Is MLS being naïve about Robbie Rogers’ return and how it might be seen?

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Getting Robbie Rogers back into MLS uniform would be wonderful for everyone, for the larger message of acceptance, for the added quality, for the added media exposure that would surely come tumbling in and, not least, for the man himself.

Rogers wants to play in Los Angeles, understandably so. All the nervous parts would unfold closer to family and to familiar elements. And let’s not kid ourselves; performing as the first openly gay male in U.S. professional sports is high on the nervy scale.

So, clearly this is a special situation.

But how special? And how special does it need to be treated when it comes to roster policies? Because Rogers’ MLS rights belong elsewhere, and at some point, rules are rules.

The league needs to handle this with some care – and so far that hasn’t happened. MLS commissioner Don Garber doesn’t sound like he’s too worried about tampering here. Perhaps technically it doesn’t quality because Chicago signed off on Rogers training with the Galaxy.

But can’t MLS play this out a little and then recognize how it will be seen if not handled just so?

Yes, it would be good if Chicago arranged a deal with the Galaxy. But, again, at some point a league is a league and the Fire has every right to pursue maximum value in a swap. At some point, Rogers is an asset just like any other, one for which Chicago traded another asset previously.

(MORE: Rogers says MLS return likely in 2013)

Rogers removed any leverage that Chicago may have held with his revelation this morning that he isn’t very interested in playing for the Fire, that he would just “punt” instead of moving to Illinois. So, game over for the Fire.

MLS teams have been strong-armed into dealing with little leverage before. It happened with Freddy Adu and Dallas, which pretty much gave him away to D.C. United. It happened with promising U.S. under-20 attacker Luis Gil, whose rights were held by Kansas City but who wanted to be in Utah with Real Salt Lake.

Another “pennies on the dollar” arrangement that is, uh, “encouraged” by the league will be seen differently this time. Why? First because there will be far more eyes on this one.

But the bigger problem is that it’s the Galaxy. You know … David Beckham, Landon Donovan, AEG power suits, potential landing strip for Frank Lampard or Kaka or … well, you get the message.

Perhaps Chicago should take a little less than market value “for the good of the league.” But it’s naïve to think that all fans in all markets are going to see it that way.

After all, some might rightly say, there is another team in Southern California, right?

Pochettino: Dembele “next to Ronaldinho, Maradona”

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Mousa Dembele‘s been appreciated as a midfielder for sometime, but the Belgian is getting as many rave reviews as any other non-scorer these days.

Tottenham’s middle man got the twice-over from his manager on Friday, as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino prepares for Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.

“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”

The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.

The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.

Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fonte leaves West Ham after one year (for Dalian Yifang)

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Surely it was supposed to go a bit better than this: West Ham has moved center back Jose Fonte to the Chinese Super League.

Fonte, 34, is the latest member of Dalian Yifang, the Irons announced Friday. Reports say it’s a move for about $7 million.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

It ends an unexceptional 12 months for the center back, who made just 24 appearances for West Ham after engineering a move away from Southampton.

Fonte was publicly criticized by West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan earlier this season as Sullivan said his children “begged him” not to sign Fonte and Robert Snodgrass last January. Ouch.

Injured for much of this season, Fonte was one of the Saints’ heroes as the club moved from the disappointment of League One to the Europa League.

Those heroics inspired this longform piece from Joe Prince-Wright.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Week 28 of the Premier League season is here and the main talking points are the battle for the top four and the ever-changing relegation situation.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

Remember: due to the League Cup final on Sunday, finalists Arsenal will host Manchester City on Thursday, Mar. 1 as they were also scheduled to play in the PL this weekend. That worked out smoothly.

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Stoke City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Swansea City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
12:30 p.m. ET: Watford vs. Everton – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
7 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM]
9:05 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.