alvaro fernandez

It’s Tuesday, and Álvaro Fernández is still a Seattle Sounder

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TUKWILA, Wash. – A funny thing happened at Seattle Sounders practice on Tuesday: Álvaro Fernández showed up.

That may not sound remarkable. After all, Fernández is a Seattle Sounder player, but amid Monday rumors the Uruguayan attacker would be sent on loan to Colombia’s Deportivo Cali, the appearance of “Flaco” was significant. If the 26-year-old’s about to take a break from the Pacific Northwest, neither he nor the club are acting like it.

“I guess when you score a couple of goals, rumors start,” head coach Sigi Schmid told media after Tuesday’s practice, his team preparing for Wednesday’s meeting with European champions Chelsea.

“[There’s] nothing I’m aware of right now,” Schmid said, having just finished a long conversation with general manager Adrian Hanauer and technical director Chris Henderson. “Everything’s just rumors. [Fernandez has] two goals in our last two league games. He’s done well from that stand point.”

Rumor, innuendo, smoke – we still haven’t seen fire around the Fernández speculation, though you can see why it’s there. Seattle has filled their allotment of designated players with Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Fernández. If the Sounders are to make a big move by the time the transfer window closes on July 27, they may need to free up a spot. While not every big move requires a designated player spot (see: all-star Eddie Johnson), the type of transactions that generate weeks of idle speculation require designated player caché. With Montero and Rosales integral to Seattle’s 2012 plans, Fernández is the clear third of three.

But not being as important as Montero or Rosales, two all-star-caliber players, is a lot different than being in the bargain bin. As Schmid notes, Fernández has been productive of late, scoring the opening goal in Seattle’s last two MLS matches. But those are Fernández’s only goals of the season, and ranking 13th on the team in minutes played, Flaco carries the distinction of being one of the club’s best compensated players ($300,000, this season) without being a lock for Schmid’s starting XI.

Last year, Fernández’s nine league goals were second on the club, with Flaco scoring every 215 minutes. This year, Fernández is scoring once every 460 minutes, leaving him fighting for time in a midfield picture crowded by the emergence of Alex Caskey and rookie Andy Rose. Fernández has made 14 league appearances. Caskey and Rose have each made 13.

Ultimately, Fernández’s immediate future may have less to do with his play than his status. While he may not be performing to his $300,000 salary, that’s not money Seattle’s hurting to reclaim. The Designated Player spot, however, is scarce.

Fabinho admits interest in Manchester United

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If even a fraction of this summer’s transfer interest is real, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has taken every precaution against his biggest 2017 enemy: scheduled congestion.

Mourinho was a regular critic of United’s schedule last season in the run-up to its UEFA Europa League title win over Ajax, and is building his roster up for the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Saief completes USMNT switch ]

The manager already had plenty of attacking options, and has added Victor Lindelof to his stable of defenders while reportedly flirting with PSG’s Marquinhos, too. Defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic is also a reported target (as are half of the world’s elite footballers).

And now, a wry smile from Monaco’s Fabinho hints that Mourinho may be making progress with another target.

‘‘It’s a tempting invitation. … I would first talk to my agent, Monaco too, to decide everything right. But it’s a great club, sure enough I would think well about it.”

Fabinho played mostly right back in 2014-15 before splitting time between that position and defensive midfielder the following year and seeing most of his time at CDM last season. Mourinho has lavished praise and given a contract extension to right back Antonio Valencia and has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Paul Pogba at CDM (though the latter can certainly operate higher up the field).

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.