Frank Lampard delighted to sign for New York City FC, start MLS adventure

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On Thursday Frank Lampard became a Major League Soccer player.

The Chelsea and English national team legend signed for New York City FC at the iconic setting of Pier 5 in Brooklyn, as the 36-year-old signed a two-year deal for NYC FC and will join the club ahead of their inaugural MLS season in 2015.

[RELATED: Lampard seals NYC FC deal]

[RELATED: Lampard biggest signing in MLS history?]

Lampard leaves behind a glittering career in the Premier League, as he won every trophy possible domestically and in Europe with Chelsea over the past 13 years. The Londoner also became the Blues all-time leading goalscorer, from midfield, to cement his legendary status at Stamford Bridge.

Asked by reporters why he chose to leave London for New York, Lampard revealed the challenge is exciting him.

“Why not choose New York City?,” Lampard said. “You talk about it ticking all the boxes, personally for me it does that. It is a very exciting challenge for me, in life terms too. I had a fantastic 13 years at Chelsea. I can look  back on that with immense pride. However it was certainly a good time for myself, and for Chelsea that I moved on. I want to test myself, carry on challenging myself, I want to be that leader and that person on and off the pitch that can make things happen for this club.”

With Claudio Reyna as the director of soccer and head coach Jason Kreis sat alongside Lampard at the unveiling, NYC FC is starting to come together as the England international became their fourth player signing after David Villa, Jeb Brovsky and Josh Saunders. Starting a club from scratch isn’t but Lampard believes in the vision.

“Having meet with everyone from the club, I’ve seen the vision,” Lampard said. “I’m not talking about starting a new franchise and just throwing things at it and hoping it comes off. There is a real long-term plan from the club and I wanted to be part of that.”

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Lampard became NYC FC’s fourth player as the new franchise continues to take shape.

As questions continued to pour in for Lampard, it was also confirmed they are not sure if he will join their sister team in Melbourne between now and next March, inevitably he was asked about David Beckham’s time in MLS and if he spoke to the former LA Galaxy star about making the switch Stateside.

“No I didn’t,” Lampard said. “I know David well, but I’m not on everyday speaking terms with him. I had spoken to him about his experiences here in the past in the MLS and he says nothing about great things about the league. I already knew it. The decision was all mine. I had to weigh up where I wanted to play. When the opportunity to New York came up, it is a difference experience to what he had but I am coming to a great city and I hope to show people I am a good player, a big personality in the dressing room and outside of that to help this thing move on.”

Lampard also discusses his national team future, which at the age of 36 many believe could be over but he confirmed he has yet to make a decision about international retirement.

He then moved on to praise the U.S. national teams performance at the World Cup, then Lampard finally gave the league a glowing reference and claimed the rest of the soccer world has grown to respect North America’s top-flight.

“Back home in England we saw David Beckham come here and the league take big strides not just because of him, because of a lot of stable work made by people at MLS, Lampard said. “The quality has gone up and up. I’ve been watching MLS games back home in England for a long time now, big players are coming out here. David Villa signing here, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and the homegrown U.S. players. In general the respect for MLS around the world has grown and that is the same for me. That is what makes it such a great opportunity and challenge for me.”

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.

Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho scores thunderbolt for Brazil

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Brazil topped Uruguay 4-1 to move on the verge of World Cup qualification, but there was much more to the first half of this match than meets the eye.

Uruguay went ahead 1-0 on a 9th-minute penalty won and scored by Edinson Cavani, and for a moment it seemed like the home side might find its way to pull within a point of Brazil at the top of the CONMEBOL standings. That would not last very long.

[ MORE: Full roundup of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action ]

Just 10 minutes later, a bad giveaway near the midfield stripe saw Neymar casually feed Paulinho a good 50 yards from goal. The former Spurs man took matters into his own hands, charging forward and unleashing a vicious strike that continued to rise until it ripped the chords in the top-right corner.

 

Not only was the goal a sight to behold, it was an important moment in the match. Brazil was back level at 1-1, and Paulinho would be on his way to an eventual hat-trick with a pair in the second half. Neymar scored once as well to complete the 4-1 final scoreline, and the three points for Brazil saw them remain perfect in the World Cup qualifying round as they march seven clear of Uruguay at the top of the standings.

For Paulinho, the hat-trick brings him to four goals in the World Cup qualifying round, adding to his score in the 3-0 win over Argentina. They also mark an important moment for the Chinese Super League, where Paulinho now plays, having moved from Spurs in July of 2015. Some national team coaches have left players on the outside of the squad for moving to leagues such as the Chinese League or Major League Soccer, but Paulinho has clearly been an asset to Brazil despite his club situation. In fact, in China, Paulinho has scored four goals in his four league matches for Guangzhou Evergrande this season plus another in the Asian Champions League, leaving him in top goalscoring form coming into this international break, something which has clearly translated directly to international play.

The 28-year-old had lost his place in the national team squad in 2014, going over two years without a single international appearance, but has been a mainstay in the Brazilian side during this World Cup qualification cycle.

Dele Alli banned three European games for straight red card

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Spurs may be out of the Europa League this season, but should they end up qualifying for the Champions League next season, they will start the campaign short-handed.

Tottenham will be without midfielder Dele Alli for the first half of the group stage after his horrifying tackle on Brecht Dejaegere of KAA Gent in their 2-2 draw which saw Spurs out of the competition on aggregate in the Round of 32.

Alli went to ground on the 39th-minute challenge, and made contact on high up on Dejaegere’s leg with both his studs, finishing with a scissior-whip motion. It was a blatant red card, and now UEFA’s disciplinary committee has handed down the three-match ban. Straight-red cards for violent conduct only carry a minimum penalty of one match in UEFA tournament play, but the disciplinary committee clearly thought a longer punishment was necessary, with the ability to sentence anyone up to five matches.

The straight red was the first of Alli’s professional career. Alli apologized to Dejaejere after the match, according to the Gent midfielder. He’s since scored in four straight matches, and when asked on Sunday if that moment was still in his mind, he said, “I’m never going to say sorry for wanting to win or trying as hard as I can but things happen and you have to learn from them.”

Spurs currently sit in second place in the Premier League table with 59 points and look to be in a strong position for Champions League qualification, with a seven-point cushion on fifth-placed Manchester United.