Five MLS clubs set to battle for signing of former Liverpool and Chelsea star – report

Five Major League Soccer teams are set to fight for the signing of Spanish striker Fernando Torres this summer, according to Marca. The 34-year-old forward will be a free agent once his contract with Atletico Madrid comes to an end in June, leaving the former Liverpool and Chelsea star free to negotiate what will surely be the final move of his career.

Torres has been linked with a move to the Chinese Super League but it’s understood he is not keen on making the move to Asia. He rejected the chance to join CSL side Dalian Yifang in February and would reportedly prefer a move to the United States.

With no La Liga sides making Torres an offer at this point, and just a month left of the season in Spain, Torres is looking to MLS. The five clubs who are reportedly interested in bringing him to the league are Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact, New York City FC, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City.

A move to NYCFC would allow Torres to link up with former international teammate and good friend David Villa. The pair fired Spain to Euro 2008 glory as well as the 2010 World Cup title. New York City FC do not currently have a Designated Player slot free though, so Torres would need to accept being a TAM signing to move to the Big Apple.

Chicago and Montreal are the only sides of the five linked that have a DP slot available. It’s not certain that Torres would need to fill a DP slot, particularly at 34 years of age. But it will certainly help negotiations having that option.

The Fire are a particularly interesting option, given the fact that Torres played with Chicago head coach Veljko Paunovic during his first spell at Atletico Madrid. The pair spent two seasons together in 2003/04 and 2004/05.

On top of that, Chicago own the discovery rights to Fernando Torres if he does indeed move to MLS, according to league sources. The Fire have opened the 2018 season with just four points from their opening five games. They’ve scored seven goals but could undoubtedly benefit from partnering Torres with 2017 Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic up front.

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Hazard leaving Chelsea? – Star set to go after top four failure

After a performance that has been heavily criticised by pundits, Chelsea’s loss to Manchester City has made finishing in the top four look extremely unlikely for the Blues. Champions League football is a must for attracting and keeping top players. Missing out could be a catalyst for Eden Hazard leaving Chelsea.

The Belgian is arguably one of the best players to represent the club. Since joining in the summer of 2012 he has been a key performer for Chelsea. But the possibility of him staying with the Blues for the long haul has been constantly questioned.

Hazard has made no secret of his admiration for current Los Blancos boss Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid. The temptation for any player to pull on that famous white shirt is enough to worry adoring fans that their current favourites could move at any time.

This summer seems the most likely yet that Hazard leaving Chelsea is a real possibility. Hazard is yet to pen a new deal. Now he may be looking to move on after six seasons in the capital.

When taking a look at Hazard’s Chelsea stats, his potential departure is a major concern for the club.

Is Eden Hazard leaving Chelsea?

It’s easy to see how influential Hazard is for Chelsea. He has been directly involved in 160 goals in his 287 games in all competitions. His two Premier League titles, Europa League and League Cup is an impressive haul of trophies so far.

Hazard has successfully completed 940 dribbles in the Premier League and European competitions since joining Chelsea. That is bettered by Lionel Messi (1045), but not Cristiano Ronaldo (388) or Neymar (861).

Hazard leaving Chelsea – Title defence failure

Although City have taken the league by storm this season, Chelsea’s title defence has been poor to say the least. It’s the second title defence in a row where Chelsea have not been up to the races.

For Hazard to continue his growth as a player and to be recognised as one of the elite he needs to be winning or challenging consistently for a league title every season. That is not happening for him at Chelsea, which will be increasing his frustrations.

Hazard leaving Chelsea – New challenge & Ballon d’Or

A new challenge may be on the Belgian’s mind. As mentioned, he has been with Chelsea for six seasons now. In the modern game longevity is becoming a less frequent feature of a career.

