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Wayne Rooney’s return gives Everton’s revival a leader

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Wayne Rooney sat next to Ronald Koeman smiling from ear to ear as he held the Everton jersey once again.

These two are the forefront of Everton’s revival.

[ MORE: Rooney United’s best ever? ]

Being unveiled to the media on Monday at Goodison Park, the all-time leading goalscorer for Manchester United and England had returned to the club where he made his name and the team he still supports.

Rooney, 31, repeatedly stated that Everton’s aim must be to win a trophy for the first time since 1995 and his burning desire is to help his boyhood club in their exciting new era.

Both Rooney and Koeman acknowledged that there’s extra pressure on Everton given their summer of spending, and both know they have to deliver. Now.

“With Ronald’s ideas and the players we are bringing in, it’s on us,” Rooney said. “It’s alright sitting here saying ‘we want to win trophies’ but it’s on us as a football club to make sure we do that. That’s why we have to work hard and make sure we are in the best position to do that… That’s why you play football, to win trophies. That’s of course the target and the aim. That’s what we want to do. We don’t want to limp around in the season, we want to be successful. I know we have the right man to lead us to do that.”

Koeman may well have the right man in Rooney to lead his young, talented squad and Rooney admitted that the decision to go back was “a no-brainer” while his manager spoke of Rooney’s desperation to return.

After spending 13 years away winning every trophy possible at Manchester United, Rooney has now returned hungry to prove the doubters wrong and it’s clear that Koeman has big plans for the Evertonian.

When asked where Rooney would play — now a key question for most of his managers as father time catches up with him — Koeman gave an intriguing answer.

“Everybody knows the qualities of Wayne. It is try to get more productivity, we spoke about last season. He is a striker,” Koeman said. “Offensively he can be a No.10 behind the striker. A free role from the left. The No.9. The No.7. That’s the position he will play.”

In short: he will be used wherever and whenever he’s needed. Rooney seems just fine with that after spending a season mostly on the bench at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho.

“I needed to play more games and I didn’t play that often last season. I know I’m at my best when I’m playing games consistently,” Rooney said. “I spoke with Jose [Mourinho] and it was the right time for me to leave and go and play somewhere else and I firmly believed Everton was the right option for me to do that.”

Koeman now has a figurehead to build his team around.

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Last season was his first in charge at Goodison and although his young team excited with a seventh-place finish, flirting with a top four finish for a little while, losing the goals of Romelu Lukaku (his move to Manchester United is close to completion) will hurt the Toffees.

Koeman wants to see “several players scoring 10-15 goals rather than one scoring 25” and with Sandro, Davy Klaassen and Rooney coming in to compliment Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Yannick Bolasie and others, all of a sudden Everton is loaded with different attacking options.

Given his experience of delivering on the big stage, Rooney could be the key cog.

“The experience of Wayne is really important to win something and to bring to the rest of the players,” Koeman said. “We have some good older players in the team, there is a lot of experience, but we have some really good young talented football players. It’s an example for them to learn from him and learn from other players in the team. Altogether it was really important for me to try to bring Wayne back to the club.”

Koeman suggested more new arrivals would follow as Everton are linked with deals for Olivier Giroud, Gylfi Sigurdsson and others, but it is Rooney who will help knit everything together.

A true blue at heart, the Liverpudlian striker revealed he is ready for the next step of his career and brushed off talk of him returning to the England squad, simply saying that if his performances are good enough for Everton then Gareth Southgate can’t possibly ignore him.

“I was at the stage of my career when I had to take the next step,” Rooney said. “I thought about it and obviously after speaking to Ronald, the discussions we had, I knew it was where I needed to play and needed to be. I’m excited. I just can’t wait to get out there and play.”

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Whether or not Rooney will be handed the captains armband remains to be seen, but winning trophies for Everton is at the forefront of his mind and if he can regain his best form then this addition will look like a masterclass from Koeman.

What if he could lead Everton to their first piece of silverware in over two decades?

“It would be incredible,” Rooney replied. “I was at the final in 1995 and to win a trophy as an Everton player, it would be a special moment.”

Everton’s fans, Rooney and Koeman are hoping they are the start of a special era for the Toffees.

With big money spent on new players, a new stadium on the way and youngsters rising to the first team, having a local lad and die-hard fan leading the charge is almost the fairytale scenario.

Their Dutch manager knows fairytale’s don’t come true without spending big and putting the right type of players together.

“We want to continue what we did last season,” Koeman explained. “Everybody knows everyone is trying to get the best players and all the big six in the Premier League, they will try and spend money as well. But I think that it is a good signal to everybody that we are on board and we will try to give them that competition that we didn’t last season. We did well last season but now we need to make the next step. To make the next step we need to get that type of player in and with the type of qualities to improve.”

Rooney, Koeman and Everton will take the next step together.

Breaking: Chelsea sells Diego Costa to Atleti, will re-join club in January

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We all suspected this would happen, and it finally occurred on Thursday.

[ MORE: Tammy Abraham expected to call Nigeria his national team ]

Chelsea has announced the transfer of Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid for roughly $68 million after spending  seasons with the Premier League side.

The 28-year-old will re-join Atleti in January during the winter transfer window. Atletico was banned from making transfers over the summer, which kept the move on hold.

Costa played for the La Liga side on two separate stints, first from 2007-2009 and then 2010-2014 after a brief move to Real Valladolid in between.

In his time with the Blues, the Spanish international scored 59 goals in all competitions for the Londoners, and helped the club to two Premier League titles.

The sale of Costa isn’t unexpected after the striker’s falling out with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte towards the latter half of the 2016/17 PL season.

The Italian boss revealed to Costa via text at the conclusion of the team’s PL-winning campaign that the goalscorer would no longer be needed at Stamford Bridge, prior to Chelsea acquiring striker Alvaro Morata over the summer.

Red Bulls must rally quickly, turn attention back to MLS playoff race

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For any Red Bulls supporter, Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final was a grim reminder of how devastating any cup final can be for a team.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

The New York Red Bulls fell short against Sporting KC — who captured its fourth Open Cup victory in its club’s history — but Jesse Marsch’s side cannot dwell on the result because there is another big task at hand over the final weeks of the MLS regular season.

While that may be easier said than done, especially after the “heartbreaking” nature of Wednesday’s loss, Marsch believes that his side exhibits the qualities you’d want in any good team.

“The outcome is obviously heartbreaking, but the performance is what I think we’ll carry with us. In the moment, there’s no consolation prize,” Marsch said when asked about if there would be any hang over from the loss. “But the confidence that this group has, they way that they played and the way that they played for each other, this will continue to make us good.”

The biggest concern for the Red Bulls though isn’t necessarily even their current form, but instead the form of other clubs around them in the Eastern Conference. With six matches remaining, Marsch and Co. sit just three points above the Montreal Impact for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United has surged up the table and still holds at least a game in hand over most of the field, making them quite the danger in addition leaders Toronto FC and second-place New York City FC.

The Red Bulls haven’t won a match since their 3-2 Open Cup semifinal victory against FC Cincinnati, which came over a month ago.

Marsch and his side do have the benefit of facing bottom-dwellers D.C. United twice over the last five weeks of the regular season, but also packed into into the Red Bulls schedule are matches against four current playoff teams, including Toronto and Atlanta.

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stressed the importance of his side maintaining its focus, particularly after the Impact and Atlanta each picked up three points on Wednesday night.

“Yeah, that’s the thing, (our upcoming games) will make us move on from this,” Meara said. “We’ve got a big game in Columbus, we know the teams around us have been winning, Montreal won tonight and Atlanta won tonight, so I guess feel sorry for ourselves tonight, get up and dust ourselves off tomorrow and start looking forward to Saturday and Wednesday with D.C. United at home. The games are coming thick and fast and we’ve got to be ready for it.”

Tammy Abraham expected to make international switch to Nigeria

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Tammy Abraham has a bright future in the Premier League, but the on-loan Chelsea striker appears that he won’t be playing his international soccer for the country in which he currently plays.

[ MORE: Spurs land Hammers in League Cup draw; Chelsea faces Everton ]

The 19-year-old is expected to announce that he’ll play for Nigeria — the country of his father’s birth — after having represented England at various youth levels since 2014.

Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick has made it clear that he believes Abraham will represent the Super Eagles at next summer’s World Cup in Russia, assuming Nigeria qualifies for the competition.

“I had a very honest and productive discussion with Tammy and his father last week,” said Pinnick.

“It’s been a long process but I can tell you authoritatively that he has agreed to play for Nigeria and not England. He and his parents have started the necessary documents to effect the switch.

“Clearly he understands he stands a better chance playing for the Super Eagles. With his talent he has the ability to fight for a place in the Nigeria squad, by God’s grace we make it to Russia, then he would contest for a chance to represent his fatherland.”

Nigeria currently leads its CAF World Cup qualifying group in the final round of African qualification, and a victory over Zambia on October 7 would ensure the country’s place in Russia next summer.

[ MORE: Pulisic stars, scores a goal in BVB’s latest Bundesliga win ]

The Super Eagles have a number of players Abraham is familiar with, given their connection to Chelsea, including Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel, youngster Ola Aina and current Blues wing back Victor Moses.

Weekend soccer games called off after Mexico earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexico’s soccer federation has canceled all first-division games this weekend as stadiums are being used as relief centers after the country’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup crown ]

The federation announced Wednesday that there would be no games in the 10th round of the Apertura tournament or any other professional competition, including the women’s league.

“All the clubs are doing their bit,” Mexican league president Enrique Bonilla said in an interview on Fox Sports before the decision to cancel all matches was announced. “We would like to bring people a moment of joy, but it is a more complex decision, and we need to have all the information from authorities.”

The postponed league games will be played in mid-October, including the derby between Chivas and America.