Southampton set to add Celtic’s Fraser Forster

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Given the losses Southampton’s suffered this summer, goalkeeper didn’t look like that club’s top priority. Last year’s number one, Artur Buroc, is still on the books, as is backup Paulo Gazzaniga, while United States prospect Cody Cropper seemed to be one of the team’s goalkeepers of the future. With long-time Saint Kelvin Davis also hanging around, Southampton could almost afford to sell.

But news that Saints are close to sealing a $17 million deal for Celtic’s Fraser Forster is a reminder: Goalkeeping, particularly evaluating it, is a very funny thing. Whereas one manager may prefer a pure shot-stopper, another may put more value in preventing shots before they get off. One boss may consider whatever a keeper offers with his feet a bonus,  while others see it as a potentially defining part of a goalie’s game. Where some coaches prioritize consistency and stability, some accept the erratic if it comes with the spectacular.

Forster is certainly capable of the spectacular, but having spent the last four years in the wilting Scottish Premier League, it’s difficult to tell how good he is, though his time in Champions League hints he should be an improvement on Boruc. But the last experience he had in England, loaned from Newcastle to Norwich four years ago, was in the third tier. At 26 years old, Forster will be getting his first real taste of English soccer at the highest level.

Given the club’s other needs — apparently depleted in defense; having lost Ricky Lambert and Adam Lallana in attack — it’s a curious use of £10 million, but Ronald Koeman just may not feel comfortable with Boruc. Or, maybe he just wants more competition, and between Gazzaniga (22 years old) and Cropper (21), the new boss at St. Marys may not see players capable of providing it. Though  Saints’ have issues elsewhere, Koeman may have seen goalkeeping as a primary concern.

Granted, the extent to which Saints have needs elsewhere is debatable. Go down the roster and put names to positions, and you see a team that has all its needs covered; at least, in terms of its starting XI. Players like Lallana, Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, and Calum Chambers are gone, but Koeman has Gastón Ramírez, Graziano Pellè, Maya Yoshida, Ryan Bertrand, and Nathaniel Clyne in their places. Players like Jack Cork, James Ward-Prowse, Sam Gallagher, could be ready for bigger roles, while more talent coming through the academy — Matt Targett,  Jack Stephens, Harrison Reed — will help cushion the fall. Add in other acquisitions, like Algerian international Saphir Raïder and Serbian international Dusan Tadic, and Koeman has a number of options. While the names aren’t as recognized as those he’s lost, Mauricio Pochettino’s replacement won’t be dealing with a bare cupboard.

Perhaps that’s why Forster was a priority. Koeman, after working with his team over the last month, may be upgrading instead of filling holes. If Boruc isn’t his preferred style of keeper, it’s not hard to see why the new boss would swap one former Celtic keeper in for another.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

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An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.