2011 MLS Cup - Portraits

MLS Championship recipe: start with quality center backs

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Show me an MLS champion, and I’ll show you a strong center back on patrol at that address.

You would need to go back to 2007 for the last time an MLS champion was crowned without a dominant center back. That year, Eddie Robinson and Ryan Cochrane competently stood as central sentinels along Houston’s back line. Both players were good MLS center backs – enforcers more than craftsmen – although not great ones.

But Houston’s overall team defense was fierce, so the center backs didn’t need to be famously adept at their trade, just solid clock-punchers. And they were.

Look at the teams that have won since then, and the men on watch in the middle of the back four:

  • 2011, Los Angeles Galaxy, Omar Gonzalez (pictured)
  • 2010, Colorado, Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne
  • 2009, Real Salt Lake, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers
  • 2008, Columbus, Chad Marshall

The point is, no team with porous defense will ever hold an MLS title. It’s a sliding scale, of course; if the attack is outrageously talented, perhaps the defense need only be “good” and not “great.” Still, it must achieve something above middling competency. That takes quality center backs.

All of this is to set up one question:

What, in the name of Paolo Maldini, is Toronto FC doing?

The defense at BMO Field:  A) Is terrible. B) Has always been terrible. C) Shows little indication of crawling out of the “terrible” zone.

Last night’s 6-2 loss at Santos is just the latest file in this open-and-shut case. So give me a second to climb my little footstool and place last night’s thrashing right on top of this tall, tall stack of ever-mounting evidence.

John Molinaro from Canada’s Sports Net takes a deeper look at the Toronto’s long-running inability to address its most pressing problem. Hard to argue anything he says.

Report: Januzaj wants to leave Manchester United for good

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 22: Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United competes for the ball during the International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund at Shanghai Stadium on July 22, 2016 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
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Adnan Januzaj wants to leave Old Trafford permanently.

The 21-year-old has one club goal since his breakout 2013-14 campaign, when he scored four times in the season that saw him turn 19.

[ RANIERI: Mahrez will stay at LCFC ]

It wasn’t long ago that the debate on Januzaj’s stardom was not hyped as if, rather when. Countries were fighting for his international future, and United fans were rankled when he didn’t hit the pitch.

Now, it’s a surprise if he factors at all. Januzaj hasn’t played for Belgium since 2014, and made just 12 appearances during a loan stint at Borussia Dortmund last season.

The Daily Mail reports that Januzaj has told Jose Mourinho he’s ready to leave Manchester.

Sunderland have been tipped as a possible destination for Januzaj, who certainly carries a lot of potential. The 6-foot winger has also been whispered as a target of Ajax and Milan.

WATCH: Neuer, Costa, Mourinho guest star in fantastic Pogba “Blah Blah Blah” ad

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Adidas has gone next level with its latest Paul Pogba advertisement.

Next level, or Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime” video meets Kanye West’s “Power” (meets Tim and Eric).

The ad is extra pertinent as we wait to hear whether Pogba’s seemingly inevitable move away from Juventus for a record fee.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Entitled “BLAH BLAH BLAH”, the advertisement features Diego Costa, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Jose Mourinho, Marcelo and others.

For me, the video is as instantly memorable as the “Take It To The Next Level” ad that shows a player going from Sunday league to superstar while Eagles of Death Metal’s “Don’t Speak” plays.

On another day, we can have a discussion on whether the Heidecker/Wareheim collective that brought us “Awesome Show” on Adult Swim is the most influential advertising inspiration in years.

Transfer rumor roundup: Welsh EURO stars to Everton, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 05:  (Forward to back) Ashley Williams, James Collins, Jonathan Williams, Gareth Bale and Hal Robson-Kanu of Wales visit the Stade de Lyon, ahead of tomorrow's UEFA Euro Champs 2016 semi-final between Portugal and Wales, on July 5, 2016 in Lyon, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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While much of the focus is on “will he/won’t he” when it comes to superstars like Riyad Mahrez and Paul Pogba, there are still plenty of fresh rumors going around the web this morning.

One of those involves a bit of a trend inspired by Juventus’ activity in the wake of Pogba rumors.

In the past, we’ve seen an almost dominant philosophy of investing in young players with the money gained from transfer sales.

[ MORE: Leicester lands Poland star ]

But Juventus prepared for a potential Pogba move by grabbing a fully-developed player who currently is an improvement on the Frenchman, nabbing Roma ace Miralem Pjanic.

Now Everton may be set to do the same thing. John Stones is by no means a finished product, and the Toffees may be forced into selling him to Manchester City.

Ashley Williams, at least right now, is a stronger player than Stones. The veteran Welsh defender leads both Wales and Swansea City, and would likely be a short-term step-up for Ronald Koeman‘s crew.

Wales Online says it would take $13 million to make the move happen, and with $50m coming in from Stones, that’s an easy decision (Though why would Swans sell? And Williams did support Liverpool as a kid).


Sky Sports says Paris Saint-Germain would love to see what Jese Rodriguez could do in a more demanding role. The Real Madrid man, 23, is jammed behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema at the Bernabeu.

From Sky:

“It’s a possibility, as are other opportunities in the transfer window,” Emery said during PSG’s tour of the US.

“I know Jese well, the club knows Jese well, he is a good player.”


Hal Robson-Kanu let his contract run out at Reading in the run-up to EURO 2016, when he scored what could be deemed the goal of the tournament.

That’s looking like a wise decision for the 27-year-old Welshman, who has become a target of Atletico Madrid and Sevilla in moves that would take him from England’s second tier to the UEFA Champions League.

Both sides are now for their signings being quite calculated, and Robson-Kanu carries risk; He hasn’t scored more than five goals in a season since 2012-13’s Premier League campaign with Reading.

“Leicester wanted me the most”: Ranieri to land Polish prize Kapustka

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 12: Conor McLaughlin of Northern Ireland is tackled by Bartosz Kapustka of Poland during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Bartosz Kapustka is headed to Leicester City, barring something wildly wrong with his medical.

The price for Kapustka, 19, is said to be $10 million. He made his debut for Cracovia at age 16, and has piled up 65 appearances with eight goals and 12 assists for his club.

[ RANIERI: Mahrez will stay at LCFC ]

A left winger who is capable of manning a central midfield spot and also the right side, Kapustka has 11 caps for Poland. He laid out his plans in this post from the Leicester Mercury:

“Yes, of all the offers tabled, Leicester wanted me the most,” Kapustka said. “Ranieri’s interest was a big factor for me.

“He was asking about me, he wanted me to join the team. This convinced me, but there were many factors.

“I’m not going there only because of the name of the club, or because they won the Premier League. I’m optimistic and think I have a real chance of playing time.”

Seems like a good signing for both now and the future for Leicester, as the teenager has already had impactful performances for his club and national team.