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Wanderlust in Vancouver: Barry Robson latest to go

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I was introduced to the term “wanderlust” about 15 years ago in Douglas Coupland’s seminal book Generation X.

It seemed to stretch the definition of the word, expanding it beyond geographical attachments. It was more than the tendency to physically wander; it could also apply to wandering desire.

Today I am wondering about wandering, as it applies to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The news of the day is that Barry Robson and the Whitecaps have cut ties.

In a vacuum, the move makes perfect sense, especially as the veteran midfielder may have had family issues to consider. Either way, Robson never had the desired impact. Not even close in my mind.

I kept hearing that the caffeinated ginger made the team better, that his influence was more than the sum of his passes and midfield interaction. I tried ever so hard to see it – but I simply could never get there. I did see the feisty Scotsman holler and gesticulate a lot. But there was generally more sizzle than steak, and the team’s long, slow spiral upon the man’s summer arrival did nothing to support hopes of an impending Robson revelation.

He was 34 and set to make $600,000, so yesterday’s choice seemed easy – in a vacuum, that is.

The trouble I see is with the bigger picture at Vancouver. Specifically, what is the bigger picture?

They hired a technical director (Tom Soehn), who named a manager (Teitur Thordarson, who was already with the club). That lasted three months. Time for change.

I mean, hey, they gave it a shot! Right? It was clearly never going to work. Right?

Soehn took over. That lasted a few months; he returned to his former post as Martin Rennie came in.

Soehn and Rennie seemed to be onto something as they remade the roster for 2012. The season was going pretty well, especially considering this was a sophomore side in MLS.

So, clearly … time for do-over!

They endeavored to re-make the re-make, and things eventually were not much better for it.

Obviously, that’s a condensed version of events. It’s all more involved. But the bottom line is this: I see a lot of wanderlust at work.

I see something similar in a few of my single friends, what I like to call the “illusion of infinite choice.” That is, this dangerously misguided notion that something better is always out there. Just waiting to be had.

Talented types have come and gone with too much frequency around BC Place, Davide Chiumiento, Sebastien Le Toux, Lee Nguyen, Eric Hassli, Mustapha Jarju, Terry Dunfield and others. And this for a club that has played exactly 68 league matches.

And now Robson, who was the centerpiece of the first remodel. Or, was that the second remodel?

Honestly, it’s getting too hard to track them. And that is not a good thing for a club so new to MLS.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.