Drogba to help Phoenix Rising chase MLS dream by joining USL side on three-year contract – report

Didier Drogba looks to have found himself a new club at last. The Ivorian striker has been without a team since leaving Montreal Impact at the end of his contract in December but looks set to remain in North America with USL club Phoenix Rising.

The 39-year-old has signed a three-year contract with the Arizona-based side, according to France Football, and will have the option to become the club’s sporting director from the second season onwards.

Phoenix Rising FC – who were formerly known as Arizona United before this season and are owned by a group including American DJ Diplo – have been making headlines over the past few months as they look to prove they mean business as they grow on and off the field.

Phoenix is one of 12 cities fighting for four MLS Expansion spots as the league looks to expand to 28 teams over the next few years. If Drogba has indeed signed – and more importantly signed with a clause allowing him to become a director – then the move makes a lot more sense than it does on the surface.

The former Chelsea star had long been linked with a return to the West London club in a coaching role but it would appear his future off the pitch could now be based in the USA.

Drogba reportedly turned down an offer from Brazilian side Corinthians, instead choosing to join former Chelsea teammate Shaun Wright-Phillips and former Mexico international Omar Bravo in Phoenix.

The USL club opened their 2017 season with a 1-0 home loss to a Toronto FC II side this weekend, playing in front of a sell-out crowd in their home opener at their brand new soccer specific stadium.

The club have permission to build a climate-controlled stadium on their current plot of land, that would seat between 20,000 and 30,000 fans if they are given an MLS team in the current round of bidding.

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New York Red Bulls boss heaps praise on Shaun Wright-Phillips

New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch has praised midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips for his attitude towards the game and the way he conducts himself around the club.

“Shaun Wright-Phillips is the kind of guy that I think leads by example for our young guys. It’s about how he carries himself every day, how he trains, the quality he has and the humility,” Marsch told the New York Red Bulls’ YouTube channel.

“He’s really an impressive guy, and to come here and contribute in the ways that he does, he shows every day what being a big time pro is about. He’s a guy that I think everyone looks up to.”

Wright Phillips joined his brother Bradley at the Red Bulls in July 2015 and has so far made 12 appearances, contributing one goal and an assist.

WATCH: Preseason – checking in with Shaun Wright-Phillips

Jesse Marsch plans on giving the Englishman a run-out in New York Red Bulls’ final preseason game on Saturday, February 27 away at Jacksonville Armada FC.

“He’s looked sharper and sharper, fitter and fitter every day, so the goal is to get him ready by the opening weekend and I’m hopeful that Saturday, he’s still feeling well and that we can maybe look to give him 10-15 minutes.”

Shaun Wright-Phillips says he’s looking forward to the game and hopes he can come through unscathed, so he’s “ready for the start of the season”.

“First and foremost, I just want to get through the game with no injuries, or nothing reoccurring and get as many touches on the ball as I can, and create a few chances for myself and my teammates,” he said on the Red Bulls’ YouTube channel.

Bradley and Shaun Wright-Phillips – Photo by Jason Schott via nysportsday.com

Bradley and Shaun Wright-Phillips – Photo by Jason Schott via nysportsday.com

The 34 year old is also relishing the competition in the squad and is ready to stake his claim for a regular spot in the side once the MLS season starts next weekend.

“We’re all in this together and we’re all going to fight for a place, and we have to understand there’s four wingers in there and at times there will be rotation,” said Wright-Phillips.

“But at the same time we have to support the player that’s challenging against us and hope he does just as well as I would, and it’s only going to benefit us in the long run.”

The New York Red Bulls begin their MLS campaign at home to Toronto on Sunday, March 6.

How important will Shaun Wright-Phillips be for the New York Red Bulls this season?

MLS Preview and Prediction: Philadelphia Union vs New York Red Bulls

Competition: Major League Soccer – Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls

Venue: PPL Park – Saturday, August 1 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: Philadelphia 7/5 – Draw 11/4 – NY Red Bulls 17/10

Match Preview

Philadelphia Union host the New York Red Bulls in an Eastern Conference clash between two teams at either end of the table.

The Union were 2-0 up away at DC United after four minutes last weekend but somehow lost 3-2, summing up their problems this year.

They are ninth in the East but are only two points off a playoff place and remain in the hunt for postseason football if they can regain their form.

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They have already beaten their opponents this weekend twice this year, winning 2-0 away at Red Bull Arena in the league and then seeing them off on penalties in the US Open Cup just over a week ago.

New York travel to Philadelphia off of back-to-back wins and look back on track after a midseason blip a month ago.

They are nine points off DC United at the top of the East with four games in hand and look set to make the playoffs now they’ve rediscovered their form.

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The addition of Shaun Wright-Phillips will strengthen them further and could see his brother Bradley recapture his goalscoring form, starting with a trip to PPL Park on Saturday.

Team News

The Union will be without Michael Lahoud, Raymond Lee, Andrew Wenger and Vincent Nogueira, while Richie Marquez is a doubt.

New York Red Bulls have two concerns as Chris Duvall is out and Ronald Zubar is a doubt once again.

Key Points

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

New York Red Bulls’ last five: W/W/L/W/W

Key Stat: There have been 19 goals in the last five matches between these two in Philadelphia – an average of 3.8 per game.

