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.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia