Few executives beyond Major League Soccer HQ in New York have meant as much to domestic professional soccer than Kevin Payne.
If we aren’t counting league officials (i.e., only talking about club officers), the longtime president of D.C. Untied has probably been the most influential non-owner since the league’s inception.
Today, Payne is on the move. The club has announced his departure, but without comment on Washington Post reports that his new MLS address will be at BMO Field with Toronto FC.
Payne had become something of a lightning rod around RFK Stadium. On the one hand, he was the architect of all those good times around the venerable ground, the early successes at the gate and in the win-loss column.
But the last few years have been lean, to say the least. There was a succession of failed coaches. The gap in playoff appearances (2007 until this year) could be traced not just to that coaching instability, but to a succession of flawed roster choices. Payne and GM Dave Kasper were always at the top of the player selection totem pole, a fact not lost on restless DCU faithful.
And there is the ongoing, seemingly never ending pursuit of a new stadium, one more befitting a club that once reigned competitively over MLS – but one that fell behind the times and sometimes demonstrated a lack of self-awareness, the aging lothario of MLS clubs, if you will.
It’s hard to pin the perennially stalled stadium negotiations on Payne. Truly, that thing has been a politically anchored mess that might have been impossible for anyone to untangle. Still, it will be one of his legacies, fairly or unfairly.
The annual LA Galaxy-Seattle Sounders matchups are always filled with drama, but Thursday’s moves took the drama and interest in the match up a notch.
Sigi Schmid’s first game back in charge of the LA Galaxy will be against his former club, which fired him midway through the 2016 season. Schmid will also have a brand new signing to debut in Jonathan Dos Santos, the midfield brother of star forward Giovani Dos Santos.
Meanwhile, the second-place Chicago Fire from the Eastern Conference travel to face second-place Sporting Kansas City from the Western Conference, with both teams back to full strength with the Gold Cup completed.
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Here’s a look at this weekend’s full slate of matches around MLS.
Matt Miazga is back again in the Netherlands.
Chelsea announced Friday that it had loaned the American international to Vitesse for the second-consecutive year on a season-long loan. Miazga made 19 starts last season in all competitions and another 10 appearances for Vitesse off the bench, with one goal scored in the run to the KNVB Cup title, the club’s first in its history,
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Despite his rise through the U.S. youth ranks and success with the New York Red Bulls in 2015 before moving to Chelsea, Miazga only made his first U.S. Men’s National Team start at the 2017 Gold Cup, playing the full 90 in the USA’s 3-0 win over Nicaragua.
Miazga went straight from the Gold Cup back to Vitesse to join up for preseason training.
“I look back with pleasure on my first year at Vitesse,” the 22-year-old Miazga told Vitesse’s website. “I felt very welcome and we have all made historic success. That success will be expanded this coming season and I will continue to develop myself. That’s why I returned as soon as possible after winning the Gold Cup. We are going to compete for the second prize in the club’s history. ”
While it’s disappointing that Miazga won’t be able to challenge for a place at Chelsea next season, he could do worse than facing the challenge of the Eredivisie’s huge array of talented attackers, and after another year of seasoning, he could be ready to play in England, with or without Chelsea.
More importantly for him, with the World Cup coming up, even though he’s on the fringe of the World Cup roster right now, getting regular matches in the Eredivisie will help his cause more than playing for Chelsea’s reserves.
Christian Pulisic isn’t short on confidence these days.
The rising star for the U.S. Men’s National Team is currently in preseason training with Borussia Dortmund, and he believes his side can push Bayern Munich for the title. Bayern has won five-straight league titles, but the last team other than Munich to win was Dortmund itself in 2012.
“We’ve got a big chance to win the league this coming season,” Pulisic said, via German publication Kicker.
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Pulisic has been firing on all cylinders so far in preseason. During Dortmund’s tour of China, Pulisic had three assists in a 3-1 win over AC Milan, and he also started and went the full 90 against Bochum on July 22 back in Germany.
The 18-year-old is coming off a breakout season for the Black and Yellows, scoring five goals with 13 assists over 43 games between the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League.
“Last season was a good step in my development,” Pulisic said, noting he wants to be “more dangerous” in the attack. “I want to build on that.”
Of course, Pulisic followed the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Gold Cup, taking the title for the sixth time. In less than a year’s time, Pulisic will likely be on the field, starting for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the hopes and dreams of many Americans on his shoulders.
“(It was) a good victory,” Pulisic said of the final.
It appears Gareth Bale has no plans of following Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez out of Real Madrid this summer.
“It’s a ridiculous, stupid story,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett told the BBC, following reports that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane wouldn’t promise Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo that they’d staying with the club this summer.
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Of course, these prompted counter reports that Manchester United could take advantage of possible instability at the Santiago Bernabeu and swoop in for Bale, but it seems that Bale is not for sale.
Bale played just 27 times for Real Madrid last season in all competitions, scoring nine goals with three assists while dealing with multiple injuries. His entire career at Real Madrid in fact has been plagued by injury, but ahead of a World Cup year with Wales still in contention for a spot in Russia, Bale will be extra motivated to stay fit this season.
Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the world: