Report: Diego Forlán to be unveiled by Toronto FC this week

8 Comments

If the Toronto Globe and Mail is to be believed, Tim Leiweke is not screwing around with this move to Toronto FC. And as a result, the man who brought David Beckham to Los Angeles may be on the verge of landing the the league’s biggest catch since Thierry Henry touched down in New York. That is if ‘best player at the last World Cup’ is a big enough for you.

According to the report out of Toronto, Uruguayan international Diego Forlán will sign with the Reds this week. The 34-year-old is expected to agree to “a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal likely in the Thierry Henry range (around $4-million U.S.).”

While Forlán’s had high profile club stints in England, Spain, and Italy, he is best known for his performance at the last World Cup. At South Africa 2010, Forlán won the tournament’s Golden Ball after guiding Uruguay to a surprise semifinal appearance. His five goals were tied for the tournament’s top mark.

At his age, many will speculate how much Forlán has left in the tank, but if recent returns are any indication, this is no Juninho Pernambucano. Forlán has recently worked his was back into a regular role with the Uruguayan national team, his goals against Spain and Nigeria at the Confederations Cup giving him 34 in 102 international appearances. For a player whose ability to stay in shape should never be an issue, Forlán’s recent goal scoring hints his age shouldn’t deter success in Major League Soccer.

At club level, Forlán has played with some of the most renown teams in the world: Argentina’s Independiente; England’s Manchester United; Villarreal and Atlético Madrid in Spain; Internazional in Italy; and Brazil’s Internacional. In 2009-10, he led Atlético to the 2009-10 Europa League title, the honor culminating a three-year stretch at the Vicente Calderon that saw him score 86 goals in 165 all-competition games.

Since moving to Internacional in 2012, Forlán’s accumulated 15 goals in 34 games, though nine of those scores were in the lower-level Campeonato Gaúcho, not the national Brasileirao. His resurgence over the first half of this calendar year has helped make up for a lack of production in last year’s Campeonato, where he scored five times in 19 games.

For Toronto, Forlán could slot in behind Danny Koevermans and Robert Earnshaw as an attacking midfielder or be played in tandem in support of either forward. While his arrival may prove too late to elevate Toronto, 13 points out of a playoff spot, to postseason contention, the prospect of an elite attacker may revitalize fan spirits around BMO Field.

That may the most important part of this deal. For as promising as Toronto’s start was in Major League Soccer, the enthusiasm around the franchise has waned amid the team’s recent failings. No TFC supporter needs to be told about the franchise’s lack of postseason play, but with Leiweke and Kevin Payne willing to go out and get a player of Forlán’s caliber, there should be little debate new management intends the team to be a more entertaining if not more successful one.

According to the Globe and Mail, Forlán could be introduced “Monday or Tuesday” and be available for Toronto’s Saturday game against Sporting Kansas City.

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

Getty Images
Leave a comment

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
1 Comment

Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.