Nick DeLeon, Temmu Tainio, Luis Robles

MLS waiver list released; no huge surprises, but some intriguing names

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There are only little surprises (i.e., no major whoppers) on the MLS waiver list that came out today.

These are MLS men whose contracts have run out or whose options were declined (and who are not otherwise eligible for a December re-entry draft.) It’s all a bit complicated; the entire set of MLS roster rules is here, if you are so inclined.

Long story short, most of these guys simply are not adjudged by their current management as having sufficient MLS-level talent; a few have the talent, but their contract number has climbed too high.  See: “Teemu Tainio” below.

Tainio is probably the top name available, although a couple of the younger guys will surely be scooped up. The list is here. They are all available for selection during Monday’s waiver draft, conducted via conference call.

Don’t expect a bunch of activity, but there are a few intriguing names on the list:

Tainio, New York Red Bulls: Manager Hans Backe loved Tainio’s toughness, although most of us thought Dax McCarty delivered so much more at the holding midfield position; McCarty was clearly a better two-way player and covered vastly more space compared to Tainio, even he if he was not as strong in the tackle. Regardless, the former Finnish international was 32, increasingly brittle and owner of a contract that paid more than $200,000 guaranteed. Oh, and Big Apple Soccer dug up this telling number: the Red Bulls were 1-5-5 in games Tainio (pictured, right) started.

Jan Gunnar Solli, New York Red Bulls: A starter in 2011 in defense who became a backup midfielder this year. At age 31, and nudging up against $200,000 annually in salary, the new management deemed him expendable. Beyond his swell music mixes, they are probably right to part ways with DJ Solli.

Bill Gaudette, NY Red Bulls: He did OK during the Red Bulls injury crisis in goal, although Gaudette was eventually beaten out by a guy who had slipped temporarily out of pro soccer (Luis Robles). Gaudette, 31, was also released by the Galaxy in mid-season.

Carlos Rodriguez, FC Dallas: The young Panamanian international lasted just a year in Dallas, and it wasn’t a terrible one. He started 12 games and got into 12 more. Rodriguez is just 22 years old, so there’s presumably some upside here, although Rodriguez wasn’t anything special going forward, and that’s something FCD manager Schellas Hyndman values in his outside backs.

Julio Cesar, Sporting Kansas City: The steady Brazilian seemed perfectly suited for his role at Livestrong, to sit dependably in front of his two center backs and provide cover for outside backs who frequently spent more time on attack than on defense.  Management apparently decided they could find a man to fill that role for less than $255,000. (Plus, he turned 34 on Sunday.)

Blake Brettschneider, New England: The Revs seemed pretty fired up about getting the young striker this year from D.C. United. He had 10 starts and seven appearances off the bench. Manager Jay Heaps appreciated the 23-year-old’s energy and athleticism, but strikers are inevitably judged by their productivity, and two goals wasn’t sufficient, it seems.

Klinsmann wants top-four finish at Copa America, but can the USMNT do it?

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: The USA soccer team poses for a group photo before taking on Bolivia in the international friendly match between Bolivia and United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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With the United States kicking off the Copa America this Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann has made his goal clear:

Reach the final four.

After a disappointing showing last summer in the Gold Cup and a poor finish to 2015, the USMNT heads into the Copa winners of six of their last seven matches and ready to make a run. But can they really reach the semifinal?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. faces their toughest test in the opening match against Colombia. One of the most dangerous teams in the tournament, few are expecting the U.S. to get a result against Los Cafeteros. Just a draw would be a great result for Klinsmann’s men, but it will be a big ask against the fourth-ranked team in the world.

The second match against Costa Rica is key. The two CONCACAF foes have plenty of experience playing against each other, and it is a relatively even matchup. The last time these sides met in October, the U.S. put in one of their worst performances ever under Klinsmann, and he must avoid a similar result at the Copa. If the United States wants to secure their position as one of CONCACAF’s top two sides along with Mexico, they cannot afford to drop points against Costa Rica.

Paraguay will be the USMNT’s final opponent, a very intriguing matchup for Klinsmann. Paraguay’s recent form doesn’t look threatening on paper, as Ramon Diaz’s side has not won since November, taking just two wins from their last 12 matches overall. However, they reached the quarterfinals in last summer’s Copa, earning a draw against Argentina and knocking out Brazil in penalty kicks.

