Omar Gonzalez-Oct

Is Omar Gonzalez worth LA Galaxy’s third Designated Player spot?

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Amid SI.com’s report on how Clint Dempsey arrived in Seattle was a small bit of news regarding Omar Gonzalez. You know who I’m talking about, right? Big guy, handsome, smiles a lot. Does a great scud missile impression on opposition crosses. Hates Steven Lenhart (so many do). Well, last year’s MLS Cup Final Most Valuable Player is out of contract at the end of the year, leading to a season’s worth of subtle speculation where he’ll play next season.

According to the post, LA Galaxy are “expected to soon announce” their third Designated Player spot will be filled by Gonzalez.  The 24-year-old Texan would presumably bypass an opportunity to move to Europe (or Mexico) and stay where he’s played since 2009, though there’s no word on whether taking David Beckham’s DP spot would also give Omar corresponding rights to his parking space.

The value for money will all depend on Gonzalez’s new salary, but good luck convincing Los Angeles he’s not worthy of their Designated Player spot. As last year’s championship game showed, at his best, Gonzalez is the most dominant player in Major League Soccer, and while it might be easier to find a defender who can give you acceptable performance (implying you should allocate your resources elsewhere), Gonzalez is the rare defender that forces you to reconsider: How many more goals is he preventing than another defender; how much would it cost to replace that; would it cost less to replace that production elsewhere; and would that replacement be as marketable as Gonzalez?

Screw it, Bruce Arena’s probably thinking. When LA struggled without Gonzalez to start last season, he may have seen all he needed. Even if somebody sat him down, lauded his handling of the U.S. in 2002, then tried to argue the money’d be put to better use elsewhere, there may be a set of factors specific to this Galaxy that trump your logic (and ass-kissing). Did you see how much better the team was when Gonzalez returned? Or how Omar played in the playoffs? How LA doesn’t have to play with a dedicated ball-winner in the middle, thanks to Gonzalez’s quality? How the near-impossibility of practically replacing him might force Arena to change too much of a winning formula?

Screw it, he might tell Chris Klein. If we can afford to keep him — if we’ve come to the point where, after chasing Kaká, Frank Lampard, and Gio dos Santos, where we’re not landing a big marketable sort — let’s just keep Omar. Let’s just suck it up and keep one of the most important guys to our last two title teams.

For LA, however, it’s not that simple. More than any team in the league (even the Clint Dempsey-laden Sounders), the Galaxy’s Designated Player spots are precious. As the Beckham signing illustrated, the talent LA is capable of luring to California means they’re playing by a different set of rules. When they sign a third Designated Player, filling up all their over-budget roster spots, there’s a huge opportunity cost, one that complicates any pure talent-based evaluation.

In that respect, how wise is it for LA to make Gonzalez the second defender in Major League Soccer history to occupy a Designated Player spot (Rafa Marquez, New York, 2010-2012)? If we’re talking about a Real Salt Lake, Houston, or Sporting Kansas City filling their last DP place, it’s a totally different equation. Those are all great organizations for whom anybody should want to play, but the opportunity costs on their DPs just aren’t as steep.

At the same time, this is a choice the Galaxy may not have to make. LA already has Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan as Designated Players, but one of those all-stars is out of contract at the end of the year. And as Donovan’s recently said, he’s plans on listening to offers. Given his exploits this winter, it’d be foolish to predict Donovan’s future, but given the experience he had during two stints with Everton, would it be so surprising to see this new, more mature, open-minded Donovan take another plunge?

That’s speculation for another space. The point: Just as we can’t evaluate Gonzalez’s value-for-money until we know the numbers, we also can’t assess the cost of that Designated Player spot until we know what’s happening with Donovan. Will Gonzalez sign on with a team that has one Designated Player? Or will be be taking that final, precious Designated Player spot?

And in either situation, is he worth it?

What lies ahead for USMNT in January camp?

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Bruce Arena’s reign as the new U.S. national team head coach is well under way and the veteran seems to be enjoying his second stint in charge after 10 years away.

[ MORE: Europe’s 100 most valuable ]

The USMNT have been training in Carson, Calif. over the past five days and a pretty cool behind-the-scenes video of the opening day of training was released by U.S. Soccer (see above) to show how Arena has been getting on.

With 31 players currently in camp, Arena is enjoying himself (banter with DaMarcus Beasley and waxing lyrical about Jermaine Jones says as much) but he already has one eye on the two crucial 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama coming up in March.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news

This camp will be key for the MLS-heavy contingent, with the likes of Chad Marshall, Benny Feilhaber, Dax McCarty and Juan Agudelo getting another chance to impress for the Stars and Stripes. So many youngsters have emerged from these camps in the past, with Kekuta Manneh, Keegan Rosenberry and Walker Zimmerman just some of the young talent looking to not only make their debuts but also become regulars in the USMNT setup.

Veterans Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi and others are all around and ready to prove their worth to the new boss too.

