A few early winners from Thursday’s MLS Draft

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Check back for more analysis later; here are some winners from the first 90 minutes of Thursday’s MLS draft:

New England: Consensus for MLS SuperDraft 2013 was a mix that included just one prime-time, set-and-ready, just-add-water figure – followed by a bunch of guys who may or may not help immediately. The one man, of course, was Andrew Farrell (pictured). So, moving up into the No. 1 spot to get the guy looks like a shrewd move.

New England needed a center back and needed a player who could add something to the roster now. Not down the road. Not next year. Now.

Said manager Jay Heaps: “He’s a player that’s going to be MLS-ready from Day 1, and that’s what we need at our team.”

adidas: The German apparel giant was all over this thing. I’ll be darned if top pick Farrell didn’t thank God first and then adidas second! Before anyone else, parents, coaches, agents, girlfriends (journalists … if only …), etc. Between Farrell’s endorsement and all the talk of “Generation adidas” and the implications of all the salary-exempt men on the draft, the sporting apparel giant sure got its money’s worth from MLS today.

Chivas USA: Perhaps it was luck. But even if it was, who could begrudge this little lost puppy dog of a franchise some rare good fortune? Thing is, Chivas USA’s new-old philosophy is to go with men of Mexican heritage. Other thing is, an apparently quality young man of Mexican heritage was available early in UConn midfielder Carlos Alvarez.

Thus, things fell together brilliantly.

The new deciders Chivas USA, selecting second, could have gotten themselves in trouble if they reached for a Mexican-American with such a high choice. Thanks to Alvarez’s availability, that wasn’t necessary. Again, that may be down to providence, but same difference on the end result, eh?

Alexi Lalas: Considering all the disinformation  and the regular old “throwing darts” factor attached to MLS Draft projections, what we all get past the first couple of picks is a series of lucky guesses and wild, swinging misses. Except … the ESPN analyst nailed about five of the early picks. Well done, sir.

FC Dallas: The FC Dallas table was surely shocked, but pleasantly so, to see Walker Zimmerman fall all the way to the No. 7 spot. Even if they didn’t necessarily need a center back, he was simply too enticing to pass on.

Projections for the big Furman center back were all over the place, but some had Zimmerman as high as No. 1.  It does create something of a logjam, although surplus is never the biggest problem to have. George John remains a bedrock at center back. Hopefully, Ugo Ihemelu can bounce back from concussion-related problems. And the team loves Matt Hedges, the No. 11 pick last year.

Furman University: The small liberal arts school in South Carolina is hardly a big dog in collegiate athletics. Soccer gives the Paladins a little basking time in the sun. Zimmerman was Furman’s third Top 10 MLS pick of the last nine years, and the others are not bad at all: Ricardo Clark (2nd in the 2003 draft) and Clint Dempsey (8th in 2004).

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish didn’t dominate the way Akron did a couple of years back – Five of the top 8! Are you kidding me? – although that may never happen again.  But the Irish did get two of the top 11, which isn’t bad. Besides, Notre Dame athletics needed a little bit of a distraction from recent, er, unpleasant developments, eh?

Check back for more analysis later:

Meanwhile, the Top 10 picks went like this:

1. New England Revolution, DF Andrew Farrell, Lousiville

2. Chivas USA, MF Carlos Alvarez, UConn

3. Toronto FC, MF Kyle Bekker, Boston College

4. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, FW Kekuta Manneh, Austin Aztex

5. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Erik Hurtado, Santa Clara

6. Colorado Rapids, FW DeShorn Brown, UCF

7. FC Dallas, CB Walker Zimmerman, Furman

8. Montreal Impact   MF Blake Smith, New Mexico

9. Columbus Crew   FW Ryan Finley, Notre Dame

10. Seattle Sounders FC, FW Eriq Zavaleta, Indiana

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

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Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.