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Gareth Bale “doesn’t need surgery,” but Real Madrid must be patient as injury issues persist

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Start to life at Real Madrid has not been easy for Gareth Bale, and rumors suggest things are about to get worse before they get better.

Over the weekend, the Spanish giants were forced to release a statement after reports in Marca (Spain’s favorite Real rumor-mongers) suggested that the $132 million man needed back surgery after slipping a disc.

“It is completely false that the player has a discal hernia between vertebrae L5-S1 as reported by Marca,” Real Madrid said. “The player has a small chronic protrusion in a spinal disc that will not affect him playing.”

And Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett has dismissed reports that the injury was detected by Real Madrid’s medical staff before he signed as “complete rubbish.” With Bale suffering a slight tear in his thigh before the international break and using the past week or so to try and nurse himself back to full fitness, the Welsh attacker needs to shake off injuries that are stacking up at the start of his Real career.

(MORE: Real Madrid deny reports that Gareth Bale has slipped a disc)

As has been mentioned many times before, Bale didn’t have a full preseason under his belt after his protracted transfer from Tottenham to Real Madrid took much longer than expected. Hence why the 24-year-old keeps picking up all of these small problems that are affecting each other. So really, Real need to be patient, let him build up his fitness, and maybe by the middle of November they will see the real Bale.

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Ever since he arrived, Bale has been under pressure to play. Why aren’t Real protecting their world record signing?

It is thought that the “small chronic protrusion” in a spinal disc could be linked to tightness in his upper leg and thigh area, which if they saw this problem when Bale was having his medical with Madrid back in August, it would make sense to be slightly concerned about picking up plenty of related injuries. And it also calls into question exactly why Real keep rushing Bale back into games, like the half time arrival against Atletico Madrid, the late cameo versus Galatasaray and his full debut against Villarreal, if they know he’s carrying this injury, then they should just give him time to rest.

Madrid have stated this problem is “extremely frequent among professional footballers” and that “these findings [in Bale’s back] are not important as the player is not in pain. He is playing and training normally.”

(MORE: Gareth Bale’s ruled out of Champions League game)

With Real so desperate to nurse their superstar summer signing to full fitness, he even missed international duty with Wales to take part in what some are calling a ‘mini preseason’ to try and help increase his fitness levels and get back to his best.

Bale is a 100 percenter, by that I mean if he isn’t quite at full-fitness, you see a marketed drop in his performance levels. With no injuries, he can run at people all day long, burn defenders for pace and crunch through tackles and win balls in the air. But even if he’s at 90 percent, his performances, although still fantastic, drop off alarmingly.

As of yet, Bale is nowhere near 100 percent fit. So Real Madrid’s fans will have a long wait to see Bale at his best. But it will be worth it, just be patient.

Frei leads Sounders to first MLS Cup title in penalty kicks

Seattle Sounders forward Nelson Valdez, left, and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley challenge for the ball during first-half MLS Cup final soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
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TORONTO — With tackles that matched the bitter temperature, Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders had little trouble providing intensity.

Goals were another story.

In a game only its champion could love, XXXX defeated XXXX in penalty kicks at BMO Field on Saturday after 120 minutes of 0-0 play with precious few threats on goal.

After the teams traded goals to start PKs, Michael Bradley flubbed his shot right to Stefan Frei. But Clint Irwin stopped Alvaro Fernandez’s shot, Seattle’s third attempt, to keep things 2-2.

It went to bonus kicks, and Justin Morrow hit the bar to set the table for Roman Torres. Yes, the big man, and he nailed it.

The first chance belonged to Altidore, who took a classy ball from Giovinco and had his far post shot deflected off Roman Torres for a corner.

Giovinco had trouble with his service in the cold, and a fifth minute offering was returned by Joevin Jones on a long counter which finished in the hands of Clint Irwin.

Seattle gained its footing and held the ball deep in Toronto’s end, but wasn’t able to trouble Irwin. Jonathan Osorio was next to trouble a keeper, though ex-Reds backstop Frei collected his effort.

A scary moment arrived in the 27th minute, as Giovinco ripped a left-footed effort into Roman Torres’ face just inside the 18. The Sounders defender fell hard (and surely the 25 degree weather didn’t help the impact).

Justin Morrow then supplied a lofted cross from the left fringe that Altidore headed down to a sliding Frei. Still 0-0, 30′

Service left a lot to be desired on set pieces, and Giovinco earned a free kick before firing it off the wall in the 39th minute.

Giovinco teed one up right after the break, but hit it off the outside of the net with the outside of his boot and it remained scoreless.

Though the chances remained scarce, the hosts had a few. Bradley picked out Giovinco with a diagonal ball that the Italian slid square for Altidore. The striker was held from getting to the ball, but no call came and Toronto won a corner that came to nothing.

The chippy play continued, and the chances remained few. Seattle called upon Andreas Ivanschitz  and Toronto turned to Will Johnson and ECF hero Benoit Cheyrou. Extra time seemed predestined, and so it came to pass.

Cheyrou won a corner with a left-footed shot just after play resumed. Giovinco teed him up for a similar chance three minutes later, but Frei collected the low offering. That was about it for the first 15 of ET.

Toronto’s third sub was Tosaint Ricketts, and he took a ball out of the air from 15 yards only to miss wide of the right post. Kicks were looming. Ricketts then picked out Altidore in the center of the box, but Frei flew to palm the headed ball off the line.

Seattle nearly went on top via a deep throw-in, as Lodeiro spied Torres at the back post and Beitashour whiffed on his attempted clearance. Irwin grabbed the loose ball first.

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WATCH: Stefan Frei made the most amazing, unbelievable save in ET

Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei reacts as time runs out in the second half of the second leg of an MLS Western Conference soccer finals game Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Commerce City, Colo. Seattle won 1-0 to advance to the MLS championship game. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Words simply fail at at a time like this.

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Stefan Frei made the best save you’ll see for quite some time, 108 minutes into MLS Cup 2016, to deny Jozy Altidore on the doorstep. The distance covered across the face of goal, the leap, the stretch, the strong hand underneath the ball … it’s all straight out of a Hollywood film which you’d question its legitimacy.

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MLS Cup 2016 will be decided on penalty kicks.

FT — MLS Cup 2016: TFC, Sounders headed to extra time

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco, left, battles Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan during second-half MLS Cup final soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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After 90 minutes of knock-down-drag-out soccer, MLS Cup 2016 is headed to extra time.

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The score, just as it was when proceedings kicked off at BMO Field nearly two hours ago, is 0-0. Toronto FC have had the majority of the game’s chances, but never really threatened Stefan Frei and the Seattle Sounders’ superbly organized defense. Seattle, on the other hand, managed all of three shots in the first and second halves combined, the first of which didn’t come until the 76th minute.

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PST’s very own Nicholas Mendola is reporting live from a frigid, frozen BMO Field (gametime temperatures in the low-20s), so make sure you follow him on Twitter, right here, and check back to PST for live updates, full-match recap, and post-game reaction from every angle.

FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup 2016 — Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders

KANSAS CITY, KS - DECEMBER 07:  The Philip F. Anschutz trophy is seen on the field before the start of the match between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup at Sporting Park on December 7, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
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279 days after First Kick, it’s all come down to this: MLS Cup 2016, between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, a pair of first-timers in MLS’s postseason title decider.

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Fighting out of the red corner, it’s Sebastian Giovinco (4 goals, 4 assists in five playoff games in 2016), Jozy Altidore (5 goals, 4 assists) and Michael Bradley. Fighting out of the blue (and Rave Green) corner, it’s Nicolas Lodeiro (4 goals), Jordan Morris (2 goals, 1 assist) and a suddenly stout Sounders defense (3 goals conceded).

[ MORE: TFC, Sounders present unique tactical challenges for each other ]

PST’s very own Nicholas Mendola will be reporting live from a frigid, frozen BMO Field (gametime temperatures expected to be in the low-20s), so make sure you follow him on Twitter, right here, and check back to PST for live updates, full-match recap, and post-game reaction from every angle.

Who: Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders
What: MLS Cup 2016
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
Why: To crown a champion