Marco Pappa back to MLS: Talking the former Fire star’s potential fit with D.C. United

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According to reports from various foreign sources, former Chicago Fire standout Marco Pappa has had his contract terminated in the Netherlands. After just 16 months with Heerenveen in the Eredivisie, the Guatemalan international is looking for another job, his failure to make an impact with Michael Bradley’s former club sparking speculation about the 26-year-old’s next stopping point. Having enjoyed four-plus successful years in Major League Soccer, it’s natural to ask if a return to MLS is in the cards for the former MLS All-Star.

After such a poor showing in Holland, a move to more familiar footing would certainly make sense, and according to sources in Guatemala, Pappa is keen on returning to a league where he’s had so much success. By the time Pappa had left Chicago last August, he’d recorded 26 goals and 16 assists in 106 games. Over his final three campaigns, Pappa averaged seven goals per season – strong production for a player used mostly as a winger. In the Netherlands, however, Pappa was unable to summon that production, finishing without a goal in 283 minutes spread over 12 appearances.

Still young, presumably still talented, and proven in MLS, Pappa seems like a potentially strong acquisition for somebody back in North America, though unless a club’s willing to shell out Designated Player money, he’s going to have to go through allocation. Chicago sold him, thus relinquishing his rights, so if Pappa’s going to go back to his MLS future, D.C. United will have first crack – a potential blessing for a goal-starved team that finished with only three wins last season.

D.C. United blog Black and Red United does a great job of adding context to the debate, the underlying theme being opportunity cost. If Pappa comes back (and hits the allocation list), he’d clearly be a huge addition to a rebuilding United roster. But is he worth giving up the top spot in allocation, and thereby forgoing any other players that could potentially return during 2014?

source: Getty Images
Queens Park Rangers’ Oguchi Onyewu, seen here with the U.S. Men’s National Team, is one of the players linked with a move to Major League Soccer this offseason. Does Marco Pappa’s potential availability via allocation justify D.C. United passing on the chance to snare Onyewu, Edu or another prominent player looking to move to MLS? (Photo: Gettty Images.)

It’s a tricky proposition. If a player is too good, they’ll be a Designated Player (DP) and skip allocation. If they’re not good enough, they may not justify either their pick, the salary, or the effect they’ll have on your roster. And who’s to say the next player made available to United will fit as nicely as Pappa, a player who you could easily imagine playing wide in Ben Olsen’s setup.

The only tension here may be the cost. If Pappa isn’t going to be a DP, the price a team likely pays will be justifiable, yet during his final days with Chicago, it seemed like the Guatemalan was already looking beyond MLS’s shores. Intent on moving to Europe, Pappa didn’t seem to be putting his talent into practice as often as you’d like, his ambition seemingly undermining his consistency. Though he was still effective by the time he left Toyota Park, Pappa’s departure came with the feeling his time had come.

If that outlook’s changed, this could be a great pickup for United, even if the dollar figures put his potential salary at the high-end of the non-DP scale. Pappa lacks the kind of dynamism United lacked while Dwayne De Rosario aged. With the team presumably set to play through newly-acquired Eddie Johnson much of the time next year, Pappa provides a nice alternative. When teams are focused on trying to limit the U.S. international’s influence, Pappa provides the ability to beat players one-on-one wide, creating chances when ‘Plan A’ is just isn’t clicking.

Maybe failing in Europe will refocus Pappa, solving that consistency problem – assuming there’s a problem at all. If Pappa was distracted during his final season in MLS, it’s certainly not reflected in his numbers (averaging a goal every 273.5 minutes). But if those numbers are grossing over some consistency issues, Pappa’s cap number may determine whether this is a boon or a risk for Ben Olsen’s club. Ultimately, the Guatemalan’s value may come down to whether he wants to be in MLS more than he did at the end of his run in Chicago.

Pochettino: Dembele “next to Ronaldinho, Maradona”

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Mousa Dembele‘s been appreciated as a midfielder for sometime, but the Belgian is getting as many rave reviews as any other non-scorer these days.

Tottenham’s middle man got the twice-over from his manager on Friday, as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino prepares for Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.

“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”

The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.

The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.

Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fonte leaves West Ham after one year (for Dalian Yifang)

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Surely it was supposed to go a bit better than this: West Ham has moved center back Jose Fonte to the Chinese Super League.

Fonte, 34, is the latest member of Dalian Yifang, the Irons announced Friday. Reports say it’s a move for about $7 million.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

It ends an unexceptional 12 months for the center back, who made just 24 appearances for West Ham after engineering a move away from Southampton.

Fonte was publicly criticized by West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan earlier this season as Sullivan said his children “begged him” not to sign Fonte and Robert Snodgrass last January. Ouch.

Injured for much of this season, Fonte was one of the Saints’ heroes as the club moved from the disappointment of League One to the Europa League.

Those heroics inspired this longform piece from Joe Prince-Wright.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Week 28 of the Premier League season is here and the main talking points are the battle for the top four and the ever-changing relegation situation.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

Remember: due to the League Cup final on Sunday, finalists Arsenal will host Manchester City on Thursday, Mar. 1 as they were also scheduled to play in the PL this weekend. That worked out smoothly.

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Stoke City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Swansea City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
12:30 p.m. ET: Watford vs. Everton – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
7 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM]
9:05 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.