A few early winners from Thursday’s MLS Draft

8 Comments

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

Top Premier League storylines: Week 35

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A pretty unique situation at the Etihad Stadium headlines another stop on the road to the Premier League title.


And we go again
Man City v. Tottenham Hotspur — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com STREAM ]

As hard as it is to fathom Man City getting off the mat quickly following their Champions League exit at the hands of Spurs, it’s even more difficult to imagine the visitors traveling back to London and returning to Manchester with the same fire shown in Wednesday’s thriller.

Not only that, but how can the hosts ignore reminders of what happened against the visitors three days prior with the very same opponents staring them down, even if City is business-like? Frankly, no result would surprise us (unless someone hangs 10 goals or something truly absurd happens at the Etihad (again)).

Liverpool’s title train pulls into Wales to meet hopeful Bluebirds
Cardiff City v. Liverpool — 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com STREAM ]

Cardiff City has new life in the race for Premier League survival, though Neil Warnock‘s men will hardly be expecting a point or three from Liverpool’s Anfield visit. That said, the Reds are coming back from Portugal and have been using Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah an awful lot. Here is where guys like Xherdan Shaqiri will, theoretically, need to step up.

Weary Chelsea seeks revenge against relatively rested Reds
Everton v. Manchester United — 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com STREAM ]

You wouldn’t be stunned if Manchester United fans are having second thoughts about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Red Devils full-time boss, though they’d be over the same things — that defense — that worried Jose Mourinho. Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson will try to seize on that, and United’s midweek action versus Barcelona, at Goodison Park.

Stumbling Wolves hope to take advantage of sluggish Brighton
Wolves v. Brighton and Hove Albion — 10 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com STREAM ]

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men have slipped back into their early season mold of having fine performances in big games but not fully arriving for the little guys. Brighton, now just two points clear of the drop zone, will hope that it can do as visitors what hosts Southampton and Burnley did to Wolves.

Magpies, Saints battle for assured safety at St. James’ Park
Newcastle United v. Southampton — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com STREAM ]

The stakes here are pretty straight-forward: Win, and forget about relegation (Saints would still be mathematically alive for the drop with all three points, but it would be an extreme scenario involving fellow drop candidates running off wins over big sides).

Video shows Lazio fans’ racist chants aimed at Chelsea loanee Bakayoko

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) A video has emerged of Lazio fans directing a racist chant at AC Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.

The video posted on the Gazzetta dello Sport website shows fans singing, “This banana is for Bakayoko,” during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Udinese at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

It was an apparent response to Bakayoko and Milan teammate Franck Kessie waving the shirt of Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi in front of their supporters like a trophy after a 1-0 win on Saturday.

Bakayoko, who is black, is on loan from Chelsea.

Lazio fans have a long history of racist and anti-Semitic episodes.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Chelsea, Pulisic may tour U.S. in 2020

AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File
Leave a comment

Chelsea has announced intent to visit the United States in the Summer of 2020.

Blues chairman Bruce Buck says the club “has work to do in Middle America” as it’s built up what he believes to be significant support on the coasts of the United States.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

Chelsea will be in Boston next month to play MLS side New England Revolution in a friendly billed “The Final Whistle on Hate.”

But Buck knows that Americans have plenty of interest in new signing Christian Pulisic, who will still be with Borussia Dortmund when Chelsea visits the U.S. in May.

“He’s a personable boy. He’s well-liked in this country,” Buck told the Associated Press. “So of course I would expect him when we come here and play some friendly matches, which is what our objective is in the summer of 2020. Then, yes, I think he will be helpful.”

American fans have been skeptical about how much of Chelsea’s interest in Pulisic was based on potential for stardom versus potential for marketing appeal in the States, but it’s important to note that this article could’ve been written about signing a top Mexican player and touring Mexico, or a Japanese star and heading to Asia.

Pochettino discusses City rematch, Kane status

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
Leave a comment

Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur flew back to North London after Wednesday’s memorable triumph in the UEFA Champions League, a few days before the club will make the same trip to visit Manchester City in the Premier League.

“We are tired after an amazing and crazy and unbelievable night,” Pochettino said, via the BBC. “We flew late and didn’t sleep too much, but the happiness made us feel strong and with energy. We need to forget the Champions League now and be ready for Saturday, for a battle.”

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Good luck on the forgetting part, Poch. The advancement past Man City over two legs came after VAR correctly ripped a stoppage time City goal off the board and plunged Spurs from despair into euphoria.

And now they go again.

Pochettino said he elected to bring the team back to London to sleep in their own beds and recover at their own facilities.

It also allows Spurs to keep a close eye on Harry Kane, who missed the second leg and has been expected to miss most if not all of the season with an ankle injury.

“We are not optimistic but you know Harry Kane and with Harry Kane all is possible,” Pochettino said. “We are not going to say he is not going to play again or not. We will assess him day by day.”

We have to imagine that Spurs going from, “Can we beat City and stay in the Top Four without Harry?” to “We are three wins from a Champions League title” might help Kane heal a bit faster (and he’s already a bit of a specimen when it comes to that.