In pictures: Sounders fail to score in disappointing draw with 10-man Columbus

It was a disappointing return home to CenturyLink Field for Seattle Sounders FC as they spent the majority of the match a man up but failed to score against Columbus Crew SC in a 0-0 draw.

The Sounders were dealt a fortunate hand 15 minutes in when Pedro Santos’s high boot caught the face of Alex Roldan, prompting head referee Hilario Grajeda to issue a straight red card after going to video review. Columbus responded in turn by substituting off Cristian Martinez for Alex Crognale and putting every man behind the ball while Seattle was in possession. Seattle struggled to break down the Columbus defence and resorted to trying to get the ball to wide positions to limited success and the attack consistently faltered in the final third.

When Seattle stole possession from Columbus, the counter-attack lacked impetus and the Crew were back with everyone behind the ball before the Sounders could get into a dangerous position. “You have to try and be more quick with the ball and find the middle of the field more quick,” said Osvaldo Alonso. “Pass the ball and try to find the forward. We played good defence and we tried to score and it didn’t happen.”

While they had limited chances in the second half, the best chances of the game came from Columbus when down a man. Gyasi Zardes had an early look that he pushed just wide of goal in the 22nd minute and in the 36th helped to create a chance for Milton Valenzuela that ended up over the bar from inside the six yard box.

With the lion share of possession and 17 shots taken to Columbus’s five, Seattle controlled much of the match but still struggled to test goalkeeper Zach Steffen. Columbus was defensively sound, putting as many men as possible in the 18 yard box to make it more difficult for Seattle to break them down. The Sounders lacked the creativity to get in between the defensive line of Columbus and spent most of their attacks probing the back four but not stretching them. “We’re disappointed in the result. It’s not good enough. I’ll make sure that we watch this tape and we work on attacking movements to try and break that final line and be a little more creative,” said coach Brian Schmetzer.

“You know we moved the ball too slow. I mean the few times when they did get into our end of the field and we won possession of the ball we need to sprint, we need to get down the field before they get a chance to get bunkered in. So we will look at that and the coaching staff will train that to make sure that we create more good opportunities.”

“I think everybody in the stadium knew we were gonna get it and push it wide and try to cross it,” said Will Bruin. “You got to find other ways to create chances and you know we just haven’t been able to do it.

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“We got to be willing to take chances. We gotta get some creativity, some flair, we got to move the ball quicker, like I said we got to pass and move we got to try things. I think we’re too caught up with playing the simple pass and you know, ‘I’m not gonna make the mistake I’m just gonna move it to the next guy.’ And you’re not gonna score like that its so easy to defend and thats a prime example tonight.

“We need to find a solution to this because if you can’t tell I’m pretty frustrated right now. We’re gonna look at film tomorrow and I mean I hope we look at ways to exploit Toronto and ways we can attack them… I just hope we can generate some goals.”

Seattle’s busy week continues as they travel to defending champions Toronto FC on Wednesday before returning to the West Coast to take on local rivals Portland Timbers on Sunday.


Premier League clubs beginning to circle around NYCFC’s Jack Harrison – Report

Jack Harrison is having one hell of a season. So it comes as no real surprise that his performances with New York City FC in 2017 have caught the eye of clubs back in England, with Kristian Dyer reporting that a couple of teams are eyeing up a move.

The Stoke-born 20 year old was the No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and enjoyed a promising breakthrough season last term. He notched up four goals and seven assists in 21 regular season games but has stepped up another gear this campaign.

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Harrison has already doubled his goal tally from last season, scoring eight in 19 games. He’s also provided five assists and has had a hand in either a goal or assist in six of his last eight matches.

But his displays mean NYCFC might have a battle on their hands if they’re to keep hold of one of Major League Soccer’s rising stars. Kristian Dyer revealed on the MSG Network that Harrison is the subject of interest from a few clubs back in England.

“One, if not two Premier League clubs are looking at him, as well as a number of Championship teams,” Dyer said.

“But the price tag might become an issue here. He would cost a lot more than Matt Miazga did two years ago, in terms of the transfer fee.”

