Adam Johansson

Sounders picture clears as Seattle reveals Johansson’s imminent departure

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After practice in Seattle on Tuesday, Sigi Schmid gave the verdict some had anticipated all offseason, though after four March games, others thought the news would never come. Yet there he was, the Sounders’ head coach, breaking the news to the media after today’s practice: Right back Adam Johansson, in Seattle for only one year, was gone.

The 30-year-old started 25 games for Seattle last season, a number that would have been greater were it not for his responsibilities with the Swedish national team. When available, he was Schmid’s obligatory first choice, which makes it all the more remarkable Johansson is being let go.

Johansson hadn’t been healthy enough to regain that role, a right knee problem keeping him out of the lineup for each of Seattle’s first four games. Now back from injury, Johansson is expected to be waived on Wednesday.

“It’s really a salary cap situation primarily,” Schmid told the assembled media after practice. Johansson’s 2012 cap hit was $175,000, a difficult hit to absorb when your team has other options.

The most obvious of those is DeAndre Yedlin, the 19-year-old right back who has started three of Seattle’s four March games. His long distance goal in last Tuesday’s win over Tigres has been the highlight of his season, one that’s made him a quick favorite with Sounder’s fans. His defensive contributions have been inconsistent, though his ability to burst forward fits perfectly with a Sounder approach that prefers to give Mauro Rosales and Mario Martínez the ability to cut in from the midfield’s right.

Just like Johansson, Yedlin’s eager to fill that space, only the Home Grown Player will do so at a fraction of the cost.

Seattle also doesn’t lack depth at right back. Veteran Zach Scott started March 6’s match at Tigres, while players like Marc Burch and the currently injury Pat Ianni could provide in-a-pitch solutions. There are immediate as well as emergency alternatives, should Yedlin’s defensive struggles start to overshadow his ability to get forward.

But the biggest news here may involve Brad Evans, somebody who has been a regular in Sigi Schmid’s midfield. Earlier this year, Evans discussed the possibility of him playing right back. Now it seems like that’s an inevitability.

“[W]e know that Brad Evans has played some at right back,” Schmid explained, “so that’s a consideration that we have moving forward — that Brad would go back there.”

It’s not a bad option. Full back isn’t exactly a position of strength in Major League Soccer1,2. If Shalrie Joseph becomes a regular contributor (something the Sounders seem convinced he will), being able to push a player of Evans’ quality to right back shows great depth. How many teams could not only outright cut a Swedish international but also replace him with a U.S. international, albeit one that’s moving from a different position?

We’ve talked before about how Seattle’s team was a bit of a work in progress, but thanks to the arrival of Obafemi Martins and departure of Johansson, we’re finally getting a clear picture of what Schmid’s ideal team. Evans will be the first choice right back. Yedlin will still get plenty of time as Evans’ utility man role sees him fill in across the midfield. Joseph will partner Osvaldo Alonso in midfield. Martins pushes Mauro Rosales back to right wing.

Four weeks ago, it didn’t look like that picture was going to come together until the summer. Now, we can see Seattle’s core, and with Johansson gone, there’s potential to find another Djimi Traore-level acquisition to add depth in midfield or attack. While that may not happen, losing a $175,000 player from a position of depth will give Adrian Hanauer options, even if he elects to use those options at the back (not middle) of the roster.

As Sigi Schmid said after Saturday’s draw with Portland, he finally has his full team. Now they can start moving forward, even if that means they’ll do so without a good right back. While one year in Seattle proved Adam Johansson to be a dependable player, he was one Seattle could do without.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.