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MLS Draft: Minnesota take Danladi with first overall pick

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After much speculation about trading the #1 pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Minnesota has stuck to its guns.

Prior to its first season in Major League Soccer, Minnesota United kept the first pick and selected Abu Danladi from UCLA. The 21-year-old left his home country of Ghana in 2011 to come to the United States, pursuing soccer and getting an education at the same time. Danladi has been an enigma this draft season. Mock drafts across the nation had him anywhere from first to third to fifth to seventh. He becomes the 5th first overall pick from UCLA.

There were plenty of rumors that Minnesota could trade the pick, with New England most heavily involved, according to numerous reports on social media. Instead, they held strong and took a player with incredible upside.

Syracuse defender Miles Robinson went #2 to Atlanta United, the first Syracuse player ever taken in the top 5 of the draft and only the third ever for the program taken in the first round after Alex Bono and Skyler Thomas two years ago. Robinson is a rising name in the USMNT youth ranks, and is challenging the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers and other big names for a starting spot in the US U-20 team.

Chicago traded the #3 pick to NYCFC in exchange for $250,000 of General Allocation Money to take Akron forward Jonathan Lewis. Houston traded the #4 pick to Portland in exchange for $100,000 of General Allocation Money, an international roster spot, and the #10 pick in order to select Duke’s Jeremy Ebobisse. NYCFC also paid GAM to Seattle for the #16 pick. In the second round, Toronto traded both its early picks to Chicago (26 and 27 overall) for $75,000 of Targeted Allocation Money.

The biggest surprise so far seems to be Houston’s pick of Hofstra midfielder Joseph Holland at #10. Holland is 24 years old and an international, so he seemed to have less value than the position he was taken. The biggest drop seemed to belong to Notre Dame defender Brandon Aubrey, who we had going #6 in our final mock draft, but fell to Toronto near the end of the 1st round.

DRAFT RESULTS

Round 1:

1) Minnesota: Abu Danladi, FWD (UCLA)
2) Atlanta: Miles Robinson, DEF (Syracuse)
3) NYCFC (via Chicago): Jonathan Lewis, FWD (Akron)
4) Portland (via Houston): Jeremy Ebobisse, FWD (Duke)
5) Columbus: Lalas Abubakar, DEF (Dayton)
6) San Jose: Jackson Yueill, MF (UCLA)
7) Vancouver: Jakob Nerwinski, DEF (UConn)
8) Atlanta (via Orlando): Julian Gressel, MF (Providence)
9) Columbus (via New England): Niko Hansen, FWD (New Mexico)
10) Houston (via Portland): Joe Holland, MF (Hofstra)
11) Chicago (via Philadelphia): Daniel Johnson, MF (Louisville)
12) D.C. United: Chris Odoi-Atsem, DEF (Maryland)
13) Real Salt Lake: Reagan Dunk, DEF (Denver)
14) Sporting KC: Colton Storm, DEF (UNC)
15) Colorado (via LA Galaxy): Sam Hamilton, MF (Denver)
16) NYCFC: Kwame Awuah, DEF (UConn)
17) New York Red Bulls: Zeiko Lewis, MF (Boston College)
18) FC Dallas: Jacori Hayes, MF (Wake Forest)
19) Montreal: Nick DePuy, FWD (UC Santa Barbara)
20) New England (via Colorado): Brian Wright, FWD (Vermont)
21) Toronto: Brandon Aubrey, DEF (Notre Dame)
22) Seattle: Brian Nana-Sinkam, DEF (Stanford)

Round 2:

23) Minnesota: Alec Ferrell, GK (Wake Forest)
24) Colorado (via Atlanta): Liam Callahan, DEF (Syracuse)
25) Philadelphia (via Minnesota and Chicago): Marcus Epps, MF (USF)
26) Chicago (via Toronto and Houston): Stefan Cleveland, GK (Louisville)
27) Chicago (via Toronto, Montreal and Columbus): Guillermo Delgado, FWD (Delaware)
28) San Jose: Lindo Mfeka, MF (USF)
29) Vancouver: Francis DeVries, DEF (St. Francis)
30) Houston (via Orlando): Jake McGuire, GK (Tulsa)
31) New England: Napo Matsoso, MF (Kentucky)
32) Portland: Michael Amick, DEF (UCLA)
33) Philadelphia: Aaron Jones, DEF (Clemson)
34) D.C. United: Eric Klenofsky, GK (Monmouth)
35) Real Salt Lake: Justin Schmidt, DEF (Washington)
36) Houston (via Sporting KC): Danilo Radjen, DEF (Akron)
37) FC Dallas (via LA Galaxy): Walker Hume, DEF (UNC)
38) NYCFC: Jalen Brown, FWD (Xavier)
39) NY Red Bulls: Ethan Kutler, FWD (Colgate)
40) FC Dallas: Adonijah Reid, FWD (Canada Soccer)
41) Montreal: Shamit Shome, MF (FC Edmonton)
42) Minnesota (via Colorado and Philadelphia): Thomas de Villardi, MF (Delaware)
43) D.C. United (via Portland and Toronto): Jo Vetle Rimstad, DEF (Radford)
44) Seattle: Dominic Oduro, DEF (FC Nordsaelland)

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.