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 35/6), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 9/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 53/10)

Is Mauricio Pochettino Going to be Sacked? Tottenham’s 2019 as a Whole Is Terrible

Chops October 2, 2019

What a difference four months makes.

On June 1st of this year, Tottenham Hotspur lost the UEFA Champions League final to Liverpool. For Spurs, the loss was more or less expected. Liverpool had just finished the third best season in Premier League history. They had something to prove, making the finals the year before and losing to Real Madrid. They were on their way to being the fifth best squad of all time.

For Spurs, overcoming a 3-0 aggregate deficit to Ajax in 45 minutes and just making the final was a victory. However, it showed progress as to how far the club had climbed among Europe’s elite.

Most notably, all hailed Spurs’ manager Mauricio Pochettino as one of the best managers in the world. He was making chicken salad out of chicken shit. Lemonade out of lemons. Champions League finalists out of Champions League fodder.

And then…

Tottenham was humiliated at home by Bayern Munich on Tuesday. The 7-2 loss will be remembered for ages. That’s a score that leaves a mark.

And Pochettino has gone from Tottenham savior to sack candidate.

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Mauricio Pochettino sack odds

Depending where you look, Pochettino is anywhere from +1000 to +200 of being the next Premier League manager leave his post. He’s moved ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Roy Hodgson, and Marco Silva.

FFS, he’s even moved ahead of Steve Bruce!

This was unfathomable just four months ago today. But that’s how it goes. It’s not unique to European soccer in the sports world either (Dwane Casey is nodding his head in approval).

The reality is, Spurs haven’t been good all year. And much of that falls on Poch’s shoulders.

Tottenham’s terrible 2019

Across all competitions (not including friendlies), Tottenham’s 2019 record is 17-5-17.

17-5-17!!!

While it’s unfair to compare them to Liverpool (16 straight domestic wins) and Manchester City (FFP violating club whose fans don’t even come to Champions League games), it is fair to compare Spurs to other Premier League clubs during this time.

On record, Tottenham is essentially a mid-table team over the course of 2019. Their goal differential is more in line with a top 6-8.

While last season’s Champions League run covered up domestic mediocrity, this year’s awful UCL start is shining a big bright light on it.

Pochettino is a great manager. But the reality is he’s going to end up leaving Spurs, likely sooner than later, with no trophies and a club that was exactly how he found it when he took over: in the Europa League.

 

 

 

Liverpool vs Red Bull Salzburg Champions League Preview

Chops October 1, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Red Bull Salzburg
When: Wednesday, October 2nd @ 03:00pm ET
LineLiverpool -335 | Draw +480 | Red Bull Salzburg +800

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UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect Joel Matip’s injury.

Liverpool. Champions of Europe. Winner of 16 straight Premier League games. 7-0-0 perfect start to their domestic season.

Yet, third place in their UEFA Champions League group after losing 2-0 to Napoli.

The Reds face Group E leader Red Bull Salzburg at Anfield on Wednesday. Led by future Liverpool forward ERLING BRAUT HALAND, Salzburg pasted Genk 6-2 in their opening match.

Despite their placement atop Group E and being able to angrily shout, “tordifferential als fick, y’all,” Salzburg are far from favorites not just to win their bracket but to advance at all. On DraftKings Sportsbook NJ, Napoli are inexplicably odds-on to advance at -1000. Liverpool follow at -835. Red Bull Salzburg, who currently lead the group and have a +4 goal differential, are +900 to win and +200 to advance. 

The real Group of Death will get thrown into chaos with anything other than a Liverpool victory. Here’s a match preview.

Liverpool vs Red Bull Salzburg Likely Starting XI’s

Well, the elephant in the room here is whether Haland will be ready to play. He’s battling through an illness and missed RBS’ weekend match. I think the safe money though is Haland finds his way on to the pitch. No doubt Jurgen Klopp is preparing for that.

Klopp would’ve almost certainly rolled out his preferred starting XI of Adrian, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah. However, Joel Matip reportedly will be held out due to a minor knock. I’d expect to see Dejan Lovren get the call over Joe Gomez, especially if Haland does play. Klopp has shown he prefers experience on big European nights, and Lovren has the size to match-up with Haland.

