It’s not too late for Major League Soccer to turn away from its new logo

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For a young league, Major League Soccer has shown an amazing capacity to admit defeat. Closing the doors on Miami and Tampa. Changing the format for All-Star Games and MLS Cup finals. Saying “enough” to Chivas USA. Throughout commissioner Don Garber’s tenure, the league’s has been willing to embrace its missteps in a way we don’t see fromother leagues. It’s refreshing. At this point in the process, accepting sunk costs is a virtue.

Perhaps that virtue’s endemic to the task. When you start a new league with no proven template, you have to blaze a new trail. Sometimes that means taking a wrong turn, retracing your steps, and taking another crack from, often from where you started. Not every idea is going to be a good one.

There must have been a point when the league’s new logo seemed like a good idea. Else, why would they have unveiled it today? Though a half-empty crest screams “under construction,” the league has elected to go high concept. What you don’t see … is the league’s future.

Unfortunately, the art also speaks to the league’s present, but with far too much honesty for a branding exercise. If the MLSNext theme means emphasizing the league’s process, why settle on a product that screams we are half an idea. We are not the complete thing.

You should not consider us a full, major league.

It’s a harsh, perhaps incorrect presumption, but the early reaction has come to the same conclusion. Reception to the league’s new look has been so universally puzzled, it’s difficult to find a positive response from an established source. Alexi Lalas, Jeff Carlisle (as linked in our previous post) echoes the sentiment dominating the fringes of Major League Soccer: “What?”

The logo is not without its virtues. It has a tail, and as all puppies prove, everything is better with a tail. There are stars on the crest, because winners and patriots love stars. You can adapt the logo to conform to team color schemes, because really, who wants one, consistent way of representing the league? Crazy talk.

At the same time, posterity demands we cast some judgments: The logo is horrible. It’s high concept when simple and persuasive should work. The art looks half done because it is intentionally half done. Whomever sold MLS on paying the same money for half the work, bravo.

If opinions don’t change about the league’s new art, the best case scenario is people ignoring it. The worst: Every new person that falls in love with Major League Soccer comes up with a new, fresh take on why the logo is so bad – a new way of saying “you are half an idea.”

Granted, the view won’t be new. It won’t be fresh. We’re getting that out of our system now. But if MLS continues attracting new eyes, those new eyes are going to have to pass judgment on the look.

I can’t help but think those new eyes were overlooked in the process; or, if not overlooked, misconceived. MLSNext is about looking forward, making the case the league is reaching new heights. But to understand that case, you have to know context, and everybody who gets the league’s progress is already aware of the product. If you’re trying to tell the league’s story, a logo may be the worst way to do it.

If, instead, you’re trying to attract new fans, you want something that generates excitement. In MLS’s case, you also want something that implies stability and trust. You want something that can go on shirts, hats, jerseys, and bags without drawing the same furrowed brows that have scoffed at today’s reveal. Your art has to appeal to those targeted masses.

Maybe this logo will, but Major League Soccer should consider alternatives. The initial reaction has been so universally negative; the league should retrace its steps. They should ask if the quest to be new, progressive, and high-minded overtook more obvious goals. MLS should ask why a undergrad’s art homework is now the league’s new emblem.

And, if they end up agreeing with the fans, MLS’s executives should embrace the sunk cost. They should acknowledge the misstep and chalk it up to ambition and youth. Don Garber and the rest of MLS’s decision-makers should exercise that capacity for defeat that has served them so well over the life of the league.

We all learn from our mistakes. We’re all better for it. When it comes to its new logo, MLS should go back to the drawing board, and come back with a better product.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

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The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

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But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.