Kalifa Cisse, Rodney Wallae

Some real stunners on today’s MLS All-Star ballot

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Something has gone very, very wrong in the universe when D.C. United’s Lionard Pajoy is on the official MLS All-Star Ballot and Dallas’ George John is not.

Some of the boo-boos on this year’s ballot, out just this very afternoon and now available for fan voting, are understandable. For instance, Portland’s Rodney Wallace has been an absolute revelation at left wing. All-Star material? Eh, maybe … maybe not.

But considering that each MLS club gets six men on the ballot for better or worse, Wallace (pictured) probably deserves placement. The Portland Timbers man isn’t there because he was formally a marginal MLS defender before Caleb Porter’s brainstorm; after this year’s conversion, Wallace’s name plate might read “intriguing MLS left-winger.”

So that one we can understand. But others? Some of these are so bad, they make me want to drive around the country slapping people on the back of their noggins, the way Special Agent Gibbs does in NCIS.

(Embarrassingly, the ballot was chosen by media voters. I was one of them … but I am not guilty of any of the following.)  Some of the head-scratchers:

  • Lionard Pajoy? Lionard Pajoy? Seriously? The D.C. United forward has 10 goals in 44 MLS appearances – far, far from MLS All-Star production.
  • The absence of FC Dallas center back George John is inexplicable. He has been instrumental in helping Schellas Hyndman’s team merge into July with the league’s best record.
  • Sounders DP striker Obafemi Martins is absent, although good cases can be made for most of Seattle’s six choices. (Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales and Eddie Johnson.) Traore is the one I might replace.
  •  Adam Jahn from San Jose? Four goals midway through a rookie season certainly says “Promising.” But I’m not sure it says “All-Star.” Same for Deshorn Brown, Colorado’s talented rookie attacker.
  • Not to kick the pool old Goats, but any appearance from Chivas USA can be questioned outside of Dan Kennedy’s. (Pretty much the same for Toronto, by the way.) Alas, rules require six choices from each of the 19 MLS clubs.  I dunno – does that need a re-think?
  • Some of the potential All-Stars are “names” but are not enjoying good seasons. We’ll excuse these because they are mostly products of ballots (media ballots to form the public ballot, that is) that were due back on May 22, still early in the season. Prime examples are Chicago’s Chris Rolfe and D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius.

Major League Soccer’s All-Stars will face Italy’s Roma on July 31 match at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).