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.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”