Does the name Zat Knight excite you, Union fans? Because the Bolton veteran has been linked with PPL Park

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Zat Knight has spent most of his career in England’s first division, though over the last year-and-a-half, the 33-year-old central defender has been in the second tier with the Bolton Wanderers. During 11 years in the Premier League with Fulham, Aston Villa, and the Trotters, the two-time England international (back in 2005) was a decent if slightly exploitable defender, a level of performance that’s persisted through his 19 appearances in this years’ Championship. He’s a thoroughly decent if aging player, somebody who’d probably be out-of-place in the Premier League at this point in his career.

Given where a still young Philadelphia core is in its success cycle, does that profile excite you, Union fans? For some, it might. An English pedigree still goes a long way, especially when you consider what 277 games of Premier League experience could do to bring alone Amobi Okugo.

The younger player growing into his position gets some veteran guidance. The older player in the sunset of his career adds depth to a team in need of a few more defenders. Superficially, it seems like a cozy fit, part of the reason we can’t total discard the latest rumors.

But this all assumes Knight can actually fill that bill. Set to turn 34 in May, Knight is at the precarious age where the end could be closer than it appears. Alessandro Nesta, Arne Friedrich, Mikael Silvestre, Matteo Ferrari were all European defenders who jumped to MLS in their 30s. All of them have had injury problems. None of them had a major impact. (Steven Caldwell is one recent recruit who has managed to stay on the field.)

A player whose size has been an asset throughout his career, Knight profiles as somebody who could have trouble. A 6’6″, he will be one of the biggest players in the league, but Major League Soccer players will have no problem with his physicality. Instead, in a league where fit, hard-working, physical forwards are the rule, Knight will be faced with some of the same challenges he dealt with in the Championship. Only instead of dealing with those challenges in the context of a club and culture he knows, he’ll be with a new team and in a totally different country.

If Philadelphia can get a Knight-like player on the cheap — say, low $100,000 range — the risk is low. But for a team with a young core that should see itself as still building a contender, Knight is a strange fit. Rather than investing in a player that will be around when the team’s closer to the top of the conference, the Union will be cutting checks to a player entering the last years of his career.

And again, Knight isn’t an Alessandro Nesta. He’s never been a world-beater. At times, he was fine (even good) in the Premier League, and since moving with his team to the Championship, he’s been mostly fine for Bolton. But that’s it. Though something could change once he arrives in Philly, Knight’s last nine years in England say he’s won’t be a major difference-maker for the Union.

According to the league’s official website (linked, above), Knight’s arrival at PPL Park may be more possibility than probability. The team’s still talking to other options, according to head coach John Hackworth. The team may need another center back, but Zat Knight isn’t necessarily him.

That’s good news for Union fans. Knight could come in cheap, but a worthwhile risk, and render all these caveats meaningless. He could also be a 33-year-old  who, near the end of his career, will have trouble making a significant impact in Major League Soccer.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 22: NYCFC continues push to top

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The Western Conference has dominated MLS Cup for the better part of a decade, but it’s the East that continues to shine bright as this MLS season hits the midway point.

Here are PST’s latest MLS Power Rankings as we head into another busy weekend:

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TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

22 (21)

21 (22)

 

20 (20)

D.C. United: Five consecutive defeats for Ben Olson’s group has D.C. firmly at the bottom of the MLS table.

Minnesota United: Similar to D.C., the Loons have gone winless in five. The only saving grace? They host D.C. on Saturday.

Colorado Rapids: A solid effort against Toronto last week gives the Rapids a temporary distraction, but they’ll hit the road again this weekend… where they haven’t won all season.

19 (19) New England Revolution: The playoff gap is already widening for the Revs, and a loss against the Union could be potentially devastating for Jay Heaps and Co. The distance from sixth place is currently eight points for New England.
 

18 (9) Orlando City: The Lions got their man in Dom Dwyer, but now they have to take advantage of his presence while Cyle Larin is still with the team. Orlando has scored just 22 goals this season — third-fewest in MLS.
 

17 (13)  San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes have conceded 12 goals in their last three matches. Somehow, they’re only point out of sixth in the West though.
 

16 (21) Real Salt Lake: The Claret and Cobalt are unbeaten in three straight and have the chance to extend that run when they welcome the Crew on Saturday.
 

15 (7) LA Galaxy: Sigi Schmid is in to stop the bleeding for the Galaxy, and his first challenge? A test against his former side, the Seattle Sounders.
14 (16) Montreal Impact: The Impact have been woeful on the road in 2017 (1-4-5), and a trip to Harrison to face the revamped Red Bulls probably isn’t what the doctor ordered.
13 (14) Vancouver Whitecaps: Carl Robinson’s side travels to Dallas this weekend as they look to rebound from last weekend’s defeat against Portland.
12 (18) Philadelphia Union: Another big Eastern Conference clash is on the docket this weekend for the Union, who have played better as of late.

