Steven Taylor nearing Portland Timbers switch following Newcastle exit

Portland Timbers look set to bolster their backline as English centre-back Steven Taylor is on the verge of completing a move to the reigning MLS Cup champions.

Taylor has been without a club since leaving Newcastle, the club he had spent his entire career at until they were relegated from the Premier League last term.

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The 30-year-old’s contract was not renewed on Tyneside and so the tough-tackling defender is now looking for a new club after 13 seasons and 268 appearances with the Magpies.

That new club looks set to be the Portland Timbers. A report on Saturday suggested that the move to Portland was done, with ESPN’s Taylor Twellman then backing up those claims by revealing Taylor was at Providence Park for Saturday’s game against LA Galaxy.

Taylor would bring an abundance of Premier League experience to a Portland defence that has looked lapse at times this season. Caleb Porter’s team have shipped 33 goals in 22 games so far this term – the joint-third worst record in MLS.

When you also factor in that Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers are both set to see their contracts expire at the end of the current season, the move to bring in Taylor makes sense for the Timbers.

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Portland’s decision to sell goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey to Norwegian side Rosenborg BK last week has freed up space on the team’s salary cap, while also opening up another international slot that Taylor could fill.

The Timbers travel to Sporting Kansas City next weekend, but it’s perhaps more realistic to expect to see Taylor make his debut against the same opponent when SKC travel to Portland on August 7 if he does indeed complete the switch to MLS.

Would Steven Taylor be a good signing for Portland Timbers? 

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Toronto vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – Toronto FC vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: BMO Field – Saturday, May 23 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST – Live on Sky Sports 3)

Match Odds: Toronto 13/10 – Draw 12/5 – Portland 2/1

Match Preview

Toronto FC host the Portland Timbers this weekend in a fixture that usually produces plenty of goals. The Timbers will end their three-game away streak in this tie before heading back to Providence Park next weekend.

Toronto are coming off a hard fought draw away at Gillette Stadium last weekend, taking a point from MLS Cup runners-up New England Revolution in a 1-1 draw. Michael Bradley scored his first goal of the season in that game and will look to build on that on Saturday.

The Reds will be rocked by the news that Jozy Altidore is out for 4-5 weeks with a hamstring injury, as their leading goalscorer was injured and subbed off in the 18th minute last weekend and will definitely miss the upcoming USA games.

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They have acquired ten points so far this season, a number not to be sniggered at, with eight games played away from home so far this season due to work being done on BMO Field. The home loss to Houston Dynamo was demoralising and didn’t do any favours for head coach Greg Vanney and he will be hoping for a positive result from Saturday’s match.

Vanney is still under pressure to deliver results and a win here could ease some of that pressure as back-to-back home games are on the horizon for Toronto, and that could see them deliver maximum points and bring some confidence back into the side.

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The Timbers have been rather underwhelming so far this season with three wins, four draws and four losses so far. They sit ninth in the Western Conference and their stop-start campaign is what could hamper their chances of finishing in the playoff spots come the end of season.

The acquisition of MLS veteran Nat Borchers from Real Salt Lake has seen the experienced defender become an important part of the defence and also the attack. He is the Portland Timbers’ second-highest goalscorer so far this season with two goals and has a good partnership with Liam Ridgewell at the back.

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Fanendo Adi is the leading goalscorer as he has four of the team’s ten so far. The Nigerian needs to keep up that momentum and lead his team into Western Conference playoff places now, as the Timbers are only three points off tenth place in the Western, but also three points off sixth.

Portland are sitting 12th in the form table and something needs to change quickly. This is an away fixture Portland haven’t enjoyed in the past as they have failed to win on their previous three visits to Toronto.

Last season, the two sides played out a classic, resulting in a 3-2 victory for Toronto FC back in September.

Team News

As mentioned for Toronto, Jozy Altidore will miss the game with a hamstring strain. Clement Simonin will miss out after surgery on his knee, while there are doubts over Steven Caldwell, Robbie Findley (both achilles) and goalkeeper Joe Bendik (foot).

Portland Timbers will still be without Will Johnson, who is recovering from his broken leg, while Michael Nanchoff (hernia) and Ben Zemanski (torn ACL) are both still out too.

Key Points

Toronto’s last five: L/W/W/L/D

Portland Timbers’ last five: W/L/D/W/L

Key Stat: There have been 19 goals in the last five meetings between these two.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – Although fellow new signing Jozy Altidore is out for the foreseeable future, Giovinco has four goals himself and will look to penetrate the leaky Portland defence that have conceded twelve so far this season.

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Score Prediction

Toronto FC 2-2 Portland Timbers – This fixture often sees goals and this one will be no different as a new look attack for Toronto could see more chances for goals. Portland Timbers have Diego Valeri back, while Fanendo Adi is pushing to add to his tally. It could be goals, goals, goals in this one.

MLS player strike still looms with CBA agreement yet to be reached

By Keave Tollington – Twitter: @KeaveT

With the beginning of the 2015 MLS season just four days away, the threat of a player strike just won’t go away.

Major League Soccer’s five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contract came to an end in January, spurring appeals from the MLS Players Union (MLSPU) to introduce free agency and look at various other issues concerning player’s salaries before a new CBA was to be signed.

The MLSPU wants its members to be able to move clubs freely, just like the European leagues allow their players to do. Currently in MLS, if a player’s contract runs out, they remain club property.

An agreement has yet to be reached between the MLSPU and the league and the possibility of a player strike still looms large with just four days to go until the new season gets underway. There was a similar situation in 2010, when a player strike was dodged right at the last minute when MLS compromised and introduced a Re-Draft System.

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The Re-Draft System (which is currently still used) allows players to move on at the end of their contract. However there is no option for multiple bids to be put forward for players which means a player has very little choice on his destination and makes it hard for a good deal for the player to be reached.

MLS have been against free agency for the league since its inception. MLS and the MLSPU have been in talks for several months now and the league appear to be adamant that they won’t budge. But the players also look like they aren’t giving up in the fight for free agency, which leaves the league in a very difficult situation. MLS run a single-entity structure which means they own every single player’s contract.

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Most MLSPU members seem to believe that for the league to become on-par with the European leagues, free agency is essential. However, Real Salt Lake owner Dell Hansen believes that “free agency talks are a waste of time” – a comment in which he is reportedly being fined $150,000 for.

The MLSPU presumably want a system similar to that seen in Europe – players there have more options to get the best contract they can, with the club of their choice. Most of those who are against this argue that ‘free agency’ only really affects ‘free agents’. However as contracts come to an end each season, all players are often left feeling uncertain about their next move and the financial implications it might entail.

Another talking point to come out of the CBA discussions is the pay disparity in MLS. The league’s minimum salary of $36,500 is among the lowest compared to many professional leagues. A handful of stars earn millions each season but the 2014 average salary was $92,000. MLS are more open to compromising over minimum wages and salary caps than they are about free agency. The full extent of MLS pay disparity can be seen here.

It is still unclear whether there will be MLS action this weekend but Nat Borchers told ESPNFC that the MLSPU remain “very hopeful in the next two or three days that we’re going to come up with something that’s a win-win solution.”

Do you think the 2015 MLS season will start on time?

Trade crazy! All the MLS trades from a busy window on Monday

Major League Soccer clubs across the country have been busy acquiring players today. The half-day trade window gave MLS teams four hours to trade players for the first time this offseason. Clubs could also re-sign their own players.

11 players were on the move on Monday as 10 different clubs were involved with some form of trade in the final opportunity to reshuffle squad’s before Wednesday’s MLS Expansion Draft.

The Expansion Draft gets underway at 19:00 (UK time) on Wednesday and the offseason trade window will reopen after the draft ends.

Here are all today’s trades in what has been a busy day:

Michael Harrington: Portland Timbers – Colorado Rapids

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The Colorado Rapids acquired defender Michael Harrington from the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money. The 28-year-old made 25 appearances for the Timbers last season and should shore up a leaky Colorado defence that conceded more goals than anyone else in 2014.

Nat Borchers: Real Salt Lake – Portland Timbers

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The Timbers quickly replaced Harrington by bringing in Nat Borchers from Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake for allocation money. The 33-year-old centre-back was with RSL since 2008 and started 32 games last season. Borchers was one of five players the Timbers signed on Monday.

Josh Williams: Columbus Crew – New York City FC

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New York City have bulked up their defence with the addition of Josh Williams from Columbus Crew in exchange for allocations funds. Williams, 26, made 14 appearances for the Crew this season.

Andrew Driver – Joe Willis/Samuel Inkoom: Houston Dynamo – DC United

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English winger Andrew Driver joined Eastern Conference winners DC United from Houston Dynamo in exchange for Joe Willis and Samuel Inkoom. The Dynamo have bolstered their defence by bringing in goalkeeper Willis and right-back Inkoom while DC have added another attacking option in Driver.

Amobi Okugo:  Philadelphia Union – Orlando City SC

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Orlando City brought in three players on Monday. Amobi Okugo was the first as the 23-year-old holding midfielder joined from Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money and a 2016 2nd Round SuperDraft pick. Okugo made 32 appearances for the Union in 2014, scoring and assisting two goals.

Aurelien Collin: Sporting Kansas City – Orlando City SC

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Orlando’s second pick-up was Aurelien Collin. The dominant centre-back will undoubtedly give the Lions a solid defensive leader. He joins Orlando in exchange for allocation money and future considerations. Collin, MLS Cup MVP from 2013, made 26 appearances for Sporting Kansas City in 2014, scoring twice.

Tally Hall: Houston Dynamo – Orlando City SC

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The third acquisition Orlando made was goalkeeper Tally Hall who joins from Houston in exchange for allocation money and an international roster spot. Hall and Collin will need to keep the Lions defence solid in their inaugural season in MLS next season.

C.J. Sapong: Sporting Kansas City – Philadelphia Union

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Philadelphia bolstered their attack with the addition of C.J. Sapong from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for the Union’s highest first-round pick in the upcoming SuperDraft. Sapong scored twice in 20 appearances for SKC in 2014.

Bernardo Anor: Columbus Crew – Sporting Kansas City

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After seeing Collin and Sapong leave, Sporting Kansas City brought in someone in the form of midfielder Bernardo Anor from Columbus Crew. Anor joined SKC in exchange for allocation money after scoring six goals with one assist in 27 games this year.

Omar Salgado: Vancouver Whitecaps – New York City FC

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New York City also made a move to improve their attacking options ahead of their debut season by bringing in Omar Salgado from the Vancouver Whitecaps in a swap for Future Considerations. The 21-year-old only played eight times for the Whitecaps in 2014.

Joe Nasco – Dimitry Imbongo/Geoffrey Castillion: Colorado Rapids – New England Revolution

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MLS Cup Final losers New England Revolution also made a move in the short trade window by bringing in Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Joe Nasco and a third round pick in the upcoming SuperDraft. In exchange the Revs sent forwards Dimitry Imbongo and Geoffrey Castillion as well as a second round SuperDraft pick.

Expansion franchises New York City and Orlando City also picked up international roster slots for the 2015 and 2016 seasons from DC United. Both clubs will now be looking ahead to Wednesday’s highly-anticipated Expansion Draft.

What did you make of Monday’s busy day of trading in MLS?

Portland Timbers sign five players in major reshuffle

The Portland Timbers have signed five players today in a major reshuffle as they reshape their squad ahead of the new season.

Veteran defender Nat Borchers joined in a trade from Real Salt Lake for allocation money, while Ghanaian international goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey, Colombian winger Dairon Asprilla and Brazilian left-back Jeanderson Salvador Pereira were also signed.

The Timbers exercised their purchase option on Jamaican fullback Alvas Powell on Monday too in a busy day for the club.

Borchers will undoubtedly strengthen a Timbers defence that allowed 52 goals in 34 games in 2014 – the sixth-worst amount across MLS. He could form a solid partnership with Englishman Liam Ridgewell for the Western Conference side.

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Norwegian born goalkeeper Kwarasey joins the club from Strømsgodset of the Tippeligaen and is an experienced shot-stopper at both club and country levels.

The 26-year-old, who won the Tippeligaen Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2013, made over 150 appearances for the club. He has represented the Ghanaian national team 21 times at international level too, and played in the World Cup game against the USA in June.

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Asprilla joins Portland from Colombian Primera División side Alianza Petrolera and at just 22, is an exciting signing. Primarily a right-winger, the Colombian will hope to impress in his debut campaign next season.

Brazilian Jeanderson is another signing to bolster the Timbers backline and the left-back adds further youth at just 23 years of age.

Portland also exercised the option to purchase defender Powell from Jamaican side Portmore United. The 20-year-old has signed a “long-term contract” with the Timbers and will hope to add to his 15 games played in 2014.

What do you make of Portland’s signings on Monday?