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?

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”