 

11 (12) Columbus Crew: The Crew are still battling a suspect back line with more than half the season gone (35 goals allowed).

 

10 (10) Portland Timbers: We knew this would be one of the top attacks in MLS entering 2017, and the Timbers are backing it up. Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi each have 10 goals on the year.
9 (15) Seattle Sounders: The way the Sounders have been playing lately it probably won’t be a warm welcome back to the Pacific Northwest for Sigi Schmid and the Galaxy.

 

8 (11) Atlanta United: The expansion side has won four in a row and lifted itself up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

 

7 (8) New York Red Bulls: Jesse Marsch has brought in some reinforcements both defensively and in the attack, and on top of that, the Red Bulls are starting to look like their old selves.

 

6 (5) Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo are just one of four sides in MLS with a perfect home record in 2017. They’ll put that record to the test against the Timbers on Saturday night.

 

 

5 (3) Sporting KC: Peter Vermes’ side hasn’t lost since the end of May. Unfortunately for the Western Conference side, they haven’t been winning a lot of their matches.
4 (2) Chicago Fire: The Fire finally lost against NYCFC… their first defeat since April 29. Don’t go writing off this team though. They’re the real deal.
3 (6)   FC Dallas: A stingy defense and dangerous attack are a deadly combination, and that’s exactly what Dallas possesses.
2 (4) New York City FC: It was a pretty successful week for Patrick Vieira’s group. A group against Toronto, followed by a win over Chicago.
1 (1) Toronto FC: This is a Toronto team that has lost just three matches all season. To put that into perspective, TFC had three defeats by May 1 a season ago.

MLS Week 22: Schmid, LA Galaxy host Seattle, Chicago visits Sporting KC and more

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The annual LA Galaxy-Seattle Sounders matchups are always filled with drama, but Thursday’s moves took the drama and interest in the match up a notch.

Sigi Schmid’s first game back in charge of the LA Galaxy will be against his former club, which fired him midway through the 2016 season. Schmid will also have a brand new signing to debut in Jonathan Dos Santos, the midfield brother of star forward Giovani Dos Santos.

Meanwhile, the second-place Chicago Fire from the Eastern Conference travel to face second-place Sporting Kansas City from the Western Conference, with both teams back to full strength with the Gold Cup completed.

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Here’s a look at this weekend’s full slate of matches around MLS.

(more…)

Chelsea loans Miazga back to Vitesse for second-straight season

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Matt Miazga is back again in the Netherlands.

Chelsea announced Friday that it had loaned the American international to Vitesse for the second-consecutive year on a season-long loan. Miazga made 19 starts last season in all competitions and another 10 appearances for Vitesse off the bench, with one goal scored in the run to the KNVB Cup title, the club’s first in its history,

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Despite his rise through the U.S. youth ranks and success with the New York Red Bulls in 2015 before moving to Chelsea, Miazga only made his first U.S. Men’s National Team start at the 2017 Gold Cup, playing the full 90 in the USA’s 3-0 win over Nicaragua.

Miazga went straight from the Gold Cup back to Vitesse to join up for preseason training.

“I look back with pleasure on my first year at Vitesse,” the 22-year-old Miazga told Vitesse’s website. “I felt very welcome and we have all made historic success. That success will be expanded this coming season and I will continue to develop myself. That’s why I returned as soon as possible after winning the Gold Cup. We are going to compete for the second prize in the club’s history. ”

While it’s disappointing that Miazga won’t be able to challenge for a place at Chelsea next season, he could do worse than facing the challenge of the Eredivisie’s huge array of talented attackers, and after another year of seasoning, he could be ready to play in England, with or without Chelsea.

More importantly for him, with the World Cup coming up, even though he’s on the fringe of the World Cup roster right now, getting regular matches in the Eredivisie will help his cause more than playing for Chelsea’s reserves.

Pulisic: Dortmund can win the league

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short on confidence these days.

The rising star for the U.S. Men’s National Team is currently in preseason training with Borussia Dortmund, and he believes his side can push Bayern Munich for the title. Bayern has won five-straight league titles, but the last team other than Munich to win was Dortmund itself in 2012.

“We’ve got a big chance to win the league this coming season,” Pulisic said, via German publication Kicker.

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Pulisic has been firing on all cylinders so far in preseason. During Dortmund’s tour of China, Pulisic had three assists in a 3-1 win over AC Milan, and he also started and went the full 90 against Bochum on July 22 back in Germany.

The 18-year-old is coming off a breakout season for the Black and Yellows, scoring five goals with 13 assists over 43 games between the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League.

“Last season was a good step in my development,” Pulisic said, noting he wants to be “more dangerous” in the attack. “I want to build on that.”

Of course, Pulisic followed the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Gold Cup, taking the title for the sixth time. In less than a year’s time, Pulisic will likely be on the field, starting for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the hopes and dreams of many Americans on his shoulders.

“(It was) a good victory,” Pulisic said of the final.