Drilling down on: at Sporting Kansas City 1, LA Galaxy 0

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Man of the match: Kei Kamara was again a handful, but in a match where Kansas City had 60 percent of the possession and out-passed LA 474-309 (with 77 percent accuracy), Roger Espinoza deserves a nod. Against an LA defense that was too willing to sit back, Espinoza made sure Kansas City’s play kept moving, switching the attack from his deep-lying role. When not in possession, Espinoza make it an easy day for central defenders Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin. Matched against a midfield missing David Beckham, the match was there to be controlled by Espinoza. He took advantage.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Juninho and Michael Stephens didn’t do much to challenge Espinoza. This match may go down as a learning experience for the young Brazilian. When he fully matures, this is the type of game where he’ll be expected to assert himself as the best player in the middle of the park. Today, he let Espinoza do so.
  • The lack of quality in the Galaxy side was obvious from the get-go. The team had nobody in the middle with the skill on the ball to deal with a hard-working, pressing Kansas City team. Conversely, when LA tried to rush Sporting, KC was able to easily get the ball into the final third.
  • LA was clearly missed David Beckham, but Landon Donovan also didn’t look 100 percent healthy. When Edson Buddle passed a ball wide mid-way through the first, it looked as if Donovan was unable to stretch a leg out to play it. With Donovan coing back from an injured quadriceps, the play made you wonder if Bruce Arena was just out of options. Later in the half, a pass forward from KC that could have been intercepted was allowed to reach its target, Donovan seemingly unable to reach for the ball.
  • Buddle also looked hampered. Color commentator Taylor Twellman, when the LA forward was taken off in the second half, mentioned Buddle had received treatment for something Friday during practice. If Buddle is injured, that would explain why he looked so out-of-sync on Saturday.
  • LA’s defense only allowed one goal, but they didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. On dead balls – a place where Kansas City seemed to deliberately try to exploit a perceived advantage – LA was fine, Josh Saunders making a couple of confident decisions to help A.J. DeLaGarza and Tommy Meyer; however, you got the feeling that had Kansas City pressed the physical advantages they had with Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong, LA would have given up more than one.
  • And in that sense, this match was more about what LA didn’t do than what KC did. Go down the team sheet for Sporting, and there were only a couple of players who had above average days. LA, however, looked like a limited, injured, tired team at the end of a long season. Too bad it’s only April.
  • Bobby Convey had a nice assist on the only goal, but again he didn’t have much of a presence for Kansas City and was the first player subbed off. Still, the contribution on Kamara’s goal hints better days may be ahead. While it’s still unclear if he’s a good fit, a 5-0-0 Kansas City has time to figure it out.
  • Credit to Taylor Twellman for his contributions when Todd Dunivant went to ground in the first half, the Los Angeles left back having gotten the worst of a head-to-head collision with Kei Kamara. Twellman, who had his All-Star caliber career cut short because of concussion-related problems, offered that the trainers needed to get Dunivant off the field so he could be assessed before being allowed to continue. Unfortunately, Dunivant was allowed to come straight back on after he made his way to the sidelines. Still, Twellman provided a reminder that head injuries need to be taken more seriously.
  • And finally, here are the passing chalkboards for Espinoza and Juninho. Juninho’s passing percentage was much better, but look at the sure difference in activity rates:
    Espinoza
    Juninho

    Espinoza’s 124 “events” (things Opta tracks) was 20 more than any other player.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.

Roma-Chelsea reports could see Dzeko, Batshuayi… and Sturridge on the move

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Here’s a wild rumor out of Italy, as Gianluca Di Marzio has UEFA Champions League Round of 16 sides Chelsea and Roma working out a big transfer.

[ MORE: PST chats with Dzeko in July ]

Again, before we lay it out, we know that both clubs would not be able to use Cup-tied players in the UCL and that gives the rumor its unrealistic bent.

Chelsea reportedly is willing to send $62 million and striker Michy Batshuayi on loan to Roma in exchange for Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeiri. Reports say Roma is holding out for another $20 million, potentially add-ons.

Dzeko isn’t producing at his otherworldly rate of last season, but is far and away i Lupi’s leading scorer and bagged a brace against Chelsea in the UCL. And Batshuayi scored in Chelsea’s first two matches of the tournament.

There is something to the rumor, at least in terms of Emerson. The London Evening Standard quotes the player’s agent as saying talks are ongoing and the move is a “dream” one for Emerson, who is behind Aleksandar Kolarov on the left back depth chart since returning from injury.

Roma would need a UCL-eligible center forward, as Czech youngster Patrik Schick has been unable to find his scoring boots since a summer move from Sampdoria. Football Italia says, sensationally, that Roma would use some of the money to pry Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool.

Maybe the Emerson move goes through, but the striker swap feels like a headscratcher for Dzeko and Chelsea.

Pardew the latest to scratch head at transfer fees

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West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Pardew is the latest to find himself baffled at the prices on the transfer market.

To be fair to the Englishman, 56, it doesn’t sound like he’s raving in ‘old man yelling at the sky’ fashion. Rather he thinks the numbers are hard for fans to gauge and perhaps it’s causing a disconnect.

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And for him, at least, it’s a challenge to sort out whether the prices he’s being quoted are reasonable relative to the market. That makes sense, considering that as Newcastle boss in 2012 he sold Fraser Forster to Celtic for about $3 million and PSG bought Yohan Cabaye — then 28 — from him for $26 million.

Both fees would be a little different right now, we think (from the BBC).

“It’s difficult with the prices now to gauge what’s good value,” Pardew said. “We live in a hyper-inflated world because of the TV money received by the football clubs. Therefore, transfers and wages are going way out of kilter with real life. I think we’re all losing the plot with the figures. It’s just becoming, ‘Oh okay,’ and not even reacting to things any more.”

Now, to play devil’s advocate, if Pardew is actually just old man yelling at the sky, he’d better get out of the manager’s box. The fees aren’t changing for top clubs, which is why Jonny Evans is at risk from a Man City bid but not Newcastle United or Crystal Palace. And the TV money he talks about is going to allow clubs like WBA to hold onto players by offering better wages if they choose that route.

But it’s a fair sentiment regarding how to gauge these numbers. While it’s usually a bit laughable when fans and writers estimate whether clubs have paid too much or sold for too little, managers and administrators risk looking foolish if they agree too low or too high a fee relative to other teams.