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Changing of the guard: Veteran DP’s a thing of MLS’ past?

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Ahead of the 2017 season, Major League Soccer is going through a transformative period.

[ PHOTOS: New jerseys for 2017 MLS season

It will be both exciting and intriguing to see how it plays out.

The emphasis has switched from wedging in as many big name, veteran Designated Players in each market to trying to develop young talent at all 22 clubs.

I already had this column lined up before the new MLS roster rules for the 2017 season arrived earlier today.

[ MORE: MLS 2017 season previews

Major League Soccer announced changes that will help a “continued strategic focus on cultivating young talent” as two more roster spots will be available for Homegrown players and a large chunk ($200,000 to be exact) of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) can be used to sign Homegrown players to their first pro contracts.

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Okay, so that may not seem like a huge deal now but when you compare it to years gone by there’s definitely an undercurrent both from the league office and front offices across MLS to try and push young players from within MLS academies to the first team.

If you look at the big name “veteran” DPs around the league this season, there are probably four or five (Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, Kaka) you can call genuine veterans. The rest are either approaching their prime or right at the end of it. The goal is to attract a Sebastian Giovinco type from Europe or elsewhere in their prime of their career. We’ve seen the likes of Seattle and Portland look to South America for DPs in their prime and it has worked well recently. Atlanta United is also following this method for their expansion season.

With the departure of Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Frank Lampard over the offseason, there’s no doubting that these players had the eyes of the world on them whenever they played.

Do MLS teams need these big name players to fill stadiums? It remains to be seen.

Robbie Keane, who is arguably the greatest DP in MLS history as he scored 104 goals in 165 appearances in his five years with the LA Galaxy, is a little concerned the new strategy may not work out.

“I had an unbelievable time there…but they just have to be careful now because some of the big players have left, and at the end of the day people want to watch names – that’s the just the reality,” Keane told Talksport last month. “Myself, Gerrard, Lampard and a few of the other big players are just starting to drift out, and now they’re going down to route where they want younger players who are not really well known.

“That is a good thing I think, but people do want to watch big names. They have to be careful – they’ve set a high standard that they have to keep going and I’m not sure if they go down this route they’ll be able to do that. So I’m a little bit worried about that.”

Is Keane right to be concerned? When you look at the Chinese Super League and what they’re trying to do, then its fits in with MLS’ model. Except, the CSL is spending big money on transfer fees and is paying outrageous wages for the likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar, Hulk and Jackson Martinez to play in China, most of which are in their prime.

MLS may no longer be the biggest cash cow for veteran players embarking on the twilight of their career after winning everything on offer in Europe. That’s exactly what MLS wants, to move away from veteran DPs, but surely it would still be beneficial for the growth of the league to keep adding big-name players, when possible, who have a large brand and following?

Robbie Keane & Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy
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Time will tell if that’s the case, but it is certainly exciting for fans of the U.S. and Canadian national teams to think that some of their best young talent will now get to play regularly in MLS and test themselves against top players.

Of course, MLS has a window of opportunity to test this out and then if things aren’t working, plenty more veteran DPs will be available from May onwards when their time at top European clubs is up. I’m talking Bastian Schweinstieger, Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Pablo Zabaleta and many others.

There’s no doubt that MLS is trying its best to help young talent come through, and that’s admirable. But there’s also a little uncertainty about how a lack of veteran stars will play out in terms of attracting fans and also any impact it may have on the quality of play. Can a handful of veteran players really make that big of a difference to the success of a league?

We are about to find out.

LIVE, FA Cup replays: West Ham, Leicester on upset alert

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Five FA Cup third round replays take place on Tuesday with two Premier League clubs on upset alert.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Leicester City and West Ham United both host third-tier opponents, with the Hammers welcoming Shrewsbury to the London Stadium and Leicester hosting Jamie Vardy‘s former club Fleetwood.

Both Claude Puel and David Moyes have named strong teams to try and breeze through to the fourth round. You can follow commentary on all five games by clicking on the link above and we will have reaction right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

[ MORE: FA Cup fourth round draw in full ]

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday, with all the games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Leicester City vs. Fleetwood Town
Mansfield Town vs. Cardiff City
Reading vs. Stevenage Town – 3pm
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Carlisle United
West Ham United vs. Shrewsbury

Premier League Power Rankings

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With the festive season over and things starting to settle down in 2018, now seems like a good time for our first batch of Power Rankings of 2018.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings – 2017-18 ]

The last time we fired this baby up was in early December, and you can see the ranking of the clubs back then in the parenthesis after their club name in the list below.

We have some massive movement, both up and down.

Here is the latest batch of Premier League Power Rankings as we sort the 20 clubs based on their current form.