Miazga joined Chelsea from the Red Bulls for around $5 million back in January 2016, playing twice before being sent on loan to Vitesse. He played 35 times for the Dutch club last term but is back at Chelsea now.

Harrison is the same age now as Miazga was when he moved to Europe 18 months ago. But as Dyer points out, it will take a more significant offer to lure him out of MLS.

Harrison is seemingly improving all the time. He is benefiting from the experience and leadership of David Villa and Andrea Pirlo. So he has no real reason to jump ship at the midpoint of a successful MLS campaign. But every player has their price. If a big-money offer comes in from the Premier League, NYCFC might have to plan for life without Jack Harrison.

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? 

Barcelona plotting move for promising Chelsea star – report

FC Barcelona look set to reignite their interest in Chelsea attacker Kenedy and are reportedly planning to make a move for the Brazilian this summer.

The 20-year-old winger has started just two Premier League games for the Blues this season and Barca will look to bolster their attack by securing his services in the coming months, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Kenedy was targeted by Barcelona before eventually securing a move to Stamford Bridge last summer, but the Catalan giants have continued to scout him and sporting director Ariedo Braida now wants to see the former Fluminense man swap England for Spain, according to Mundo Deportivo’s report.

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Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique has a wealth of attacking options at his disposal, with Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi forming what is largely considered the best attacking trio in world football.

However, fringe players Sandro and Munir have failed to impress when called upon and so Kenedy is viewed as an ideal addition.

The young Chelsea man has made 16 appearances for the Blues this term, scoring twice and has been deployed at left-back in recent weeks by interim manager Guus Hiddink.

Would Kenedy be a good signing for Barcelona? How important is he to Chelsea?

Tim Howard ‘wants $5m per season’ to make MLS switch to Colorado

The Colorado Rapids are continuing their pursuit of Everton and USMNT star Tim Howard, but the latest reports suggest the 36-year-old goalkeeper wants almost $20 million over four seasons if he is to return to Major League Soccer.

Howard currently earns around £70,000 per week at Everton – just short of $100,000 dollars-a-week – and wants to remain on the same sort of money if he is to return stateside, according to The Sun.

The report also claims the 2001 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year is also looking for a four-year contract if a move to Colorado is completed, meaning he is looking for around $5 million per season until 2020.

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It’s tough to know how accurate these figures are but it is clear that the Rapids remain in the hunt to sign the 106-time capped US International.

Howard has over two years remaining on his Everton contract and so a transfer fee might also be required to complete a switch to Colorado in the immediate future.

He has made 23 Premier League appearances for the Toffees this term, keeping six clean sheets but faces competition from Joel Robles.

Is Tim Howard worth $5 million per season?

Matt Miazga turned down ‘multimillion dollar’ DP contract to join Chelsea

Matt Miazga is no longer a New York Red Bulls player, having completed his move to Premier League side Chelsea FC today, though the MLS club can’t be blamed for not trying to keep hold of their academy star.

In the wake of the move, it has become apparent that the Red Bulls attempted to make Miazga the first Homegrown Player to sign a Designated Player contract, according to Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis via Grant Wahl.

Wahl took to Twitter to reveal the details from a conversation with Ali Curtis. Information included the fact that Miazga was unwilling to sign a new deal with the Eastern Conference side because he was so keen on securing an immediate move to Chelsea.

The fact that the Red Bulls were willing to make Miazga a DP is significant and indicates just how highly rated the 20-year-old defender was by those within the organisation.

The academy product was reportedly offered a “multimillion dollar” DP contract to stay in New York, but he rejected that offer as his desire to move to the Premier League was too strong.

Curtis described his move as “bittersweet” but revealed that the funds acquired from the move will be reinvested into the club, with a significant amount being put into the club’s youth setup.

“It is a bittersweet day for the New York Red Bulls,” he told the Red Bulls’ official website.

“We are very happy for Matt to get the opportunity but it is tough to see him leave after coming through our academy to the first team – there is a different feel when one of your homegrown players leaves.