At 27, Hazard is now in his prime years and he arguably has six seasons at left in him at the very top of his game. He will want to be challenging to win the Ballon d’Or year-on-year during that time. While Messi and Ronaldo are still dominating European stats, Hazard is a name that is constantly thrown into the ring for those who are expected to hit the highest levels.

Winning the Ballon d’Or while playing in the Premier League is not a very frequent occurrence. The last time it happened was in 2001. So even with the domination of Messi and Ronaldo from 2008 onwards – it seems unlikely for anything to change any time soon.

Hazard leaving Chelsea – Champions League desire

Winning the Champions League is at the top of the list for every player in Europe. Hazard is facing the prospect of not playing in the competition for the second time in just three seasons. While Chelsea are still in the current round of the competition, they aren’t being backed by many to advance.

His desire to win the competition is natural. It’s all to apparent how difficult it is to win the Champions League while playing with the pressure of what is known as the toughest league in the world.

While doing no discredit to the strength of the remainder of Europe’s top leagues, they are seen as easier routes to having a better chance of winning the Champions League, which may be a factor in Hazard’s decision to move on.

Is Hazard leaving Chelsea this summer?

MLS debutants run riot on opening weekend

The opening weekend of MLS has set the tone for the rest of the season. There was plenty of drama with goals, video assistant referees, red cards and shock results. However, one astonishing stat that has come from week one was from MLS debutants.

A total of 26 goals were scored across the ten games with nine of those coming from debutants – which equates to 35% of the goals scored on opening weekend.

What makes it all the more impressive is that all nine goal scorers came from different clubs, adding to the excitement.

WATCH 📹 – Take a look at all nine debutant goals from week one

2018 Key Transfers: Toronto FC

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Toronto FC and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

The MLS Cup holders have got a lot to live up to. They head into the 2018 campaign on the back of an historic treble in 2017. Greg Vanney’s side really raised the bar last season and repeating that feat again this time around is going to take a huge amount of work. There have been some exciting new players come in, while Toronto have done well to keep the core of their squad together. With little improvement needed on the face of it, this has been a winter transfer window where the aim has been to keep the squad fresh and ensure there is enough depth to challenge on all fronts once again…

Key Signings

Gregory van der Wiel: Toronto have identified where they wanted to improve on their squad depth. They’ve certainly picked up a quality defender in Gregory van der Wiel. The Dutch fullback is a winner. He has league titles with European giants Paris Saint Germain and Ajax to his name. He was also in the Dutch side that came runners up in the 2010 World Cup. This is certainly an exciting signing for Toronto and further proof they are looking to dominate.

Ager Aketxe: This is a big statement from Toronto and for MLS. Ager Aketxe might not be a household name in European football but he has made the switch from La Liga at 24. He started his career with Athletic Bilbao and spent last season on loan at Cadiz. As a creative midfielder who is known for his ability to finish, Aketxe has the potential to be a real asset to Toronto.

Auro: Another defensive addition to Toronto’s ranks. Auro comes in on loan with the option to buy from Brazilian side Sao Paulo. He has represented Brazil at U17 and U20 level. He is a good option for Toronto due to his versatility of being to play on either the left or the right.

Notable Departures

Benoit Cheyrou: The experienced Cheyrou has called time on his playing days at 36, but his story with Toronto hasn’t ended. He is now working with the TFC academy, which is a huge bonus for the future stars of MLS. Keeping him at the club in some capacity is a good move by Toronto, given he was part of their rise to the top. His career saw him play at the top level in European football and while he is going to be a miss in the dressing room as well as on the field, he will still be a part of the setup for what looks like years to come.

Steven Beitashour: Toronto moved quickly in the winter window to ensure they had cover for their departing players. Beitashour featured 22 times last season for TFC and played in 51 games across his two seasons with the side. A solid fullback who pitched in with supply from the righthand side who will no doubt be a miss. He has moved to expansion side LAFC, who have picked up a good signing.

