MLS Fantasy 2016: What you need to succeed

By Jamie Dawe

Every year the MLS Fantasy minefield blows up anyone who hasn’t fully considered their team selection or their formation. Many people watch their team slide down the leaderboard for the first month while they helplessly panic behind their computer screens. However, there are a few key things you ought to know before you set up your team for this year’s competition.

The New Rules

There are now only 16 players on your roster (rather than 18), but each team still has the same $120.0 budget, meaning you can fill your side with more stars than ever in 2016.

Points are now scored for players who suffer four fouls in a game, for every 35 passes that are completed with 85% accuracy and also for every four shots taken in a game. In addition, defenders and defensive midfielders can score points for clearances, interceptions, tackles and blocks. This will make players like Osvaldo Alonso ($8.5) and Matias Laba ($7.5) even more attractive propositions.

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The Roster

Having two goalkeepers gives you room to have a week-in-week-out starting goalkeeper and also a young up-and-coming ‘keeper who may get game time later in the season. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than $11.0 of your budget on the two goalkeeper positions.

Having five defenders gives you the opportunity to splash out on a back five if you’re the kind of manager who likes banking on reliable centre-backs who rack up clean sheets, interceptions and the odd headed goal. Many prefer to use just three defenders, with attacking full-backs becoming increasingly popular too.

The limit of five midfielders now means that building a successful five-man midfield is significantly harder to achieve. However, the increased budget per player could mean that a spend of $45.0 on your midfield may not be terminal.

Four strikers gives you the chance to have at least one low priced striker to make room elsewhere for a big golden boot challenger. Cheap options like Dominic Oduro ($7.5) and Tesho Akindele ($7.5) could become great investments for the season.

The Formation

There’s only one formation I can recommend for the first weeks of the fantasy season and that’s a 3-5-2. In the unpredictable and occasionally maddening league which is Major League Soccer, the only position you can truly rely on is that of the central midfielder. Regardless of the match, quality of the team or the scoreline – passing bonuses are sure to be gained and so I see players like Dax McCarty ($9.0) and Tony Tchani ($8.0) as safe bets for early points. You could also try a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 if one of your strikers/defenders is likely to play in a midfield role. In my view, any other formation would be complete anarchism before the tone for the season has been set.

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The Must Haves

The increased budget per player has opened up teams to have three or four massive stars in their starting XI. This is why players like last year’s top points scorer Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5) are definitely worth having in your team for the start of the season. Another player along these lines is Ethan Finlay ($10.5), who will also benefit from the new passing bonus points.

However, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive players are always going to be the highest scoring. Strikers like Innocent Emeghara ($9.0) and Maximiliano Urruti ($8.5) are sure to get more playing time this season and they are both proven goalscorers. In defence, Dallas’ No. 1 Jesse Gonzalez ($6.0) might be worth an investment as FC Dallas have four home games in their first six. This home start makes Zach Loyd ($7.5) a steal at this value. On the cheaper side, Josh Saunders ($5.0) may suddenly have a less porous defensive line in front of him as NYCFC have dramatically bolstered their defensive options this offseason. Four home games in the first five won’t hurt either.

The Risks

A few players picked in this year’s SuperDraft may go straight into the starting lineup of some MLS sides. For example, Joshua Yaro ($6.0) and Brandon Vincent ($5.0) are bound to get plenty of playing time. Jordan Morris ($8.5) joining Seattle Sounders was possibly the biggest deal of the offseason and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll hit the ground running, or whether he’ll take more time to progress. The Colorado Rapids’ biggest offseason signing was Shkelzen Gashi ($9.0), who had been the top scorer in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Whether he can single-handedly turn around the Rapids’ dreadful scoring record, I don’t know. The Rapids also have talented defender/midfielder Marlon Hairston ($5.0) returning from injury, but he might not be thrown straight back into the Starting XI from the outset.

The No-No’s

DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid ($6.0) will be out for at least the first three months of the season and should be ignored. MLS Cup winners Portland have a new left back in Chris Klute ($7.0) but he could easily miss the first games of the season with a knee injury. Nigel De Jong ($9.0) is a new presence in the LA Galaxy midfield, but he is not known for his scoring exploits and is rather more known for racking up yellow cards, so I personally would wait and see if the new scoring system favours him. Also, for his price and his position as a forward in a fantasy squad Giovanni Dos Santos ($11.0) is probably worth a miss until he settles into his new role on the right side of in the Galaxy side.

