A bit of a mess around the Colorado Rapids training camp

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As we scan the MLS landscape for interesting stories early in the season, Colorado sticks out … and for all the wrong reasons. Long story short, the Rapids look like a bit of a mess right now.

As workouts begin, Pablo Mastroeni (pictured) is more or less in charge of the team. Mastroeni is a guy I respect a lot – so do a lot of people. So this is no indictment of the longtime U.S. and MLS figure who just retired as a player.

But he has no professional coaching experience. He’s in charge because the team has yet to replace Oscar Pareja. And that’s the front office’s fault for having made such a mess in handling their head coaching position, refusing to grant permission initially for Dallas to interview Pareja (never a good idea) and then appearing to handle negotiations with FCD in a fairly clumsy way.

Something else is going on that isn’t completely the Rapids fault.

Hendry Thomas remains dug into a contract standoff, apparently seeking a big pay raise. The skillful Honduran’s emergence as tough, dependable holding midfielder helped get Colorado into last year’s playoffs.

This could be routine stuff; contact impasses and salary disputes are as much a part of the sports landscape as athletic tape or water bottles. But it’s also fair to wonder if big contracts just handed to a pair of newly minted, high profile MLS midfielders, Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu, are complicating these negotiations. (They play roughly the same position, although Bradley is more of a two-way man.)

Further, it’s fair to wonder if this is just the beachhead in negotiations complicated by the pair’s big salaries? Either way, Colorado is in a fix for the time being, although there is just a bit of time to put things right before the season opens in March.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.