“We tried everything we could to keep Matt but we understand and respect his desire to play in Europe. Moving forward, we’ll either reinforce the team from within our existing player pool or we will acquire a player from the international market. Additionally, the proceeds of this transfer provide us with greater resources to put back into our youth system.”

“We will cheer for Matt from Red Bull Arena. He will always be a part of our family and we wish him the best,” Curtis added.

Chelsea set to announce £3.5m signing of Red Bulls star ‘within 24 hours’

Chelsea look to have won the race for New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga, with the young USMNT star set to seal a move to the Blues by the weekend.

Miazga has been linked with a move to the Premier League for several months now, and Chelsea look to have beaten Leicester and Stoke to his services, according to ESPN FC.

The 20-year-old centre-back has left the USMNT training camp early in order to fly to London, where he is expected to undergo a medical and sign a contract by the end of Thursday.

The reigning Premier League champions will pay a transfer fee of around $5 million (£3.5 million) for the Red Bulls academy product, who will not require a work permit based on the fact that he holds a Polish passport.

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Miazga, who has been regarded as the best American prospect in MLS over the past year, only has 11 months left on his current Red Bulls contract, and so the club have been left with little choice but to sell their young star for profit, rather than losing him for free at the end of the 2016 season.

Miazga helped the Red Bulls to lift the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2013 and then again last season. He will now hope to learn from one of the game’s best central defenders in John Terry if his proposed move to London goes through.

Chelsea have a tendency to loan out young prospects, who are not seen as ready for first team duty at Stamford Bridge, but that is not set to happen to Miazga, who will remain with the Blues until the end of the current campaign before his short-term future will then be decided in the summer.

Will Matt Miazga be a good signing for Chelsea? Is he ready for a big move to Europe?

LA Galaxy willing to take “gamble” as Ashley Cole secures move

Ashley Cole finally made his move to Major League Soccer by signing with the LA Galaxy on Wednesday afternoon, after months of rumours and reports.

The 35-year-old English left-back joins the Galaxy after seeing his contract with AS Roma terminated a year early last week.

The former Arsenal and Chelsea star will join former England teammate, Steven Gerrard, in Los Angeles, while also teaming up with former Premier League rivals Robbie Keane and Giovani Dos Santos.

Keane, Gerrard and Dos Santos currently occupy all three of LA Galaxy’s Designated Player slots, meaning Cole has not joined the club as a DP.

Many MLS fans will be glad to see Cole join the league, but there are also a large number of those who are questioning the decision to sign the three-time Premier League winner after referring to Major League Soccer as “a beach” when linked with a switch two years ago.

Galaxy head coach, Bruce Arena, is aware that there are those with doubts over whether Cole can be a success, but he thinks the signing will prove to be a risk that was worth taking.

“I think that he’s a good addition to our team, but only time will tell. Whether you think it’s a risk or a gamble, these are the risks and gambles that you take,” Arena said.

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“There is a real upside of having Ashley Cole with the LA Galaxy. I think that the opportunity that he’s going to have in LA is going to be a good one for him, and he’s going to be able to contribute greatly to our team.

“Ashley Cole has a great history. We know that doesn’t necessarily translate on the field when you come to MLS but my interactions over the last couple of months show me that he’s a player that has a strong desire to play here in Los Angeles.”

Cole is vastly experienced, having racked up 107 England caps over his career, playing in three World Cups and two European Championships with the Three Lions.

He becomes the Galaxy’s eighth signing of the offseason, joining Jelle Van Damme, Jeff Larentowicz, Mike Magee, Dan Kennedy, Emmanuel Boateng, Daniel Steres and Clement Diop.

Will Ashley Cole succeed in MLS with LA Galaxy? What are your thoughts on the move?

AC Milan midfielder nearing MLS switch with offer “expected”

Another Italian international could be heading for MLS as AC Milan’s Antonio Nocerino is seemingly on the radar of at least one Major League Soccer outfit.

