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.

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.