San Jose reportedly about to bring in its own South American playmaker

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Javier Morales is the ideal, but with the Argentine’s success at Real Salt Lake has come a series of South American playmakers: Federico Higuaín with Columbus; Felipe Martins in Montréal; the Timbers’ Diego Valeri; even younger versions, like FC Dallas’s Mauro Díaz. And those are just the ones who’ve worked out. Though the league’s tradition of relying on South American maestros dates back to Carlos Valderrama, recent expansion and the league’s economic health has led a series of CONMEBOL’s talents to look for new CONCACAF options.

The next player to join that list appears to be Argentine Matías Pérez García; at least, if reports from ESPN Deportes pan out. According to last night’s report, the 30-year-old midfielder is “virtually” set to make a move to San Jose, ending two seasons with Tigre of the Argentine Primera Division.

One Deportes source claims the deal involves two million dollar, though it was unclear whether that was a transfer fee or the player’s compensation. Given the salaries for the likes of Morales and Valeri ($300,000, $500,000), the quoted amount is likely going to Tigre, who become the latest club to benefit from MLS’s continued mining of Argentine talent.

From this distance, it’s unclear whether the player justifies the expenditure. Since moving to Tigre in the summer of 2012, Pérez García’s scored 13 times in 63 league appearances, playing primary behind a single striker. Though he’s been Tigre’s leading scorer during that time, he’s also 30 and has never had success beyond Argentina (in France or Chile).

In that way, he profiles like Valeri, with the two sharing a connection to Lanus. But when Valeri moved to Portland, he was 26 years old, and while his transfer fee was  over $2 million (reportedly, closer to $3 million), the nature of his move meant the Timbers had a chance to test the fit before MLS paid the full fee.

Though you never want to accept one web site’s word as gospel, there seems to be reasons why Transfermarkt’s evaluation isn’t close to $2 million. Perhaps the actual fee will turn out to me lower, but if Deportes’ source is correct, Major League Soccer appears to be over-paying.

And that’s the other part of this transaction to consider. Whatever the fee ends up being, it’s likely coming from the league’s collective coffers. From a San Jose fan’s point of view, that makes the price a lot more tolerable. For an MLS fan, though, is a 30-year-old playmaker the best use of the league’s transfer budget?

This is part of the problem with paying for teams’ transfer fees. If Pérez García becomes available and Earthquakes general manager John Doyle wants him, how can Major League Soccer say “no” after paying fees for players like Valeri and Matías Laba (not to mention higher price points like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley)? Unless the request is egregious, a precedent has been set. Why can’t San Jose be part of the club?

All of which gets us pretty far away from the field. For a San Jose team that’s found itself at the bottom of the Western Conference, there are more pressing issues; specifically, can García turn help Mark Watson turn this around? While the odds are stacked against making the playoffs this season, the team needs to build for next year, when it will be opening its new venue. By then, the Earthquakes need to have moved away from the blunt style which, at one time successful, has proved a hinderance over the last year-and-a-half. When they’re winning, it’s fine, but we San Jose’s results fall off, the team’s approach makes it difficult to justify the product.

With a player like Yannick Djaló, San Jose’s moving in a different direction, but even when healthy, the Portuguese attacker hasn’t been a game-changer. García, whether it’s by position or price, will be expected to serve that purpose. If he’s not a game-changer, he a least needs to be a style-changer.

That’s assuming the move happens, of course. Right now, it’s just a rumor – a very detailed, consistent, sensible rumor, one which hints a San Jose is moving in a different direction. The team that’s been forced to live a modest existence may be ready to add some extravagance to its roster.

West Ham 1-1 Leicester: Hammers marginally improved

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  • Albrighton opens scoring in 8′
  • Kouyate brings Hammers back in 45′
  • Moyes’ first point as West Ham boss

The tangible takeaway was small — a single point — but the overall sentiment appeared my larger for West Ham United, as David Moyes‘ side came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the London Stadium on Friday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

It didn’t take long for the Hammers’ boo birds to re-emerge and for the spotlight to return squarely — and blisteringly hotly — onto the club’s (already, after two games) beleaguered manager. Jamie Vardy broke down the left side of the penalty area, cut a left-footed cross back toward the penalty spot, and Marc Albrighton arrived at the right time to redirect the ball through traffic with and outstretched right foot (above video).

