Ryan Nelsen confirms Toronto FC’s interest in Jermain Defoe, good fit for MLS?


Rumors surrounding the future of Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Jermain Defoe have been rife over the past few days, and these comments from Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen are likely to fuel the fire further.

Nelsen, who played alongside Defoe at Tottenham during a brief stint toward the end of his playing days, knows exactly what Defoe can do and admitted he’d love to bring the 31-year-old striker, who’s out of favor at Spurs, to BMO Field.

“That’s not a serious question, is it?” Nelsen said when asked on TSN about bringing in Defoe. “Jermain Defoe in this league? Look what [Marco] Di Vaio has done! My goodness – incredible player.”

And he’s right, can you really think of a player better suited to Major League Soccer than Defoe?

The pint-sized striker, who has scored 141 goals in 353 games for Spurs over two spells in his career, has only started one PL game this season and had been reduced to appearances in the Europa League and League Cup where he has scored eight goals in five games. An incredible ratio.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s MLS playoffs picks and predictions)

His predatory instincts, as similar big name foreign imports like Marco Di Vaio and Robbie Keane have shown, would be perfect in MLS as he sniffs for openings in and around the box and hammers shots on target from every possible angle.

But Andre Villas-Boas doesn’t seem to think Defoe can be a starter in the PL for Spurs, something Nelsen clearly doesn’t agree with.

“One of the most natural goalscorers I have ever come across,” Nelsen said. “Always out training, always trying to score, a great guy. To get a guy like Defoe for the MLS, I cannot think of many that are more suited. I think if you ask most Premier League teams, they would take Defoe.”

source: Getty Images
Jermain Defoe keeps scoring in the Europa League and League Cup, but isn’t get a chance to shine in the PL. Does an MLS move beckon for the England international?

But would Defoe even contemplate joining Toronto and MLS ahead of what could be his last World Cup for England this summer?

You can look at it two ways. He could go out on loan in January and struggle to establish himself elsewhere in the PL, or he could come to MLS and begin play in March, play regularly right up until the World Cup and declare himself fighting fit, in form and hungry to succeed for Roy Hodgson’s England side in Brazil. The latter seems like the better idea, but maybe it’s too big of a gamble to take, especially as Hodgson seems somewhat lukewarm towards the pleasures of MLS.

(MORE: MLS Playoff focus – Notes on Seattle ahead of Colorado match)

But Nelsen revealed that he keeps in touch with Defoe, and would love to bring him to MLS. Then again, which MLS side wouldn’t want him?

“It would be incredible,” Nelsen said. “I call him and text him all the time. Him playing in Toronto would be phenomenal. If you look around the world and try and think of a realistic player – and I am not sure how realistic he is – that complements a league like ours, never gets injured, doesn’t drink, can play high, low, scores all sorts of goals – do you know something I don’t? Can you go over and sell it to him?”

Not sure where this one ranks on the likelihood scale, but having Defoe in MLS would be divine.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.