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The Best Bench Warmers

Cameron Porter ($5.0) should gain significant value if he gets the playing time he was in line to receive before his horrific injury at the beginning of the 2015 season. Along these same lines, Andre Blake ($5.0) could be a starting ‘keeper for Philadelphia this year – and if he’s given the chance – he could become the best bargain ‘keeper in the league. Hadji Barry ($5.0) could also be given the chance to prove himself in a faster, more fluent Orlando City attack – and if he plays to his potential, his price will skyrocket very quickly.

This is just a brief overview of what can be an extremely in-depth game. However, if I were to tell you anymore of my secrets, there would be no point in picking your own team…

All I can do is wish you luck and may the fantasy force be with you!

Who do you think is an absolute must-have in MLS Fantasy 2016?

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MLS Preview and Prediction: DC United vs Philadelphia Union

Competition: Major League Soccer – DC United vs. Philadelphia Union 

Venue: RFK Stadium – Sunday, July 26 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST – Live on Sky Sports 5) 

Match Odds: DC United 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – Philadelphia Union 12/5

Match Preview

Eastern Conference leaders DC United play host to Philadelphia Union on Sunday night as DC look to return to winning ways after a run of two straight defeats.

DC United come into this game five points clear of Columbus Crew at the top of the Eastern Conference. However, their recent form hasn’t been great due to the absence of Bill Hamid. The shot-stopper has been a huge loss and his absence significantly weakens DC’s backline.

DC United’s 2015 record in MLS: P22 – W10 – D5 – L7

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Philadelphia come into this game without a win away from home all season, losing five of their last six on the road.

The Union need inspiration in the final third and with Fernando Aristeguieta a doubt for the game, they are extremely weak in the attacking department. CJ Sapong has delivered the goods on several occasions this term, with six goals in MLS, but hasn’t scored in Philly’s last three games.

Philadelphia Union’s 2015 record in MLS: P21 – W6 – D4 – L11

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This will be the third and final regular season meeting between the two this year. Philadelphia won 1-0 at PPL Park in May, before DC won 2-1 at RFK two weeks later, so it’s evenly poised heading into Sunday’s clash.

Both sides will be seeking a win as both will see weaknesses in the other, and with three very valuable points up for grabs, this should be an entertaining affair.

Team News

DC United will be without Bill Hamid as the USMNT keeper’ is recovering from hand and knee surgery. Michael Farfan, Collin Martin, Sean Franklin and Chris Pontius are all doubts. Michael Seaton is away on international duty.

Philadelphia Union’s Michael Lahoud has been deemed questionable. Fernando Aristeguieta, Eric Bird, Andrew Wenger and Richie Marquez are all doubts. Andre Blake is away on international duty.

Key Points

DC United’s last five: W/W/D/L/L

Philadelphia Union’s last five: L/W/D/W/L

Key Stat: DC have lost only once in their last 19 home matches in MLS.

Key Player: Fabian Espindola – The Argentinian striker is the standout talent in this tie, and with 5 assists in nine games, he will be the main provider for the DC attack.

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Score Prediction

DC United 2-0 Philadelphia Union – Tough to see past DC winning at RFK in this one, even without the reliable Bill Hamid between the sticks. They should prove too strong for the Union and add three more points to their tally.

CCL Preview and Prediction: DC United vs Alajuelense

Competition: CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal Second-Leg – DC United vs Alajuelense

Venue: RFK Stadium – Wednesday, March 4 – 20:00 ET (01:00AM GMT Thursday 5)

Match Odds: DC United: 17/20 – Draw: 5/2 – Alajuelense: 14/5

Match Preview

DC United face Alajuelense in the second-leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday night and need to produce something special to overturn the 5-2 defeat in the first-leg last Thursday.

The trip to Costa Rica last week was one DC United will not want to remember as they were thrashed by a relentless Alajuelense who capitalised on numerous defensive mistakes by DCU, with goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra directly at fault for two of the goals in a poor display.

Highlights from last week’s first-leg (via CONCACAF on YouTube):

Regular first-choice shot-stopper Bill Hamid didn’t even make the bench last week as he is thought to still be struggling with a shoulder injury but could return for Wednesday night’s game.

Alajuelense know that they are firmly in the driving seat and despite being the lowest seeded team in the Champions League going into the game last week, the Costa Rican club will now have one eye on the semifinals.

