Some interesting names to discuss as Toronto FC declines contract options on several notable veterans

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Toronto FC will be one of the more interesting teams to watch throughout the MLS off-season. (What little of it there is – MLS Cup is this weekend, but we can expect teams to be back into preseason camp by mid-January.) Even before the always-ambitious club reveals its DP dandy, presumably being chased at this very moment, according ot the reports of evocative names we keep reading, the “interesting” is already taking place.

Toronto FC’s list of players whose options were declined includes some names that aren’t necessarily shocking – but would have been at another time.

The list includes former US international Bobby Convey, strikers Danny Koevermans, Robert Earnshaw and Justin Braun and goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Convey (pictured above), of course, continues to be one of the real head-scratchers of domestic soccer. The guy had so very much potential as he signed at an early age, then moved his promising career to England. After initial success, something went wrong there. Then something kept going wrong, whether through attitude or performance decline or whatever, as he sent from San Jose to Kansas City to Toronto. And now to … well, who knows?

Koevermans was hitting goals at a prolific rate when he initially arrived into BMO, but a big injury last year turned into a long rehab this year, and his 2013 campaign never achieved liftoff. At age 35, he’s probably done.

Stefan Frei was among the league’s top ‘keepers from 2009 to 2011, the unquestioned  starter during that time around BMO Field. But his is a cautionary tale of how injurious a serious injury or two can be to a career. He never regained his started spot after season ending surgery very early in 2012. And now he’s a “former TFC” man.

Braun is a big, fairly fast and hard-trying striker who just cannot seem to find the right place. If he could improve technically just a bit, he would easily find a home. As it is, the once-promising American will soon be on his fifth MLS team in five years … if someone bites this time, that is.

And finally there is Earnshaw, one of the real surprise stories of MLS in March and into April. But injuries and general Toronto FC-ness caught up with the Welsh striker, who faded right along with the team.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.