Surprise of the 2014 MLS Draft: Philadelphia took a goalkeeper. Hmmm …

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Everyone paying attention to the 2014 MLS Draft understood that some team would land a real plum in UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The guy looks ready to play in MLS today, and not just for the physical ability. Blake looks wise beyond his years in communicating with defenders, providing the valuable information in real time that can calm and improve a back line. In his overall command of the penalty area, he looks quite assured, too. Those are areas most young goalkeepers grow into; he’s already there.

So, Blake was clearly going early in the draft.

But to Philadelphia? That one fell as the big surprise of a draft that was fairly thin in talent compared to past pickings, but a day still blessed with lots of movement and trades, etc. (Two more rounds are set for tomorrow, but third and fourth rounds are productive only for depth, if even that.)

Truly, this turned into a bad, bad day for Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

MacMath, although just 22, looked set to be a third-year starter this year. That position as a starter turned oh-so-tenuous when MLS commissioner Don Garber stepped to the microphone to announce Blake as Philadelphia’s selection with the top overall pick.

(MORE: MLS Draft recap, who went where)

Philadelphia officials even traded up a spot, handing some allocation cash to D.C. United to ensure they select Blake, who has already had international appearances for Jamaica. MacMath must have fallen over sideways at that news.

While nobody really saw this coming – most projections had Blake going to Vancouver, which had the No. 3 pick and was desperate for a goalkeeper, making that one look like a no-brainer all the way around – perhaps in retrospect it shouldn’t be that much a surprise.

MacMath was put in goal too early at PPL Park, made the Union starter at age 19. His high-profile blunders – He was 19, after all, what did they expect? – cost the Union a game here and there. MacMath has stabilized his game to the point that he’s no longer making the regular, big blunders.

But he still doesn’t deal consistently well with crosses, and he hasn’t been the best about communicating with the back line – the very thing that Blake seems to do so well, even though he’s yet to play an MLS match.

Blake going to Philly was among the big surprises of the day – but don’t be surprised to see Blake taking over as the No. 1 at PPL Park very soon into the 2014 season.

(MORE: D.C. United has the best day)

MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker

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For a few dozen players, hearing their name called up to the big stage will validate all the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made since they were children.

Starting at 11:00 a.m. when Los Angeles FC is on the clock at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, the 2018 MLS SuperDraft will be underway. Many of the top college prospects will soon find out whether they’ll be headed to the Pacific Northwest, New England, the Southeast, Southern California or anywhere in between.

[MORE: 2018 MLS Mock Draft]

This year’s draft class is loaded with attacking talent, from Generation Adidas trio Ema Twumasi (Wake Forest), Mason Toye (Indiana) and Francis Atuahene (Michigan) to Twumasi’s college teammate Jon Bakero.

But potential No. 1 overall pick is a three-time national champion, Thomas Hilliard-Arce, who could become the anchor of a backline for a decade.

Follow along below as we update the picks live as we hear them:

(more…)

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

[ MORE: Bundesliga scores ]

“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

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Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.