Good news, bad news with Seattle’s ever-closer Obafemi Martins signing

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Here’s the good news about Obafemi Martins, if you’re a Seattle Sounder fan:

The move is almost done. Reportedly, the sides have agreed to terms on a contract that will pay the former Nigerian international $2.5 million per season. Bonuses can take up to $3.5 million. It’s a huge commitment from Seattle at a time when fans were starting to wonder if the gate receipts would translate into an expanded payroll. If the numbers prove true, only three players (Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Robbie Keane) would make more than Martins. Whether that salary’s justified or not, that’s a whole new level of commitment.

This guy will also be a great fit with Eddie Johnson. Short, quick, with the ability to burst onto a ball, the 28-year-old is a good complement for somebody whose physicality demands so much attention. You can already see Martins surging onto balls Johnson’s elevated to win. When Johnson pushes the defense in the attacking phase, Martins will be free to poach or exploit space along the line. All the things Martins lacks — size, physicality, and (often) intensity — Johnson can provide, and with the skill in Seattle’s midfield (especially the wide-to-in contributions of Mauro Rosales), Sigi Schmid won’t have to worry if Martins’ ability to link play falls short of Fredy Montero’s.

As far as goals, the tandem could be potent. Both players have Golden Boot-level talent. Their individual threats will prevent opposing defenses from focusing on one man. With two of the league’s top scoring in the same XI, all of Seattle’s potential scoring problems disappear.

Martins can be a game-changing acquisition. If he clicks, he’ll be an All-Star, threaten Seattle’s club record for goals, and help give the Sounders their best chance to win MLS Cup.

But just like any other purchase, there’s an element of risk here. Martins’ acquisition carries more than most.

Martins will leave Levante on a bad note, publicly deriding his club as he’s sprinted for the door. It’s an approach that only reinforces the impressions the attacker’s left while leaving five clubs since 2006 (Levante would be the sixth). A once promising player for Inter Milan, Martins’ professional existence has become defined by transience. The Nigerian has played in England, Germany, Russia, and Spain since 2009.

That club uncertainty hasn’t helped Martins’ place for his national team. When Stephen Keshi remade the Nigerian national team, electing not to call in a series of veterans who had come to symbolize the Super Eagles’ malaise, Martins’ international career was put on hold. Despite 18 goals in 38 international appearances, Martins was deemed surplus to Keshi’s requirements.

He wasn’t the only one. Yakubu Ayegbeni, Peter Odemwingie and Taye Taiwo were also left out. Despite the exclusion of four players who have combined for 203 international appearances, Keshi’s more selective Nigeria went on to claim their first Cup of Nations since 1994.

A less nebulous concern may be Martins’ actual production. It’s been over five years since Martins posted double-digit goals in a league season. Between stops at Newcastle, Wolfsburg, Rubin Kazan, Birmingham City and Levante, Martins has put up one goal every 3.2 games.

And if you’re a Seattle fan, you can’t help but remember what happened with Blaise Nkufo. Christian Tiffert is still on the payroll, for now (he’ll have to be bought out to make room for Martins). Even with a past free of controversy, a player might not adjust to a move across the world. Like any other player, Martins could fail to make the adjustment.

With Seattle Sporting Director Chris Henderson said to be in Spain finalizing the deal, Martins looks likely to come. For the organization, it’s a huge commitment for a player that has the talent to make Seattle’s attack the most dangerous in Major League Soccer. Maybe Martins represents a bigger gamble than other organizations might like, but for a team that’s committed to taking the next step — to going beyond last year’s conference final appearance — he could also be the missing piece.

Pogba, Fernandes lead Manchester United cruise at Aston Villa

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Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are loving life.

Heck, all of Manchester United is feeling mighty good after the Red Devils won yet another game with ease, this one a 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Fernandes had a goal and an assist, joining Mason Greenwood and Pogba on the score sheet in a cruise past the relegation-threatened Villans.

United moves six points ahead of sixth-place Wolves and within a point of fourth-place Leicester City. The two sides meet to finish the Premier League season, and the Red Devils will meet Southampton, Crystal Palace, and West Ham before that.

Villa is four points behind safety and still meets Palace, Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham.

ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY


Three things we learned

1. Bruno and Pogba unfair: The are systems that will make Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba work a whole lot harder than what’s demanded by Aston Villa, of course, but don’t let that deter you from witnessing the special combination play between the Portuguese midfielder and his World Cup-winning French teammate. Fernandes had a goal and an assist, the latter a training ground routine that Pogba scored with class, and United looks a new team. No team has benefited more from the break than United.

2. He’s got the look: The stories out of the Manchester United training ground have been coming for years and we’re now getting an eyeful of what they’ve been promising about Mason Greenwood. The 18-year-old strikes a ball like it’s his job, or even better like he’s an artisan. Few players on earth possess a way about them that the ball’s path off their foot just looks different. His strike to beat Pepe Reina was absolutely marvelous and we can’t wait to see what he does in the future.

