MLS preview: San Jose Earthquakes at New England

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  • San Jose is playing on the road for the second time in four nights
  • Temperatures in the area will climb into the 90s, so conditions on the artificial turf could be downright brutal at kickoff
  • New England must replace injured striker Juan Agudelo

After that soft opening to 2013, when goals were so doggone hard to come by, New England has stabilized and pulled into mid-pack status in the East.

Riding the offensive surge of young Diego Fagundez and the tight defense of Jose Goncalves (starting to pick up some mentions as possible MLS Defender of the Year), Jay Heaps’ team is 3-1-3 in MLS matches since mid-May.

San Jose’s mini-revival of late is more humble, still. But it is a mini-revival. Two wins in four tries under interim manager Mark Watson (especially considering the other two contests were one-goal setbacks on the road) have breathed some fresh life into the bunch from Buck Shaw.

The timing, on the other hand, cannot be to San Jose’s liking. When the kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Gillette Stadium, it will be the Earthquakes second road date in four nights.

Considering temperatures expected to climb into the 90s in the Boston area on Saturday, conditions on the artificial turf at Gillette could be brutal – especially for the team that traveled in on Thursday.

While San Jose copes with potential fatigue, New England has been idle since last week’s 1-1 draw at Chivas USA.

The Revs will, however, deal with the business of replacing injured striker Juan Agudelo. Heaps’ choices to oppose big San Jose center back Victor Bernardez include Chad Barrett, Dimitry Imbongo and Jerry Bengtson.  Heaps could also move Saer Sene further ahead in the formation; he has been playing along the outside.

Barrett has been a nice addition on the bench lately, making a strong case for the start. Then again, by doing so Heaps would remove his top option for a striker who can clearly be effective off the bench. The MLS journeyman has two goals in four games since returning from a hamstring injury.

Watson’s striker pairing should be well-rested, at least. Alan Gordon and Adam Jahn played up front in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Toyota Park, leaving Steven Lenhart fresh for Saturday. Shea Salinas also returns from suspension.

MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and speedy winger Marvin Chavez are not available, away on Gold Cup duty.

“Any time we set off on a road trip and are missing five starters from the match before, you are behind the 8-ball already,” ‘Quakes center back Jason Hernandez said. “We are lucky we have a good team that has guys that can fill those holes. But it’s a battle.  It’s going to take another strong effort mentally and physically in Boston and we’re going to have to keep grinding and push for a win because time is running short.”

We’ve already mentioned the pair to watch in particular for the Revs: Fagundez, just 18, is already in his third MLS season. He has five goals and four assists this year from that outside attacking spot in the Revs’ 4-1-4-1 preferred system, continuing to improve while brimming with even greater potential.

On the other hand, he can be thoughtlessly sloppy and inconsistent at times – or, exactly what you’d expect from an 18-year-old still learning the tricks of mental focus.

And then there is Goncalves, a big reason the Revs are 2-0-1 lately at Gillette without allowing a goal in that time.

The official league preview, stacked with facts, is here.

Report: Ibrahimovic to sign with MLS next week, LA Galaxy likely landing spot

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It appears Zlatan Ibrahimovic will finally be taking his talents to the United States.

According to a report from ESPN FC, Ibrahimovic has played his last game for Manchester United, with the club ready to let the Swede out of his contract in order for him to sign in Major League Soccer. While it’s not 100 percent clear where Ibrahimovic will end up, the report states the Galaxy are the leading contenders for his services.

[READ: International preview, what to look forward to this week]

Ibrahimovic certainly comes to the U.S. with a rich pedigree, with a trophy room full of league titles and UEFA Champions League titles.

But there are questions hanging over Ibrahimovic. The 36-year-old is coming off a torn ACL and whether he’s healed now, 12 months since the injury, he’s made just five appearances for Man United this season, with four of them coming off the bench.

With many MLS clubs moving towards signing younger, up and coming talents, especially from South America, can Ibrahimovic keep up in a physical league, coming off a major injury and at his age? It’s likely he can make an impact, but considering the kind of money he’s likely to be on, it will be tough for him to be worth it without bringing an MLS Cup.

