Amid allocation fun, one destination makes sense for Carlos Bocanegra’s return

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Get ready for some Allocation Order fun, because if Carlos Bocanegra is bound for Major League Soccer, it unlikely Toronto FC will be his final destination.

The Reds hold the first spot on the re-entry list by virtue of their league-worst finish in 2012. But for a player like Bocanegra – having ties elsewhere in the States, a history with another franchise, and likely coming home to close out his professional career – Toronto makes no sense.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Bocanegra’s situation starts to mirror Brian McBride’s, a player whose return from England came with the condition he wind up with the Chicago Fire. Toronto eventually worked out a deal, traded their pick’s rights to the Fire (for Chad Barrett and change), thus getting something out of the unfortunate situation. With Bocanegra, it could happen again.

There have, however, been whispers of an agreement between Toronto and Portland stemming back to this spring’s ill-fated Mix Diskerud pursuit. That agreement, said to be born out of the trade that sent Ryan Johnson to Portland, would have TFC pass on a player of Portland’s liking, allowing the Timbers to select the player with the number two pick acquired from Chivas USA.

Beyond that National Enquirer stuff, it’s worth asking the extent to which Bocanegra would fit with Toronto. For a TFC team that has Doneil Henry, Darren O’Dea pushed to left back, and are looking to firm up a deal for Birmingham City loanee Steven Caldwell, does a commitment to Bocanegra even make sense? Without knowing the money that’d be committed to the former Fire star, it’s impossible to say, but there may be some justification to TFC either trading or passing on the pick.

That leaves Portland at number two and Seattle at number three. With the Timbers’ central defense infirmary, it’s difficult to see them passing on Bocanegra, while Seattle may look to make room for the former UCLA man, possibly at the expense of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

Still, you wonder if a situation closer to home might make sense for Bocanegra, with a team that prizes its veterans looking to add a player who would help compensate for an impending loss. At this point in his career, Bocanegra may covet a chance to sacrifice a more lucrative contract in exchange for a chance to play for the LA Galaxy.

And with Omar Gonzalez iffy to be on the roster come 2014, the situation makes sense from LA’s point of view. The veteran would start to Gonzalez’s left for the remainder of this season, giving Bruce Arena a chance to move A.J. DeLaGarza out right and Sean Franklin into midfield. Come 2014, Bocanegra and A.J. DeLaGarza would be the first choices in the middle.
Would all the be worth it in exchange for, say, Michael Stephens? At this point in the season, Toronto’s getting close to a something-or-nothing situation with that pick.

It’s all speculation, but in the wake of what we saw transpire with McBride, it’s important to remember: Some players have a way of landing where they want. Bocanegra is a California guy who could be flexible to LA’s salary cap constraints, while the Galaxy are always looking for the next veteran presence that can help line the trophy cabinet.

Regardless, expect more Allocation Order fun if Carlos Bocanegra agrees to come back to Major League Soccer.

FIFA seeking sponsors for video replays at World Cup

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LONDON (AP) Video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time and talks are underway with potential sponsor branding to appear when the technology is used, a FIFA executive said on Monday.

Soccer’s rule-making panel met Monday to assess recent trials ahead of video assistant referees (VAR) being officially approved by FIFA later this season for use in Russia in June and July.

“Definitely VAR will happen,” FIFA chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.”

Referees were assisted for the first time by high-tech aids at a World Cup in 2014 when goal-line technology was used. That system sees a message instantly flash on referees’ watches saying only whether the ball crossed the line.

Video review is used when there is a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity.

Replays could lead to delays in games in Russia as different angles are reviewed, presenting an opportunity for FIFA to brand up the segment on the global broadcast feed.

“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said on board the World Cup trophy tour plane during a stop at London Stansted Airport.

The final decision on allowing replays to become part of the rules of the game falls to the International Football Association Board on March 3 when its annual meeting is held at FIFA.

Video review has been expected at the World Cup because FIFA controls half the votes in IFAB’s decision. The other voters are the four British soccer federations.

Monday’s meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials, and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).

After the swap: Alexis, Mkhi-infused XIs for Man Utd, Arsenal

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The deal is done: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has moved to Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez going the other way in a monumental January move.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

How will it look for each side once the shape’s settled?

Arsenal

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at his very best — for Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 — he was deployed as a left or right wing. He contributed 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 matches during his final season at the Westfalenstadion, and predictably saw those numbers drop as Jose Mourinho consistently moved him toward an attacking center midfield role.

He’ll get the chance to go out wide again at the Emirates Stadium, though perhaps not always to the extreme flanks. Expect Alexandre Lacazette‘s numbers to explode with this move.

Arsene Wenger used a 4-3-3 to batter Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend, with Ozil on the right wing and Alex Iwobi on the left. The club still needs better at center defensive mid while Aaron Ramsey is out, so that will likely keep the lineup similar until he returns (at a minimum):

Cech

Bellerin — Mustafi — Koscielny — Montreal

Elneny (Ramsey, eventually)

Xhaka — Wilshere

Ozil — Lacazette — Mkhitaryan

By the way, a lot of Arsenal supporters aren’t feeling great about this (understatement alert):

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez prefers left wing, too, and Mourinho has a trio of in-form players who like that side of the field. Anthony Martial is red hot but plays wider than Jesse Lingard, and it seems one of them will take the slot of Juan Mata to the right of Paul Pogba in a 4-1-4-1. Marcus Rashford could also see the far right positioning.

But against top competition — continued apologies to Burnley — it’s usually a 4-2-3-1 for Mourinho with Pogba dropping next to Nemanja Matic a little deeper in the formation. Lingard has been getting the run as CAM here, usually to the detriment of Juan Mata. With Alexis as the clear-cut left wing in this formation, it causes real combat for the two other slots between Mata, Lingard, Rashford, and Martial.

So while it’s likely we’d see something like this in a big game for Manchester United…

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Pogba

Martial — Lingard —  Sanchez

Lukaku

… We’d love to see something more like this:

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Herrera

Pogba

Martial — Lukaku — Sanchez

How do you think Wenger and Mou will run ’em out?