DC United vs Alajuelense

DC United did not justify their number one seed in last week’s game but will expect to turn things around in front of their own fans. The Black and Red need to win by at least three goals to progress, while a clean-sheet would really help their cause.

They did net two away goals but the three-goal deficit means DC need to attack from the word go on Wednesday, and that could suit Alajuelense a lot more as they will look to counter-attack.

The Costa Rican side did not have a league game at the weekend and will come into the second-leg full of energy.

Key Points

DC United’s last five in the Champions League: W/W/W/W/L

Alajuelense’s last five in the Champions League: D/W/D/D/W

Key Stat: DC United have not conceded a goal in this season’s CONCACAF Champions League at home and will hope that trend continues if they are to advance. Alajuelense have not won away from home in the competition this season.

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Key Player: Fabian Espindola – He may be suspended for the start of the 2015 MLS regular season but Espindola can participate in the Champions League and he scored in last week’s tie. He will need to lead the line perfectly if DC United are to progress.

Score Prediction

DC United 2-1 Alajuelense – DC United should win the game but reaching the semifinals of the competition after last week’s heavy defeat will be too great a challenge.

MLS 2015 Season Preview: DC United

In the build up to the new season we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what DC United will be looking to achieve this year.

DC United enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in 2014 as they finished at the top of the Eastern Conference despite being bottom of the pile the season before. Head coach Ben Olsen guided DCU to the playoffs for just the second time in seven years and he will expect to see his squad back there this season.

Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference position: 1st – P34 – W17 – D8 – L9

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What needs to change this year?

DC United don’t need to change much this year as the challenge will be trying to remain the same. They lost the fewest games in the Eastern Conference last year and ended the season on a unbeaten run of six games. Their playoff disappointment against the New York Red Bulls will still be on the minds of supporters and the key is that DCU try and remain the best side in the East.

That will be considerably more difficult in 2015 with the New England Revolution likely to be right up there again, while expansion clubs Orlando City SC and New York City FC will hope to enter MLS with a bang. The Black and Red will start the new campaign without last term’s top goalscorer Fabian Espindola, as he is suspended for the first six weeks of the new season, and it is crucial that DC United hit the ground running without last year’s talisman.

Key changes to the squad:

Ins: Markus Halsti – Defender/Midfielder, Jairo Arrieta – Forward, Dan Metzger – Midfield, Michael Farfan – Midfield

Outs: Joe Willis – Goalkeeper, Samuel Inkoom – Defender, Lewis Neal – Midfielder, Kyle Porter – Midfielder

Key player: Bill Hamid – Goalkeeper

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DC United conceded the joint-lowest goals last year as they shipped just 37 through 34 regular season games. The man that can take the majority of credit for that achievement is USMNT goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who enjoyed another excellent season and was named as MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for 2014. Hamid kept 10 clean-sheets in 30 appearances last year and will need to be at his best again this season.

One to watch: Steve Birnbaum – Defender

Another defensive star for DC United, Steve Birnbaum enjoyed a memorable debut season in MLS and he was recently rewarded for a fine campaign with a USMNT appearance against Chile. Birnbaum made 21 appearances in 2014 but will expect to be one of the first names on the team sheet this season. Expect bigger and better things from Birnbaum in 2015.

Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 6th

DC United may have been the strongest team in the Eastern Conference in 2014 but this year MLS is at its strongest ever and they will struggle to replicate their conference-winning performance this time around. If they can remain as solid defensively they will be in a strong position but teams like Orlando City and New York City will enter the league with plenty of attacking power and it will be tough to keep as many clean-sheets in 2015.

How will DC United fare in 2015?

MLS News Roundup – December 3rd

Here’s a roundup of today’s top stories from across the globe regarding Major League Soccer:

1. Bradley Wright-Phillips rewarded for great season with Designated Player contract.

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The New York Red Bulls have moved quickly to fill the void left by Thierry Henry by signing Bradley Wright-Phillips to a designated player contract in time for the 2015 season.

Read more: Bradley Wright-Phillips replaces Thierry Henry as designated player with Red Bulls

2. Bill Hamid named as MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

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The DC United shot-stopper has been named as Major League Soccer’s Goalkeeper of the Year. Bill Hamid enjoyed a great season and was also named a 2014 MLS All-Star and MLS Best-XI goalkeeper.

