MLS Re-Entry Draft: As predicted, Portland find a way to get Steve Zakuani

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You didn’t have to be Miss Cleo to see this coming. Seattle had made the tough decision to leave Steve Zakuani exposed in the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft, a decision that was sure to peak  Portland’s interest.

With Zakuani’s former college coach now in charge with the Sounders’ rival, the question wasn’t whether Caleb Porter would want the former first overall pick. It was how they would get him.

Today we got our answers. Swapping first round picks in the Re-Entry Draft, Portland sent defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste to Chivas USA  for Jorge Villafaña, with the Timbers also giving Chivas the No. 17 pick to move up to No. 2. There, after D.C. United selected Sean Franklin from Los Angeles, Portland brought another Akron alum into Porter’s fold.

[MORE: MLS Re-Entry Draft: D.C. United add Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell at the back]

Zakuani joins Darlington Nagbe, Ben Zemanski, and Michael Nanchoff as former Zips on Porter’s roster, though coming from Seattle, Zakuani’s acquisition transcends the Akron narrative. A popular player whose tenure with the Sounders dates back to the team’s first MLS season (when he was the club’s first ever draft pick), the site of Zakuani in a Timbers uniform is sure to bring discomfort to the Rave Green faithful.

The degree to which they’ll rue the move may depend on Zakuani’s health. The 25-year-old suffered a devastating leg injury in April 2011 but appeared fully recovered for the start of this season. However, suffering through a sports hernia injury, Zakuani played only eight league games in 2013, scoring once.

In 2010, the year before his leg injury, Zakuani put in an all-star caliber season, registering 10 goals and six assists in 29 games, becoming one of the best left wingers in the league. But with Seattle clearing out cap space in an effort to reshape their team, a player who has appeared in only 22 league games over the last three years had to be let go, Portland now assuming the commitment to a man who made $233,000 in 2013 ($135,000 against the cap).

We’ll circle back with more on the Re-Entry Draft. For now, here are the players who were selected in stage one:

Round One
1. D.C. United – Sean Franklin, RB, LA Galaxy
2. Portland Timbers (from Chivas USA) – Steve Zakuani, LW, Seattle
6. Philadelphia Union – Corben Bone, M, Chicago
13. Colorado Rapids – Marc Burch, D/M, Seattle
Round Two
20. D.C. United – Bobby Boswell, D, Houston Dynamo

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.