The 30-year-old central midfield enforcer has struggled to play a part in the AC Milan side over the past two seasons and has been sent on three consecutive loan spells to West Ham, Torino and most recently, Parma.

He is currently still in Milan, but with just five months left on his current contract, he will be heading out of the club by the summer at the very latest.

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AC Milan vice president and CEO, Alberto Galliani, has had his say on the future of Nocerino and has interestingly revealed that an offer from MLS “is expected”.

“Antonio Nocerino? He’s the only player heading out, we’re expecting an offer from MLS to arrive and that could be a solution,” Galliani is reported as saying on Monday.

Nocerino would be the third high-profile Italian to join MLS over the past year if a move does come to fruition, as he would follow Sebastian Giovinco and Andrea Pirlo in making the switch stateside.

At 30, he still has a lot to offer and will hope to reignite his career once he escapes the limbo he finds himself in at Milan.

The Juventus academy product captained the Italian U23 side in 2008 as well as the Italian team at the Beijing Olympics during the same year.

He has made a total of 15 international appearances for the Azzurri, but has not played for the national side since November 2012, following his participation in Italy’s Euro 2012 squad.

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It’s unclear which MLS side are reportedly chasing Nocerino, while it is as unclear whether he would join the league as a Designated Player or not.

LA Galaxy are one possible destination, given the fact that they are looking to replace Juninho this offseason following his departure, though Nocerino would have to accept a non-DP role if he were to make that move.

Would Antonio Nocerino be a good signing for MLS? Which club could benefit from his services?

Portland secure first ever MLS Cup – Match report from Columbus

The Portland Timbers came into Columbus and the MLS Cup game as underdogs, but left as MLS Cup champions, triumphing over the Columbus Crew 2-1, with early goals from Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace sealing the historic victory.

The Timbers enjoyed a dream start within 27 seconds of kickoff, when midfielder Diego Valeri took advantage of Columbus Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark’s horrendous error.

Valeri made a strong tackle on the ‘keeper and the Timbers quickly found themselves up 1-0 to the complete disbelief of the Crew and their fans.

Valeri’s goal was the fastest goal ever scored in MLS Cup history.

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The Crew struggled to connect on their passes early on due to the Timbers’ high pressure on the midfield and defense. It eventually led to a crucial turnover that the Timbers capitalised on in the 7th minute to make it 2-0.

Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe found winger Lucas Melano, who crossed it into the six-yard box. Rodney Wallace connected with a flying header and put the ball into the back of the Crew’s net to further stun the home crowd.

Controversy couldn’t stay away from this cup final, as replays later showed that the ball won by Powell in the build up to the goal was actually a couple of feet out of play.

Portland and Columbus had probably planned for most eventualities. But being two up after seven minutes is a strange situation for any side, let alone an away side in a final. The Timbers started the game like it was the 87th minute, and not the 7th.

With their backs against the wall, the Crew quickly came alive and regained control of the game. They continued to find chances in the first half and were eventually rewarded in the 18th minute.

The home team found fullback Harrison Afful, who crossed it into the penalty area. A goal-mouth scramble ensued and league-leading scorer Kei Kamara was on hand to finish.

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Portland looked happy to hear the halftime whistle and head coach Caleb Porter sent them out in the second half with a solid game plan to hit Columbus on the break.

The Crew dominated possession and created chances. However, their finishing left them wanting, as they were unable to register a shot on target in the second half.

Portland took advantage of the Crew playing high up the field by countering back whenever they found the chance. That led to two huge opportunities that hit the woodwork as a third goal looked more likely that a Columbus equaliser.

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The first left the Crew scrambling on a corner, as the ball fell to Wallace, who had his shot saved by Clark. The clearance then hit the crossbar before getting cleared.

The second chance came for Timbers striker Fanendo Adi as his header from Jorge Villafana’s cross hit the far post before hitting Steve Clark, who fumbled the ball out of bounds.

Both teams continued to fight tooth and nail for every loose ball and take any shot they could get. But as the final minutes of added time came and went the final whistle blew, the Timbers rushed onto the field knowing that they just won their first ever MLS Cup.