Is Dwayne De Rosario close to a return for D.C. United? Let’s talk about what that means

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News that Dwayne De Rosario is ahead of schedule and could return to practice for D.C. United as early as next week adds even more importance to the team’s drive for a result Saturday in Chicago.

If D.C. loses to the Fire in both teams’ regular season finale at Toyota Park, there is a reasonable chance the bunch from RFK Stadium could fall from second place all the way to fourth.

United has done quite well without De Rosario, finishing the season strong and clinching its first playoff berth since 2007 without the services of its top attacker. Still, everyone around RFK Stadium would surely love to have their Canadian international back for the post-season.

So here’s the thing: by falling from second to fourth, the post-season would become significantly more complicated and perilous. It would add one addition match, which means one more opportunity to be eliminated.

And since De Rosario says he might return to practice next week, but probably wouldn’t be able to play in a mid-week contest, any contest United plays before next weekend would almost surely be without its top playmaker.

If they can push back their playoff until next weekend, chances seem to be growing that De Rosario might be involved.

Here’s what De Rosario told the Washington Post’s Steven Goff about his ongoing recovery:

It is coming along. It feels good today. I am doing a lot of work on it to get the strength back. It’s starting to get there. I am able to run, bike work, cardio work. I have been doing some lateral movement. So far it feels good. It’s still a little ways to go. I got back outside toward the end of last week to do sprints, controlled lateral movement, some ball work.”

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.