Key Player: CJ Sapong – The Union attacker netted the fastest goal in Philadelphia history last weekend and has been in fine form in front of goal this year. Expect him to be involved again on Saturday.

Photo courtesy of MLSsoccer.com

Photo courtesy of MLSsoccer.com

Score Prediction

Philadelphia Union 2-2 New York Red Bulls – The Union are a much better side at home but have lost their last two on the bounce and will struggle to beat a Red Bulls side in good form. A draw looks the most likely outcome but there should be goals in this one.

TRANSFER ROUNDUP: Chelsea AGREE deal for United reject, Arsenal ‘on brink’ of £11m transfer

Daily transfer roundup (Monday, June 15)

MLS Rumours

Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski looks set to turn his back on a reported MLS move to join Turkish giants Galatasaray in a £1.4 million deal. (REPORT)

New York Red Bulls-linked winger James McClean is close to agreeing a £1.5 million move to West Brom. (REPORT)

Shaun Wright-Phillips is training with the New York Red Bulls this week, though only for fitness as a move is not being suggested yet. (REPORT)

Premier League Rumours

Chelsea have agreed a deal with French club AS Monaco for the signing of Radamel Falcao, who spent the last season on loan at Manchester United. (REPORT)

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Arsenal are ‘on the brink’ of completing an £11 million deal for Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, so long as the Blues can wrap up a deal for Robert Green or Asmir Begovic first. (REPORT)

Tottenham are closing in on the signing of in-demand Burnley right-back Kieran Trippier and could completed a £3.5 million deal imminently. (REPORT)

Done Deals

Stoke City are set to confirm the signing of Hannover 96 striker Joselu in the next 24 hours, after revealing a deal has been agreed. (REPORT)

Southampton have completed the signing of Spanish striker Juanmi on a four-year deal. (REPORT)

New York City FC have confirmed the signing of Athletic Bilbao right-back Andoni Iraola on a free transfer. (REPORT)

NYCFC have also announced the capture of Manchester City youngster Angelino on loan for the rest of the season. (REPORT)

Former Chelsea and Manchester City star free to complete MLS move

Former Chelsea and Manchester City star Shaun Wright-Phillips is free to join up with brother Bradley Wright-Phillips at New York Red Bulls following his release at Queens Park Rangers.

Wright-Phillips has endured a torrid time at QPR and only played 128 minutes in the Premier League this season; only managing one start.

As he heads towards the twilight years of his career, SWP may want to join his brother at the Red Bulls. They are currently in search for a natural winger to replace Thierry Henry on the left flank, after the Arsenal legend retired at the end of the 2014 MLS season.

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been sensational since moving to the States in 2013 and has an incredible goalscoring record of 33 goals in just 48 games for the Red Bulls.

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BWP, holder of the MLS Golden Boot award, has started the current season in form, already netting five goals in 11 appearances.

The addition of SWP would provide balance to the side as well as frightening pace on both flanks, with Lloyd Sam already playing from the right.

Having already played for top clubs in England like Manchester City, Chelsea and QPR; the winger has more than enough pedigree to perform in MLS.

Would Shaun Wright-Phillips benefit from a move to Major League Soccer?

5 English stars that could move to MLS this summer

Now that the Premier League season is over, it’s time for players to make a decision on where they will be playing their football next year. There are plenty of contracts expiring this year, and here are five former or current England players that could make the move to Major League Soccer this summer:

 

1. Rio Ferdinand

The Manchester United defender has not been offered a new contract at Old Trafford and will leave the club this summer. It was reported earlier in the year that Ferdinand was considering offers from MLS and he is now odds-on to make a move to the US to continue his playing career. The 35-year-old has previously been linked with Chicago Fire, though it is unclear where his preferred destination would be.

 

2. Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole’s future is still unclear, and after retiring from International football this week, he could be set to leave English football altogether. The left-back has had an excellent career and has already been linked with a move to MLS with the New York Red Bulls. With Chelsea not offering Cole a deal as of yet, a move to the US remains a real possibility for the 33-year-old.

3. Frank Lampard

Another Chelsea man yet to be offered a contract, and after John Terry got his deal yesterday, there are growing beliefs that Lampard will not get an extension this year. The midfielder wants to stay with Chelsea for another season, but it is thought that Mourinho is looking to add midfielders such as Paulinho to replace Lampard. A report this week claimed that LA Galaxy have offered the 36-year-old a two-year contract and a move to MLS looks to be on the cards.

4. Shaun Wright-Phillips

Another man who is out of contract at the end of this season, the winger is set to leave QPR and has already stated his desire to play in MLS before the end of his career. The 32-year-old is keen to link up with his brother, Bradley in New York, where he is the current top-scorer in MLS. Wright-Phillips follows MLS now and could join this summer. “Since he’s joined Red Bulls, that’s another team I have to follow closely and keep in close contact with. Brad’s not had the rub of the green with his career so I’m happy to see things working out for him in the States,” he said.

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5. Joe Cole

Finally, we come to Joe Cole, who has had left West Ham United and is now looking for a new club. There have already been reports linking the 32-year-old midfielder to a MLS move and although he is keen to remain in England, a big-money offer from the US could tempt him into making the move.

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All of these players are set to leave their respective clubs in England this summer, though Cole and Lampard could possibly be offered new deals. At least one name on the list is expected to join MLS in the coming months, but just how many will make the increasingly popular move stateside remains to be seen.