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Seattle gives up Hurtado and Ianni, gets Anibaba, room to maneuver in trade with Chicago

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Two players who had been with Seattle since the team’s 2009 MLS debut will start the 2014 campaign elsewhere, with the Sounders sending center backs Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni to Chicago on Wednesday in exchange for defender Jalil Anibaba. Balancing out the trade, Seattle and Chicago also swap first round picks in Thursday’s draft, the Sounders jumping from 13 to eight, while the Fire give up a conditional third round pick 2015.

On the surface, it appears Seattle is targeting somebody with the eighth overall pick, but the trade’s real intrigue may be in the salary the Sounders have shipped to Chicago. Based on 2013 players union numbers, Seattle are saving around $200,000 with this deal, and while Anibaba looks set to start along side Chad Marshall in the Sounders’ defense, the real payoff may come with the acquisition of somebody like Marco Pappa. (This Seattle blog has a great breakdown of the possibilities.)

The former Fire winger has been a rumored target of Seattle’s throughout the week, and while at least one other move would be necessary to get the Sounders in position to select the Guatemalan international, the money end appears to be falling into place. Whether Seattle’s new cap space goes toward Pappa or somebody else, Wednesday’s trade gives general manager Adrian Hanauer the flexibility he needs to continue reshaping the team’s midfield.

“One of the most difficult parts of this job is losing good people,” Hanauer said, alluding to the time Hurtado and Ianni had spent with in Seattle. “Jhon and Patrick are both quality individuals who have been with our organization from the beginning. We wish them the best in Chicago.”

source: Getty Images
Initially used as a central defender, Jalil Anibaba was pushed to right back last season. During the 2013 campaign, he appeared in all 34 games for the Chicago Fire. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Part of the payoff, however, sees Seattle get slightly younger along the back, with the 25-year-old Anibaba also bringing a durability Hurtado had lacked. Whereas the 29-year-old Colombian had missed at least seven games in each of the last three seasons, Anibaba has played 67 of 68 possible matches over the last two years.

“Jalil is a center back who has tremendous upside,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said, adding “… we expect him to contribute right away.”

Chicago’s point of view on the deal may require some reading between the lines. With Frank Yallop having taking control at Toyota Park, Anibaba went from a staff that drafted him out of North Carolina to somebody who had less familiarity with his talents. Given the opportunity to get two defenders he faced often during his last four-plus seasons n San Jose, Yallop has elected to add two veterans to help Austin Berry in central defense.

“[Coming in] right away I recognized that we were light on the defensive side of things,” Yallop told the team’s website

“Adding Jhon, a former Defender of the Year finalist and  defensive All-Star, automatically makes our team better,” Yallop said. “Along with Patrick, we are adding valuable depth on the defensive side.”

Add in the salary Chicago’s taking on and the swap of draft picks, and this looks like a curious move for the Fire, though seen another way, the deal looks like a challenge trade. While it isn’t Kennedy for Anibaba straight up, Yallop is implicitly wagering the acquisition of the veteran Colombian justifies dealing the younger player. For Seattle, any downgrade from Kennedy to Anibaba will be offset by the improved draft position and the players they bring in with their new flexibility.

At least, that’s the theory. Tomorrow, when the MLS SuperDraft draft hits pick number eight, we’ll see how Seattle starts using their new resources.

Andy King: If Leicester can win PL, Wales can win EURO 2016

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 07:  Andy King of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Andy King is still riding high from Leicester City’s Premier League title, and that confidence is carrying over into EURO 2016.

The Foxes midfielder and Welsh international sees no reason why Wales can’t win the tournament, despite having 80-1 odds to do so.

[ MORE: England’s EURO squad ]

Of course, Leicester began the Premier League season as 5,000-1 underdogs to lift the trophy.

We’ve got to win six or seven games compared to 38.

80-1 against 5000-1. You know which one you would rather back. We are a talented group and I believe we have the best player in the tournament.

Gareth [Bale] is probably the best player in the tournament in many people’s opinion, so why can’t we go there and do something? We are confident we can do that.

If Wales were to win the EURO this summer, the story truly would rival that of Leicester. The Dragons have never played in a European Championship before, and the nation’s only other appearance at a major tournament came back at the 1958 World Cup.

