Drogba headshot

Didier Drogba’s coming to Seattle this summer? Quick thoughts on a thin rumor

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Tuesday’s Major League Soccer rumor mills erupted, spewing enough fire to burn down the rest of the factory that churns out all the rumor mills. From the resulting flotsam, a Seattle Times beat man was able to collect the particulates of a story, though with the team refused to treat it as anything other than rumor.

That didn’t stop Sounders fans from indulging their fantasies. Didier Drogba may be coming to Seattle, which means people are getting excited on the Internet.

And who can blame them. Given the certainty behind some of the talk (see the tweets linked in the Times’ story), this looks like either a very strong rumor or an incredibly huge whiff. If you’re inclined toward one camp or the other, just remember last year. Remember the rumors that had Kaká, Frank Lampard, and Diego Forlán arriving on these shores. Major League Soccer’s definitely in the midst of a good run, having landed players like Jermain Defoe, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley, but as one of the most recognizable soccer players in the world, Drogba is more Kaká than Defoe.

There’s also the nature of the tweets Joshua Mayers (as good as they come on MLS beats) links in his post. One person is in media with beIN Sports, but he’s also speaking like a regular fan. It can often be confusing, but when media isn’t posting “breaking,” “can confirm,” or “this is not a joke” with their tweet, they should be allowed to speculate like normal people. Ultimately, it’s only Twitter, and although people do break stories on that platform, most of the time they’re just engaging the conversation.

The other tweet is less ambiguous, but it’s not exactly Woodward talking to Deep Throat. It is essentially saying ‘I know a guy who knows a guy who says Drogba’s going to Seattle.’ Another guy who knows a guy:

But you know what? Sometimes a guy who knows a guy is right. So for the sake of this post (Not Gonna Lie®), I’m going to fully embrace it. I’m going to suspend disbelief, accept this as a legitimate rumor, and consider what a world with a viable Drogba-to-MLS rumor would look like.

Let’s go Full Internet on this one (insert: whimpering puppy riding an orca into Isengaard dot gif). And when you go Full Internet, you make a list:

1. We’re beyond scoffing at this stuff, especially as it concerns Seattle

We live in a post-Dempsey utopia. What 1980s were to Quaaludes and stock fraud the 2010s will be to MLS spending with The Price Is Right’s oversized checks. Any day now, Don Garber will drag himself out of country club on his face before playing giant slalom with his Lamborghini. Keep it together, Commish.

This era of relative largesse means a whole new level of player is within MLS’s reach. It’s not just glamour sites like New York that can acquire an Henry. In MLS’s Quaaludes-driven binge, spenders like Seattle, Toronto, and Portland will be able to lure the Drogba-esque talents of the world. And when New York and Miami come in? David Justice will not pay for his own soda!

This is MLS’s new world order. You remember Breaking Madden? Well, this is MLS’s latest attempt to Break Football Manager. (And just like MLS, it’s a lot more modest.)

source: AP2. Can you imagine how people will react if Seattle DOES get him?

Prediction: Not well. Seattle already is still dealing with the backlash of their quick rise to prominence, with every retread national media story about Soccer Mecca met with eye rolls from the rest of MLS’s collective fan base. We get it, they scream every time an editor assigns 1500 to the annual ‘This Is Why Seattle Rules’ piece. After five years, a lot of fans are tired it. (But please, still read my annual Seattle piece.)

Here’s the problem, for those growing tired of Seattle: It’s not going away. In fact, if you’re annoyed by the Sounders getting so much love, it’s probably going to get worse. General manager/owner Adrian Hanauer is ambitious. The team is going to go after people. And when they snare somebody like Dempsey or Drogba, the national outlets are going to cover them. It’s not just that it’s a story. It’s a story people seem to want to hear. Again and again and again …

Just imagine how much time they’ll get if they ever made an MLS Cup. Or win it? I’m telling you, come to grips with it now. The Seattle Sounder story is not going anywhere soon. So let’s all lotus position and ohhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

3. Obafemi Martins would probably be gone

Obafemi Martins was one of the highest paid players in Major League Soccer last year, and he didn’t play like it.

That’s okay. It took Tim Cahill a little while to come around, too, but Tim Cahill didn’t spend his first offseason dropping hints he wanted to move back to Europe. With a résumé detailing a vagabond’s past, Martins has yet to quell doubts in Seattle.

If Drogba’s coming in, Martins will almost certainly be gone. Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso occupy the team’s other two Designated Player spots, and one of those contacts is unmovable. If Drogba is coming in, expect Seattle would almost have to allow Martins to kind another home.