Below is a quick look at what lies ahead for his team during January camp (and beyond) as they prepare for two friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica to tune themselves up for the World Cup qualifiers when the European contingent will join the squad.


Training

  • Jan. 11-28 – Carson, Calif.

Friendlies 

  • Jan. 29 – Serbia in San Diego, Calif.
  • Feb. 3 – Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tenn.

2018 World Cup qualifiers

  • Mar. 24 – vs. Honduras in San Jose, Calif.
  • Mar. 28 – at Panama in Panama City

Study reveals Europe’s 100 most valuable players

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur (L) celebrates scoring his sides fourth goal with Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur (R) during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on January 14, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Wait, what?

[ MORE: Title race over for City? ]

A study from the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES) has slapped valuations on Europe’s top stars and both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo aren’t the most valuable.

Hmm.

The guys over at the Football Observatory, the soccer arm of CIES, always do a great job with these kind of studies and below you will find who they’ve ranked as the 100 most valuable players in Europe’s top five leagues.

CIES take players’ performance on the pitch, contract length, age and many other factors into place when ranking them and in the extensive study 10 Premier League clubs have players included as stars from Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur feature.

In total, 38 PL players are in the top 100.

Neymar is the most valuable player in Europe as the Barcelona star has a valuation of $261.5 million, which puts him way ahead of Lionel Messi who sits in second place with a value of $180.6 million.In third place is Manchester United’s Paul Pogba who has a value of $164.5 million, while Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez round out the top five.

Below is the top 100 list in full, courtesy of CIES, with their club, age and when their current contract runs out listed.

Do you agree with their valuations?


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Too early for Guardiola to concede Premier League title?

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Pep Guardiola suffered his worst-ever league defeat as a manager on Sunday as Manchester City were hammered 4-0 at Everton in the Premier League.

Post-game he was understandably glum.

[ MORE: Klopp slams United ]

Guardiola even appeared to concede the Premier League title, as the preseason favorites for the crown have now fallen 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go.

When asked if City’s title hopes were over after a fifth defeat of the season, the Spaniard’s answer was emphatic.

“Yes. Ten is a lot of points,” Guardiola said. “The second one [Tottenham] is three points. We have to see. I spoke to my players the last three weeks or a month, forget about the table. Focus on the next game and try to do our best to win the games and after that at the end of the season we are going to evaluate how our level and performance was — how was the coach, how was the players and after we are going to decide.”

It seems like Guardiola has already decided that the title race is over for City, but has he thrown in the towel too early?

With just five points separating second-place Tottenham with sixth-place Manchester United, it appears City’s primary focus will now be to finish in the top four as a mammoth battle ensues in the final third of the season.

Yet, we have seen some miraculous comebacks from teams in the past to win the title. These stats could give Pep hope.

In the 1997-98 season, Arsenal were 12 points behind United after 21 games of the season (United had played a game more) but roared back to win the PL by one point. And of course, City’s two PL crowns came courtesy of stunning late surges in the season with thanks to Sergio Aguero’s magic on the final day in 2011-12 and then Liverpool’s collapse in the closing weeks of 2013-14.

Pep, don’t lost the faith. It can be done.

However, if City lose to Tottenham next weekend and Chelsea extend their lead over Pep’s boys to 13 points by beating Hull City, it is curtains.

Such is the dominance of the big boys this season, City pretty much have to go unbeaten for the rest of the season to have a shot at winning the PL. Given their recent defensive displays that seems unlikely.

We all know Pep is an idealist when it comes to how he wants his team to play but now we are seeing he is a realist too.

Conte urges players “money is not everything” amid Costa rumors

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on January 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
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While new reports are suggesting that China will have to curb its massive spending, Antonio Conte has urged his players that they don’t have to be tempted by the Chinese Super League.

[ MORE: United, Liverpool finish level after late Ibrahimovic equalizer ]

Chelsea currently sits atop the Premier League — seven points clear of Tottenham and Liverpool — but the club has recently been at the center of controversy as star striker Diego Costa has been linked with a move away from the club.

[ MORE: CSL set to limit number of foreign players per team ]

Costa missed his side’s 3-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday after several outlets reported a rift between the Spaniard and Conte.

The Chelsea manager told reporters following the match that Costa wasn’t available due to a back injury he suffered in training, but there has been continued speculation that the 28-year-old could head to China.

Conte has made it clear to his squad though that the quality of competition in England supersedes the money offered abroad.

“The money is not everything,” Conte told reporters. “When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased.

“I think we are a great club and it is a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason I don’t see [China] as a threat for my players.

The Blues have lost a number of high-profile players over recent seasons to the high spending of Chinese football, including Brazilian duo Oscar and Ramires, as well as John Obi Mikel.

Oscar departed Chelsea this month to join Shanghai SIPG for a reported $72 million.

“I have to look at the past,” Conte said. “Oscar played with us, had a good offer from China and he went.

“But this league is really competitive and every player wants to come and play in this league.

“This league is the first in the world because of a lot of positive things, so I don’t think these offers from China are a threat for our league.”