2018 Key Transfers: San Jose Earthquakes

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at San Jose Earthquakes and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

San Jose Earthquakes had a solid 2017 campaign, finishing 6th in the Western Conference. They fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs and have changed some personnel to give the squad a needed freshen up. Mike Stahre is looking to stamp his footprint onto his side having come in as head coach in November and he will be hoping to get off to a good start in under a week’s time.

Key Signings

Joel Qwiberg: Signed from the Swedish first division, Joel Qwiberg comes in to bolster San Jose’s defence. The left back is noted for his technical ability who can also be deployed to assist as an attacking wingback.

Magnus Eriksson: Another signing with history in Swedish football. He has a consistent goal-scoring record which will be welcomed news to Chris Wondolowski. Eriksson will be expected to relive the pressure on his fellow forward while looking to impress during his MLS debut season.

Eric Calvillo: A 20 year old who looks to have a bright future ahead of him. Eric Calvillo has represented the U.S. at U15-U19 levels and has made a name for himself as a midfielder who can be deployed in a number of roles. While he probably won’t be a regular from the get-go, he will be looking to break into the team and continue to progress.

Notable Departures

Darwin Ceren: After spending two seasons at San Jose, Darwin Ceren is on the move. He made 33 appearances and had a good sense of when the time was right to push on into the attack. His ability to cover a lot of ground will need to be replaced.

David Bingham: After spending four seasons waiting patiently for his chance to become a regular between 2011-2014, David Bingham has left for LA Galaxy. He made 91 appearances over the last three seasons but lost his starting place during the 2017 campaign. Perhaps the right time for both parties to part ways …

Victor Bernardez: Given San Jose’s defensive frailties at times last season it’s not a surprise to see changes to personnel. However, Victor Bernardez’s departure may come as a bit of a strange decision considering his regular starting place over the last six seasons. His 162 appearances prove that San Jose are losing an experienced head but now at 35 they’re looking for the long term.

Marco Ureña: After 25 appearances in his only season with San Jose, Marco Ureña has moved onto new boys Los Angeles FC as the third selection in the Expansion Draft. He scored five goals in 2017 and is known for linking up the attacking play. The Costa Rican international will be missed.

2018 Key Transfers: Philadelphia Union

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Philadelphia Union and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

There wasn’t really a lot for Philadelphia Union fans to shout about during in the 2017 campaign – finishing 8th in the Eastern Conference, outside of the playoffs. With that in mind it would be fair to say they could do with revamping their squad in hope of reaching the post season. They’ve signed just five players so far, while some notable players have been moved on. It’s going to require a big effort for them to force their way into a playoff spot considering how competitive the Eastern Conference is, but the squad will be ready and raring to go come the start of the season.

Key Signings

David Accam: Easily the biggest signing for Philadelphia Union during the window. David Accam comes in as a designated player from Chicago. He has an impressive MLS record in his three seasons so far, scoring 33 in 78, with a further 15 assists. His goal contribution makes him an ideal forward to help Philadelphia push in the right direction. At 27 they have picked up a player nearing the peak of his powers and the Union faithful will be hoping he can produce on their opener to give everyone a lift and positive start to the 2018 season.

Cory Burke: Firepower is what Philly have needed and this is another signing who will be hoping to make a difference. Cory Burke isn’t exactly a household name but he has international experience under his belt with Jamaica. Coming in from USL side Bethlehem Steel FC, he bagged an nine goals in 25 games last season. He will be looking to put pressure on his teammates Jay Simpson and C.J. Sapong for a starting place.

Notable Departures

Chris Pontius: Heading into his tenth MLS campaign having scored 45 goals in 215 games, Chris Pontius leaves Philly after two seasons. His experience will be missed but it seems a good time for him to be moved on as both parties look to freshen things up.

Roland Alberg: Having played 52 times for Philadelphia over two seasons Roland Alberg is on the move. He scored 16 goals and picked up four assists during his time at the club and will be a miss in the middle of the park.

2018 Key Transfers: DC United

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at DC United’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in the 2018 MLS season…

DC United head into the 2018 season with plenty to improve upon from the previous campaign. Finishing bottom of the Eastern Conference wouldn’t have been something they expected at the start of the season given they made the playoffs the year before that. Now it is time for them to push themselves back to more familiar territory and Ben Olsen’s side has seen some key names depart in a bid to freshen things up. Seven new faces have come in so far, with DC’s business unlikely to end there…

Key Signings

Yamil Asad: The Argentine attacker has joined DC United on loan for the season from Velez Sarsfield for the 2018 season. Asad spent the 2017 campaign on loan at Atlanta United, where he scored seven goals and 13 assists in 32 games. The Five Stripes wanted to make his stay permanent but an agreement could not be reached. DC United have been able to strike a deal though. They will send $500,000 in allocation money to Atlanta for Asad’s MLS rights, as well as $300,000 to Velez Sarsfield, with the option to make the move permanent in December for a further $700,000.

Frederic Brillant: DC have opted to bring in some experience into their back line in the form of Frederic Brillant. The 32 year old made 54 appearances for NYCFC over two seasons, starting the majority of them. With two defensive departures so far Brillant will bolster Ben Olsen’s options and the DC faithful will be hoping he can tighten up a backline that conceded 60 goals in 2017.

Darren Mattocks: The Jamaican forward comes into DC looking to accelerate his MLS career. Having been in the league since 2012, he has netted 24 times in 136 games but now could be the time for him to become a more influential provider. Last season saw him used in a bit-part role at Portland but you could suggest more is expected of him here as he is the only forward DC have signed so far.

David Ousted: This looks set to be the new number one for DC with the departure of Bill Hamid. David Ousted made 142 appearances for Vancouver over five seasons with the club and at 33, the Dane has plenty of experience under his belt. He has been one of the more consistent ‘keepers in MLS over the last few years and a fresh start will do him good.

Oniel Fisher: Another defensive addition for Olsen, Oniel Fisher comes in from Seattle. The 26 year old can play in either of the fullback positions. Having made just 27 appearances in his last three seasons – all with Seattle – now will be the time for him to lock down a permanent starting place. He joins fellow Jamaican Mattocks and has shown his ability to use his pace to provide attacking support from the flanks.

Junior Moreno: A player many might not be overly familiar with is Junior Moreno. The 24-year-old Venezuelan comes in with international experience and could be the midfield option that DC have been missing. A box-to-box/central midfielder who has been noted for making an impact on the game both offensively and defensively. His flexibility to play in two key positions will be a breath of fresh air for Olsen and at just 24 he has the potential to become a long-term success, providing he settles in well. One to watch…

Notable Departures

Bill Hamid: The departing fan favourite and last line of defence, Bill Hamid, is moving on after eight seasons at the club. He made 184 appearances for DC and will go down in the history books for the club, as their first Homegrown Player. He won Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014 and is tipped to be the long term option for USMNT. With all that in mind it comes as a bit of a surprise that he has left but now might be the right time for both parties to try something new. Time will tell with this decision…

Chris Rolfe: The MLS veteran has called it a day at 35 after making 239 appearances across a 13-year career. A sad end for Rolfe but the right decision, having not played since April 2016 due to a concussion, his experience is going to be missed.

Lloyd Sam: The English winger departs DC after two seasons with the club. He played a key part in pushing DC into the playoffs in 2016 despite only playing in 13 games after joining from RBNY. He started 23 of his 30 games in 2017 but at 33, D.C. have decided now is the time to find a longer term replacement.

Patrick Nyarko: Another winger who has been shown the exit door. Patrick Nyarko spent the past two seasons with DC, who have decided not to renew his contact. He departs having scored five goals in 40 appearances and he has been a good provider but perhaps not enough in the opinion of DC having decided to allow him to move on.