Then again, Matíás Laba’s still a Red.

source: Getty Images4. Didier Drogba will probably wear down

Drogba wasn’t exactly a pillar of health during his last days with Chelsea. Since then, at stops in China and Turkey, his workload has decreased, but during last year’s African Cup of Nations, we saw what happened when the Ivorian was faced with a series of important games. His time had to be closely monitored, and he didn’t have an effective tournament (scoring once as Les Elephants were eliminated in the quarterfinals).

Drogba turns 36 in March, and while he still has the quality to succeed when playing, he doesn’t have the ability to avoid being worn down. Playing on CenturyLink’s turf would only compound that, as will the demanding nature of MLS’s fall schedule.

Perhaps Sigi Schmid and his staff would manage Drogba as effectively as Roberto Di Matteo did in Chelsea’s 2012 run to the Champions League title. Then again, Drogba was two years younger.

5. And if there’s one team that should avoid  another mid-season shakeup, it’s Seattle

Slotting in a striker mid-year isn’t as traumatic as bringing in a new midfield focal point, but if you’re Seattle, why would you even entertaining the idea of repeating 2013? Granted, a talent like Drogba’s can justify a lot of risk, but less than one year after the Dempsey shakeup was seen as a major factor in Seattle’s 2013 fade, they might bring in another big personality? Somebody who provides a defining presence on the field and off?

Special talents require special consideration. But still.

6. Didier Drogba is going to HATE Major League Soccer officials.

Potentially disgraceful, even:

(Warning: NSFW, language at the end.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toTx8wet820]

Burnley’s Andre Gray charged by FA over Twitter posts from 2012

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Andre Gray of Burnley during the Premier League match between Burnley and Cardiff City at Turf Moor on  August 13, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images
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A Premier League player is set to be punished by English football authorities for discriminatory comments he made on social media more than four years ago.

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The comments made by Burnley striker Andre Gray between Jan. 9 and March 11, 2012 appeared anti-gay. They came to light on Saturday, when they were retweeted by other people after he scored his first Premier League goal for Burnley in the team’s 2-0 win over Liverpool. Gray released a public apology after the match.

Gray was charged with misconduct on Tuesday by the Football Association, which said the alleged comments “were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

Gray said in his apology “the tweets were posted four years ago when I was a completely different person to the man I am now.”

“I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person since that time,” the 25-year-old Gray said.

“I have a lot of regrets regarding a number of things I’ve done in the past and realize I have made some big mistakes, none more so than these tweets, but I would like to stress that I’ve worked incredibly hard to completely transform my life since that time.”

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Gray said he wanted to clarify that he was “absolutely not homophobic” and to “ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended.”

The FA said Gray had until Aug. 31 to respond to the charge.

“He has moved a long way in life,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said Tuesday. “He’s made that clear with an apology and also to remind the club, `It’s four years ago, I’m a different person.’

“A lot has gone on in his life to get him where he’s got to, I think he made that clear. It was authentic what he said (in the apology).”

Gray was the top scorer in the second-tier League Championship last season, helping Burnley achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.

Arsenal, Stoke target Jones part of Mourinho’s plans, will stay at Man United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City and Phil Jones of Manchester United compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on December 19, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Other Premier League clubs might be interested in Phil Jones, but Jose Mourinho has no intentions of letting the 24-year-old future England captain Manchester United center back leave anytime soon.

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Mourinho and Man United have received multiple approaches for Jones this summer, but never entertained the idea of selling, according to the Guardian. Arsenal were said to have been interested earlier in the summer, while Stoke City are presently trying to pry the Blackburn Rovers academy product away from Old Trafford, as confirmed by Mark Hughes’ assistant, Mark Bowen, earlier this week.

Jones moved to Man United in the summer of 2011 for a fee believed to be north of $20 million. While he’s endured his share of hard times in his five seasons at the club, Jones would easily be a 30-$35 million player giving fees paid for comparable center backs in recent transfer windows.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

While Jones is yet to see the field early in the 2016-17 season, he remains a viable option, along with Chris Smalling, behind $40-million summer signing Eric Bailly and midfielder-turned-defender Daley Blind. Over the course of a 38-game PL season, the UEFA Champions League Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, a busy schedule and injuries will provide plenty of chances to impress the new manager and reclaim a regular place in the first team.

MLS preview: Galaxy, Sounders, Toronto FC hit the road midweek

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Colorado Rapids during the first half of the MLS soccer game in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP)
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Previewing the biggest games across Major League Soccer on Wednesday…

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Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

Quick quiz: Which is the hottest team in MLS right now? Answer: It’s TFC, who are unbeaten in their last six games, a stretch which includes five wins and an aggregate score of 16-4. OK, so how are they doing it? Don’t ask silly questions. In those six games, Sebastian Giovinco, who’s again running away in the MVP race and will become the first back-to-back winner in league history (only Preki has ever been a two-time winner), has scored eight goals and notched four assists. He’s been even better this year than he was in 2015. His 2016 season tally currently stands at 16 and 11. He’ll likely be the first player in MLS history to notch multiple 20-goal seasons, if Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has 15 this season, doesn’t get there first.