There’s a chance James Milner nudges Gini out of the line-up, especially as his defensive work will be needed in the midfield for this match (more so with Matip out). However, with Wijnaldum delivering the decisive goal against Sheffield United this weekend, it feels more likely Klopp rewards him with another start.

For Red Bull Salzburg, look for them to deploy a 4-2-2-2 with an XI of Cican Stankovic, Rasmus Kristensen, Andre Ramalho, Max Wober, Andreas Ulmer, Dominik Szoboszlai, Zlatko Junuzovic, Patson Daka, Takumi Minamino, Hwang Hee-Chan and Erling Braut Haland.

Liverpool vs Red Bull Salzburg Champions League Match Preview

RBS’ American manager Jesse Marsch is one the brightest up-and-comers in soccer. For two seasons now Napoli has provided a template to beat Liverpool. Marsch is studying it. The question is: does he have the right parts to execute the same tactical approach? In short: yes and no.

RBS will not sit back and park the bus at Anfield. They’ll be on their front foot and take it to Liverpool just as Napoli did.

Haland has already thrown the guantlet down, saying his squad will be “fearless.” While the narrative is that RBS is too young to be scared, the reality is their composition is similar to Ajax’s last season. Yes, there is a ton of young talent that will be plucked by Europe’s elite. However, they have enough veterans to (in theory) help provide composure.

RBS is a fluid team that will create most of their shots from open play with good build up through short, precise passing. They don’t just boom the ball up to Haland and ask him to make things happen. That wouldn’t work against Liverpool anyway.  As massive as Haland is, he’s never had to deal with VVD. He can’t bully van Dijk and Lovren (though maybe Gomez) off the ball. RBS isn’t a strong aerial team, so crosses (which they don’t attempt a lot of anyway) won’t work.

Fabinho (as is often the case) will be key here. His ability to break up the build-up play in the midfield will limit the effectiveness of RBS’ attack.

RBS play smart. They build up and take high percentage shots from inside the box. That’s usually a recipe for success. That’s harder when you have VVD and Fabinho disrupting those chances.

Red Bull will concede plenty of chances to Liverpool as well. Lost in the 6-2 Genk scoreline is that the Belgium side out-possessed, out-aerial’d, out-dribbled, and out-tackled the Austrians. They managed 10 shots as well. What will Liverpool at Anfield be able to generate?

Prediction

While many think this will be a high-scoring affair, I can see it going more like the UCL final against Tottenham. Expect Klopp to press the hell out of RBS early, counter, and try to get on the board quickly. From there, the Reds will defense the shit out of Red Bull and frustrate the squad, ultimately leading to an error and another goal.

This ends up a comfortable 2-0 Liverpool win.

Where to Bet Champions League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

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Liverpool Player Ratings vs MK Dons: Youngsters Shine, Milner Dominates in Carabao Cup

Chops September 26, 2019

So, I wasn’t planning on doing a player ratings piece on Liverpool today. It’s the Carabao Cup (or as we call it in the non-existent High Press Soccer offices, the Caribou Coffee Cup). It’s against Detroit-based rapper third-tier MK Dons.

But then I started watching. And some of the youngsters really stood out. As did one of the oldsters.

There was a lot to learn from this 2-0 Liverpool win. Liverpool had so much possession (80% at HT and 78% by FT) that you got a great sense what certain players could do and accomplish moving forward.

Here’s a quick recap via Liverpool’s player ratings.

Liverpool Player Ratings vs MK Dons

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (8) –  Liverpool had a heavy summer schedule. Their stars need all the breaks they can get as they ramp up into November and especially an absolutely insane December schedule. Klopp had to rotate heavily this game.

He did well with the blend of young and old. There was just enough veteran savvy to steer the young lads during the match. It was good continued re-integration for Keita, Ox and Lallana. He did well getting the top prospects on the pitch. The confidence he’s showing in them will pay massive dividends years from now.

Goalkeeper

Caoimhin Kelleher (8) – Kelleher, who looks like he’s 14 (he’s 20), was a boss. Some big saves late. Almost stepped out of the box to bring in the ball against a charging Donner that would’ve proved costly, but was safe by inches. Kid has a future.

