Difference in strikers gives Toronto win over New York

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There’s always a danger of being too reductive when looking at professional soccer, and any attempts to see a 22-man game as a contrast between two performances will almost certainly be too narrow. After Saturday afternoon’s game at BMO Field, however, the difference between Toronto and New York paralleled their main goal-scorers’ performances. Whereas TFC’s Jermain Defoe’s blistering shot in the 12th minute showed the best of what Major League Soccer’s strikers have to offer, a huge miss from Bradley Wright-Phillips cost the Red Bulls. New York fell in Toronto, 2-0, thanks to a late goal from Luke Moore.

Defoe’s fourth goal of the season was reminiscent of his debut in Seattle, where a ball fed into a channel from high allowed him to finish near the edge of the penalty area. This week it was Bradley Orr, pressed into midfield in the absence of Michael Bradley, who found his fellow English league refugee for this devastating finish:

The goal set up a Ryan Nelsen special. While the Reds had some isolated chances late, they didn’t play as if a second goal might be important. Instead, the team played as if trained to flip a mental switch whenever they take a lead, no matter the time on the clock. While TFC didn’t bunker, they certainly seemed very risk averse.

The approach nearly cost them points when, in the 65th minute, Thierry Henry sent  a ball through the six-yard box from the byline left of goal. Bradley Wright-Phillips, alone at the right post, had time to square up a five-yard shot before it sailed into the stands, the league’s leading goal-scorer failing to convert after one of the season’s least explicable misses.

Two handball shouts for penalty kicks will also linger in Red Bulls’ memories, but when Jámison Olave was forced to save a second half chance off New York’s line, Toronto appeared as capable of producing the game’s next goal. In the 95th minute, as Luis Robles failed to play a ball he came to the edge of his area of claim, that potential came to fruition, with Moore marking his TFC debut by scoring into a vacated goal.

The score doubled Toronto’s lead, but Wright-Phillips’ miss still looms large, and not only because any goal changes a one-goal game. Had their leading scorer at least come close, the Red Bulls could have rationalized it as bad luck and kept pushing forward. That he didn’t made it even more difficult to accept, seemingly killing their momentum. With Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bednik momentarily injured, the only way Wright-Phillips doesn’t score is if he completely misses goal, yet from five yards out, that’s exactly what he did.

With all the good Wright-Phillips has done this season, it’s hard to dwell one miss. This particular miss, however, helped send New York to its second straight loss. Toronto, on the other hand, snaps its three-game slide.

Roma-Chelsea reports could see Dzeko, Batshuayi… and Sturridge on the move

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Here’s a wild rumor out of Italy, as Gianluca Di Marzio has UEFA Champions League Round of 16 sides Chelsea and Roma working out a big transfer.

[ MORE: PST chats with Dzeko in July ]

Again, before we lay it out, we know that both clubs would not be able to use Cup-tied players in the UCL and that gives the rumor its unrealistic bent.

Chelsea reportedly is willing to send $62 million and striker Michy Batshuayi on loan to Roma in exchange for Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeiri. Reports say Roma is holding out for another $20 million, potentially add-ons.

Dzeko isn’t producing at his otherworldly rate of last season, but is far and away i Lupi’s leading scorer and bagged a brace against Chelsea in the UCL. And Batshuayi scored in Chelsea’s first two matches of the tournament.

There is something to the rumor, at least in terms of Emerson. The London Evening Standard quotes the player’s agent as saying talks are ongoing and the move is a “dream” one for Emerson, who is behind Aleksandar Kolarov on the left back depth chart since returning from injury.

Roma would need a UCL-eligible center forward, as Czech youngster Patrik Schick has been unable to find his scoring boots since a summer move from Sampdoria. Football Italia says, sensationally, that Roma would use some of the money to pry Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool.

Maybe the Emerson move goes through, but the striker swap feels like a headscratcher for Dzeko and Chelsea.

Pardew the latest to scratch head at transfer fees

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West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Pardew is the latest to find himself baffled at the prices on the transfer market.

To be fair to the Englishman, 56, it doesn’t sound like he’s raving in ‘old man yelling at the sky’ fashion. Rather he thinks the numbers are hard for fans to gauge and perhaps it’s causing a disconnect.

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And for him, at least, it’s a challenge to sort out whether the prices he’s being quoted are reasonable relative to the market. That makes sense, considering that as Newcastle boss in 2012 he sold Fraser Forster to Celtic for about $3 million and PSG bought Yohan Cabaye — then 28 — from him for $26 million.

Both fees would be a little different right now, we think (from the BBC).

“It’s difficult with the prices now to gauge what’s good value,” Pardew said. “We live in a hyper-inflated world because of the TV money received by the football clubs. Therefore, transfers and wages are going way out of kilter with real life. I think we’re all losing the plot with the figures. It’s just becoming, ‘Oh okay,’ and not even reacting to things any more.”

Now, to play devil’s advocate, if Pardew is actually just old man yelling at the sky, he’d better get out of the manager’s box. The fees aren’t changing for top clubs, which is why Jonny Evans is at risk from a Man City bid but not Newcastle United or Crystal Palace. And the TV money he talks about is going to allow clubs like WBA to hold onto players by offering better wages if they choose that route.

But it’s a fair sentiment regarding how to gauge these numbers. While it’s usually a bit laughable when fans and writers estimate whether clubs have paid too much or sold for too little, managers and administrators risk looking foolish if they agree too low or too high a fee relative to other teams.

Stanford’s Andi Sullivan is the No. 1 pick in NWSL draft

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The Washington Spirit have selected midfielder Andi Sullivan out of Stanford with the first pick in the National Women’s Soccer League draft on Thursday.

Stanford won the NCAA College Cup championship last season. Sullivan scored in the 3-2 Cardinal victory over UCLA. She also won the Mac Hermann Trophy for the nation’s best soccer player.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

Sullivan has made seven appearances with the U.S. national team and has been called into January training camp as the team begins to prepare for World Cup qualifying in the fall.

The Spirit also had the third overall pick, which they used to select midfielder Rebecca Quinn out of Duke.

The Boston Breakers took forward Savannah McCaskill out of South Carolina with the No. 2 overall pick.

The day also featured a number of high-profile trades, including a deal between the Reign and the Royals that sent midfielder Diana Matheson to Utah in exchange for veteran defender Yael Averbuch.

Stoke City adds versatile Greek left-sided man on loan

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New Stoke City boss Paul Lambert is tasked with shoring up a defense which has been bottom half in goals allowed for several seasons, and has made his first move.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

Kostas Stafylidis is a 24-year-old left-sided player with 22 Greek caps to his name, but he’s fallen out of favor at Bundesliga side Augsburg and managed just 31 minutes this season.

He’ll head on loan to the Potteries, where he’ll attempt to aid the leakiest side in the Premier League. Stoke’s 50 goals allowed are eight more than its closest competitor (Watford).

Stafylidis has played left back and left mid for club and country, though he had his most league success last season at left back. He scored four goals and was rated Augsburg’s best field player by WhoScored and its top player overall by Squawka.

And he wants to be there (from StokeCityfc.com):

“As soon as I heard I told my agent directly that I wanted this move,” he added. “I left it to him then, he spoke to the Club more, and then to the trainer and we all wanted to make this move happen. It is good for me, it is good for the Club to bring me here for five months and I am very happy about that.”