Chelsea to face All-Stars: Can MLS snap its losing streak?

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FOX Soccer got the scoop earlier today, confirming what had been rumored: Chelsea is coming over for this year’s Major League Soccer All-Star game (Jul. 25, PPL Park in Philadelphia).

This will be the second time the Abramovites will participate in the event, having also appeared in 2006. On that night, MLS came away 1-0 winners at Toyota Park, with then-Dynamo midfielder Dwayne De Rosario scoring in the 70th minute.

The coach from MLS that day? Philadelphia’s own Peter Nowak, who could be selected to again this time out, given Red Bulls’ boss Hans Backe was chosen last year (when the game was in New York).

To give you an idea of how long ago 2006 was in soccer years, players take saw action that day for Chelsea include Geremi, Shaun Wright-Philips, Andriy Shevchenko, Arjen Robben, and Lassana Diarra.

While the results of these exhibitions don’t mean anything, you can’t help but wonder if MLS is hoping for something more competitive than the last two years. Two easy Manchester United wins (by a combined scoreline of 9-2) left some wondering if the format’s really worth it. It’s nice to get a big, prestigious opponent in for a marque event, but if it’s going to turn into an annual hammering for MLS’s best, the showcase’s novelty will be usurped by trepidation.

There are a few reasons to think this year will be different. First, if Thierry Henry continues to be THIERRY HENRY, he’ll be the most dangerous attacker MLS has had since the league went to this format in 2005.  As Titi showed this winter, he’s still capable of grabbing a goal again Premier League competition.

There’s also Euro 2012 to consider, the last day of which is July 1. Chelsea’s squad is dominated by players who can be expected to take part in UEFA’s championship: goalkeeper Petr Cech (Czech Republic); defenders Ashley Cole, John Terry, and Gary Cahill (England); midfielders Frank Lampard (England), Florent Malouda (France) and Raul Miereles (Portugal); and attackers Daniel Sturridge (England), Fernando Torres and Juan Mata (Spain).

Some of those players will appear in Philadelphia, especially if their nations don’t get out of group. Others won’t even make the trip to the States.

But let’s have some fun. Let’s assume every player that goes to Euro 2012 doesn’t play at PPL Park. What kind of team might we see from Chelsea?

How about …

G:  Ross Turnbull
LB: Ryan Bertrand
CB: David Luiz
CB: Jeffrey Bruma
RB: Branislav Ivanovic
M: Oriol Romeu
M: Ramires
M: Michael Essien
LF: Lucas Piazón
CF: Romelu Lukaku
RF: Gael Kakuta

Mostly kids mixed in with some regulars, and of course, that won’t be the team. Even if it is, MLS’s side will still have their hands full.

Sargent signs first professional contract on his 18th birthday

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Josh Sargent’s 18th birthday is one he’ll never forget.

The young American phenom was finally able to sign his first professional contract on Tuesday after turning 18-years old, passing the FIFA threshold for when a foreigner can sign a pro contract. Sargent has been training with Werder Bremen’s youth teams for the last few months and has even trained with the first team and featured for the Werder Bremen U23s.

“We’ve gone over all the formalities and Josh signed his professional contract with us earlier,” Bremen sporting director Frank Baumann said on Tuesday afternoon. “Again, we’re delighted he decided to join us. He’s settled in brilliantly since the turn of the year.”

[READ: UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas]

Sargent will continue to train with the youth teams and reserves, and will be eligible to feature for the Werder Bremen first team for the 2018-2019 season.

Orlando City sign defender Sane from Werder Bremen

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After making a number of moves to improve its attack this offseason, Orlando City SC is now splashing the cash to improve its backline.

The club announced on Tuesday the signing of veteran centerback Lamine Sane from Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on a permanent deal. It appears that with less than six months left on his contract and Sane not in Werder Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt’s plans, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

“Lamine will significantly strengthen our back line,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “He brings tremendous experience at the highest levels of European football and we believe he will fit right in with what we’re trying to build in Orlando.”

Sane started 27 times for Werder Bremen during a struggling 2016-2017 season, but had made just 11 appearances this season for the Bundesliga side. He’s also made 25 caps for Senegal, but the French-born defender hasn’t appeared for them since 2015. Perhaps a good start to the season in MLS could get him a surprise spot in the World Cup squad.

The 30-year-old joins a rebuilt starting lineup featuring other veterans as Orlando City looks to win in the near term, after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.

While the team lost Cyle Larin and Kaka in the offseason, Jason Kreis and co. brought in Dom Dwyer late in the 2017 season, Justin Meram, Josue Colman, Uri Rosell and Sacha Kljestan in the offseason.  Along with a couple of new outside backs, Sane is the first signing to shore up the leaky middle of the park for Orlando, one that the club’s fans hope will lead Orlando City to a top-six finish in the Eastern Conference in the least in 2018.

Report: Barcelona agree nearly $50 million deal for Brazilian starlet Arthur

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Barcelona has again beaten out its league and global rivals for the next up and coming Brazilian star.

According to a report from Brazilian publication Globo Esporte, Barcelona has agreed with Gremio on a $49.4 million transfer fee for midfielder Arthur. The deal would see 60 percent of the fee go to Gremio and the rest to agents and the owners of part of the player’s rights.

[READ: Spurs ‘have capacity’ to win Champions League]

The 21-year-old’s deal is still subject to the standard medical tests, and wouldn’t go through until January 2019.

Arthur broke onto the scene as a permanent member of the Gremio first team in 2017, starting 27 league matches and nine times in the Copa Libertadores as a dominant holding midfielder.

Barcelona will likely look for him to play a similar role to countryman Paulinho or Sergio Busquets, controlling the tempo of the game with passing but also being able to quickly snuff out an attack.

Arthur created controversy in December when he was photographed wearing a Barcelona shirt. It was around then that news began to leak that Barcelona began negotiations for his services. According to other news reports, the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Inter Milan were also interested in Arthur’s services.

Wigan, Manchester City cooperating with police after pitch invasion

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Some Wigan Athletic fans got a little too excited following the club’s shock 1-0 win over Manchester City in the FA Cup, and the police are now investigating alleged crimes that happened on the field and outside of the stadium.

Police confirmed to the BBC that two supporters were arrested outside the stadium on suspicion of assault while the police are working with both Wigan and Man City to investigate what happened pitch side after the final whistle.

[READ: Wigan bounce 10-man Man City]

Man City striker Sergio Aguero was involved in an altercation with a fan on the field after the game, and it appeared that Man City supporters threw down advertising hoardings onto the field.

“Football is a family event and the disruption that players and fans alike faced will not be tolerated,” Greater Manchester police chief superintendent Stuart Ellison told the BBC. “As soon as people were on the pitch, we immediately deployed our resources to the front of the stands, where they were able to keep the two groups of supporters apart and prevent any further disruption.”