[ MORE: Klinsmann excited about USMNT’s promising youngsters ]

The two sides that advance from Group A will face off against Group B in the quarters. Brazil are the heavy favorites in that group, paired with Ecuador, Peru, and Haiti. The U.S. beat Ecuador last week, defeated Peru in a September friendly, and are strides above Haiti, arguably the weakest team in the field. With Brazil likely to win Group B, a second-place finish in Group A would give the U.S. a brutal matchup in the quarters. Brazil embarrassed Klinsmann’s side in Massachusetts last fall, walking over the U.S. en route to an easy 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Mexico’s Pulido fought off kidnappers to call police for help ]

With the prospect of potentially facing Brazil in the quarters, the U.S. needs to put all their focus on winning Group A if Klinsmann really wants to reach the semifinals. The only match that the U.S. is not expected to take points from is the opener against Colombia, meaning a surprise result, however unlikely it may be, could kickstart a nice little run for the Stars and Stripes.

Firm issues plan urging companies to let employees watch EURO 2016

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's second goal of the game during the International Friendly match between England and Australia at Stadium of Light on May 27, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Worried about trying to balance work with EURO 2016 this summer? Acas is here to help.

Acas, a British conciliation firm that helps companies maintain good working relationships with their employees, has called for bosses to allow their staff to watch EURO matches.

[ MORE: Bellerin to make Spain squad ]

Some matches, including England’s Group B showdown with Wales, kick off during the workday at 3 p.m. London time.

Sir Brendan Barber, who is the chairman of Acas, believes workers should be given some time off during games, or work later hours on other days to allow time to watch the EURO.

The EURO 2016 tournament is an exciting event for football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

Employers should have a set of agreements before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive while keeping staff happy too.

Our guidance can help managers get the best from their teams, arrange substitutions if necessary and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings off.

With the tournament getting underway on June 10, I suggest printing out Acas’ statement and seeing if your boss will follow the sage advice of Sir Brendan Barber.

VIDEO: Payet scores sensational free kick winner for France

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 25:  Dimitri Payet of France in action during the International Friendly match between Netherlands and France at Amsterdam Arena on March 25, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Don’t let Dimitri Payet get a free kick, because he’s probably going to score.

After scoring four of his 12 goals for West Ham from dead-ball situations this season, his touch has carried over to the French national team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

With France playing Cameroon and the match tied 2-2 in the 90th minute, Payet stepped up from about 30 yards out and did this:

While there may be some suspect goalkeeping on this one, it’s a stellar strike that found the top corner perfectly from a tough angle for a right-footed shot.

[ MORE: Saints set to give Long new contract as Liverpool, Spurs show interest ]

Payet has three goals for the French national team, with two of them coming from free kicks. After being named to the PFA Team of the Year this season, Payet will be a key member of the France squad that has high hopes as the host nation for the upcoming EURO.

El Tri striker Pulido fought kidnappers, used cell phone to call police

HYERES, FRANCE - JUNE 01:  Alan Pulido (no.19) of Mexico celebrates his goal during the Toulon Tournament Final between  Mexico and Turkey at Stade Perruc on June 1, 2012 in Hyeres, France.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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More details have been released regarding Alan Pulido’s kidnapping in Mexico.

The Mexican international and Olympiakos striker was taken at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Tamaulipas. He was then freed on Monday after a police “rescue operation.”

Seen leaving the police station with a bandaged hand, officials have now given information on how Pulido was injured.

[ MORE: PSG defender Aurier arrested ]

The 25-year-old striker cut his hand while punching through a glass pane in an attempt to escape. Officials also said Pulido fought his kidnapper, doing enough to grab a cell phone and notify police of his whereabouts.

From BBC News:

State prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla said the masked gang had taken Pulido to a house in Ciudad Victoria where he eventually found himself alone with one of his abductors.

“They traded blows. He takes it [the phone] and calls [emergency number] 066. It all happened very quickly,” Mr Quintanilla told Imagen radio.

An official report of the calls Pulido made to the emergency operator, obtained by the Associated Press, revealed that he threatened and beat the kidnapper while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were.

In one of the calls, Pulido said police were outside and starting to shoot so he described what he was wearing to avoid being mistaken for a kidnapper.

A wild situation, but the most important thing is that Pulido is safe while one arrest has been made.