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

Leave a comment

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.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans celebrates after Sounders' Nelson Haedo Valdez scored a goal against Sporting Kansas City in the second half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): There’s a ton to unpack here, so we’ll dive right in. The Seattle Sounders topped Sporting Kansas City in the final knockout-round game of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nelson Valdez scored the game’s only goal, an 88th-minute header, but not without supreme controversy. For starters, Valdez was offside as Joevin Jones played the ball into the box, just as Matt Besler was on a free kick for Sporting earlier in the second half. Besler’s goal was ruled out for offside, Valdez’s was allowed to stand. Benny Feilhaber, perhaps in his final game for Sporting, played like a man possessed and so nearly singlehandedly won the game for Sporting at multiple points on the night. Stefan Frei stood on his head and refused to allow such an occurrence. Osvaldo Alonso could have been sent off twice on the night — once on a straight red; once on a second yellow — but finished the game with just a single caution. Up next, the Sounders will take on Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

10′ — Zusi hits the post with a strike through traffic — Benny Feilhaber’s through ball to set up this double-chance for Sporting in sumptuous, and fully deserving of a proper finish.

53′ — Besler heads home, but he’s offside — This is about as close an onside/offside decisions get.

79′ — Frei denies Feilhaber after a spectacular run — Feilhaber’s run was mesmerizing, but Stefan Frei’s save was the tiniest bit better.

88′ — Valdez heads home the late winner — If Besler was offside, Valdez was offside. An unfitting end to a thrilling game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Valdez (88′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
Leave a comment

The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.