MLS SuperDraft Recap – Who’s Going Where

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Major League Soccer’s off-season highlight is the SuperDraft, which kicked off today at 12pm from Philadelphia ET.

Throughout the day we will keep you updated on all the news from the SuperDraft as well as constantly updating all the picks as they come in.

For more information about the SuperDraft, make sure to check out Richard Farley’s ‘Guide to Major League Soccer’s annual (super) Draft.’

FIRST ROUND

1. Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union via trade with D.C. United): The 6’4″ 175 lbs University of Connecticut product was sensational in his three years at Storrs. This season, the Generation Adidas player registered 10 shutouts (0.75 GAA and 10-3-8 record) to win the American Athletic Conference Goalkeeper of the Year award and was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy. An athletically gifted shot-stopper, the Jamaican is known for his strength on crosses, leadership, strong organization skills, good touch on the ball and positivity.

2. Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United via trade with Philadelphia Union): The 6’2″ 180 lbs Cal centerback appeared in 19 matches for the Golden Bears, finishing the season with an impressive 10 goals and one assist. The NSCAA First Team All-American was a Hermann Trophy semifinalist and is known as a complete player with impressive aerial skills, distribution and calm on the ball.

3. Christian Dean (Vancouver Whitecaps): The 6’3″ 198 lbs Dean anchored a Cal defensive unit along with Birnbaum that allowed 21 goals in as many games and recorded seven shutouts. The First Team All-Pac-12 player scored one goal and added four assists on the way to an Elite 8 finish. The athletic left-footed centerback is known for a sensational touch on the ball and galloping runs out of the back.

4. Steve Neumann (New England Revolution): The 6′ 165 lbs striker from Georgetown was a NSCAA second-team All-American and First Team All-Big East selection after notching 10 goals and six assists in 21 games (all starts) to lead the Big East in scoring. A clever player with plenty of flicks and tricks, Neumann is a highly intelligent player capable of creating his own shot and setting others up just as well.

5. Eric Miller (Montreal Impact via trade with FC Dallas): The 6’1″ 175 lbs midfielder out of Creighton earned Second Team All-Great Lakes region honors in midfield after starting all 20 games and tallying three goals and one assist. The Generation Adidas man is versatile player who can play in the back or the midfield and is known for his fantastic stamina and aerial prowess.

6. Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas via trade with Philadelphia Union): The 6’1″ 170 lbs striker from Calgary flew up the draft boards after a strong combine. Akindele attended Division 2 Colorado School of Mines where he leaves the school’s all-time goals leader after scoring 19 goals in 19 matches this year. A powerful, strong striker who can turn on a dime.

7. Andre Lewis (Vancouver Whitecaps): The 5’9″ 145 lbs Jamaican U-17 and U-20 midfielder recently broke into the senior Reggae Boyz side in 2012. Lewis played for national soccer power St. George’s College in Jamaica and is known as a technical, creative midfielder who plays on either flank of midfield.

8. Damion Lowe (Seattle Sounders): The 6’3″ 175 lbs Jamaican played three seasons at the University of Hartford where he was named second team all-Northeast region and first team all-America East Conference in 2013. The former Jamaica U-20 international represented his country at the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

9. JJ Koval (San Jose Earthquakes): The 6’1″ 175 lbs Stamford midfielder was the team captain who started all 21 games, tallying two goals and one assist to earn First Team All-Pac 12 honors. A solid holding midfielder, Koval is known for great vision and strong tackling ability.

10. Nick Hagglund (Toronto FC via trade with Philadelphia Union): The 6’1″ 187 lbs defender out of Xavier was named First Team All-Big East and Big East Defensive Player of the Year after anchoring a defense that allowed 19 goals and recorded six shutouts. Hagglund is the complete package for a centerback – physically imposing, strong, fast, smart and with a good touch and slick distribution skills.

11. Patrick Mullins (NE Revolution via trade with Colorado Rapids): The 6’1″ 172 lbs striker led Maryland to the NCAA College Cup championship final with 19 goals and eight assists in the regular season, followed by five goals and two assists in the postseason. An active striker known for making clever runs behind defenses, Mullins is a left-footed player who knows how to finish.

12. Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids via trade with NE Revolution): The 6′ 157 lbs box-to-box midfielder helped Louisville to the American Athletic Conference title with three goals and two assists. A Generation Adidas player, Hairston is known for fantastic technical ability as well as pace and timing.

13. Marco Franco (Chicago Fire): The 5′ 11″ 155 lbs right-back started all 23 matches for UC Irvine and was named Big West Defender of the Year after helping his team to the Big West Championship and a Sweet 16 finish in the NCAA tournament. A composed, quick defender, Franco is technically good on the ball and can also play center-back.

14. Ben Sweat (Columbus Crew): The 6′ 2″ 175 lbs defender is an attack minded fullback who earned First Team All-American Athletic Conference honors after helping South Florida to the AAC tournament title. A strong left-back, Sweat is good on the ball and dangerous on the attack.

15. Pedro Ribeiro (Philadelphia Union via trade with Toronto FC): The 6′ 4″ 208 lbs Brazilian midfielder scored 11 goals and seven assists in 23 games with Coastal Carolina in 2013. A MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist, Ribeiro is versatile enough to play anywhere on the field but is a particularly good defender.

16. AJ Cochran (Houston Dynamo): The 6′  3″ 195 lbs defender from the University of Wisconsin was named the Big Ten Defender of the Year after starting all 21 of the Badgers’ contests and scoring three goals. A monster in the air, Cochran also has good feet and a good sense of positioning.

17. Schillo Tshuma (Portland Timbers): The 5′ 10″ 162 lbs University of Maryland striker scored six goals and one assist in 25 games for the Terrapins before signing a Generation Adidas contract in January. Creative, tricky and lightning-quick many feel Tshuma under-performed this season but that the Zimbabwe native has more potential than Maryland teammate Patrick Mullins.

18. Ryan Neil (Real Salt Lake): The 6′ 1″ 165 lbs midfielder is the third Cal product taken in the first round of the SuperDraft after earning All-Pac-12 second team honors in his senior season. Fast, athletic and a fantastic dribbler, many feel Neil could be reborn into an attacking full-back in MLS.

19. Grant Van De Casteele (New England Revolution): The 6′ 2″ 165 lbs Notre Dame product anchored the Irish defense that allowed 18 goals and recorded 10 shutouts en route to winning the first NCAA title in the program’s history. VDC was named to the All-ACC Third Team and is known as a sizeable centerback with good feet and a penchant for attack.

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.