[ MORE: Payet, Milner make top-five of UEFA’s “player barometer” ]

You may not agree that Gareth Bale is the best player in the tournament, but he is surely near the top of the list. Bale’s play will likely determine how far Wales can go, drawn into Group B alongside England, Slovakia, and Russia.

Report: West Ham offer $22 million for AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 20:  Carlos Bacca of AC Milan celebrates his goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and SS Lazio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 20, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
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West Ham’s search for an elite striker continues, with their newest target AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca.

According to Sky Sports, the Hammers have bid $22 million for the striker, who led Milan with 18 goals in Serie A play last season.

However, after paying $34 million to sign the striker last summer, it is believed Milan would be unwilling to sell their top scorer for less than $30 million.

MORE: All 2015-16 PL season reviews ]

At 29-years-old, Bacca has been one of Europe’s most consistent forwards over the past few seasons. After bagging 49 goals in 108 appearances for Sevilla, he earned a move to Milan last July, finishing third in Serie A scoring in his first year with the club.

West Ham’s chairman David Gold has been open about his desire to sign a world-class striker, with Lyon confirming that they rejected a $45 million bid from the Hammers for Alexandre Lacazette.

VIDEO: Neymar takes batting practice before New York Mets game

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  Brazilian soccer player  Neymar Jr stands in the New York Mets dugout before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field on May 31, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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We all know Neymar’s skills with a soccer ball, but what about with a baseball bat?

Spoiler alert: He’s better with his feet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Copa coverage ]

The Barcelona and Brazil superstar was in New York on Tuesday night and hit up the batting cages at Citi Field before the Mets game against the Chicago White Sox.

Taking swings lefty, Neymar made some contact but didn’t necessarily have the smoothest stroke…

He then hit the field and got back to his roots, showing off some footskills while juggling a baseball.

I’m not too sure if Neymar is a baseball fan, but this may make him the Mets’ newest, most famous supporter (sorry Jerry Seinfeld).

Neymar is in the United States as he has some time off after the long Barcelona season. He is not playing in the Copa America with Brazil, but will instead play in the Olympics in August.

Messi’s tax fraud case begins with player avoiding court

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 17:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on  during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on April 17, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Lionel Messi’s tax trial began Tuesday with the player deciding not to appear in court for early proceedings.

Messi is facing a prison sentence of nearly two years on charges he failed to properly pay taxes for part of his earnings from Barcelona from 2007-09.

[ FOLLOW: All of PSTS’s Copa coverage ]

The Argentina playmaker is not obligated to appear in the Barcelona court until Thursday, when he is scheduled to testify before a judge. Sentencing is not expected until next week.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been charged with three counts of tax fraud for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of 4.1 million euros ($4.5 million).

Because of the trial, Messi is missing Argentina’s preparation for the Copa America Centenario, which begins Saturday in the United States. He is expected to fly straight to the U.S. to join his teammates after the trial ends. Argentina debuts in the tournament on Monday against defending champion Chile.

Even if found guilty, it is highly unlikely that Messi or his father will face any jail time. They have denied wrongdoing.

[ COPA AMERICA PREVIEWS: Group A | BC | D ]

“Everything is good. Everybody is calm,” said Messi’s lawyer, Enrique Bacigalupo, as he arrived at the Barcelona court on Tuesday.

The trial is centered on alleged unlawful activities of Messi’s father, but authorities said the player knew enough to also be named in the case. Officials said that although Messi was mostly unfamiliar with tax issues, there was sufficient evidence to believe he could have known and consented to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights.

In addition to each facing a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days, Messi and his father could also be fined in the amount defrauded and ordered to pay all legal proceedings and the loss of any possible tax benefits for a year and a half.

Messi is just the latest high-profile player to have to deal with Spain’s tough tax system. Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Xabi Alonso also were targeted by authorities recently.

[ MORE: Marcelo giving away UCL winners’ medal…on Facebook ]

Mascherano, Messi’s teammate with Argentina and Barcelona, earlier this year was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence for not paying nearly 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in taxes for 2011 and 2012. Brazil striker Neymar recently had to testify before a judge because of alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona. He and the club were accused of withholding the real amount of the transfer fee, in part to avoid paying the full amount of taxes.

Messi was also being investigated by Spanish tax authorities after his name was among those released in the probe of international offshore accounts, known as the Panama Papers, although he was not charged for those allegations.