A few early winners from Thursday’s MLS Draft

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Check back for more analysis later; here are some winners from the first 90 minutes of Thursday’s MLS draft:

New England: Consensus for MLS SuperDraft 2013 was a mix that included just one prime-time, set-and-ready, just-add-water figure – followed by a bunch of guys who may or may not help immediately. The one man, of course, was Andrew Farrell (pictured). So, moving up into the No. 1 spot to get the guy looks like a shrewd move.

New England needed a center back and needed a player who could add something to the roster now. Not down the road. Not next year. Now.

Said manager Jay Heaps: “He’s a player that’s going to be MLS-ready from Day 1, and that’s what we need at our team.”

adidas: The German apparel giant was all over this thing. I’ll be darned if top pick Farrell didn’t thank God first and then adidas second! Before anyone else, parents, coaches, agents, girlfriends (journalists … if only …), etc. Between Farrell’s endorsement and all the talk of “Generation adidas” and the implications of all the salary-exempt men on the draft, the sporting apparel giant sure got its money’s worth from MLS today.

Chivas USA: Perhaps it was luck. But even if it was, who could begrudge this little lost puppy dog of a franchise some rare good fortune? Thing is, Chivas USA’s new-old philosophy is to go with men of Mexican heritage. Other thing is, an apparently quality young man of Mexican heritage was available early in UConn midfielder Carlos Alvarez.

Thus, things fell together brilliantly.

The new deciders Chivas USA, selecting second, could have gotten themselves in trouble if they reached for a Mexican-American with such a high choice. Thanks to Alvarez’s availability, that wasn’t necessary. Again, that may be down to providence, but same difference on the end result, eh?

Alexi Lalas: Considering all the disinformation  and the regular old “throwing darts” factor attached to MLS Draft projections, what we all get past the first couple of picks is a series of lucky guesses and wild, swinging misses. Except … the ESPN analyst nailed about five of the early picks. Well done, sir.

FC Dallas: The FC Dallas table was surely shocked, but pleasantly so, to see Walker Zimmerman fall all the way to the No. 7 spot. Even if they didn’t necessarily need a center back, he was simply too enticing to pass on.

Projections for the big Furman center back were all over the place, but some had Zimmerman as high as No. 1.  It does create something of a logjam, although surplus is never the biggest problem to have. George John remains a bedrock at center back. Hopefully, Ugo Ihemelu can bounce back from concussion-related problems. And the team loves Matt Hedges, the No. 11 pick last year.

Furman University: The small liberal arts school in South Carolina is hardly a big dog in collegiate athletics. Soccer gives the Paladins a little basking time in the sun. Zimmerman was Furman’s third Top 10 MLS pick of the last nine years, and the others are not bad at all: Ricardo Clark (2nd in the 2003 draft) and Clint Dempsey (8th in 2004).

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish didn’t dominate the way Akron did a couple of years back – Five of the top 8! Are you kidding me? – although that may never happen again.  But the Irish did get two of the top 11, which isn’t bad. Besides, Notre Dame athletics needed a little bit of a distraction from recent, er, unpleasant developments, eh?

Check back for more analysis later:

Meanwhile, the Top 10 picks went like this:

1. New England Revolution, DF Andrew Farrell, Lousiville

2. Chivas USA, MF Carlos Alvarez, UConn

3. Toronto FC, MF Kyle Bekker, Boston College

4. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, FW Kekuta Manneh, Austin Aztex

5. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Erik Hurtado, Santa Clara

6. Colorado Rapids, FW DeShorn Brown, UCF

7. FC Dallas, CB Walker Zimmerman, Furman

8. Montreal Impact   MF Blake Smith, New Mexico

9. Columbus Crew   FW Ryan Finley, Notre Dame

10. Seattle Sounders FC, FW Eriq Zavaleta, Indiana

Southgate hails “patient” England, young squad’s tactical nuance

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Inevitably, teams end up taking on the personality and temperament of a talented coach/manager, which in the case of the England squad competing at the 2018 World Cup, is a massive compliment to the Three Lions’ current boss, Gareth Southgate.

[ MORE: Kane “buzzing” after brace secures late win in World Cup debut ]

Southgate, who’s 47 and only four tournaments removed from his second and final World Cup appearance for England, has changed the outside world’s perception of an institution that once seemed arrogant, elitist and entitled, opting to take one of the youngest squads (average age: 25.6 years old) to Russia, and to turn them loose.