Defenders

Ki-Jana Hoever (8.5) – Embarrassment of riches for our backline. Hoever scored on a header, becoming the fourth Liverpool defender to tally a goal this season. He was pacy dribbling. He delivered two key passes, a couple of tackles, and an interception. My #YNWA friends all appreciate Lovren and feel he’s a great locker-room guy, but there’s no way Hoever doesn’t replace him on the first team by next season.

Joe Gomez (7) – Looked better offensively than defensively but was steady and solid. Some good dribbles up field and distribution. Was moved off the ball once Sam Nombe, but also contributed three good clearances.

Dejan Lovren (7) – Aside from one concentration lapse in the first half that almost led to a goal for MK, Lovren had a good showing. A few good clearances, a timely block, and a veteran presence that was much needed. It’d serve us well to see Lovren get more time throughout the year.

James Milner (9.5) – I mean, come on. Milner is like 60 years old and often looked like the fastest player on the pitch. He was easily the best. Yes, his goal was helped by MK Dons gk Stuart Moore’s absolute howler of a save, but Milly was a threat getting up the pitch and into the box all match. He should’ve had an assist on a wonderful completed dribble into the box that Elliott couldn’t tap in to finish. He did assist on the Hoever goal.

Milner as a left-back was responsible for 11.7% of the total match possession. He had a 93% pass success rate. He won three aerials and had three clearances. Milner had the most touches in the game. He was awesome. Was fun to watch that performance. It was nearly perfect.

Midfielders

Naby Keita (4) – On the other end of the spectrum from Milner was Keita. It’s good to see him back on the field. It’s not good to see him so un-impactful. Couple shots on goal. Literally contributed nothing defensively. He was rightfully the first Red subbed off.

Adam Lallana (7) – I really liked what I saw from Lallana in that #6-Fabinho role. He did well distributing, looking a little more offensively minded with his passes than Fab. Lallana had a couple of those old school penetrating dribbles. He’s not the defensive presence that Fabinho is but this defensive center-mid role could suit him well.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6) – Physically, he was fast and lively. He had one classic Ox moment with a laser strike that hit the post. Otherwise, still hasn’t found the consistency he had pre-injury. This was another positive step though to finding his form.

Forwards

Harvey Elliott (7) – Looked very much the part of a precocious 16 year-old talent. Now, the sitter that Milner delivered that Elliott hit off the top post my 12 year-old daughter would’ve finished. To be fair, she trains to lean in and finish those properly, but my strong hunch is that Elliott does too. He was strong with the ball at his feet. Showed good poise and a proper striker mentality of not letting a bad miss impact him. Hit the woodwork a second time and was unlucky not to score. Mixed some poor decision-making on passes with some great moments. He’s 16. He’s going to be awesome.

Rhian Brewster (4) – Did he even play? High hopes to see what Brewster would accomplish this match. Disappointing end result. Three shots but contributed nothing else offensively or defensively. Long ways to go if he’s going to earn some minutes from Roberto Firmino.

Curtis Jones (7) – I haven’t been to high on Jones from the preseason but really liked what I saw today. Good footwork. Does well in the final third. Very good showing.

Substitutions

Pedro Chirivella (6) – I’m as big of a Liverpool homer there is an I was like, “wait, who are we putting in again?” Came in for Keita in the 62nd and immediately looked the better player. That’s not good for Keita.

Herbie Kane (NR) – The 20 year-old got on the field late for Ox. Did nothing.

Sepp van den Berg (NR) – Came on in stoppage but recorded his official Liverpool debut in doing so.

MAN OF THE MATCH

James Milner – Can’t say enough about Milner’s performance. That was a joy to watch.

Sheffield United vs Liverpool Matchday 7 Preview

Chops September 25, 2019

Who: Sheffield United vs Liverpool
When: Saturday, September 28th @ 07:30am ET
LineSheffield United +800 | Draw +480 | Liverpool -295

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Last season’s Premier League runner-up faces last season’s Championship League runner-up on Premier League matchday 7.

Liverpool unsurprisingly find themselves atop the table with a perfect 6-0-0 record. Sheffield United surprisingly find themselves mid-table af with 8 points, the same as Manchester United, Tottenham, and Chelsea.