Kasper Schmichael was forced to make one spectacular save during the first half, in the 25th minute. Manuel Lanzini‘s free kick floated to Angelo Ogbonna at the back post, where the Italian headed downward and inside the post. Schmichael quickly scrambled across the face of goal and pushed the ball away with two hands.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Then, the strangest event occurred: for just the sixth time in 25 games since relocation in the summer of 2016, West Ham scored a first-half goal — with only seconds to spare. Again, it was a set piece from which the Hammers posed their greatest threat. Lanzini lofted another beautiful ball to the top of Schmichael’s six-yard box, this time from a corner kick, where Cheikhou Kouyate rose above the rest and headed the ball off the back of Danny Simpson and into the back of the net.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With the two sides seemingly pleased to split the points, the second half featured very little notable action — in terms of scoring chances, that is.

Riyad Mahrez, who spent all summer trying to engineer a move away from Leicester, was subbed out by manager Claude Puel in the 70th minute. The Algerian international and 2015-16 Player of the Year appeared to be far from pleased, as he and Puel made no eye contact nor gave any acknowledgement of one another when Mahrez walked past Puel and made his way to the bench. Rekindled rumors are right around the corner.

The draw leaves West Ham (10 points), who are now six games without a win, 18th in the league table, now level on points with West Bromwich Albion who currently sit just outside the relegation zone. Leicester (14 points), meanwhile, leapfrogged Newcastle United for 11th.

Zenit face racism charge after banner honors war criminal

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg is facing a UEFA racism charge after its fans displayed a large banner honoring convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic.

Two Serbian clubs, Red Star Belgrade and Partizan Belgrade, were also charged for similar offenses of supporting Mladic at Europa League games on Thursday.

UEFA said Friday that all three clubs faced charges of “racist behavior.” No dates were set for disciplinary hearings.

Zenit fans unfurled the banner, about 10 yards in length, during Thursday’s 2-1 Europa League group-stage win over Macedonian club Vardar Skopje.

The game took place the day after former Bosnian Serb military chief Mladic was convicted by a United Nations tribunal of genocide and other crimes in the wars following the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Mladic and other Serb leaders have broad support from Russian nationalist groups, which often see them as allies.

Red Star fans drew 0-0 at BATE Borisov in Belarus, while Partizan beat Swiss club Young Boys in their Europa League games.

Partizan also faces a range of charges for incidents in Belgrade including “field invasions” and “improper conduct” by fans.

Watch Live: West Ham v. Leicester City

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Friday Night Football under the lights in east London. Beautiful.

West Ham United host Leicester City on Friday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as David Moyes takes charge of his first home game as Hammers boss.

Leicester and Claude Puel will play on the counter and look to Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez for inspiration at the London Stadium, while Moyes is putting all of his faith in Andy Carroll.

After a defeat at Watford in his opening game as West Ham boss last week, Moyes could really do with a win to kick-start his Hammers career.

As for Puel, he’s had one win, one draw and one defeat from his three PL games in charge of Leicester so far but the Foxes have shown plenty of promise in those outings.

In team news West Ham are missing Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez through injury so Carroll starts up top with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini supporting him.

Leicester start with Mahrez just off Vardy with Demarai Gray once again starting out wide in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

LINEUPS

West Ham

Leicester

FIFA reminds World Cup-bound Peru about government meddling

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has reminded the Peruvian soccer federation of rules prohibiting interference by national governments, one week after the South American country qualified for its first World Cup since 1982.

FIFA says the letter reacts to the “current draft of the Peruvian Sports Law” presented to a congressional committee last month. FIFA says the proposed text to lawmakers includes “certain items that, if implemented, would contravene the FIFA Statutes.”

In serious cases, FIFA can suspend a country’s national and club teams, plus officials, from international competitions and meetings.

Peruvian officials are due in Moscow next week for the World Cup draw.

Peru is not likely to be facing any action, but FIFA has promised to “continue to monitor the situation.”