Sean Franklin: A regular starter at right back since his inception into MLS in 2008, Sean Franklin is going to be missed by the DC fans. He’s been at the club since 2014 and has been a key feature of the side during those four seasons. His experience will also be a loss for the DC dressing room, highlighted no more so than being part of an LA Galaxy side who won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 12.

2018 Key Transfers: Chicago Fire

As the 2018 MLS season closes in, we will run through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we look at all Chicago Fire’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in their 2018 MLS campaign…

Chicago Fire were impressive during the 2017 season. Finishing in the top three was a major improvement on the previous year, although they did fall short at the first hurdle in the playoffs. Now it is time for Veljko Paunović’s side to kick on and see if they can reach the playoffs for the second season on the bounce. There have been some high profile departures from the squad with as many as 13 shown the exit door. The Fire have added five new faces so far but it would be a surprise to see their business stop there…

Key signings

Grant Lillard: Tipped as one of the best college soccer players over the last four years, Grant Lillard is an exciting prospect for Chicago. The 6-foot-4 central defender is rated highly by General Manager Nelson Rodriguez who feels he can become a dominant player. Lillard featured in an Indiana University side that conceded just seven goals in 25 games, so it is clear he has the potential to be a future star. While he may not be expected to be a regular starter in his rookie season, he will no doubt be utilised and coming up against some of the best attacking sides in MLS is only going to help him improve his qualities.

Rafael Ramos: Another defender with the potential to make an impact for Chicago. Rafael Ramos is a name familiar to MLS having been at Orlando City since their introduction to the league back in 2015. He’s made 37 appearances in his MLS career so far and at just 23 there is plenty of time for him to become a regular feature of the Fire backline. Providing healthy competition for Matt Polster will be beneficial to improving Chicago’s squad depth.

Jon Bakero: When talking about having a name to live up to, there might not be a huge amount of people who can tell you much about Jon Bakero. He is the son of former Spanish international and Barcelona attacking midfielder Jose Mari Bakero. The 21-year-old is looking to follow in the footsteps of his father and make a name for himself, and while he has not yet played in Europe, his inception into MLS has an impressive back story. He was awarded with the Hermann Trophy as the NCAA’s top player for 2017 and the Class Award during his senior college year. His commitment to college soccer has shown his desire to succeed and signing through the SuperDraft is a clear indication of his efforts paying off. Bakero is going to be one to keep an eye on…

Aleksander Katai: The Serbian has come in on loan from Deportivo Alaves. As a versatile option in either attacking midfield or on the wing he is seen as a positive addition to the Chicago squad and someone who can help fill the void left by recent departures.

Notable Departures 

John Goossens: The loss of John Goossens might not come as too much of a surprise for many, however he will be a player Chicago will miss having in the squad – highlighted by the number of times he featured for the Fire last season. The midfielder made 24 appearances in the 2017 campaign, starting 15. He was an important member of the squad who surprisingly was their second-highest assist provider with four, while he added three more goals himself.

Joao Meira: Chicago’s top four appearances makers were defenders and Joao Meira was one of them. A fundamental part of their backline, he started 27 of his 30 games in 2017 but is now a free agent. After 58 appearances with Chicago during his two seasons with the club he signed a contract with Lorca FC in the Spanish Segunda, although his contract has since been terminated after the side failed to meet their previously agreed terms, leaving him in limbo.

David Accam: The biggest departure from Chicago has to be David Accam – their top scorer in the 2017 campaign. The winger, who as we all know has blistering pace and the ability to create something from nothing, has moved on to Eastern Conference rivals Philadelphia Union. He will be a huge miss for the Chicago starting XI and is yet to be replaced with a like-for-like attacker in terms of quality and experience.