Manchester City lost to recently promoted Norwich on the road just two weeks ago. Could Liverpool do the same?

No.

Sheffield United vs Liverpool Match Preview

Sheffield doesn’t score a lot. They don’t give up a lot of goals either. That’s been their mid-table recipe for success.

Of the tightly bunched teams with 8 points (and teams 1-12 right now), the Blades have the fewest goals scored at 7. They’ve only given up 6 though, same as City and Man U.

They’re strong on the counter-attack and have scored 5 of those 7 goals from open play (the other two have come from a corner and a set piece). You’d think their best shot at Liverpool then would be taking the Norwich vs City approach, play on their front foot, and take it to the Reds.

However, Norwich did just that to Liverpool and got pasted 4-1 on matchday 1.

The reality is this: Sheffield have a fairly deep and talented squad for a recently promoted team. Their squad continuity is paying off. The problem is they lack quality finishers. No player on the squad has more than one goal. Sheffield don’t have their own Teemu Pukki.

None of Sheffield’s top rated players are forwards. While a tightly organized, well-coached squad can pull positive results against bottom-feeder and mid-table clubs, they won’t cut it against the Liverpools and Citys.

The Blades play direct and boom long passes as part of their attack. Liverpool have Virgil van Dijk’s massive noggin and Joel Matip’s gazelle legs though to thwart those types of assaults. And Sheffield aren’t strong keeping possession, which Liverpool’s press will wear down over the course of 90 minutes.

As great of a story Sheffield has been so far–and they are legit, their results haven’t been fluky–this is a terrible match-up for them.

To be fair, Liverpool are a terrible match-up for everyone except Napoli apparently.

Prediction

Sheffield will certainly make Liverpool work for it. But as has been the case for almost two years now, Liverpool have too much attacking quality. They’ll break Sheffield down, gengenpress the hell out of them, and produce the one or two moments of brilliance like they always do to secure 3 points and remain 100% for the campaign.

Why Isn’t Christian Pulisic Starting for Chelsea?

Chops September 23, 2019

Another match, another Christian Pulisic no-show.

The highly-touted American didn’t manage to get on the pitch again on Sunday, sitting out Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool.

Pulisic has played in four of six Premier League matches this season, starting three. However, it’s been three matches since Pulisic has seen the field. He didn’t play last weekend vs Wolverhampton. He missed making his 2019-20 UEFA Champions League debut for Chelsea in their midweek loss to Valencia.

So why isn’t Christian Pulisic playing more?

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Frank Lampard explains why Pulisic isn’t playing

After the Liverpool loss, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard explained why Pulisic isn’t playing. The long and the short of it is: he’s not ready and Lampard has better options.

Said Lampard:

“[Pulisic] wasn’t a victim of the injuries. I’ve got a squad to pick from. Before that he had played a few games. Willian has come back in and been sharp and looked good. I decided to go with Mason [Mount] today, because we needed to stay strong in midfield and play Mason high up the pitch. That is my choice to make. He will get ample opportunities. He is a young player as well as everyone is talking about Mason and Tammy and Fikayo. He is actually as young, if not younger, than some of them. His chances will come.”

Does Pulisic deserve to be playing more?

This is the more difficult question. On one hand, when you invest the kind of money Chelsea did on him, yeah, he should be playing as much as possible.

On the other, Lampard wasn’t in charge when that acquisition was made. And while Pulisic has been just fine, Lampard does have better options.

The three best statistical performers via WhoScored for Chelsea are all 21 and under. Tammy Abraham has been one of the Premier League’s best goal scorers this season. And Mason Mount has been one of the best players, period.

Ross Barkley is the best statistical and positional comp to Pulisic, and they’ve played the same number of games (Pulisic has played more minutes though).

Keep in mind, something similar happened to Pulisic last season at Borussia Dortmund. While struggling with nagging injuries, Jadon Sancho emerged as one of the Bundesliga’s best players completely outshined the American. He drastically cut in to Pulisic’s minutes. This doesn’t make Pulisic a poor player. But it illustrates he has a ways to go and must earn all of his minutes like anybody else.

