Nearing MLS first kick, Freddy Adu still stuck in bad place

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We are all talking a lot about Major League Soccer this week, league previews and predictions dropping like late winter snow in New England. You sure can’t look at this blog without seeing our latest outlook piece on what to expect from Major League Soccer’s 18th season.

Interesting, however, is the name that isn’t being mentioned: Freddy Adu.

He’s clearly a midfield talent that some club could use. It won’t be in Philadelphia, however, as manager John Hackworth has long made it clear that Adu, still just 23 but somehow in a career crisis moment, isn’t in the PPL Park plans.

The problem is Adu’s salary, more than $500,000 this year. That is proving quite problematic in trade talks within the league; everyone understands the bad place Philadelphia is in here, so they want the Union to foot a big portion of Adu’s high salary.

Philadelphia can buy out the contract, but that has turned into a big game of chicken. Adu and his representatives are taking a hard line, hoping to pin down the Union and get Philly to pay off the entirety of the contract at more than $1 million.

Philadelphia, far from the richest of clubs, is playing hard ball, too. Until further notice, Adu is just working out on his own – doing nothing to improve his value in finding the next taker, the next club that figures Adu’s talent makes him worth a potential risk in terms of chemistry and how he impacts the salary structure.

(MORE: Union team preview from ProSoccerTalk)

On Fox Soccer Channel’s Goals On Sunday show, Grant Wahl reported this morning that Adu has already turned down moves to Ukraine and South Korea, and that opportunities Mexico may be in play soon, but aren’t at the moment.

(Ukraine and … South Korea? It’s come to that for young Adu?)

Philadelphia doesn’t need Adu, now blessed with two options at playmaker in Michael Farfan and Roger Torres. But the Union could certainly use the cap relief. And they certainly don’t want to keep paying Adu’s guaranteed salary if they can possibly avoid it.

PST Extra: What’s next for Mourinho, Manchester United?

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Manchester United has fired manager Jose Mourinho, a move which cannot come as much of a surprise as the Red Devils sit almost 20 points back of the Premier League lead.

Both United and its former manager need to stabilize, but what does that mean?

[ MORE: Wednesday’s League Cup preview ]

ProSoccerTalk lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright has his take on where United may turn and whether Mourinho will latch on quickly with a club like Inter Milan or Real Madrid.

This stop will go down as the only one in which Mourinho did not lead his club to a league title, following successful stints at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. Sure he’ll get another look, but when?

League Cup preview: North London Derby; Chelsea v. Cherries

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Three of the four clubs active in Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinals are from London, vying for semifinal spots next to Tuesday victors Manchester City and Burton Albion (!?!).

Things have gone in opposite directions for rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur since the Gunners humbled Spurs 4-2 at the Emirates Stadium on Dec. 2.

[ RECAP: Leicester 1-1 (1-3 PKs) Man City]

Spurs have only dropped points once, a dramatic draw with Barcelona, while Arsenal has failed to continue its form and is coming off a 3-2 loss to relegation-threatened Southampton.

But North London Derbies have a way of framing a season, and reasserting control with a League Cup quarterfinal win at the Emirates would sure be nice for Unai Emery‘s men.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll begin another 20-plus match unbeaten streak. From Arsenal.com:

“Sunday for us is a big reality check in our way,” Emery said. “We need to improve and also we need to continue doing our way in our process. It’s not a good result but this reality gives us more motivation to continue to work hard, finding a new thing to work on each day, and also it makes us demand a lot from ourselves in the way we work on this way.”

The other match sees Chelsea entertaining Bournemouth, and the two sides split results in their last two meetings at Stamford Bridge.

The Cherries lost to Chelsea in last season’s League Cup, but topped the Blues 3-0 in the Premier League.

Meanwhile Chelsea has reportedly confirmed their interest in Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, so subplots? Yeah, we got ’em.

Eddie Howe‘s not having it. From The Bournemouth Echo:

“Callum getting linked with other clubs, I think in some respects I would almost want that with every player. It means they are performing at their highest level and doing very well in the league they are in, so I have no problem with it.

“From my perspective, Callum’s future is here. He is a massive part of what we are doing and I just want to see him continue to score goals for us.”

The “from my perspective” is a thing here, though, as the Cherries could get a fantastic offer from Chelsea or another big club for the non-Cup tied striker.

Burton Albion making League Cup semi “absolutely staggering”

Owen Humphreys/PA via AP
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Burton Albion has never finished higher than 20th in the Championship, so getting to the League Cup semifinals followed a 1-0 defeat of Middlesbrough is pretty darn sweet to manager Nigel Clough and his men.

The Brewers were relegated to League One last season, finishing 23rd in the 24-team Championship.

[ MORE: Leicester 1-1 (1-3 pens) Man City]

Now, manager Nigel Clough has the club within a win of the League Cup Final. It’s their best major cup performance in a 68-year history.

From BurtonAlbionFC.co.uk:

“The scale of the achievement is absolutely staggering – for Burton Albion to get to the semi-final of a major cup competition. It’s very difficult to describe the feeling at this point.”

Sure the luck of the draw is involved — Burton has only drawn one Premier League team, and it was Burnley — but winning five cup matches is winning five cup matches.

Clough, the son of legendary manager Brian Clough, also sung the praises of Southampton loanee Jake Hesketh. The 22-year-old won the match with the game’s loan goal.

“We got the goal through Jake Hesketh. The most impressive thing was to win the tackle on the edge of the box and he was one of the few players tonight not to hit his shot over the bar, We bang on in training about hitting the bottom corners and he did.”

Whether or not Burton can hang with Premier League opposition in the final, this is a pretty monumental moment for the Brewers. Sitting 15th in league play, it will likely be the most memorable moment of the season.

River Plate loses on penalties to Al Ain at Club World Cup

AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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AL AIN CITY, United Arab Emirates (AP) South American champion River Plate was upset by Al Ain FC in the Club World Cup on Tuesday, losing in a penalty shootout after the semifinal finished 2-2 following extra time.

Al Ain’s players converted all five penalty kicks, before goalkeeper Khalid Eisa saved Enzo Perez’s fifth shot for River to seal a 5-4 victory in the shootout.

[ MORE: Leicester 1-1 (1-3 pens) Man City ]

River endured the humbling loss to the team from United Arab Emirates less than two weeks after thrilling its fans with a memorable win over fierce Argentine rival Boca Juniors in the final of the Copa Libertadores.

Real Madrid plays Kashima Antlers on Wednesday in the other semifinal.

Marcus Berg put Al Ain ahead in the third minute before Santos Borre scored twice to give River the lead in the 16th.

Brazilian forward Caio pulled Al Ain level at 2-2 in the 51st.

Gonzalo Martinez had an opportunity to put River back in front from the penalty spot after Mohamed Ahmad fouled Milton Casco in the area. But Martinez hit the 68th-minute spot kick against the crossbar.

The final is on Saturday.

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