If he does sign with the LA Galaxy, it would be a massive statement back to their new noisy neighbor in LAFC, after the expansion club made waves signing Carlos Vela as a Designated Player and Bob Bradley as head coach. Ibrahimovic will have to quickly gel with Sigi Schmid’s squad, including with Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos in midfield.

Wilshere could have left Arsenal last August

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It’s hard to imagine an Arsenal team without Jack Wilshere on the books, but it nearly came to be during last summer’s transfer window.

Speaking openly in England’s training camp this week, Wilshere detailed how Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger approached him one day in August and told him the England international wasn’t in Wenger’s plans.

“It was an honest conversation,” Wilshere told The Guardian. “It had been boiling up for a while. Everybody knew I had a year left on my deal and had been out on loan, got injured and wasn’t really in his plans. He just said: ‘At the moment we are not going to be offering you a contract so, if you can get one somewhere else, you can go.’”

Wilshere said that he looked around but ultimately wanted to win his place back in the Arsenal first team, and he did so by November, after mainly playing in the Carabao Cup and UEFA Europa League through the first three months of the season.

This week, Wilshere earned a recall to the England National Team for the first time since the Three Lions’ disastrous defeat in Euro 2016 to Iceland and he’s played 31 appearances this season in all competitions, the most since the 2013-2014 season, showcasing a new-found fitness level.

That being said, Wilshere hasn’t found the form for Arsenal that earned him plaudits in the past from Xavi Hernandez. Wilshere looked off the pace in Arsenal defeats to Tottenham, Ostersunds and Manchester City in February, failing to make an impact in his central midfield role.

Wilshere has three months left on his contract, and while he said it wouldn’t be a distraction, the longer his future is unresolved, surely it will be in the back of his mind.

We had a sneak-peak in 2016-2017 with Wilshere playing on-loan at Bournemouth. Perhaps next season we’ll see Wilshere playing away from the Arsenal colors again. This time, on a permanent basis, unless Wenger changes his mind.

Bolt to train with Borussia Dortmund on Friday

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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Sprint star Usain Bolt is set to train with German soccer team Borussia Dortmund on Friday.

The Bundesliga club says the eight-time Olympic champion, whose last race before retirement was at the 2017 world championships, will “participate in an open training session” with coach Peter Stoeger’s side.

Bolt posted a picture of himself in a Dortmund shirt on Twitter, saying, “BVB, get ready for Friday.”

Dortmund, which shares a sponsor with Bolt in sportswear giant Puma, had long said that the 31-year-old could train with the team at some stage.

Dortmund’s next game after the international break is at Bayern Munich on March 31. Bayern can secure the league title then if other results go its way.

Can says he wants to play for “very big club” next year

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Liverpool swing man Emre Can – whose contract expires this summer – has not yet found a club to sign with yet, and the future free agent is playing up his own talents while looking for a new home.

“I have the self-confidence to say that my qualities are sufficient to play in a very big club next season,” Can told German newspaper Suddeutche Zeitung. “I’m doing great in England. The Spanish league is also attractive. The same applies to Germany, where tactics are concerned, and the Italian club football, which has recently caught up.”

“Incidentally, the same applies to France, this league has now established itself as one of the best in Europe. Therefore, I do not want to exclude anything.”

However, Can also said that the Premier League’s spending power plays a major role, and singled out the German top flight – his home country – for its inability to pay top players.

“Sure, the Bundesliga would interest me, why not? Although I must say honestly that the level has waned in recent years,” he said. “The Premier League has the power to spend more money on players than the Bundesliga. This is very, very important for players.”

Despite those comments, the 24-year-old insists that money is not the ultimate deciding factor in where he will play.

“What counts for me is that I’m an integral part of the team and at a club with a chance of winning the title,” he added. “That’s what every footballer dreams of because that’s the reward of your hard work.”

Can has not ruled out a return to Liverpool, a club that he says “still feels like family.”