Union

MLS Season Preview: Philadelphia Union

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Despite two straight years outside of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Union is building something special. No, the squad doesn’t feature world-class DPs but it’s one that fits right in line with the city itself: a young, tenacious, strong side with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.

So go ahead, dare you to take them lightly.

Players In: Vincent Nogueira (transfer from Sochaux), Christian Omar Maidana (free transfer from Argentinos Juniors), Corben Bone (Chicago Fire, Re-Entry Stage 1), Maurice Edu (loan from Stoke City), Ethan White (trade from DC United), Andre Blake (University of Connecticut, SuperDraft), Brian Holt (free transfer from Harrisburg City), Austin Berry (trade from Chicago)

Players Out: Jeff Parke (trade to DC United), Michael Farfan (transfered to Cruz Azul), Chris Albright (retired), Oka Nikolov (waived), Greg Jordan (waived), Kléberson (waived, Bahia), Don Anding (waived)

source: Getty ImagesKey Player: Maurice Edu

Sure, the argument could be made for Connor Casey, Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux, or any number of players to be the key man. But Edu comes into this side as the player with the most to prove.

For the last two years he’s floated from Rangers to Stoke to Bursaspor, battling injuries and struggling to lock down consistent playing time. Those trials and tribulations have hugely frustrated Edu, and rightfully so. He doesn’t just have something to prove to try and make the USMNT World Cup squad, he has something to prove as a player, period.

Returning to MLS was the best move he could make and fortunately he’s still young enough at the age of 27 where he can re-establish himself as a top professional player. Expect him to play as a box-to-box center midfielder with a chip on his shoulder. Assuming he partners well with Brian Carroll in the center of the park, Edu can be the midfield general that brings the Union to the next level.

source:  Manager: Since his confirmation as interim manager in June 2012 and then manager in August 2012, John Hackworth has steadily built a young, cohesive side with impressive chemistry.

Entering the offseason Hackworth needed to strengthen the midfield and backline in the hopes of moving away from last season’s counter-attacking system and into a more possession-oriented game. Mission accomplished.

Hackworth brought in Edu and Christian Omar Maidana as DPs and also added Vincent Nogueira from France, who could prove to be a tricky attacking midfielder. The acquisition of Austin Berry into the defense will further strengthen the spine of the team allowing them to utilize Hackworth’s favored 4-3-3 approach.

Outlook: The Union are a steadily improving squad, one that knows its identity under Hackworth and ultimately could prove to be the team no one wants to face. After falling short the last two seasons the target will be to make the playoffs and assuming the new boys gel with the old guard – and that quintessential Philly chemistry remains in tact – it’s an objective well within reach.

Argentine star Messi leaves Honduras match with back injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  (L-R) Jose Juan Vazquez #23 of Mexico and Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during a international friendly at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.

The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.

“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.

“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.

Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”

Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.

Hull City secures PL position next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ross Wallace of Sheffield Wednesday make a break during Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.

The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.

After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.

Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.

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UCL FOLLOW LIVE: Lineups as Atleti, Real duel in finale

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, fights for the ball with Atletico Madrid's Tiago Mendes during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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After their devastating defeat two seasons ago, Atletico Madrid looks for revenge and their first UEFA Champions League title on Saturday against Real Madrid.

Milan will be the site for the action, as Zinedine Zidane and Real are seeking their 11th title in the competition and have the opportunity to knock Atleti out in the title match for the second time in three seasons.

To follow live, click here.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Navas, Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Carvajal, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema Subs: Casilla, James, Nacho, Lucas Vasquez, Jese, Isco, Danilo

Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Filipe Luis, Godin, Savic, Juanfran; Gabi, Fernandez, Koke, Saul Niguez; Griezmann, Torres. Subs: Moya, Tiago, Correa, Hernandez, Thomas, Ferreira-Carrasco, Gimenez.

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Atlanta United actively pursuing Mexican duo Guardado, Vela

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 07:  (L-R) Former professional soccer player Carlos Bocanegra, MLS Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, rapper Ludacris, Commissioner of MLS Don Garber, and former professional soccer player Darren Eales attend the MLS Atlanta Launch Event at SOHO on July 7, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta)
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With Atlanta United FC set to make their MLS debut in 2017, the club is reportedly set to make a major splash with one or possibly two Mexican stars.

[ MORE: Agent: Zlatan Ibrahimovic may not join Man United ]

ESPN FC‘s John Sutcliffe reported from the team’s future home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on Friday, saying that the team is targeting both Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Edgar Castillo to replace Timmy Chandler for USMNT ]

Guardado, who currently plays for PSV Eindhoven, has long been a staple of the El Tri midfield, making 124 appearances for the Mexican national team.

While Vela wasn’t included in Mexico’s Copa America Centenario roster, the Real Sociedad striker has every bit of talent you’d want from a future Designated Player, which is likely what either Guardado or Vela would be.

Atlanta currently has three players on their roster. Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tabakis, Junior Burgos and Jeffery Otoo currently round out the squad.

The potential addition(s) of an Andres Guardado or Carlos Vela would prove to be not only big for Atlanta but for MLS as a whole, more so with Vela though. MLS’ growth over recent years has brought young DPs like Sebastian Giovinco and Giovani Dos Santos to Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy, respectively.

Another league addition who is in the prime of their career will only continue to build the league’s reputation, and immediately put Atlanta on the map next season.

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