Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Agudelo to Stoke, David Luiz to Barcelona

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Stoke City have their eye on yet another American import, as New England forward Juan Agudelo could join three USMNT players already at the Britannia Stadium. Agudelo, 20, has scored five goals in 11 games this season, but the former New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA striker could certainly do with a fresh start. He impressed Celtic whilst on trial last year, nothing came of that, but Mark Hughes has monitored Agudelo for quite some time. With Agudelo’s pace and eye for goal, the young US national team star could get his career back on track in the Premier League. If Stoke offer MLS a good deal, it would be wrong of them to stand in Agudelo’s way. He could play on the last shoulder of defenders and use his pace to great effect in Stoke’s direct style of play. Intriguing to see this one play out.

Barcelona are apparently making a “last ditch” attempt to sign Chelsea’s David Luiz. The 26-year-old Brazilian defender has been a long-term target for the Catalan club and with their defensive options thin on the ground, new manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino has made Luiz his top target according to this report. A deal of $60 million has been offered for Luiz, and it should force Chelsea to seriously consider selling the eccentric central defender. Luiz is a top quality player, but with Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic already at Chelsea and John Terry sniffing around, do the Blues really need four top quality center backs?

Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro have apparently accepted a $32 million offer from Shakhtar Donetsk for Bernard. But the player is said to be unsure about a move to the Ukraine. Arsenal and Porto are the other frontrunners for the 20-year-old Brazilian international, with Arsenal particularly keen to add the youngster to their ranks. But with Donetsk having a fine record in elevating Brazilian stars on the European stage and offering almost guaranteed Champions League soccer each season, money talks. But if Arsenal make a similar bid for the diminutive attacker, surely Bernard would head to the Emirates? They play his style of quick, possession based soccer and he would be playing in one of the world’s best leagues ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

Fulham are closing in on Sunderland’s former captain Lee Cattermole. The fiery midfielder is no longer needed at the Stadium of Light and Martin Jol could snap up the 25-year-old midfielder. Injured for most of last season, Cattermole’s influence in the Black Cats engine room was severely missed. However new manager Paolo Di Canio doesn’t seem to have Cattermole in his plans, and Fulham could pick up the combative player for just $4.5 million. An absolute bargain for an experienced Premier League midfielder who cleans up the space in front of the back four superbly. He would add an extra bite to Fulham’s midfield as the Cottagers aim to kick on after a stagnate 2012-13 season.

Diego Lugano is set to talk with West Bromwich Albion this week, as the 32-year-old Uruguayan captain is surplus to requirements at Paris Saint-Germain. Lugano could be available for a paltry sum of $1.5 million and would add extra competition to West Brom’s central defenders. He can also slot in at full back and his vast experience at World Cups and in European competition would help Steve Clarke’s men try to step up to the next level. This could be another shrewd signing by the Baggies as they add experience and quality.

More: Monday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup, David Luiz to Bayern, Gustavo to Chelsea

More: Wednesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup, Torres to Valencia, Barton to Everton

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia