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What to expect from MLS new boys Minnesota and Atlanta

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So about those new boys…

Minnesota United and Atlanta United — we know, we know, enough with the United — make their MLS regular season debuts this weekend, beginning with the former’s trip to Portland on Friday.

What are the fortunes for these two, and what should you watch for? Read on.

[ MORE: Atlanta United architect Eales talks club ]

Atlanta United

If there’s a more stylish pick than the Georgia set, we’re unaware of it; Atlanta United’s signings and hirings have captured the imagination of Major League Soccer.

Owner Arthur Blank started with hiring Darren Eales away from Tottenham Hotspur, and Eales brought technical director Carlos Bocanegra and coach Tata Martino. That’s a who’s who with experience in the Premier League, La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and, yes, MLS.

The attack is going to be outrageous: Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez are signings that wouldn’t look alien in the world’s top leagues, and Kenwyne Jones likely still has plenty to give. There’s also wunderkind Andrew Carleton, but who knows how much time he’ll see.

Chilean veteran Carlos Carmona is a huge pick-up to steady the center of the park, and Michael Parkhurst is going to know how to get a team arranged well before Brad Guzan arrives from Middlesbrough. Depth, league experience, and cohesion will take some time, but ATL UTD will be both fun and competitive. A playoff game, maybe even one at home, isn’t out of the question.


Minnesota United

@MNUnitedFC
@MNUnitedFC

What the Loons lack in flash compared to their expansion rivals they make up for in organizational experience. United has been running its house for years in the NASL, founded in 2010.

Longtime leading scorer Christian Ramirez and ex-USMNT man Miguel Ibarra are among the Minnesota players who can help new faces adjust to town, and the Loons have done well in grabbing a mix of vets and new MLS faces.

Joshua Gatt may be the most interesting, as the promising attacker saw his career arc cut down by a series of injuries in Europe. Along with Orlando City stalwart Kevin Molino and ex-Montreal man Johan Venegas, there are a number of options who may shine in a new spot (Molino seems to be the odds-on favorite).

Adrian Heath is the boss and will have to prove that he can take a club to the next level, but for now Minnesota will be pleased to have a boss who navigated a very similar channel when Orlando went from the USL to MLS.

The Loons will have to work well to compete for a playoff spot out West, but should have more than their fair share of highlights on the road through their first campaign in the country’s top flight.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

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Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

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The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.

Fan dies after falling off football stadium in Brazil

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SAO PAULO (AP) A Brazilian football fan has died after falling 25 meters from the top of Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo onto a parking lot.

The height is equivalent to an eight-story building.

Bruno Pereira da Silva, aged 23, suffered head injuries and died upon arrival at a local hospital on Sunday.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He and other fans were attempting to jump to a section of the stadium where they could get a better view of the Sao Paulo state championship match between Sao Paulo and archrival Corinthians. The game ended 1-1.

Friends of da Silva told Brazilian media Silva was attending his first football match.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: CRC, Honduras get off the mat

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The two traditional CONCACAF powers are riding high following Friday’s round of World Cup qualifiers, while the two other sides to qualify for Brazil 2014 are licking their wounds.

Honduras and Costa Rica both found themselves on the wrong side of shutout losses to the United States and Mexico, while Trinidad and Tobago injected itself into the discussion with a home win over Panama.

[ WATCH: CONCACAF qualifiers on Telemundo ]

What’s cooking for Tuesday? Read on:

Honduras vs. Costa Rica — 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Two sides which love to play physical, on-the-edge soccer meet on the heels of Friday losses. Expect Jorge Luis Pinto’s Catrachos to adapt after a 6-0 beatdown at the hands of the U.S., but they’ll have to do much, much better at home.

The dates at Estadio Morazan have to be the key for Honduras to climb into the Top Three, and it’ll be buoyed by memories of its 3-1 win over T&T two rounds ago. As for Costa Rica, Los Ticos aim to respond from conceding their first two goals of the Hex.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico — 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Kevin Molino’s strike gave T&T its first three points of qualifying, but its odds of getting a result against visiting Mexico aren’t nearly as good. The Soca Warriors desperation will be easy to see, as June’s qualifiers include trips to the U.S. and Costa Rica.

El Tri now has wins in two of its trickier Hex matches after adding Friday’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica to its upset of the Yanks in Columbus. Ten points through four matches would be exemplary; A draw or loss leaves the door open for Costa Rica to summit the Hex table.

United States vs. Panama — 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Read our extensive preview here, but the upshot is this: The United States can rise into the Top Three by beating Panama, while Los Canaleros will be happy to scoop a draw to stem any bleeding cause by Molino and T&T.