Kicking the can on Osvaldo Alonso in England

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Right now, we have no reason to believe Osvaldo Alonso is going to be anywhere but Seattle come March.

That said, there’s a high profile team with decent resources who will get a good look at him over the next few days – a team that recently lost one of their best deep-lying midfielders to injury. And as most people in and around Seattle know, it’s difficult to get a long look at the Sounders’ destroyer and conclude something other than “this guy can help our team.” Perhaps he wouldn’t help West Ham United as much as Seattle, but he’d still help.

But such effects are zero sum games in the soccer world. There aren’t two Ozzie Alonsos, so if he were somewhere other than Seattle, the Sounders would have a significant hole to fill.

That might be an understatement. Think through Major League Soccer’s players and how they’re deployed by their teams and you won’t come up with a more important player that Osvaldo Alonso. That doesn’t necessarily make him the best player in the league or a person who’d be as important for other franchises. But for Seattle, he’s beyond significant. He’s vital.

Were he to leave, Seattle would have to find a new way to protect their defense. The team allowed the second-fewest goals in Major League Soccer last season, yet their best defender was Jeff Parke. How does that happen? Part of it was strong play from Michael Gspurning, but a lot of teams with good goalkeepers and still concede in bunches (as Dan Kennedy’s PTSD can attest). When you see the work Alonso does keeping action from hitting Seattle’s decent-if-average back liners, who realize he’s the big reason why one of the league’s better defenses doesn’t need standout defenders.

Alonso plays an important if less vital role in attack, one that was highlighted as Designated Player Christian Tiffert struggled through his first months in Major League Soccer. As the German import adapted to his new, more physical competition, Alonso persisted as the man that managed Seattle’s play in the middle third. When Brad Evans moved to central midfield at the end of the season, Seattle’s dependence on Ozzie persisted. Even if the 27-year-old is still more land mine than delivery man, he’s developed into a key component of Seattle’s transition.

If Seattle lost him, Tiffert would have to become the player they thought they were getting from Kaiserslautern. That’s likely to happen. What’s unlikely to happen is getting one player who can replace Alonso’s defensive contributions. With Parke now in Philadelphia, that becomes a particularly pressing concern.

Would that mean changing to two deep midfielders? Players attempting to do a job Alonso previously did on his own? Maybe the formation stays the same but the tactics change, head coach Sigi Schmid becoming more conscious about providing help to whomever steps into Alonso’s boots?

Or maybe it’s not something Seattle has to worry about at all. Even as he enjoys London’s days of proposed industrial action, Alonso’s still highly unlikely to move.

At least, he’s highly unlikely to move right now.

Pique says Neymar “does not know what to do”

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Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has spoken out about the Neymar saga, stating that he and his fellow teammates are trying to lend their comrade a hand as he looks to sort out his future between Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain.

Speaking ahead of the El Clasico preseason match in Miami, Pique told reporters, “Neymar and I we are very close and I want him to stay and I know the situation. Right now he doesn’t know what to do and we are trying to help him, the ones [on the team] that are more close to him to take the right decision.”

[ MORE: Miazga loaned back to Vitesse ]

Pique was the source of intrigue a five days ago when he posted a Tweet with picture of himself and Neymar and the caption “He stays.” The defender was forced to clarify later saying that his post was only a hopeful prediction of the future rather than a bit of breaking news.

“It depends on what he wants,” Pique said at the pre-match press conference. “He can be in all the clubs in all the world. He can be in Paris, Barcelona, Chelsea or City. All the clubs will want him. It’s about your priorities. What do you want? Do you want more money? Do you want to win titles?”

Then, Pique used his knowledge of American sports to make a comparison, perhaps indirectly referencing Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. “It’s happening here and it’s happening in the NBA as well. There are some players that are not earning all the money that they deserve to win titles. So sometimes you have to take decisions in life and it’s all about priorities.”

Meanwhile, club captain Iniesta was also asked about Neymar, and he said he just wants a decision soon. “We [as players] just want peace which will benefit everyone – the players, the club and everything surrounding it.”

Former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol also spoke out about Neymar’s situation, telling Spanish publication Marca that he thinks Neymar should make his decision soon to erase the uncertainty.

Cheers! Czech soccer club shapes dugouts like beer cans

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PRAGUE (AP) Czech club Viktoria Plzen has come up with innovative beer-can shaped dugouts that truly represent the city.

The club from Plzen, or Pilsen in English, is known as the Czech capital of beer which gave the world the golden “pilsner” lager in 1842.

This week, it unveiled the new dugouts at its Doosan Arena that look exactly like beer cans.

Plzen manager general Adolf Sadek said it was a joint idea from the club and the nearby Gambrinus brewery.

“Such dugouts are unique and I daresay no other club has them,” Sadek said.

Added Gambrinus brewer Zdenek Polak, “Beer and football belong to each other.”

Players welcomed the novelty, particularly with leather heated seats.

The dugouts will first be tested in Viktoria’s season opener against Dukla Prague on Saturday.

Report: USMNT’s Paul Arriola attracting MLS, European interest

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Several U.S. Men’s National Team players made strong impressions on Bruce Arena and Co. at this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup — which resulted in a Stars and Stripes title.

[ MORE: NYCFC continues push to top in latest MLS Power Rankings ]

One of those players is Club Tijuana attacker Paul Arriola, whose performance for the USMNT and in Mexico have drawn him significant interest from MLS, Portugal and the Netherlands, according to Goal USA.

The report from Goal states that a “half dozen” sides in MLS have shown interest in Arriola, including Real Salt Lake.

Arriola, 22, has played for Xolos in Liga MX since 2013 after finishing up his academy career with the LA Galaxy.

The Galaxy would hold the rights to Arriola if he were to join MLS due to a Homegrown claim, despite the forward only spending one season with the club’s academy from 2012 to 2013.

Chanot, Wallace among missing for NYCFC’s clash at Toronto

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Patrick Vieira’s men have been flying high as of late, but New York City FC’s difficult schedule continues over the weekend north of the border.

[ MORE: NYCFC continues push towards top of PST MLS Power Rankings ]

NYCFC will take on Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at BMO Field, but the third-place side in the Eastern Conference will have to do so without six first-team players.

[ MORE: MLS Week 22 preview — Sigi makes LA debut against Sounders ]

A number of injuries will keep out regulars like center back Maxime Chanot, winger Rodney Wallace and Ronald Matarrita, while Miguel Camargo, Khiry Shelton and 16-year-old midfielder/defender James Sands are also sidelined ahead of the Toronto clash.

Wallace and Camargo each sustained injuries during the CONCACAF Gold Cup while on duty with Costa Rica and Panama, respectively.

The two sides settled for a 2-2 draw when they last met on July 19 at Yankee Stadium, but an NYCFC victory could mean a strong push for Vieira and Co. towards the top of the East.

As the table stands, NYCFC currently sits just three points Toronto at the top of the Eastern Conference through 21 matches, while the Chicago Fire are lumped in between the two clubs on 38 points.

Meanwhile, TFC will continue to deal with a couple injuries of its own as Steven Beitashour and Benoit Cheyrou remain out with abdominal and calf ailments, respectively.