Danny Mwanga for Jorge Perlaza: Reactions to a move that needed to happen

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Philadelphia’s at it again. It wasn’t so long ago that they were saying goodbye to their captain. Now, their first draft pick is being sent home.

Danny Mwanga, selected first in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft after two years at Oregon State, has been traded to the Portland Timbers for Colombian attacker Jorge Perlaza. According to a release from Portland, the trade was straight up: no draft picks, allocation money, or drinks thrown into the deal.

In addition to spending two years in Corvallis, Mwanga attended high school in Portland.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for me to come back to my hometown and play in front of family and friends,” said Mwanga, in a statement distributed by the Timbers. “I’m excited, and I can’t wait to get out to Portland and get to work.”

It’s a move that’s been speculated for some time. This summer, news broke that Philly was shopping Mwanga, with Portland thought to be the 20-year-old’s most likely landing spot. That talk cooled when Sebastien Le Toux left Philadelphia for Vancouver.

In the interim, Portland’s struggled to score goals. Their 12 tallies rank 16th in Major League Soccer.

More than that, the mix just hasn’t been right. Kris Boyd’s making $1.2 million to be the focal point, but he’s scored only four times in 12 games, with few of his goals being the product of a concerted tactical effort. John Spencer has tried pairing him with Perlaza, Darlington Nagbe, and nobody (leaving him on his own), but nothing’s really worked. As a result, a team expected to contend for a playoff spot sits six points back of fifth place.

It was time for a shake up.

“Danny is an experienced, young player who has shown that he can be productive in this league during his time with Philadelphia,” Spencer said. “He has roots in Portland, his family still lives here, and we look forward to getting him integrated into the team quickly.”

Mwanga’s clearly going to be partnered with Boyd. Darlington Nagbe will stay at the tip of Spencer’s midfield diamond, perpetuating another Portland problem: Their best goal scorer might be one too many levels away from goal.

For Philadelphia, the implications are clearer. Perlaza replaces Mwanga as an alternate attacking option. If he impresses Peter Nowak, he could challenge Lionard Pajoy for playing time (or perhaps Nowak starts playing with two strikers more often). Regardless, this is a situation where Philadelphia’s getting a ‘maybe’ in exchange for a ‘no’ (Mwanga hadn’t scored in 458 minutes of playing time this season).

The big benefit for Phliadelphia is getting Mwanga’s contract off their books. Mwanga is making over $350,000 on a deal that’s expected to escalate again next season. That’s a lot for somebody who’s not contributing. Perlaza, in contrast, makes $115,000.

With a talented prospect rotting on their bench, Philadelphia needed to move Mwanga for whatever they could get. At the same time, Portland needed a shake up in attack.

Now, Portland can move forward. In Philadelphia, however, a one-time symbol of hope has been let go in a cost-cutting move.

Seeing their team sitting ninth in the East, how are Union fans supposed to feel about that?

Sebastian Berhalter signs Homegrown deal with Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew signs Sebastian Berhalter
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The Columbus Crew have signed Sebastian Berhalter to a Homegrown Player deal.

The 19-year-old midfielder is the son of former Crew and current USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter.

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Sebastian played 17 times for the University of North Carolina as a freshman, starting nine of those games. He went 210 minutes in twin extra time matches to close UNC’s season.

Here’s Crew general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, via a team release:

“As a longtime member of the Crew SC Academy, Sebastian is someone who understands the values and ideology of our Club. We are happy to see him join the professional ranks after a successful year at the college level and look forward to his continued development with the Crew.”

Sebastian praised the role of his parents in his development in a video interview. Gregg was a UNC star in his college days before moving to Europe to play for PEC Zwolle, Crystal Palace, and Energie Cottbus amongst others.

“My parents have been very influential on my career,” said the player. “They’ve helped me so much. They’ve always stayed positive to me, but also pushed me in a good way and I cannot thank them enough.”

Sebastian repped the U.S. at the U-16 level. Could dad and he one day join Bob and Michael Bradley as father-son USMNT combos? That’s a long way off and presumes dad turns around the national team, but would be a remarkable achievement.

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension
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Manchester United has picked up a two-year option on Eric Bailly‘s contract, according to Sky Sports.

The Red Devils now have the giant 25-year-old center back under wraps through the 2021/22 season.

Bailly is nearing full fitness after his latest injury setback, knee and ankle injuries costing him dozens of matches since arriving from Villarreal in 2016. He underwent knee surgery in late July.

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There’s little reason for United not to pick up the option, as Bailly could’ve left for free in the summer and the extension allows for a possible transfer fee.

That said, Bailly has been very good with healthy and in-form, especially in an exceptional debut season at Old Trafford. He has 34 caps for the Ivory Coast, and is nearing the prime age for a center back.

United visits Liverpool at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday, and Bailly is not expected to play.

The center back may get a chance to get to know Bruno Fernandes, who is being tipped for a $77 million transfer. He likely won’t see Ashley Young, who’s arrived in Milan ahead of a transfer to Inter.

Report: Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United after Lisbon Derby

Manchester United lands Bruno Fernandes
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Bruno Fernandes may get his move.

The 25-year-old Sporting Lisbon midfielder wants a move to Manchester United, and Sky Sports is reporting that the two clubs are close to agreeing on a fee.

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The move will cost $56 million and could escalate to $77 million with incentives, and that it could happen as soon as the end of Friday’s derby between Sporting and Benfica.

From Sky Sports:

Part of the negotiations over a deal for Fernandes included Manchester United not wanting him to play in Friday’s game but the player and Sporting insist that he was going to play in order to say a proper goodbye to the club and the supporters.

United will be crossing its fingers over Fernandes’ health during the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff is Lisbon.

Sporting is already 12 points off the Champions League places, and 16 off Benfica’s title pace.

Fernandes has been red hot for Sporting, notching 15 goals and 13 assists in 25 appearances, including five and three in five Europa League outings.

He scored 32 times with 18 assists in 2018/19, and could take United’s Top Four push to a whole new level.

Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

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The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.