Major League Soccer Week in Review – Round 17

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The league was back to a full slate of matches for Week 17:

The champs are complete – well, almost: The two-time defending champion Galaxy had something that very closely resembled a first-choice lineup for one of the few times this year. Robbie Rogers started along the left, with Landon Donovan on the right in midfield. Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane, critical pieces in the mix, were back from international duty. Result: a 1-0 win over Chivas USA in Major League Soccer’s version of a SuperClasico, a win that upended the Galaxy’s run of three without a win.

The caveat here is that L.A. still has David Beckham’s Designated Player slot open… so we’ll see.

The big streaks: One really stands above the rest, Portland’s 15-game unbeaten streak. There are a few too many ties to make this one truly sexy. Then again, a few more showpiece wins like Sundays, a commanding 3-0 result over visiting and suddenly struggling Colorado, may color this one differently.

And one very nasty streak that was busted: D.C. United won. No … seriously. Chris Pontius’ early penalty kick was enough against visiting San Jose. D.C. United’s 1-0 result snapped a club-record 13-game winless streak.

More Mike Magee magic: How this man, traded away from Los Angeles for Robbie Rogers, has single-handedly ignited Chicago’s offense really is something else.

Magee (pictured) scored once as the Fire took all the points mid-week against Colorado, that time from the penalty spot. Then the American attacker had another goal over the weekend in yet another 2-1 win, this one on the road against Columbus. Magee has 10 goals now in 2012, including four matches with the Fire since his move from L.A. last month. He has six goals in six matches with Chicago including U.S. Open Cup contests.

A star is (re)born in Philly: John Hackworth’s Philadelphia Union have been a little mid-pack-ish this year. And even that has been somewhat tenuous, so much about the surprisingly high scoring rate for 20-year-old striker Jack McInerney. To escape ordinary and begin approaching something special, goals needed to start coming from Conor Casey. And voila! After just three goals in 13 games before Sunday, the 31-year-old striker supplied two in the Union’s win over 10-man New York.

The killer red for Sporting KC: What C.J. Sapong did in Dallas was certainly not the worst thing you’ll ever see in a soccer game. Something like this will never injure another player – but it was just so doggone silly and needless. And when a player checks the box on “silly and needless,” he has given the referee an opportunity to show red. Which is exactly what Mark Geiger did after Sapong kicked a ball (barely … but still) into a fallen Andrew Jacobson, an FC Dallas midfielder.

Worse still, SKC was up 2-0 at the time. But down a man in the Texas heat, the visitors conceded twice late and left with a draw.

The red-hot team we aren’t talking about: Yes, yes … Portland keeps rolling. But what about Real Salt Lake? After dismantling Seattle in Utah on Saturday – don’t let a rather tame 2-0 score fool you; RSL out-shot the visitors 17-2 – the team from Utah is now 8-1-1 in all competitions since April. Not bad for a club in a youth movement.

Houston has a scoring problem: And it’s not just about Round 17, although two more shutouts in this go-round won’t help things one little bit around BBVA Compass Stadium.

Houston even missed a penalty kick in a 2-0 loss to Montreal. (Giles Barnes skied that bad boy by several yards!) And then to get blanked at home by a Toronto side being held together by loanees and Scotch tape? No, things aren’t looking good.  Since pushing four goals past D.C. United in early May, Dominic Kinnear’s team, last year’s league runner-up, has scored twice in six league matches. Yuk.

Goal of the Week:  Chivas USA is usually on the other side of these things. But Tristan Bowen smacked a beauty in the Goats’ mid-week loss to Vancouver. Here it is:

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Watch Live: Mexico vs. Russia, NZ vs. Portugal

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Group A comes to a close on Saturday, with a pair of spots in the semifinals on the line. The group is jam-packed at the top, with nobody confirmed on to the next round and only New Zealand eliminated.

Russia meets group-leaders Mexico at 11:00 a.m. ET in Kazan, with the hosts needing a win to advance, while a draw would complicate things for Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad. Mexico needs just a draw to confirm advancement.

WATCH LIVE: Mexico vs. Russia live online at Telemundo Deportes

Mexico has brought back its first-choice lineup for the final group stage match, with a number of rotations made in the near-disaster against New Zealand. However, Carlos Salcedo is out with a dislocated shoulder, bringing Nestor Araujo into the starting lineup. Hector Moreno starts despite his injury concerns.

On the other side, Portugal takes on New Zealand with a chance to win the group still intact. Portugal sits in second position currently, level with Mexico on both points and goal difference, but behind by one on goals scored. Should Portugal win and earn a greater goal difference or outscore Mexico by more than one, they would win the group.

WATCH LIVE: Portugal vs. New Zealand live online at Telemundo Deportes

Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal yet again, fresh off his match-winning goal against Russia. They see both full-backs rotated from that match, with Raphael Guerreiro and Cedric rotated for Eliseu and Nelson Semedo.

New Zealand has already been eliminated, without a point thus far in the competition despite a pair of spirited performances for the Group A underdogs.

LINEUPS

Mexico: Ochoa, Moreno, Reyes, Layun, Araujo, Herrera, Guardado, J dos Santos, Hernandez, Lozano, Vela.

Russia: Akinfeev, Jikia, Kudryashov, Vasin, Glushakov, Erokhin, Bukharov, Samedov, Smolov, Zhirkov, Golovin.


Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Eliseu, Semedo, Moutinho, Pereira, B Silva, Quaresma, Ronaldo, A Silva.

New Zealand: Marinovic, Durante, Smith, Boxall, Doyle, Ingham, Rojas, Thomas, McGlinchey, Wood, Lewis.

Huddersfield breaks transfer record for first recruit

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Huddersfield Town’s first signing as a Premier League team has broken the club’s transfer record.

The newly promoted side snagged Belgian striker Laurent Depoitre from FC Porto, the club has confirmed. The 28-year-old had played in the Belgian ranks his entire career before trying his hand internationally, moving to Porto last summer. Unfortunately, he found playing time scarce, and has looked to the Premier League for a career revival.

“He is a proper striker,” said Huddersfield manager David Wagner. “One who has played for a very good Belgium side, featured in elite European competition and who has won domestic titles. It is great news that we have had the opportunity to sign a player of his quality and now we will focus on getting him back to the top form he showed only a season ago.”

Wagner also mentioned how Depoitre fits the “Terrier mentality” with a hard-working playing style.

The signing of Depoitre was at an undisclosed fee, but the club confirmed it broke the transfer record. Some reports tab the signing at around $6 million. That would far and away mark the highest fee paid by the club, with the previous record set last summer for German defender Christopher Schindler who arrived from 1860 Munich for around $2.2 million.

Still, that transfer record could be shattered again, with the club expected to announce the permanent signing of Manchester City loanee Aaron Mooy for a reported $12.7 million.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Lacazette to Arsenal, Aguero to PSG

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Things are beginning to truly heat up in the transfer market as we approach the official opening of the window. No serious domino has fallen yet, with the biggest signing so far proving to be Liverpool’s capture of Mohamed Salah.

Still, the big guns are taking aim, and the feel is that, while still needing some time, the bomb could drop at any moment. Here’s what’s making the rounds today:


Arsenal is being linked to several top-line forwards, many from Arsene Wenger‘s home country of France. One of them, Alexander Lacazette, could be progressing significantly.

According to The Guardian and the Telegraph, the Gunners are preparing a $56 million bid for the Lyon frontman, an amount which would prove to break the club transfer record. The report says Arsenal has spoken with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas and “agreement is close” on a transfer fee.

The report also states that Lacazette is open to the idea of moving to Arsenal, although the lack of Champions League play would be a drawback. Nevertheless, with the degradation of his favored move to Atletico Madrid due ot the club’s transfer ban, Arsenal would still reportedly be a foreseeable destination.


Manchester City also has striker news; two of them, in fact. First, Sergio Aguero’s career continues to find itself shrouded in mystery. With Gabriel Jesus‘s explosion onto the Manchester City scene, Aguero can be nothing but unsure of his role in the team moving forward.

With the recent ultimatum from Italian midfielder Marco Verratti possibly serving as motivation, French giants Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly preparing a massive bid to lure Aguero away from the Etihad. According to The Times, PSG is weighing a potential $76 million bid for the Argentinian. It’s no surprise that the bid would need to be massive to pry Aguero free. Not only has his goalscoring record proved vital to City in the past, but he has also stated multiple times he wishes to stay and fight for a first-team spot despite the arrival of Jesus.

The 28-year-old has a contract at Manchester City that runs through the summer of 2019, meaning if he is to be sold, time is running out for City to deal him.


Another Manchester City striker is in the news. With both Aguero and Jesus ahead of him, Kelechi Iheanacho has fallen from young gun to bench player. The 20-year-old has been looking for a new home, but things have bogged down because his parent club is insisting on a buy-back clause.

Iheanacho has been linked with both Watford and West Ham, with the pair of clubs both heavily in the market for a new striker. Leicester City has also reportedly been in the mix for Iheanacho. According to The Telegraph, Manchester City realizes that they may be letting a significant talent leave the club, and they’d like to give themselves the option of bringing him back. That will obviously lower the asking price considerably, but could be a benefit in the future.


One bit of completed business, former Premier League striker Victor Anichebe has completed a move to China, where he has joined second-tier club Beijing Enterprises Group.

Anichebe was with relegated Sunderland as recently as last season, but failed to make an impression and also saw his time hampered by injuries. The Chinese club he has joined is the club of late Ivorian Chieck Tiote, who passed away last week during training.

Marco Verratti crushes teammates in PSG ultimatum

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When asked if he wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain, Marco Verratti gave an answer sure to turn the heads of his teammates in the French capital.

Transfer rumors have swirled around the Italian midfielder all summer, and he finally addressed the situation in Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport. When asked if he wanted to leave, Verratti said he’d like to stay, but if he is to do so, the club must come through in the transfer window.

“It’s not that I want to go at all costs,” Verratti said. “It’s just I want to see if they really do build a great squad this time. In that case, I would be happy to stay.”

“Each year they say they are going to build a great squad, but we’ve seen the results. Promises are not enough. If, on the other hand, this time PSG with [sporting director Antero] Henrique stick to what they say, then I will be absolutely happy to stay. At the end of the day, nobody is forcing me to leave.”

It’s one thing for a player to say he thinks the club needs reinforcements in the summer, but Veratti goes all in here. For the Italian to claim that promises had been broken and good players were not brought in, that’s a ruthless aside to his current teammates.

Media reports have linked Verratti with a move away from Parc de Princes all summer. The 24-year-old has been most heavily linked with Barcelona, although clubs like Bayern Munich and Chelsea have been mentioned. According to a number of reports, Verratti turned down a new PSG contract as recently as last week in a meeting with the sporting director.