On Monday, it was 24-year-old Harry Kane who scored twice and bailed the feel-good favorites out of jail with a 91st-minute winner (WATCH HERE) to largely erase the frustrating hour which preceded it. These growing pains are, of course, to be expected with so little major tournament experience. Southgate, as expected, was pleased with how they responded — quotes from the BBC:

“I was happy with the way we kept playing even though the clock was running down. We stayed patient, we didn’t just throw the ball in the box. We deserved the win.

“We created so many clear-cut chances, especially in the first half, and were in total control in the second half. We were strong on set plays all night. Even if we’d drawn, we‘d have been proud of the performance.

“We’ll do well to make as many chances in a game again in this tournament. The movement, pace, control from the back with the ball was pleasing. We wore them down. Good teams score late goals — if you dominate the ball like that the opposition tire.

“As for Harry Kane the only thing he hasn’t done now is score in August — he’s moved every other barrier. He will feel pride of leading a country to a World Cup win is the most important thing.”

“The way we would change the game is to have different profiles of players that would provide a different threat. You can put attacking players in different positions but lose shape and be caught on the counter-attack.

“The guys that came on had a different threat. As a team you keep working and working. The best teams in the world keep the belief in what they’re doing and in the end break teams down.”

Kane “buzzing” after brace secures late win in World Cup debut

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Four years ago, Harry Kane watched the 2014 World Cup, alongside Tottenham Hotspur teammates, friends and family, while on vacation in Dubai and Portugal, and during the club’s preseason tour of the United States.

[ MORE: Southgate hails “patient” England, young squad’s tactical nuance ]

Fast-forward 48 months, and Kane made his World Cup debut on Monday, scoring both goals, including the stoppage-time winner (WATCH HERE), in England’s Group G-opening 2-1 victory over Tunisia. It’s an outcome we should have seen coming, considering he’s racked up 105 goals (in the Premier League; 135 in all club competitions; another 13 for England prior to Monday) since the start of the 2014-15 season.

Kane continues to take his superstardom — no matter how unlikely or ill-fitting it looks on him — in stride, using obvious phrases like, “It’s the World Cup,” to which you might think, “Well, yes, Harry, it sure is,” and then you realize he sees himself as nothing more than a giddy child living out a lifelong dream — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s massive. I’m so proud of the lads. It’s tough. We played so well especially in the first half and we could have scored a few more. We kept going. It’s a World Cup, you go to the last second. I’m absolutely buzzing.

“We’ve done it for a while [had good resilience] since the gaffer has been here — he’s instilled it into us. We’ve got a great bond off the pitch so it’s great to see it on the pitch. We’ll get onto the plane happy tonight.

“We could have had a couple of penalties, especially when you look at theirs. A few corners, they were trying to grab, hold and stop us running. Maybe a bit of justice to score at the back post at the end. That’s football, that’s the ref. It showed good character to get on with it.

“We are proud of each other and in a World Cup you are not sure how it is going to go, but we have a great togetherness and are always proud to see it come off in the game. We never panicked, never looked like conceding another one and got what we deserved in the end.

“We got told there would be a lot of flies and when we went out for the match it was a lot more than we thought. We all had bug spray on and it was important as some of them went in your eyes, some in your mouth, but it is about dealing with what comes your way.”

Kane will be the first to tell you that he’s been handed nothing during his career. Early on, before breaking into Tottenham’s first team, he endured four largely unsuccessful loan spells over the course of three seasons, at which point his career path appeared destined for England’s lower leagues. Through his refuse-to-lose attitude, an insatiable appetite to continue improving, and eagerly stepping up to the moment every time a new, grander stage is laid in front of him, he’s now 24 years old and set to captain his national team for the next decade.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

It’s this kind of wide-eyed, relatable approach that endears this young Three Lions side (average age: 25.6 years old) to neutral viewers and made them a popular, if unlikely, feel-good favorite ahead of the tournament in Russia. Following Monday’s performance — no matter how belabored the result itself might have been — the bandwagon will continue to fill up, and Kane is reasons no. 1, 2, 3 and 4 for that fact.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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

England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

How will England respond?