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Miguel Almiron knew nothing about MLS, everything about Tata

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Miguel Almiron’s future is going to be a big part of the story for as long as he’s in Atlanta United, but his past is in focus following another cool post in The Players’ Tribune.

It’s a cool read, for sure, to examine Almiron’s rise from “too skinny” kid without a club to one of the top prospects this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but the story of why he came to Atlanta is an argument for the “big name” manager (Tata Martino in this case).

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Before the Paraguayan youngster was the talk of the transfer market, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the No. 1 jersey sale in the league, he was being recruited to the Georgian expansion outlet.

“I didn’t know much about MLS. I didn’t know where Atlanta was. I didn’t know anything. But Tata was manager, and that was all I needed to know.”

Given that Martino arrived not too long before Almiron, the following Tweet makes the point I’ve been trying to make as well as anyone:

Paraguay judge approves extradition of soccer official Leoz

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) A judge in Paraguay approved the extradition of Nicolas Leoz, the former president of South America’s soccer confederation, on Thursday. The 89-year-old Leoz is charged in a corruption scandal being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department.

For decades, Leoz was practically untouchable despite corruption allegations. But he has been held under house arrest in the Paraguayan capital fighting the extradition order to the U.S., where he has been wanted since 2015 on charges of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from marketing companies in exchange for TV and marketing rights to soccer tournaments.

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“The court has finally resolved that the formal request for the extradition order is validated by the treaty and laws, and the extradition of Mr. Leoz has been granted so he can face trial in the United States,” Judge Humberto Otazu said about the decision, which can be appealed.

Leoz was president of CONMEBOL from 1986 to 2013, when he resigned after he acknowledged he received $130,000 in payments from a former marketing partner of FIFA. Amid the growing scandal, Leoz also quit as a member of FIFA’s executive committee, citing health reasons. FIFA reprimanded Leoz but never penalized him.

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted more than 40 soccer and marketing officials, including Leoz, on charges of bribery, racketeering, and money laundering.

Leoz lobbied Paraguay’s legislators in 1997 for a law making the headquarters of CONMEBOL exempt from legal intervention. He once bragged that only the Vatican enjoyed the same kind of “immunity and total privileges.” After the FIFA scandal broke in 2015, Paraguay signed a law repealing the immunity that CONMEBOL’s headquarters enjoyed for nearly two decades.

Once the immunity on the CONMEBOL headquarters was lifted, the building was raided by authorities, who seized thousands of documents that were sent to the U.S. Justice Department for its investigation.

Leoz has said he is innocent and plans to fight extradition.

Newcastle joins Arsenal, Milan in race for Atlanta United star

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Ayoze Perez could soon face competition from an MLS star at St. James’ Park.

Miguel Almiron has been linked with a move to Arsenal or AC Milan, but the Northeast Chronicle says Rafa Benitez would like to bring the Paraguayan to the Premier League.

It would be a January move for Almiron, who turns 24 in February.

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Almiron scored nine goals and added eight assists in 30 matches for Atlanta after the expansion club purchased him from Lanus for $9 million.

Citing Calcio Mercato, the Chronicle says Atlanta expects to sell Almiron for more than twice the price (around $20 million).

The Magpies remain interested in Cenk Tosun of Besiktas, but reportedly now like teammates Tolgay Arslan and Oguzhan Ozyakup after some midweek UEFA Champions League scouting work.

Benitez is said to have two plans for the January market, a standard one and another which would be buttressed if Mike Ashley sells the team.

U-17 World Cup wrap: United States, Paraguay shine (video)

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The United States and Paraguay clinched knockout round places by moving to 2-0, while hosts India temporarily lifted their crowd with an 82nd minute equalizer before losing its second match of the competition.

[ MORE: USMNT scenarios for final day of WCQ ]

All that and more in the wrap.

Group A

Ghana 0-1 United StatesRECAP

The U.S. is on the fast track to win Group A after weathering an early second half storm from the young Black Stars. Toronto FC prospect Ayo Akinola scored the winner after great work from Man of the Match midfielder (center back here) Chris Durkin of DC United.

India 1-2 Colombia

Estudiantil’s Juan Peñaloza ensured that the U.S. will be playing for Group A when the group stage comes to a close on Thursday. Peñaloza gave Colombia a lead and then answered Jeakson’s 82nd minute goal one minute later to restore the advantage.

Group B

Turkey 0-3 Mali

Rebounding form a thriller of an opening day loss to Paraguay, with goals from Djemoussa Traore, Fode Konate, and Lassana Ndiaye leading the way. Turkey falls to 0-1-1.

Paraguay 4-2 New Zealand

Someone buy Paraguay captain Alexis Duarte his dinner and keep him upright, or perhaps Duarte should turn to Anibal Vega. Not one but two own goals from the Cerro Porteno defender dropped Paraguay’s into a 2-1 hole, but Vega scored twice in four second half minutes to keep the South American side atop the group.

CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying preview: Last call for Russia

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A World Cup without Lionel Messi is a very real possibility, but Argentina is not the lone big name in danger of missing out on Russia.

Tuesday brings the final five matches of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, and only Brazil and — to a lesser extent — Uruguay can feel confident about their places in this summer’s big dance.

[ MORE: USMNT scenarios for final day of WCQ ]

The penultimate match day saw Argentina draw at home to Peru amongst a number of interesting score lines.

Table heading into Matchday 18
Brazil (qualified) — 38 pts, +27 GD, 38 goals
Uruguay (clinched at least 5th) — 28, +10, 28 goals
Chile — 26, +2, 26 goals
Colombia — 26, +2, 20 goals
Peru — 25, +1, 26 goals
Argentina — 25, +1, 16 goals
Paraguay — 24, -5, 19 goals
Ecuador (eliminated) — 20, -1, 25 goals
Bolivia (eliminated) — 14, -20, 14 goals
Venezuela (eliminated) — 9,-17, 18 goals

Matchday 18
Brazil vs. Chile
Ecuador vs. Argentina
Paraguay vs. Venezuela
Peru vs. Colombia
Uruguay vs. Bolivia

The one to circle is Peru vs. Colombia, the only match where both sides are alive on the Road to Russia.

Chile’s trip to Brazil is troubling because even the hosts’ B Team is powerful and no player will risk not impressing with a place in Russia on the line.

Argentina’s visit to Ecuador could be what’s best for Messi and Co., as La Tricolor may still be reeling from elimination on Matchday 17.

Paraguay is home to Venezuela and Uruguay to Bolivia, with both feeling confident about their chances.

The predictions

Chile cannot get past Brazil, but earns a good-looking point

Messi drives Argentina over the line with a win at Ecuador.

Paraguay edges Venezuela

Peru and Colombia split the spoils in Lima.

Uruguay handles Bolivia.

World Cup berths for Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia. Paraguay finishes fifth an earns a playoff date with New Zealand. Peru and Chile are left out of the 2018 World Cup.