  1. Liverpool (5) — What a few weeks for Liverpool. They won four of their last five games and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are scoring goals, plus Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is stepping up with Philippe Coutinho gone. Jurgen Klopp‘s masterplan is showing significant progress.
  2. Tottenham Hotspur (9)Harry Kane leads the PL in goals (shock) and is now getting plenty of help from Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen. Spurs are pushing towards the top four and the only way they will not qualify for the UCL again is if their defensive lapses crop up.
  3. Manchester City (1) — A draw away at Crystal Palace and a loss at Liverpool has seen City stumble of late but they’re still going to win the league. Defensive lapses have cost them but Kevin De Bruyne and Co. still look like they will score two or three goals every game.
  4. Manchester United (2) — Jose Mourinho’s men are looking much better with Paul Pogba back in the team. Four assists in his last two games show Pogba’s importance and United have the best defense in the league.
  5. Crystal Palace (14)Roy Hodgson is working his magic and Palace are pushing for the top 10. One defeat in their last 13 PL games has seen the Eagles soar to 12th place after their disastrous start to the season.
  6. West Ham United (19) — The Hammers are flying under David Moyes with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini in form up top. All of a sudden a top 10 finish is very doable.
  7. Chelsea (3) — Four-straight draws in all competitions and three 0-0 stalemates on the spin mean Antonio Conte is under pressure. Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata’s partnership is struggling.
  8. Leicester City (6)Riyad Mahrez is the main man and Claude Puel‘s side began 2018 with a big win v Huddersfield and a draw at Chelsea, where they should have won. Leicester back to their best.
  9. Bournemouth (12) — Really good few weeks for Eddie Howe. Unbeaten in four PL games and big wins against Everton and Arsenal at home. The Cherries have rediscovered their scoring touch.
  10. Arsenal (4) — Wow. What a poor few weeks for the Gunners. One win in the last five in the PL, out of the FA Cup and Sanchez on his way. Ouch.
  11. West Bromwich Albion (18)Alan Pardew has his first win as West Brom boss and the Baggies ended their 21-game winless streak. They’re tougher to break down and have regained their threat from set pieces.
  12. Swansea City (20) — Plenty of confidence in the air in South Wales as Carlos Carvalhal has four points from his first three games in charge. Need buys in January but have given themselves a chance.
  13. Newcastle United (15) — Solid and steady but badly need attacking reinforcements in January. Two wins and two draws in last five show how steady and tough to beat they’ve become.
  14. Everton (10) — No wins in six and just four shots on goal in their last five games has Sam Allardyce‘s boys bang out of form after a good start.
  15. Watford (7) — No PL team has picked up less points than Watford over their last 10 games. Another second half of season slump. Marco Silva‘s fine start evaporating.
  16. Huddersfield Town (16) — No win in their last five games and David Wagner‘s side have conceded seven goals in last two defeats.
  17. Stoke City (13)Paul Lambert has one heck of a challenge on his hands. Stoke in bottom three, worst defense in Europe’s top five leagues.
  18. Brighton and Hove Albion (17) — 1 win in last 12 games and they’ve failed to score in eight of those games. Ice cold.
  19. Burnley (9) — Six games without a win and their goal threat has dried right up. Sean Dyche‘s still 7th, but they’re in a huge slump.
  20. Southampton (11) — On the current longest winless run in the PL. Mauricio Pellegrino‘s men will be in serious jeopardy very soon.

Barcelona forward Dembele injured again, out 3 to 4 weeks

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona says Ousmane Dembele is injured again and will be sidelined for up to a month.

The club says the young France forward picked up a hamstring injury in his left leg in the 4-2 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Dembele, signed from Borussia Dortmund last year as a replacement for Neymar, was out for more than three months after rupturing a thigh tendon in his left leg on Sept. 16.

He had played only a few matches since fully recovering from surgery.

Barcelona says the injuries were not related.

The club also said Monday that Andres Iniesta has a right calf problem, but did not say how long the midfielder will be out.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Transfer Roundup: Chelsea on Sanchez; Malcom to Arsenal; Mignolet to leave

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has responded to reports that the Blues are trying to make a late bid to buy Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

“I don’t know but I don’t think so,” Conte said when asked by reporters on Tuesday if Chelsea were in talks to buy Sanchez.

Reports on Monday had suggested that although Sanchez’s move to Manchester United was edging closer, Chelsea had entered the race late on.

Sanchez, 29, is said to be involved in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan plus cash but even that deal is proving difficult with Mkhitaryan dragging his feet.

Is there hope for Chelsea? It still seems like a long shot and something would have to go drastically wrong with United’s move for Arsenal.


Bordeaux’s president,Stephane Martin, has been speaking about a potential transfer for his star Brazilian forward Malcom to Arsenal, and it appears the Gunners are a long way from buying the 20-year-old.

Malcom’s agent was in London earlier this week, suggesting a deal was close, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Martin had the following to say when discussing Malcom’s future.

“Things are clear with his agents. It has not been extended and secured this summer to give it away this winter,” Martin said. “We never had a discussion with Arsenal. From our point of view, it’s wind. They can always try, but they will have a hard time taking it from us.”

Malcom has taken Ligue 1 by storm this season and has scored seven goals and added five assists.

It is believed he is valued at over $55 million by Bordeaux and both Arsenal and Tottenham were reportedly interested in the deal. However, Arsenal are said to be the main contenders for Malcom and if Alexis Sanchez does leave, as expected, the youngster is seen as a direct replacement.


Simon Mignolet could be on his way out of Liverpool.

The Belgian goalkeeper, 29, has been speaking about his future at the club after he was dropped for the 4-3 win against Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.

“After the game against Burnley I had a conversation with the coach, among other things about his ongoing rotation. I did not find that a healthy situation for a goalkeeper,” Mignolet said. “My place on the bench against City confirmed his words. I am not satisfied with that (being dropped) but you have to respect a decision of the trainer.”

“After everything that has happened this season, I know where I stand and the situation has become clearer. I have been in such situations before and have always come out stronger. I have to think about my future and the World Cup is coming. This situation should not last too long, that is clear. But I cannot say more about it either.”

Mignolet has started 29 of Liverpool’s 23 PL games but Loris Karius has played in the UEFA Champions League and Mignolet seems frustrated with sharing time with the German goalkeeper.

Where could he go? The likes of Crystal Palace, Southampton and Newcastle could be good landing spots for the Belgian international, while Liverpool have been linked with a move for Stoke’s Jack Butland in the summer, so maybe Mignolet could be part of the deal?