Defoe

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

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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.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET