When Portland traded long-time Timber Mamadou “Futty” Danso earlier today, it looked like a means, not an ends. While the Gambian central defender has struggled this year, he’s was also the team’s longest tenured player. Moving him to Montréal for a second round draft pick wouldn’t have been done without an eye toward a much bigger picture.
If ESPN’s Taylor Twellman’s to be believed (and he almost always is), that biggest picture means landing a high-profile defender from England. Crippled by defensive mistakes all year, Portland has apparently been in touch with former England international Joleon Lescott, who’s been extended an offer that would make him the highest paid defender in Major League Soccer.
Filling a desperate need with a skill set that fits well within Portland’s scheme, Lescott may be the perfect fit for Portland. At the money being offered, it’s be unreasonable to expect a better defender to come to Major League Soccer. Though the team brought in Argentine Norberto Paparatto this offseason, Lescott would be the ideal way to confess the mistake (and give Paparatto more time) while addressing what’s become a debilitating problem.
The big, obvious question: Why would Lescott do it? The answer obviously depends on his other offers, but one factor that should never be underestimated when considering MLS transfers: Life in the United States can be very enticing. It’s a major reason why so many South American players end up in the U.S.. Even for Europeans, working in the U.S. can look like the opportunity of a lifetime, giving them an opportunity to establish residency and give their families a whole new set of options.
Is Lescott one of those players? Perhaps, but at 31 and coming off eight starts in the Premier League, he may be able to justify the move, regardless. Should he do so, it will spell bad news for Colorado, San Jose, and the other teams that may end up fighting with Portland for the West’s last playoff spots.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.