There are two pressure points adding a little extra twist to yesterday’s news that Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei will require surgery to repair a broken nose.
TFC’s No. 1 was injured in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Columbus Crew at the ongoing Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando.
First is the team’s recent trade of quality goalkeeper Milos Kocic to Portland. It’s hard to criticize the decision, as two starting quality goalkeepers is hard to justify on an MLS roster given the restrictive salary cap. If he had not done so before, Kocic proved had had starter’s stuff during year-long fill-in duty in 2012.
The length of absence is undetermined. Last year, with Kocic in reserve, that would be of little worry. But now it’s on Joe Bendik, who has yet to prove his MLS chops. Bendik, 23, had three league starts as Portland’s backup last year.
The other pressure point here is Toronto’s fragile spot and how a little flagging form from the team’s goalkeeper might affect it. New manager Ryan Nelsen will need a good start to boost confidence around a club that can’t be expected to have much, a team that remains on the hunt for its first playoff berth.
Frei may well return in time for the Reds’ March 2 opener at Vancouver. But missing time in the interim – we are now 18 days from MLS first kick – is hardly ideal for a man who missed almost the entire previous campaign, as Frei did with a broken leg.
Why Antoine Griezmann is exactly what Man United need
An incredible stat emerged at the weekend which stated that United has the worst “big chance” conversion rate in the whole of the Premier League. Stats company Opta state that United have had 37 big chances (this stat is described as “a situation where a player should be reasonably expected to score”) this season, converting just 12 of them at a ratio of 32.43 percent.
There is, however, a complication surrounding any deal as Atletico currently have a transfer ban and if their appeal falls through then the Spanish club won’t be able to buy or sell any players in the summer.
For United, 25-year-old Griezmann would be the major arrival at Old Trafford this summer and the report also suggests that Mourinho is eager to offload Luke Shaw this offseason, plus Memphis Depay will leave in January as Lyon’s pursuit continues.
Back to Griezmann though, and it is reported that United have been pursuing the diminutive striker since the summer when he stole the show at EURO 2016 as the top goalscorer in the tournament which saw the host nation France lose in the final to Portugal.
On paper, Griezmann would be a phenomenal buy for United. He is exactly what they’ve been missing this season.
Yes, Zlatan has been ruthless in recent weeks — 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions says as much — but he is 35 years old and can’t be expected to go on forever. He has also had bad moments in front of goal this season and when you look around United’s squad they have raw young talents in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but not much else, and certainly no clinical strikers like Griezmann.
When I think of United, I think of a team creating copious amounts of chances and with their direct play under Mourinho they have certainly missed plenty of “big chances” this season, dropping points after failing to finish teams off and drawing many games they should have won.
If Griezmann was at United this season he’d probably be leading the PL in goals scored. I’m sure of it. He is of the same ilk as a Javier Hernandez or Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a lightning quick poacher who is cool in the box. Yet, Griezmann also offers more with his pace and creativity and that’s why United should break the bank to sign him this summer.
This season Griezmann has scored 12 goals in 25 appearance for an Atletico side battling back from adversity to position themselves in the La Liga title race once again. Over the course of his two-and-a-half seasons at the Vicente Calderon he has now scored 69 goals in 132 games in all competitions. Every step up he has made the striker has done it with ease.
For United to become title contenders and get back to the upper echeleons of Europe, Mourinho needs a predator in the box. Zlatan and Wayne Rooney are getting on and youngsters Martial and Rashford will take time to develop. With the likes of Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan putting chances on a plate for those in front of them, United’s fans must be salivating at the thought of seeing Griezmann in a red shirt.
If United go out and buy Griezmann this summer it will be yet another huge statement in their intent to be back among the elite.
O’Reilly, 32, is the eighth-highest capped player in USWNT history and retired from the national team in September 2016. She was an integral part of the team which won the 2015 World Cup in Canada, plus she has three Olympic gold medals from the 2004 games in Athens, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
The midfielder scored 47 goals in 231 appearances for the USWNT, while she has also played for the Boston Breakers and most recently the Kansas City Stars in the NWSL.
Speaking about signing for the FA Women’s Super League powerhouse, O’Reilly was delighted to be moving to London.
“Having come over to Arsenal last year to train, I was very impressed with the club,” O’Reilly said. “The facilities are world class and they have a tradition of excellence at the club that I wanted to be a part of, I’m very happy to be here.”
The schedules for the 2017-18 season in both the WSL 1 and 2 were released last week and the opening weekend of the season is on Apr. 22 when O’Reilly’s Arsenal play Notts County.
O’Reilly joins USWNT winger Crystal Dunn in the WSL 1, as she plays for Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea.
It seems very likely that this situation was about much more than a back injury as Costa and Conte reportedly had a bust-up on the training ground, while links surrounding a big-money move to China continue as Costa’s agent, Jorge Mendes, was seen visiting owners of Chinese Super League clubs last week.
A report in The Times states that Costa and Conte have decided to put their differences aside and the Spanish international is back in contention to start against Hull City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
It was also stated that although everyone is buddy-buddy for now, Costa could still leave in the summer as his volatile nature is far from impressing Conte who continues to stamp his authority not only on the players but the entire club.
It’s clear Conte is boss but he can’t have Costa undermining him as seems to have been the case over the past week and it was also the case earlier on in the season when Conte demanded Costa remained on the pitch.
That said, Costa’s importance to Chelsea can’t be understated as he is the join-top goalscorer in the Premier League with 14 goals and he’s added another five assists this season. With reports linking Chelsea with a summer move for Alvaro Morata, it appears Conte is already trying to plan for life without Costa.
Can the Blues win the PL title this season without Costa’s goal and presence up top? Despite a seven-point lead, probably not. That’s why Conte calling a truce in his instance makes sense.
That said, he now has six months or so to line up a long-term replacement for Costa.
The cracks have been papered over for now. But how long will it be until two fiery characters collide once again?
Messi, 29, has been at Barcelona since the age of 13 and the Argentine superstar has won every possible trophy with the Catalan giants, plus has been crowned the World Player of the Year on five occasions.
Time for a new challenge?
Reports had suggested that Barcelona have wanted to start talks over a new contract with Messi for quite some time but with just 18 months left on his current deal, Messi and his representatives are yet to hold talks.
“I have always said that Barcelona has given me everything and I am here for as long as they want me to be,” Messi said in Coach magazine.
Messi also spoke about his former manager and mentor, Pep Guardiola, and his challenging start to life in the Premier League as manager of Manchester City.
“It is a very competitive league, last season showed that, so it makes it very difficult to predict,” Messi added. “Of course Pep is a very successful coach, he will be adjusting to the league, but I am sure that he will be successful.”
Will Messi be part of Pep’s success at City?
It is obvious Barca will want him to stay but if a huge offer comes in for Messi from Man City this summer, or others in the Premier League, then surely he will think twice about it.
If Pep can coax Messi to join him at City, who can clearly afford him, then it would be another glittering star in their attacking line. That said, if Guardiola is going to be successful then he’ll have to add plenty more quality in defense as City currently sit 10 points off leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go in the PL season.