It’s not only Giovinco, though, but the return Jozy Altidore which has allowed the Italian superstar the freedom, the space, and the hold-up play to thrive as he’s done. Giovinco has been given a free role by head coach Greg Vanney, and Altidore’s ability to occupy two center backs at once, along with his ability to hold the ball up and draw the opposing defense toward him, has resulted in Giovinco scoring a number of easy chances no player of his quality should ever be allowed to see. It’s amazing what happens when you build a team and system around your best player, rather than try to make that player fit into something predetermined. Three points on Wednesday would vault the Reds into first place in the Eastern Conference having finally pulled level on games played with New York City FC.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison on meteoric rise — “It can only get better” ]

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy — 8:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

After rattling off four straight wins over the majority of July, the Galaxy are suddenly winless winless in their last four, though they’ve managed to salvage three points during that period. During the current four-game stretch, the attacking trio of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes have combined to contribute just one goal and three assists, all but one assist of which have come from GdS.

No team in the Western Conference has won more points away from home (14) than the Galaxy this season, while no team in MLS has won fewer home points (17 — or points, period, 22) than the Fire. All signs point toward a Galaxy victory, but this is a Fire side that has steadily improved bit by bit in recent weeks, culminating in their first road victory in 25 months last weekend. The Vancouver Whitecaps await the Galaxy on the weekend — can you say, “trap game?”

[ MORE: U.S. teen skipping college, heading to La Liga ]

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

If TFC are the hottest team in MLS, the Sounders are the second-hottest and without a doubt the hottest team in the West. Since firing Sigi Schmid four weeks ago, the bunch in Rave Green are unbeaten in four games, now having won three straight. The signing of Nicolas Lodeiro has been the spark that breathed life into a dying season, but one could reasonably argue that Cristian Roldan’s emergence deep in midfield has meant just as much to a Sounders side that, for the first time all season, has found a strong base between the attack and defense.

Osvaldo Alonso is no longer being ask to play the box-to-box role in which he thrived for a half-decade, instead acting as the organizer and director in front of the backline, with Roldan, the 21-year-old with many miles left in his legs, covering large swaths of space in midfield. The biggest difference between Roldan and your typical defensive midfield in MLS? He can see a pass in the final third, and he can hit it when it’s on. Lodeiro creates plenty of space for Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey with his unbelievable range of passing, and that’s been a huge part of the eight goals the Sounders have scored in those three wins, but Roldan’s presence alongside Alonso has been just as important in allowing just four goals in four games.

EFL Cup roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool advance; Watford, WBA lose to League 1 sides

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the EFL Cup second round match between Chelsea and Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge on August 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images )
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Watford and West Bromwich Albion were beaten by third-tier opposition in the English League Cup on Tuesday, while fellow Premier League sides Liverpool and Everton enjoyed big wins in the second round.

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Chelsea was pushed hard by third-tier Bristol Rovers before also advancing to the third round with a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

Watford lost 2-1 to Gillingham after extra time and West Brom was beaten 4-3 on penalties by Northampton after they finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.

Northampton famously ousted Liverpool in the 2010-11 competition, but the Reds easily avoided a so-called “giant-killing” this time round by thrashing Burton Albion 5-0. Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score two goals and wrap up victory over the second-tier side managed by former Liverpool forward Nigel Clough.

Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino also scored for a full-strength Liverpool team, and there was an own goal.

“Very serious, very professional performance by my side,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who added that second-half injuries to Emre Can and Origi were not serious.

Everton also had a substitute striker scoring a late double, with Arouna Kone’s goals sealing a 4-0 home win over fourth-tier Yeovil.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte‘s decision to field a team largely made up of reserve players nearly backfired. Belgium striker BatshuayiMichy Batshuayi scored two first-half goals as Chelsea took a 3-1 lead into halftime, before Rovers scored a 48th-minute penalty and struck the crossbar as they went in search of an equalizer.

Devoid of European football this season, Liverpool and Chelsea will likely take the League Cup seriously. They are two of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, having won it 13 times between them.

Stoke, Swansea, Hull and Crystal Palace were the other Premier League teams to progress to the third round, when clubs involved in Europe enter the draw that takes place Wednesday.

Peter Crouch scored a hat trick – including one goal from a scissor kick – in Stoke’s 4-0 win at Stevenage, Oliver McBurnie scored twice on his debut for Swansea in a 3-1 win at Peterborough, Hull beat Exeter 3-1 away and Palace was a 2-0 winner at home to Blackpool.

Palace gave a debut to new record-signing Christian Benteke, who played the first half before being substituted.

Derby beat Carlisle 14-13 on penalties to equal the most goals scored in a shootout in the competition’s history.