Looks like prominent women’s players angling for northwest spots

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The Oregonian’s Geoffrey Arnold was also out and about with the U.S. Women’s National Team at last night’s open practice, and no surprise, the Timbers beat man was focused on the upcoming women’s soccer league, in which Portland’s expected to be a significant player.

Portland has one of the eight teams in the upcoming U.S. Soccer (and Canadian and Mexican soccer) supported league, but theirs is the only one with a direct tie-in to a market’s Major League Soccer team. The Paulson family will own both.

With Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe making Portland home (and Canada international Christine Sinclair having roots in the area), speculation regarding how loaded the northwest teams will be began shortly after U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati conceded teams and players will have input on where talent’s allocated. With Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Hope Solo playing for the Sounders Women in last year’s W-League, the northwest spots are already starting to fill up.

Arnold asked a number of the national team’s stars about the possibility of playing in Portland. Here’s Wambach, who has also been linked with Western New York and Washington, D.C.:

“Of course I would love to play here,” Wambach said. “(I have to) make sure it’s the right fit for me. The right fit for the city. I would love to call Jeld-Wen Field my home base.”

And Rapinoe:

“I just moved back here, so it would be nice to stay put when I come and play in the league,” said Rapinoe, a star player for the University of Portland. “After coming to this city, everybody is going to want to come here.”

Solo, who lives outside Seattle:

“It’s so awesome that Seattle and Portland are going to have a women’s team and create that rivalry,” goalkeeper Hope Solo said.

As I spoke to other national team members, there seemed to be both a realization the northwest will be a coveted assignment and caution that things are still a long way off. Multiple players hinted details on the league are still hard to come by, so while everybody was optimistic about the league, the optimism was cautious.

If the league comes to fruition, U.S. Soccer may have to weigh having star-studded teams in the northwest against parity.

Then again, it’s pretty ludicrous to take any competitive issue too seriously right now. After all, the league hasn’t even been named, yet.

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.