Lots of angst, discussion ahead on Jay DeMerit’s All-Star role

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PHILADELPHIA – Something about playing against the English brings out the best in Jay DeMerit.

But as good as Major League Soccer’s commanding center back was at PPL Park Wednesday night, I believe a eyebrows were raised when the important Whitecaps man played all 90 minutes.

In fact, I am absolutely, positively, 100 percent dead set certain that more than eyebrows were raised around Vancouver. I’d say some blood pressure was seriously on the rise, too.

Vancouver meets Real Salt Lake on Friday. That game is in Utah. And yes, I said “Friday.” As in, not even on Saturday, which might have provided DeMerit a chance to grab just a little sliver of rest.

As it is, he would have to cross the country on Thursday and then jump into a game on Friday. This is Real Salt Lake, a team currently sitting second in the West. In fact, it’s second vs. third in the West – the very kind of match that shapes a playoff race.

So, back to Wednesday’s cascade of unfortunate events. When Aurelien Collin needed to leave early in the 3-2 win over Chelsea, MLS coach Ben Olsen was in a pickle regarding his center back situation. Once Carlos Valdes entered, Olsen was out of center backs.

So what does this all mean?

“It means I’m going to get a bunch of calls from Vancouver, all pissed off,” Olsen conceded afterward.

Olsen went on: “The plan was get him out at halftime. He has a game on Friday and unfortunately, we couldn’t do that. Our depth as center back wasn’t great. … He knew it. He looked at me at halftime and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ But I thought he did a great job. And it didn’t really affect the game too much. [Carlos] Valdés came in and did a great job.”

(As he talked in the press conference, I wondered if the calls weren’t already coming from Western Canada. I am sure Olsen doesn’t keep a phone with him on the bench. Still, I got a funny mental picture of Olsen’s cell phone ringing repeatedly during the match, with Vancouver coach Martin Rennie’s name coming up – while Olsen just kind of looks over at the phone, sees who it is and thinking, “Oh, man. I don’t want to talk to that guy.”)

There are no easy answers here. Olsen probably should have brought one more center back – but that’s easy to say now.

The reality is, with 18-man or 19-man rosters, coaches simply cannot provide adequate cover all over the field. They could, I suppose, by bringing 23-24 guys. But then the whole thing breaks down in a ridiculous substitution scramble.

Or, you could bring in all these other guys for cover – but neither the players nor their clubs want to see guys travel across the country, missing training with their teams, just to “provide cover.”

It’s a tough situation – and we have not heard the last of it.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

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.

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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.