And the reality is, Pulisic is getting reasonable amounts of playing time. Lampard has an enviable task of integrating and developing a wealth of young players. If hie manages it right, it’ll pay huge dividends for Chelsea in a couple of years.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Matchday 6 Preview

Chops September 19, 2019

Who: Chelsea vs Liverpool
When: Sunday, September 22nd @ 11:30am ET
LineChelsea +275 | Draw +270 | Liverpool -105

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Liverpool and Chelsea. Two teams who inexplicably lost their opening 2019-20 UEFA Champions League matches.

Liverpool, because they got called for a totally BS, non-existent penalty on the road at Napoli. Chelsea, because they couldn’t figure out who should take — and ultimately not make — a penalty at home.

Liverpool sit atop the table in the Premier League, winning all five of their matches. They’re already five points clear of FFP violating Manchester City. Chelsea are in sixth. They’ve given up the second most goals (11) in the Premier League this season. Liverpool have scored the second most this season (15).

On paper it appears as if Liverpool should trounce Chelsea. However, games aren’t played on paper. Having said that, Liverpool will still probably trounce Chelsea.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Match Preview

These two sides played just over a month ago in Turkey for the UEFA Super Cup. That was actually one helluva close and even affair. Ending 2-2 in regulation, Liverpool ultimately won on penalties to become champions-er of Europe. Shots were even (21 for Liverpool, 20 for Chelsea), though the Reds put more on target (11 to 6). Possession and passes were a slight lean towards Liverpool.

Chelsea looked strong and confident in attack. This was arguably Christian Pulisic’s best match to date for Chelsea. Pedro and N’Golo Kante popped off the screen in that match as well.

Standouts for Liverpool were Sadio Mane and Mo Salah. However, the entire game changed when Roberto Firmino was subbed in (obv) to start the second half. He assisted on the two Mane goals and was simply brilliant, announcing to all that this will likely be his peak season.

(Read our Chelsea player ratings and Liverpool player ratings for a full recap)

All of that preamble is to say that if Frank Lampard wants a chance at a positive result on Sunday, he should follow the template of the UEFA Super Cup. Attack from the flanks, no sitting back, and take it directly to Liverpool.

Chelsea have been playing the youngest starting XI in Premier League history. That’s part of the reason they’ve been so up and down this campaign. It doesn’t help that Lampard isn’t experienced enough to handle this gig either. It all adds up to a squad that is capable of showing up big (beating Wolves 5-2 on the road) or laying a giant 💩 (losing to Valencia 1-0 at home).

Liverpool are much more cohesive and assured of who they are. They’ve been mostly consistent all season, with the exception of their Southampton match when they were noticeably gassed (it came right after the Super Cup).

Liverpool’s 2-0 loss to Napoli on Tuesday had whiffs of their UEFA Super Cup win vs Chelsea. Napoli deployed similar tactics. The only difference was Liverpool’s final product against Chelsea was better.

Sadio Mane scored two goals in the Super Cup. Mane’s touch was so heavy and poor vs Napoli it was like he grew club feet over night. Liverpool’s final product didn’t exist on Tuesday. They usually don’t go back-to-back games without finding the back of the net.

Prediction

Chelsea are saying they’ll take out their Champions League frustrations against Liverpool. That’s adorable. It’s like when a puppy is frustrated you won’t play with it any more and gets a chew toy and shakes and growls with it in its mouth.

Liverpool will be taking out their frustrations as well, just in a more calm and composed manner. Jurgen Klopp will rotate Gini Wijnaldum back into the XI most likely and roll with his most trusted line-up. Liverpool know every single point matters if they’re going to win the Premier League this season. They will not play for a draw like they did too often in big matches last campaign.

Expect a lively first 20 minutes from Chelsea. Maybe they even slip one past Liverpool. As the game goes on, Liverpool will break Chelsea down mentally. Fabinho will boss the midfield and thwart Chelsea attacks. Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip will contain Tammy Abraham. Look for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has made more key passes from open play this season (12) than anyone in the Premier League, and Andy Robertson to really drive the attack.

Liverpool end up with a 2-1 / 3-1 road win.

Where to Bet Premier Leauge in the US

In the US, you can legally bet the Champions League online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook

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