Portland among the most aggressive on a ridiculously busy day in MLS player movement


The roster freeze was lifted today and several teams wasted not a second in re-shaping and re-configuring for 2013.

Portland was one of the first to begin moving the pieces as the makeover under new coach Caleb Porter took off like a bullet train. In addition to acquiring Will Johnson from Real Salt Lake, the club is overhauling its back line – something the incoming Porter definitely needed.

Portland’s 56 goals allowed was third from bottom in MLS.

Out goes Eric Brunner (traded to Houston), Kosuke Kimura (traded to New York) and Steve Purdy and Steve Smith (options declined); in comes Michael Harrington (pictured) from Sporting Kansas City.

(The club also declined the option on Lovel Palmer, a midfielder who sometimes played right back at Jeld-Wen.)

The Timbers will apparently build around David Horst, who still needs some consistency but demonstrated enough in 2012 to deserve that “building block” designation.

Harrington’s acquisition could be feast or famine. On the one hand, Harrington was an SKC starter until this year, when he was beaten out by Chance Myers. Harrington is a fantastic one-on-one defender, but his inability to grasp the concept of the consistent, simply pass out of the back drove SKC coaches batty. If he can’t play simple and tidy out of the back for Porter, he probably won’t start at Jeld-Wen, either.

An interesting element of the Kimura trade was what New York sent back to Oregon for the right back and a second-round draft pick: allocation money and the MLS Homegrown rights for defender Bryan Gallego.

So the right of first refusal for Gallego, a 19-year-old former Red Bulls Academy product, not belong to Portland. Gallego just finished his sophomore season at the University of Akron – under Porter. Does Porter perhaps know something about Gallego’s plans?

Among the players released or traded, Smith is the one who actually had starter stuff; but a salary bump in his second year was apparently a little too rich to make sense.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.