MLS rounds out All-Star roster, names 10 non-active players

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Major League Soccer’s agreement with their players’ association requires the league to name 32 total All-Stars, which seems weird on the surface. After all, only 20 are going to dress tonight against AS Roma.

Yet that’s the way the league can have the current All-Star game format while still recognizing enough players. Implicitly, the players want enough all-stars named to populate a typical two-squad format, be that format East vs. West, North America vs. the World, or Odd Numbered Birthdays vs. Even. It’s all about bonuses, it’s all about collective bargaining, and it’s also not that big a deal.

It is interesting, though, to see which players were named to the non-active squad. Picked by their peers, some of the selections look like legacy votes. Others seem like recognition for long-serving soldiers. Others seem like the ballots were cast last year. Regardless, they’re a sign of recognition from a players’ peers – a small indication of someone’s regard within the MLS fraternity.

That’s the context for today’s announcement, with MLS naming these 10 players to tonight’s non-active squad:

G: Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo
G: Donovan Ricketts, Portland Timbers
D: George John, FC Dallas
D: Jamison Olave, New York Red Bulls (pictured)
M: Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders
M: Juninho, LA Galaxy
M: Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake
M/F: Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers
W: Justin Mapp: Montreal Impact
W: Rodney Wallace, Portland Timbers

[MORE: Expect some heavy legs for Roma tonight in Kansas City]

Of course, the conversation around these selections is less about who made it than who didn’t. Among goalkeepers not on the active and non-active roster are Sporting KC’s Jimmy Nielsen and Seattle’s Michael Gspurning, last year’s two top keepers. Jose Goncalves, slowly becoming a favorite for defender of the year, is not among either team. Neither Michel nor Nigel Reo-Coker did enough in their half-season to sufficiently raise their profiles among their peers, and Marcelo Sarvas’s performance couldn’t draw enough votes away from teammate Juninho. Sporting Kansas City’s Claudio Bieler? Perhaps suffering from the same as Michel and Reo-Coker.

There is another aspect to the debate: doubting some of the selections. Osvaldo Alonso has missed a huge chunk of time, and Juninho hasn’t been the best midfielder on his own team. Rodney Wallace has been a great story, but it’s unlikely any Timber would take him over Darlington Nagbe (though Wallace may have made it as a defender). Diego Valeri is undoubtedly skilled and has impressed his opposition, but to what extent has that produced results (relative to other candidates)?

Then there’s Justin Mapp. In his 14th year in the league, the Impact veteran is having one of his most productive seasons. Is he more deserving than some of the other players we’ve mentioned here? I honestly don’t care that much. If part of players voting is the periodic recognition of a Mapp-like player — long serving, playing well, perhaps getting the benefit of sentiment — that’s fine by me.

After all, it’s not like he’s getting to play at somebody’s expense.

Zlatan announces LA, MLS arrival in bizarre fashion

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has arrived in Major League Soccer.

The veteran striker terminated his contract at Manchester United earlier this week and the 36-year-old Swede will reportedly signed a two-year deal worth over $3 million per season with the LA Galaxy.

He confirmed that the Galaxy will be his club on Friday by taking out a full page advert in the LA Times in typically sarcastic fashion.

Zlatan kept it short and sweet, as the Galaxy’s new No. 9 will certainly be a blast in MLS, just for his off-the-field antics alone.

VIDEO: Usain Bolt trains with Borussia Dortmund

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Usain Bolt has taken part in his first proper training session with Borussia Dortmund’s first team as he continues to chase his dream of being a professional soccer player.

The eight-time Olympic champion, who retired as a sprinter earlier in 2017 after the World Championships, is on a two-day tryout with Dortmund which many are merely saying is a publicly stunt.

Yet with Dortmund allowing Bolt, 31, the chance to train with first team stars on Friday it may be a little more than just a chance for media members to flock to watch Dortmund in an open training session. Given the fact that Dortmund are sponsored by Puma, the same sponsor Bolt has, many are connecting the dots and it was a laid back training session on Friday as Bolt spent plenty of time signing autographs after scoring a header and a penalty kick.

Remember: Bolt is a lifelong Manchester United and has mentioned many times over the years that he would like to turn to professional soccer.

Earlier this month he announced he will captain a World XI at Old Trafford in a UNICEF charity game in June 2018, with Bolt teasing the planet on social media by saying he had signed for a soccer team. With his speed, power and size, is it really that far-fetched to think he could be a good targetman if he can sort out his hold up play and work on his endurance to last 90 minutes?

Watch the videos below as the Jamaican superstar scored a pretty solid PK, took part in training and obviously had most of Dortmund’s star players, such as Mario Gotze and Nuri Sahin, in awe.

Let’s see what the future holds for Bolt, but this is probably little more than Peter Stoeger and Dortmund having a longstanding offer accepted by Bolt to train with them. Maybe he could turn out for Dortmund’s reserve squad in a scrimmage and go from there?

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.