Monaco suffers first setback, held to scoreless draw by Toulouse

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The degree to which today’s result is a true setback depends on how much you deny the inherent nature of this spot. At any point at the top-level, one team’s always capable of shutting down another, provided they embrace one cynical yet undeniable truth: It’s really, really hard to score a goal when 11 men are committed to denying you.

When you get down to it, that’s the thing stereotyped mainstream American sport fan hates most about soccer. It’s not the fact you can’t use your hands (that’s just easier to articulate). To a certain extent, it’s the low scoring, but really, it’s the fact that such an asymmetrical approach can be rewarded.

And it’s true. At times in soccer, you only have to play part of the game to get a result (and if the game didn’t have draws, those approaches wouldn’t be rewarded).

Take today’s match in Monaco. Visiting Toulouse, playing in front of an empty stadium (the fallout from a pitch invasion last year), les Pitcheons didn’t even put a shot on goal. That they only tried three times speaks to their approach. It was defense first for Alain Casanova’s team, an approach that paid off with a 0-0 result at Stade Louis II.

Monaco came close a number of times in the first half, the game serving as a simultaneous mirror to Borussia Dortmund’s 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff against Werder Bremen. But whereas BVB eventually broke through, Monaco’s closest chance came near full time, when defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan rattled the crossbar from 24 yards out.

Often these FourFourTwo StatsZone shots can be deceptive, but tonight, Monaco’s draw with Toulouse truly did look something like:

source:

Monaco’s going to have to get used to this, though. They may be in their first season back at the top flight, but when you spend as much as they have, when you acquire the likes to Radamel Falcao, Toulalan, James Rodríguez and Joao Moutinho, people are going to be deferential – especially after you’ve won your first two league games by a combined score of 6-1.

At the same time, it’s nothing to worry about. If Monaco was dominating play but not converting control into chance, Claudio Ranieri would have reason for concern. Instead, it took some sprawling efforts from Ali Ahamada in Friday’s first half to keep Toulouse in the game. And in the early execution and organization Monaco’s shown with their revamped squad, Ranieri’s team seems ahead of schedule.

Maybe Lyon will have something to say about the prospect of a French Big Two. Perhaps next week, Monaco will be put in their place at Marseille. For now, though, Monaco’s doing their part to create Europe’s latest duopoly.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

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An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.