3. Chicago Fire make second signing in as many days by bringing in Joevin Jones.

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Chicago Fire continued to restructure their squad ahead of the next campaign by announcing the signing of Trinidad and Tobago defender Joevin Jones, just one day after securing the services of Kennedy Igboananike.

4. Pedro Morales wins MLS Newcomer of the Year award.

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Vancouver Whitecaps playmaker Pedro Morales earned the MLS Newcomer of the Year award today, beating the likes of Jermaine Jones and Stefan Ishizaki. The Chilean led the team in both goals (10) and assists (12) in 2014.

5. Yannick Djalo linked with Orlando City switch as Benfica allow him to look for new club in January.

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Benfica are looking to offload Yannick Djalo in January and Orlando City are being linked with a move for the 28-year-old who spent 2014 on loan with the San Jose Earthquakes.

5 Takeaways from the USA’s disappointing 4-1 loss to Ireland

The USMNT capped off the 2014 schedule in poor fashion, losing 4-1 to a weakened Republic of Ireland side in Dublin, making it four games without a win – the worst run of form in Jurgen Klinsmann‘s tenure.

Klinsmann has come under some pressure as a result, but the performances on the pitch are what’s costing the team at the moment, and the long rest before the next international game leaves much to work on.

Defensively, USA looked as vulnerable as they have ever been against Ireland, while they failed to capitalise on some good spells of possession at the other end.

One game (or run of games) cannot take away from what has been a remarkable year for US soccer. But the manner of the defeat tonight will leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths until the next time a ball is kicked.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Concentration levels are a major concern

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The deeply concerning trend of conceding late goals continued against Ireland as the USA let in two in the final ten minutes to put the game out of reach. Those two goals mean that the team have now conceded 11 goals in the final ten minutes in their last 11 games. Whether it’s fitness or focus, Klinsmann must address this issue urgently to ensure things change in 2015.

2. Defensive frailties are being exposed too frequently

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Klinsmann shuffled his defence once again for the game against Ireland – a fair move in a friendly as that’s ultimately what they are for, but it backfired greatly. Fabian Johnson looked better and his place in the side is not under threat. Timothy Chandler failed to impress at left-back and his chances must be running out. The major problem was in the heart of defence as Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron looked vulnerable throughout.

Besler has looked exhausted since the World Cup and needs an extended break to recover, whereas Cameron is making too many mistakes in the centre of defence and should be deployed elsewhere. The Jermaine Jones-John Brooks partnership used against Colombia looked solid and needs to be used again come next year. But things are far from certain in defence.

3. Mix Diskerud missed his time to shine

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Diskerud had the chance to impress the nation in the two friendlies but failed in both. He grabbed the goal against Ireland but that was a tap in from close range and his inability to influence the game from midfield is a worry. He is a free agent in January and has been linked with moves to MLS among other leagues. There were believed to be up to 15 scouts watching him tonight but he didn’t exactly take his chance to shine against an average Irish side.

4. Bobby Wood a bright spark

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Bobby Wood gave at least one positive to take from the game as he looked lively and energetic when brought on at halftime. He made a great chance for himself in the second-half but saw his one-on-one agonisingly saved by Shay Given. Wood looks like a player with a bright future if he can work on his finishing, and his ability to bring others into play make him a valuable member of the team going forward.

5. Bill Hamid needs more time before being handed a starting role

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The DC United goalkeeper cannot be blamed in any way for the loss, but he didn’t look as convincing as Brad Guzan does between the sticks and needs to be introduced more gradually now if he is to eventually take the starting job between the sticks. There was little he could do about the deflected goal and the wonderful free-kick, but he could have been off his line quicker for the first goal, and will be disappointed with how easily the second was scored. Hamid is the man for the future, but that is not now, and he needs time to work with the national team.

What did you make of the USA’s display against Ireland?

2014 MLS Season Review: DC United

Eastern Conference final position: 1st

Eastern Conference playoffs: Semi-Final

Best Moment

3-0 win against the reigning MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park in August, in which they were 3-0 up at halftime.

Worst Moment

Easily the recent 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls in their Eastern Conference semi-final first-leg. DC failed to score and left themselves with just a little too much to do against their rivals.

Player of the Year

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Bill Hamid – it was tough to decide between him and Fabian Espindola. However, the DC keeper has more than earned this title. Superb all season and he looks set for a bright future with DC and the USMNT.

Biggest Win

DC United 4-1 FC Dallas (April 26 2014)

Biggest Defeat

LA Galaxy 4-1 DC United (August 28 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

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DC United‘s remarkable improvement from the 2013 season saw them cruise into the playoffs and that deserves great credit. They will expect to be challenging at the top of the Eastern Conference once again next season but need to play much the same style. They must follow up a solid season defensively and will look to add a few more goals to their tally. Eddie Johnson must start firing (if he remains in DC) if they are to challenge for the MLS Cup.

Breaking down the USMNT 25-man squad for upcoming friendlies

Jurgen Klinsmann named his 25-man squad for the upcoming USMNT friendlies against Colombia and Republic of Ireland today and there were a mixture of familiar faces as well as new ones in the roster.

The two friendlies may not be competitive games, but Klinsmann will want to end an excellent 2014 on a high and the first game against a no.3 ranked Colombia side on Friday will be a real test that many players will relish playing in.

“We want to finish 2014 on a high note and continue to try to meet the top teams eye to eye,” said Klinsmann.

“In these last two games we want our veterans to really become mentors both on and off the field, and we want to see our youngsters take advantage of the opportunity to make their case and grow from the experience. These performances will set the tone for 2015.”

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (DC United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

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No real surprises here. Tim Howard is taking a year off international duty so Brad Guzan will expect to continue as first-choice. Though the fact that these are friendly games should see rotation between the sticks. Sean Johnson will be delighted with his call-up but he is unlikely to feature. Bill Hamid is certainly looking like the future no.1 ‘keeper and he deserves more and more responsibility from now on.

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

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Mostly usual names in here but some surprise inclusions nonetheless. Firstly, Matt Besler looked extremely tired at the end of Sporting Kansas City’s season and needs a long rest during the offseason. A long trip to Europe is not what he needs.

John Brooks is also a surprise inclusion as he has fallen down the pecking order at Hertha Berlin while Geoff Cameron and Jermaine Jones have been called up in defence to presumably play centre-back but neither are naturals in the position. Jones is a far better midfielder and the experiment at centre-back against Honduras didn’t exactly flourish. Facing a pacey Colombian attack will be a major test.

DeAndre Yedlin is one of three players called up who are still likely to be involved in the MLS Playoffs and so his game time may be limited. And any action he does see could be in midfield once again.

It’s a shame not to see Bolton Wanderer’s Tim Ream called up as he has been in good form this season.

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Hamburg), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)

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Michael Bradley misses out as he recovers from a foot injury so some new faces are involved. Lee Nguyen has been rewarded for an incredible year though New England’s participation in the playoffs could limit his game time. Alfredo Morales in involved once again but it would have been nice to see a couple of MLS players called up considering the games are non-competitive.

The likes of Luis Gil, Will Trapp and Perry Kitchen could have all been given the nod by Klinsmann but he has overlooked all three on this occasion.

Kyle Beckerman will hope to forget about Real Salt Lake’s humiliating MLS playoff loss to LA Galaxy by ending what has been a great year for him on a high, while Julian Green could impress again.

Graham Zusi has been overlooked but he looked just as tired as teammate Besler and will likely be pleased that he can recover.

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

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The major surprises in the roster are in the attack. Clint Dempsey misses out playing at his former ground Craven Cottage as some new faces are set to see some action. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Miguel Ibarra and Rubio Rubin have all made the squad and will be desperate to impress.

Miguel Ibarra plays in NASL and Bobby Wood is struggling to make any kind of impact for an 1860 Munich side that is near the bottom of the 2.Bundesliga.

While Jordan Morris has yet to leave College and is still a student at Stanford. All three will hope to see some minutes but Rubio Rubin is the most exciting to watch.

The 18-year-old has been called up for the second successive time and will expect to win his first cap this time around. He has four assists in nine games for Utrecht in the Eredivisie and is a versatile attacker with a bright future ahead of him.

Jozy Altidore continues to earn call-ups despite failing to get in the Sunderland team while Aaron Johansson and Terrance Boyd are not deemed fit enough having recently recovered from injuries.

Eddie Johnson has been overlooked once again and his USMNT career looks to be over as long as Klinsmann is in charge.

What do you make of the latest USMNT squad?

Playoff Preview and Prediction: D.C United vs New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls take a 2-0 lead to RFK Memorial Stadium on Saturday night in the second-leg of their Eastern Conference semi-final, and D.C United has it all to do to overturn the deficit.

