By AYDEN REYHAN
While MLS takes centerstage in North America, Europe promises a weekend of soccer that promises both league and cup action.
The FA Cup takes centerstage this weekend as Liverpool take on Blackburn Rovers while Aston Villa and West Brom collide after Villa’s victory midweek. In addition, Tottenham faces off with Queen Park Rangers in Premier League action.
In Spain, Atletico Madrid hosts Valencia in La Liga with the hosts looking to protect or build on their one-point lead ahead of their visitors, who sit right behind them in fourth.
Elsewhere, Napoli hosts Inter Milan, Schalke plays Hoffenheim with a two-point lead ahead in the Bundesliga standings and Ligue 1-leading Lyon visits Montpellier.
Here is an overall look at the action from the top five European leagues that is coming up this weekend: Continue reading
By RYAN TOLMICH
Paul Scholes captured 11 league titles in his career, and now the former Manchester United midfielder has criticized Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil for his pereceived lack of desire to do the same.
Scholes says that Ozil took the “easy option” in joining Arsenal from Real Madrid, while adding that the German has underperformed due to Arsenal’s lack of true leadership on the field.
“Over the years, the big players who were really ambitious – Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fàbregas, Robin van Persie – have all left,” wrote Scholes in the Independent. “They left for the simple reason that Arsenal are not in it to win league titles any more. Those players have realised that if they want to win championships then they have to move elsewhere.
“It’s why I think Mesut Özil took the easy option joining Arsenal. Since he has been there you cannot doubt his quality but at times he looks like he is going through the motions, however much ground he covers. He needs a leader around him to get him going. At Real Madrid he had a chance of winning league titles. At Arsenal that is not on the cards.”
Here are some more news and notes to kick off your Friday morning:
By DAN KARELL
With several starters being rested, another player stepped up to record a man-of-the-match performance for the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team.
In the third match of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Honduras, the U.S. U-17s routed Guatemala U-17s, 4-1, with winger Josh Perez scoring a first half hat-trick to lead the USA. The win keeps the U.S. atop Group A with nine points.
Even with seven changes in the starting lineup from their last match, the U.S. U-17s needed only 10 minutes to get on the scoreboard.
When taking a free kick from the right side of the field, the left-footed Perez noticed Guatemala goalkeeper Gilder Lemus was off his line. Perez then curled an effort towards the near post that snuck just past Lemus for a goal.
By IVES GALARCEP
With the MLS Players Union and league officials agreeing on a new CBA, and a strike being averted, it’s time to continue previewing the 2015 MLS season on the latest episode of The SBI Show.
Episode 195 of The SBI Show looked back at the CBA deal, which left fans excited, but many players unhappy with the deal eventually settled on. We discuss the gains earned by the players, and the risks included in the deal.
Co-host Garrett Cleverly and I also provide our Western Conference preview, as we both rank the teams in the West.
SBI senior writer Franco Panizo joins us as we all make our predictions for the 2015 season’s MLS awards and MLS Cup winner.
Give Episode 195 of The SBI Show a listen after the jump:
Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
Following lengthy negotiations that threatened to derail the start of the season, Major League Soccer is set to kick off this weekend with the LA Galaxy looking poised to defend their crown.
Despite the loss of Landon Donovan, the Galaxy look to be the frontrunners once again due to the strike partnership of Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes. However, with a constantly improving Western Conference nipping at their heels, the Galaxy will have to really work to maintain their status atop the league.
The Seattle Sounders are once again poised to chase the ever-elusive MLS Cup following last season’s double, while the New England Revolution, Columbus Crew, D.C. United and Toronto FC appear to have title aspirations coming out of the East.
Elsewhere, the league has plenty of teams jockeying go take that next step into contention, while newcomers Orlando City and New York City FC will prove to be wild cards heading into their inaugural MLS campaigns.
With so many teams adding pieces from top to bottom, ordering them heading into 2015 was surely a challenge, but here is how the staff at SBI Soccer sees things shaking out this season.
Here is a look at the SBI MLS Preseason Power Rankings:
By FRANCO PANIZO
For Brad Guzan and Aston Villa, tapping into their most recent performance is what it is all about this weekend.
Aston Villa is set to continue its FA Cup title chase on Saturday when it hosts fellow English Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion, and the Villans are hoping to replicate the outing and result that they enjoyed earlier this week. Aston Villa welcomed the Baggies in a league match on Tuesday, and picked up a 2-1 victory that ended a long winless streak in the Premier League that dated back to early December. A second win in five days would push Guzan and the Villans into the semifinals of the FA Cup, and that’s an achievement they could sorely use given how dire things have been recently.
Danny Williams is the other American still alive in the competition, and a place in the semifinals will also be on the line for him on Saturday. Williams and Reading will visit Bradford City in a match-up that will pit two lower-division clubs against one another, and the match is sure to be intense as both teams try to keep their respective Cinderella story alive. While League One’s Bradford City might have homefield advantage, Reading has the better squad on paper and many observes are expecting the Royals to advance in the tournament.
If you’re wondering what other match might be worth watching, look no further than the Eredivisie duel between FC Utrecht and AZ Alkmaar on Sunday. The match could pit attacking talents Rubio Rubin and Aron Johannsson against one another, but Rubin must snap a spell of inactivity at Utrecht in for that to happen. Rubin has not played in a league match since Feb. 15, and will be keen on ending that streak in front of his club’s home fans at Stadion Galgenwaard.
Here is who the Americans Abroad rumble with this weekend: