First E.J., now Obafemi Martins? What’s going on at forward for the Sounders?

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Even if the worst case scenario happens, the Seattle Sounders have Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle, a forward duo most Major League Soccer teams would envy. Yet with Eddie Johnson having likely played his last game in Seattle while Obafemi Martins is looking to move, it’s worth considering what’s going on at forward in the Sounders.

The Johnson news made waves on Wednesday, but another piece of news was obscured by yesterday’s headlines of Sigi Schmid’s confirmed return: Seattle’s Nigerian international put out a come and get me plea, saying he felt “out of the loop” in Seattle. That’s not a reference to his place in the team; instead, it hints at his desire to return to Europe, were presumably he’ll increase his chances of making Nigeria’s potential World Cup squad.

[MORE: Cap casualty? Eddie Johnson may have already played his last game for Seattle]

[MORE: Sigi Schmid to remain as Seattle head coach]

Whether it’s true that Europe increases his chances for Brazil 2014 doesn’t matter. Martins perceives it to do true, so despite spending less than a year with a team that had to help buy-out his contract to free him from Levante, the vagabond is looking for another move. The 29-year-old specifically mentioned Turkish champions Galatasaray, who are coached by his former Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini. If getting back in the loop is his goal, though, Martins would likely consider other spots, be it on a short-lerm or permanent basis.

He liked MLS, he said. The United States had been a good experience, and he’s been treated well by Seattle’s fans. Seemingly, Martins just has a thing for loops.

For some, this will serve as an ‘I told you so’ moment, with many noting Martins had played with five clubs in six years before joining Seattle. If he were to move back to Europe in January, it would likely be to his seventh team since the summer of 2009. At this point, no new Martins employer should expect the wandering attacker to stay long. The man’s a bit of a mercenary, having only appeared in 20 MLS games before now entertaining a move.

If you’re Seattle, a team already looking to trade one of its starting forwards, what do you do? Given how much was invested to get Martins to Seattle, the team would presumably want some return on their investment (if they’re even willing to let him go). If a team like Gala’s ready to do that, it’d be best to take what you can get, cash in, and go back into the market. Yesterday’s comments cast  doubt on the notion Martin will be willing to settle in Seattle.

Conceivably, this could open a Designated Player spot for Eddie Johnson, but don’t look for Seattle to do an about face on the U.S. international. Even if cap considerations are a big part of the Johnson picture, there would have to be a serious course correction for “E.J.” to be in rave green come March.

Instead, Seattle would likely take Martins’ departure as an opportunity to test the market, even if that opportunity would be an unexpected one. If they’re still willing to show the financial commitment they did with the Dempsey and Martins deals, the Nigerian’s departure could be a boon. The Sounders can find a striker who’s not so obsessed with loops.

Arsenal finishes atop UEL group despite defeat to Cologne

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The Gunners didn’t take care of business on Thursday in Germany, but luckily they got some help from two of their other Group H counterparts.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews ]

Cologne defeated Arsenal, 1-0, at the RheinEnergieStadion, but Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov ended in a scoreless draw to give Arsene Wenger‘s side the top spot in the group.

The difference on the day proved to be Sehrou Guirassy’s penalty kick, which came in the 62nd minute after he had been taken down by Matthieu Debuchy a moment prior.

Arsenal were forced back early on by the hosts, with Jhon Cordoba nearly breaking the deadlock inside the opening five minutes.

Meanwhile, the Gunners struggled to break down Cologne’s defense throughout the encounter, despite having an overwhelming amount of possession.

Arsenal will close out Group H play on Dec. 7 against BATE, while Cologne battles Red Star Belgrade for a shot at reaching the Round of 32.

Report: Earthquakes to name Mikael Stahre as new manager

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The San Jose Earthquakes are prepared to hire a new manager, leaving Chris Leitch’s status with the club unknown moving forward.

[ MORE: Michael Bradley issues strong views on Crew’s potential relocation ]

ESPN FC is reporting that the Major League Soccer side will hire Swedish coach Mikael Stahre in the coming days, replacing Leitch. The story was first reported by Swedish outlet Expressen.

The 42-year-old has primarily spent his managerial career in Sweden, but has also coached teams in Greece and China.

The Earthquakes qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012 this season under Leitch, but were bounced in the first round by the Vancouver Whitecaps — 5-0.

Leitch, who formerly played for the Earthquakes in his MLS-playing days, finished 2017 as both the manager and technical director for the Western Conference club.

Pending Stahre’s hire, the Quakes will be on their third coach in a span of roughly five months after Dominic Kinnear had been previously fired by the team back in June.

Study to look at long-term health risks of playing soccer

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LONDON (AP) A major study into whether soccer players are at risk of degenerative brain disease has been commissioned amid concerns that the sport’s authorities in England haven’t done enough to tackle the issue.

The Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association have appointed a research team, based in Scotland, to undertake a study entitled “Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk” from January 2018.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said it will be “one of the most comprehensive studies ever commissioned into the long-term health of former footballers” because “we feel compelled … to fully understand if there are any potential risks associated with playing the game.”

Researchers will address the question: “Is the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease more common in ex-professional footballers than in the normal population?”

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews

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Ready for Week 13 in the Premier League? Let’s do this.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Click play on the videos below for quick previews on each game complete with a score prediction from yours truly.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Huddersfield vs. Manchester City – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Manchester United vs. Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham vs. West Brom (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Burnley vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Swansea City vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Southampton vs. Everton – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

 

Newcastle United vs. Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Liverpool vs. Chelsea – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

West Ham vs. Leicester – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]