Firstly, the home side have to make more scoring chances, as they looked like a defensive team in a training session during the second-half of the first-leg last week.

And more importantly they have to tighten up defensively. For both goals on Sunday night they were opened up by the formidable Red Bulls attack, as Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips were given too much time and space on many occasions.

Having enjoyed 53% of the possession, we were hoping there would be more life in United; with Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson nullified by the Red Bulls defense.

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D.C being at home in this game may sway the momentum and we may get a classic. However, it’s hard to see D.C shutting out the Red Bulls, and if that’s the case they will need at least four goals to progress. Though with a keeper of Bill Hamid’s quality, D.C always has a chance of keeping a clean sheet, and they did in this fixture twice in the regular season.

D.C’s home record: Played 17 – Won 11 – Drawn 4 – Lost 2

This one could go down to the wire, as both sides have been sublime as of late. But one of them has to exit the competition.

Their long-time rivalry means it could be an aggressive match and that will suit New York more than the hosts, as the Red Bulls know that they need to just remain tight and organised to keep the clock ticking.

New York’s away record: Played 17 – Won 3 – Drawn 7 – Lost 7

The Red Bulls are taking an impressive 1,000 fans to D.C for the away-leg and that support will be key, as we should see a fantastic atmosphere for the game.

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New York lost 1-0 and then 2-0 at D.C earlier in the regular season and the same result as the latter here would force the game to extra-time and potentially penalties, in what should be a drama-filled night regardless.

Key Stat: The first-leg saw D.C fail to score for the first time in an MLS Playoffs match since 2007.

Key Player: Fabian Espindola – The Red Bulls look favorites, but if D.C are going to progress, expect the former-Red Bull to be key.

D.C’s last five: D/W/W/D/L

New York’s last five: W/W/L/W/W

Prediction: D.C United 2 – 1 New York Red Bulls. Should be a tight contest, but New York to seal their place in the Eastern Conference final come the end of the game.

5 takeaways from New York Red Bulls’ 2-0 win against DC United

The New York Red Bulls beat DC United in a playoff game for the first time ever, as they put in a fine attacking display at Red Bull Arena to win the first-leg of the Eastern Conference semi-final 2-0.

Thierry Henry grabbed two assists as he setup Bradley Wright-Phillips and Peguy Luyindula, and the Red Bulls will take a decent lead into the second-leg in DC next Saturday.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. DC torn apart in midfield

The top-seeded side in the Eastern Conference struggled to get into the game despite showing signs early on and were lucky to leave with only a two goal deficit to overturn next week. Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud failed to control anything in midfield and were dominated by the Red Bulls in the middle of the park. Peguy Luyindula had all sorts of time to create chances, and DC must ensure that they don’t make the same mistake twice in the second-leg.

2. Thierry the master once more

Thierry Henry put in another exceptional performance and his form in the playoffs could see New York go all the way. The 37-year-old was as influential as ever as he bagged two assists, the first of which was a delightful backheel in the box to Bradley Wright-Phillips, and the Englishman netted for the 30th time in total this year. Speculation about Henry’s future continues to rumble on but he is showing no signs of slowing down as he put in another remarkable display for the Red Bull fans.

Henry’s great backheel assist for Wright-Phillips’ goal: (Via MLS on YouTube)

3. Bill Hamid gives DC hope

Hamid proved yet again why he is a Goalkeeper of the Year contender as he made two huge saves to deny Lloyd Sam and Wright-Phillips in the second-half. Hamid ended the game with five saves and his performance has kept DC United in this tie. His double save at 1-0 ensure that DC have something to fight for next week, and they will need their goalkeeper to be at his best yet again if they are to remain in the playoffs.

4. Red Bull right-sided dominance leaves DC stranded

Englishmen Richard Eckersley and Lloyd Sam caused all kinds of problems for Chris Pontius and Taylor Kemp down the right-side for New York. Eckersley put in another excellent display, while Sam continued to create chances down the right. Kemp will not want to watch the game back, as he struggled to deal with the Englishman all game, and DC must improve on their left side if they are to avoid a repeat result.

5. New York may live to regret missed chances

New York may have got the result they wanted, and kept a clean-sheet too, but they will be disappointed that they couldn’t wrap the tie up in the first-leg. They had countless chances to put the game out of DC’s reach, but couldn’t capitalise – a common problem for the Red Bulls. They had 17 shots during the game and two goals is good but not enough to see them through, and they must make sure they don’t live to regret those misses.