Osvaldo Alonso wins third straight Sounders MVP honor

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For the third year in a row, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso has been chosen as the Seattle Sounders’ Most Valuable Player, no mean feat on a team that includes three designated players (none of which are him), Eddie Johnson and Michael Gspurning. Yet it’s no surprise that Alonso, who finally broke into MLS’s Best XI this season, took the honor voted on by his teammates.

I say finally broke into the Best XI because although Alonso does seem to become more comfortable going forward with each passing season, he has basically been the same player over the last two or three seasons. Yet this year’s honor was his first. Hmm …

Whereas his 2009 introduction to MLS may have included more mistakes and destruction than the player we see now, since 2010 (when he started winning team MVP awards), he’s basically been this game-defining wrecking ball that allows the Sounders to have one of the league’s best defenses despite average defenders. He allows Sigi Schmid to abandon him in the middle knowing Alonso will go land mine whenever comes too close. He’s a badass.

Making comparisons to players who never played in MLS often obfuscated these types of conversations, but in terms of the impact Alonso has on games, he’s as influential as former Real Madrid/Chelsea/France destroyer Claude Makelélé. Only he’s started to provide more going forward.

So how has he not become a staple in the Best XI when he’s perpetually the league’s best at his position? I brought this up to a few people at MLS Cup, who put forth the following ideas:

  • Midfield has suddenly become deep, as evidenced by Kyle Beckerman (among others) not making the team.
  • Best XI isn’t for the best players. It’s for the best attackers with a few defenders thrown in for credibility.
  • Unless you’re a numbers guy, you can’t get into the Best XI playing for a West Coast team. There are too many start times (and, too many simultaneous start times) that are too late for East Coast voters to develop an affinity for a more nuanced performance.
  • Osvaldo Alonso has actually become overrated.

There’s some truth in all of these except number four. Perhaps Alonso’s biggest fans are louder than ever, but there’s still a deep underappreciation for what he brings to Seattle. The farther I get from Seattle, the less likely I am to find somebody who can articulate Alonso’s importance to Seattle (whether they agree on his quality or not).

Perhaps that’s because the raw numbers aren’t there. Perhaps it’s because (like any soccer player) it takes more than one game to gauge his impact. And perhaps it’s because Seattle’s games aren’t as accessible to most of the countries as, say, Dax McCarty’s.

But Alonso’s teammates know how valuable he is. That’s why he’s always team MVP.

Mendy a doubt for start of Man City’s Premier League season

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High-flying left back Benjamin Mendy‘s Manchester City takeoff has been delayed by a thigh injury.

Pep Guardiola revealed Thursday that Mendy is doubtful for City’s Aug. 12 Premier League opener at Brighton and Hove Albion despite passing a medical to push through a $68 million move from Monaco.

Saying Mendy is “a little bit injured,” Guardiola said to expect an absence of two to three weeks.

[ MORE: LAFC hires Bob Bradley ]

The depth chart behind Mendy is incomplete, though City has added two right backs this offseason in Kyle Walker and Danilo.

The latter would be the front-runner to start in Mendy’s place, as he did in a 3-5-2 as Man City beat Real Madrid 4-1 on Wednesday.

Man City follows its opener at Brighton with a visit from Everton and a trip to Bournemouth.

Roma gives new 4-year deal to Premier League target Nainggolan

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Hard-nosed midfielder Rajda Nainggolan has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea for some time, but Thursday linked up long-term with his present club.

Nainggolan, 29, signed a new deal with AS Roma through the 2020-21 season, putting the Belgian box-to-box mid at the heart of i Lupi‘s plans to chase down Juventus.

[ MORE: Chatting with De Rossi ]

Nainggolan has been in the last two Serie A Best XIs.

The 29-times capped Belgian has six goals for his national team, and has 255 Serie A appearances between Cagliari and Roma. Nainggolan has 31 goals and 18 assists in those matches, scooping 62 yellows and two send-offs but never being handed straight red.

While it’s a perceived blow for his Premier League suitors, it’s a welcome retention for Roma. He’s arguably the reason Roma was ready to part with Michael Bradley in 2014, and you can see why: He plays right up to the line but knows right where it lies.

Too many fans: Udinese vs. Hannover friendly called off

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ST. VEIT, Austria (AP) Local authorities in southern Austria have called off Sunday’s friendly match between Udinese and Hannover as the estimated number of spectators exceeds the capacity of the stadium.

The city of St. Veit says about 4,000 fans, including 280 potential football hooligans, were expected for the game at the ground of local amateur club FC Alpe Adria, which has a capacity of 2,430.

St. Veit mayor Gerhard Mock says “it’s a shame … but security comes first.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the match between the Italian and German top-flight teams can be moved to a larger venue. Both Udinese and Hannover are having their preseason training camps in the province of Carinthia.

LIVE – Everton kick off Europa League campaign

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Wayne Rooney will play his first competitive game for Everton in 13 years.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores

That storyline will dominate Everton’s return to Europe as they kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Europa League campaign in front of a packed house at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The Toffees welcome Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok for the first leg of the third qualifying round as they aim to make it back to the group stage for the first time since 2014-15.

Click on the link above to follow not only Everton’s game but all of the Europa League qualifiers going on across Europe this afternoon with the likes of AC Milan, Fenerbache, PSV, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao all in action.

If Ronald Koeman‘s side successfully navigate their way past Ruzomberok then they will be in the play-off round which is the final hurdle before the group stage.