Neymar hands Barcelona fans hope amidst agony

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Before the Confederations Cup many questioned the ability of Neymar. Today, one day removed from Brazil’s spectacular 3-0 hammering of Spain, no one is uttering the word ‘over-rated’ when it comes to the 21 year old forward.

From start to finish of the quadrennial World Cup warm-up tournament, Neymar dazzled audiences with an impressive array of speed, skill and superhuman finishing ability. While he did not rip enough net to win the Golden Boot – that feat went to Fernando Torres, who scored five in the tournament (four of which came against minnows Tahiti) – Neymar’s four goals were tallied in stunning fashion.

From his 25 yard top-corner volley against Japan, to his 16 yard volley against Mexico, to his expertly placed 20 yard free-kick against Italy, to his roof-crashing thump against Spain in the final, Neymar was the hands-down winner of the Golden Ball as the top player of the tournament.

Four goals. Two with the right foot. Two with the left foot. All absolute firecrackers.

It was the kind of complete performance that turned non-believers into disciples, haters into lovers. Although the good people of Barcelona must have woke up an awkward bunch today.

On one hand they will be disturbed by Spain’s performance.

The ruling class of world football may simply try to chalk the loss up to their side’s exhaustion from a never ending stream of top-level club and international football, but the truth is they legitimately should be worried as to how exposed tiki-taka has become over the last eight months (remember, the unraveling began in Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Barcelona last November, Bayern Munich’s 4-0 pumping this past April merely magnified it for everyone). Such a rationalization would be dismissive although given La Furia Roja‘s track record, acceptable.

On the other hand, fans in Barcelona will be reassured by their club’s decision to shell out a €57 million ($74.4m) transfer fee to bring Neymar to Camp Nou. They knew of his lightning pace, artistry on the ball and sniper-like finishing, but they worried, ad nauseam, that the Brazilian was too much of an individual and may not play well with others. Namely, Lionel Messi.

Those fears have been, for the meantime, put to bed as Neymar displayed an intricate understanding with the Seleção players around him, namely Fred and Oscar. If he can establish a similar kind of relationship with guys like Xavi, Messi and Andres Iniesta – and avoid the gormandizing tendencies that undid Zlatan Ibrahimovic while in Cataluña – the Blaugrana might just find themselves back atop the throne of Europe.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

5th-place San Jose parts ways with Kinnear after 2.5 seasons

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Dominic Kinnear is out after two and a half seasons as head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, despite leading the club to a hugely improved standing 17 games into the 2017 season.

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The move comes 17 hours after San Jose put to bed a three-game winless skid with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, a result which propelled them into fifth place in the Western Conference, just two points off second place. After seventh- and ninth-place finishes in Kinnear’s first two seasons back in Northern California (he managed the club in 2004 and 2005 before the club was relocated to Houston, where he would remain for nine seasons, through the 2014 season), this year’s team seemed to be moving in a positive direction quicker than most had previously expected.

[ MORE: Accam scores a backheel (video) | Opara scores a CB bicycle ]

The club has named Chris Leitch head coach and Alex Covelo as assistant coach. Current assistant coach Steve Ralston and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley will remain in their current roles.

“First and foremost, we would like to thank Dominic for his hard work, professionalism and contributions to this club over the years,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said in a release. “He worked hard this year and was a first-class person all the way. This decision was made after a lot of thought and evaluation. We decided that we wanted to go in a different direction as we continue to build the identity of this club.”

Kinnear is the second MLS coach to be relieved of his duties this season, suffering the same fate as RSL’s Jeff Cassar, who lasted just three games before being fired in March.