Arturo Alvarez: Another Chicago player who has left the club after two seasons is Arturo Alvarez. He has been traded to Houston Dynamo after featuring 25 times during the 2017 campaign. Alvarez netted three goals and provided a further two assists last season but struggled to be selected on a consistent basis having started just 13 games. Despite all that, he was a frequently used squad player who Chicago will be looking to replace with like-for-like experience given that he is about to begin his 15th MLS campaign.

DC United set to sign Yamil Asad in exciting $1.5m move

DC United‘s attack should be a lot better in 2018. Argentinian winger Yamil Asad is set to join the club in a big-money move that will see the Eastern Conference side pay out around $1.5 million for his services, according to The Washington Post’s Steven Goff.

The 23 year old is set to join DC on loan from Velez Sarsfield for $300,000, with the option to make the move permanent in December for a further $700,000. But as well as paying his parent club, DC United will send $500,000 in allocation money to Atlanta United to acquire his MLS rights.

Asad spent the 2017 season on loan with Atlanta and impressed on the left wing alongside fellow attackers Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron. He ended the season with seven goals and 13 assists in 32 regular season games.

Atlanta were desperate to retain Asad’s services for the 2018 season but had difficulty in striking a deal with the player. After negotiations broke down twice, the club made the decision to sell on his rights. Minnesota had expressed a strong interest but it looks like DC have won the race for the dynamic forward.

Asad will undoubtedly improve DC’s attacking play. The club finished bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2017 and failed to score in half of their games. They were the league’s joint-lowest scoring team last season, scoring just 31 times. Asad contributed to 20 goals alone so he should instantly improve the team’s fortunes in the final third.

Ben Olsen will have a wealth of attacking options to choose from this season. Darren Mattocks has joined the club and will likely share striking responsibilities with Patrick Mullins and Bruno Miranda. Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta and Zoltan Stieber will then compete with Asad in behind the forwards.

DC are preparing to move into new stadium Audi Field in July but will have to play 12 of their first 14 games away from home as a result. The technical ability and eye for goal that Asad possesses will therefore prove to be vital if Olsen sets the team up to counter-attack on the road.

Zlatan to MLS: Mourinho gives green light for Ibrahimovic to join LA Galaxy ahead of 2018 season

Zlatan Ibrahimovic appears as close as ever to completing a move to Major League Soccer. The LA Galaxy are reportedly in advanced talks to complete a deal to bring Zlatan to MLS, with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho suggesting he would be happy to allow him to leave imminently.

The news was revealed by ESPN’s Taylor Twellman late on Sunday night, suggesting that both the Galaxy and the player’s representatives have been negotiating a deal to bring Zlatan to MLS.

This isn’t the first time Ibrahimovic has been linked with a move to MLS. But given the circumstances, it feels as if it really is now or never. The iconic forward is 36 and is still recovering from a serious ACL tear suffered last April and is no longer at the top of the pecking order at Man Utd. The recent arrival of Alexis Sanchez has done little to help his chances.

That’s where the LA Galaxy can come in and offer the attractive option of regular first-team football alongside a quality standard of living. Ibrahimovic has made no secret of his desire to one day play in MLS and he now looks as close as ever to making that a reality.

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Mourinho gives green light

One potential stumbling block for the Galaxy would be the fact he is contracted to Manchester United until the end of June. However, Jose Mourinho has confirmed he would be happy to allow the striker to leave before the summer.

“He told me nothing about it,” Mourinho said on Monday. “The first time I read or heard something about that was from the media. He never mentioned that to me so I don’t know.

“Zlatan is in the last year of his contract. If it’s true and Zlatan wants a future in another club in another country we are here to help and to create conditions for that to happen, not to make his life difficult.”

The 2018 MLS season begins on March 3, with LA Galaxy’s opening match taking place away at the Portland Timbers on Sunday, March 4.

Ibrahimovic has only made seven appearances this season since recovering from that knee injury. He would therefore benefit from joining up with LA Galaxy for preseason preparations to ensure he is sharp and ready for the 2018 campaign, if a deal can be struck in the next couple of weeks.