Xavi Hernández reportedly inching closer to New York City FC

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After months of speculation linking him with moves to both Qatar and Major League Soccer, FC Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernández appears to be inching closer to the United States. According to reports out of Spain, the 34-year-old playmaker is set to “imminently” leave the only club he’s ever know, with 2015 Major League Soccer expansion franchise New York City FC his expected destination.

[RELATED: Xavi set for NYC FC deal ]

NYC FC has already signed former Barcelona forward David Villa and is expected to add former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, but the acquisition of Hernández may be the impending superclub’s biggest get, with the Catalan midfielder recognized as one of the best central midfielders of his generation.

After debuting with Barcelona’s senior team in 1998, Hernández went on to win six league titles with the Blaugrana, capturing three UEFA Champions Leagues and two FIFA Club World Cups in the process. Over the course of 16 seasons, Xavi make 723 appearances for Barcelona, scoring 83 goals.

[RELATED: David Villa signs for NYC FC]

For his country, Hernández has been capped 133 times, winning two European championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

From Sport:

“The winningest player in club history will head to New York, into the open arms of New York City FC … both the player and Barça claim nothing will happen until Thursday, the day the player is supposed to return to training after the World Cup …

So next Thursday, the apparent ‘D-Day’ on Xavi’s future, is not just in the works, but it’s the day his move the New York club will be completed. Barça wants it and Xavi want it. The only thing left is a settlement and a tribute match for one of the most prolific players in the history of the Catalan club.”

[RELATED: Lampard agrees to join New York City ]

source:  That Xavi-to-New York has been rumored since the end of La Liga’s season gives this report a feeling of inevitability, but without confirmation from New York City FC, Barcelona, Major League Soccer, or Hernández, there still room for doubt. If every player linked with Major League Soccer arrived in North America, the league would have burst out of its adolescence long ago.

Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo, however, is moving forward with full confidence. After reporting the news on their site on Monday, they’ve put Xavi on the cover of their Tuesday print edition. The headline: Goodbye Xavi.

Pique says Neymar “does not know what to do”

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Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has spoken out about the Neymar saga, stating that he and his fellow teammates are trying to lend their comrade a hand as he looks to sort out his future between Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain.

Speaking ahead of the El Clasico preseason match in Miami, Pique told reporters, “Neymar and I we are very close and I want him to stay and I know the situation. Right now he doesn’t know what to do and we are trying to help him, the ones [on the team] that are more close to him to take the right decision.”

[ MORE: Miazga loaned back to Vitesse ]

Pique was the source of intrigue a five days ago when he posted a Tweet with picture of himself and Neymar and the caption “He stays.” The defender was forced to clarify later saying that his post was only a hopeful prediction of the future rather than a bit of breaking news.

“It depends on what he wants,” Pique said at the pre-match press conference. “He can be in all the clubs in all the world. He can be in Paris, Barcelona, Chelsea or City. All the clubs will want him. It’s about your priorities. What do you want? Do you want more money? Do you want to win titles?”

Then, Pique used his knowledge of American sports to make a comparison, perhaps indirectly referencing Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. “It’s happening here and it’s happening in the NBA as well. There are some players that are not earning all the money that they deserve to win titles. So sometimes you have to take decisions in life and it’s all about priorities.”

Meanwhile, club captain Iniesta was also asked about Neymar, and he said he just wants a decision soon. “We [as players] just want peace which will benefit everyone – the players, the club and everything surrounding it.”

Former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol also spoke out about Neymar’s situation, telling Spanish publication Marca that he thinks Neymar should make his decision soon to erase the uncertainty.

Cheers! Czech soccer club shapes dugouts like beer cans

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PRAGUE (AP) Czech club Viktoria Plzen has come up with innovative beer-can shaped dugouts that truly represent the city.

The club from Plzen, or Pilsen in English, is known as the Czech capital of beer which gave the world the golden “pilsner” lager in 1842.

This week, it unveiled the new dugouts at its Doosan Arena that look exactly like beer cans.

Plzen manager general Adolf Sadek said it was a joint idea from the club and the nearby Gambrinus brewery.

“Such dugouts are unique and I daresay no other club has them,” Sadek said.

Added Gambrinus brewer Zdenek Polak, “Beer and football belong to each other.”

Players welcomed the novelty, particularly with leather heated seats.

The dugouts will first be tested in Viktoria’s season opener against Dukla Prague on Saturday.

Report: USMNT’s Paul Arriola attracting MLS, European interest

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Several U.S. Men’s National Team players made strong impressions on Bruce Arena and Co. at this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup — which resulted in a Stars and Stripes title.

[ MORE: NYCFC continues push to top in latest MLS Power Rankings ]

One of those players is Club Tijuana attacker Paul Arriola, whose performance for the USMNT and in Mexico have drawn him significant interest from MLS, Portugal and the Netherlands, according to Goal USA.

The report from Goal states that a “half dozen” sides in MLS have shown interest in Arriola, including Real Salt Lake.

Arriola, 22, has played for Xolos in Liga MX since 2013 after finishing up his academy career with the LA Galaxy.

The Galaxy would hold the rights to Arriola if he were to join MLS due to a Homegrown claim, despite the forward only spending one season with the club’s academy from 2012 to 2013.

Chanot, Wallace among missing for NYCFC’s clash at Toronto

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Patrick Vieira’s men have been flying high as of late, but New York City FC’s difficult schedule continues over the weekend north of the border.

[ MORE: NYCFC continues push towards top of PST MLS Power Rankings ]

NYCFC will take on Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at BMO Field, but the third-place side in the Eastern Conference will have to do so without six first-team players.

[ MORE: MLS Week 22 preview — Sigi makes LA debut against Sounders ]

A number of injuries will keep out regulars like center back Maxime Chanot, winger Rodney Wallace and Ronald Matarrita, while Miguel Camargo, Khiry Shelton and 16-year-old midfielder/defender James Sands are also sidelined ahead of the Toronto clash.

Wallace and Camargo each sustained injuries during the CONCACAF Gold Cup while on duty with Costa Rica and Panama, respectively.

The two sides settled for a 2-2 draw when they last met on July 19 at Yankee Stadium, but an NYCFC victory could mean a strong push for Vieira and Co. towards the top of the East.

As the table stands, NYCFC currently sits just three points Toronto at the top of the Eastern Conference through 21 matches, while the Chicago Fire are lumped in between the two clubs on 38 points.

Meanwhile, TFC will continue to deal with a couple injuries of its own as Steven Beitashour and Benoit Cheyrou remain out with abdominal and calf ailments, respectively.