3. Villa through the ugly stretch (hopefully): Dean Smith’s men have tried to escape the drop zone by getting points against a rough stretch of opponents and it has not gone well. Draws against Sheffield United and Newcastle have been joined by losses to Chelsea, Wolves, Liverpool, and now Manchester United. Villa finds itself four points adrift with four opponents to play: Palace, Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham. There are points there. Will Villa take them?

Man of the Match:

Fernandes — The way he won his penalty was unsavory but that doesn’t change his status as the best player on the pitch.

Aston Villa – Manchester United recap

Jack Grealish missed a back-post chance to give the hosts an early lead, as United was a bit uneven over the opening 20 minutes.

VAR helped United to a penalty soon after that, won and converted by Fernandes off Ezri Konsa.

United had a chance to double the lead in the 36th minute when Mason Greenwood got past Douglas Luiz to pump a hard shot saved by Pepe Reina.

Fernandes missed with a bullet header in the 45th minute off a Luke Shaw cross, but United scored just before halftime when Greenwood took an Anthony Martial layoff and blasted a shot past Reina. He has such a sweet stroke.

Pogba made it 3-0 with a tremendous strike in the 58th minute, Fernandes spotting the Frenchman above the arc and Villa giving him ages to address the ball.

Martial smashed the ball off the bottom of the bar at the hour mark, United threatening to put a cartoonish figure on the scoreboard..

WATCH: VAR controversy sees Mourinho call out referee Oliver (again)

Jose Mourinho Michael Oliver
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
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Imagine the sound VAR Michael Oliver made when he saw the call he had to make against Jose Mourinho in Thursday’s 0-0 draw between Bournemouth and Tottenham.

Mourinho can’t get over his thing with referee Michael Oliver, who was again in the middle of controversy during a Tottenham Hotspur match.

“The same referee that was the VAR against Sheffield United,” Mourinho said. “In the world everybody knows that is a penalty. And I say everybody, I mean everybody.”

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Harry Kane was shoved to the turf by Joshua King very early in the contest but also made contact with teammate Jan Vertonghen.

Most expected to see a penalty given, but referee Paul Tierney didn’t think it was a foul and Oliver saw nothing on the video worth overruling.

From Football.London:

“The game had the most important moment, you know when, you know who, and I don’t want to say anything more in relation to that because everyone knows and I don’t need to say much more. Everybody knows.

“The performance was not good enough, but good enough to win. I am not saying a strong performance or a sharp one but good enough to win. In a way they surprised us with the way thy played, since Bournemouth were in the Premier League I don’t remember them playing the way they did, but that is an option for them because they have a point they wanted. They played direct, only direct, they didn’t move the ball in the first phase like they used to do and they made it difficult for us in their approach.”

Spurs face Arsenal at the weekend in a statement North London Derby between Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho, before Newcastle, Leicester City, and Crystal Palace complete the fixture list.

Spurs, Bournemouth split points in drab draw

Bournemouth - Tottenham recap
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Twelve minutes of stoppage time barely injected life into a scoreless, slumberous slog between Tottenham Hotspur and Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Thursday.

Hugo Lloris made a terrific stop on Harry Wilson deep in 12 minutes of stoppage time to keep Spurs’ sheet clean.

Tottenham has 49 points, six back of fifth-place Manchester United who plays Thursday and behind three teams in the race for Europa League places.

BOURNEMOUTH – TOTTENHAM FULL MATCH REPLAY

Spurs face Arsenal at the weekend in a statement North London Derby between Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho, before Newcastle, Leicester City, and Crystal Palace complete the fixture list.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Bournemouth’s 28 points are three back of safety. The Cherries finish with Leicester City, Manchester City, Southampton, and Everton.


Three things we learned

1. South coast snooze: Bournemouth fans wouldn’t have minded the point, but the journey to a rare clean sheet was just about as boring as you’ll see apart from an early penalty controversy, a gnarly injury, and a goal being pulled off the board by handball when Callum Wilson’s clever 90th-minute goal took a turn off Josh King and into the goal.

2. Scary incident for ex-Spurs man Smith: There was a lengthy delay around the hour mark when Cherries defender Adam Smith was involved in a violent collision at midfield, requiring plenty of medical attention. The former Spurs man was given oxygen and needed a stretcher to get off the pitch. Hopefully the long time right back is doing alright.

3. Mourinho’s offense looks toothless: First, let’s admit that Harry Kane had a goal egregiously taken away from him via the rulebook when Lucas Moura’s unwitting handball led to a goal against Sheffield United. But Spurs have five goals in five matches since the Premier League’s return. As much as it’s nice to see three clean sheets in four outings, Mourinho has to find a way to get his men moving.

Man of the Match:

Hugo Lloris – The Frenchman’s incredible stop of a surging Harry Wilson deep in stoppage time was a welcome moment for a sleepy match. Lloris made the only two saves of a slumberous affair.

Bournemouth – Tottenham recap

Harry Kane was not given a penalty in the opening minutes as he was shoved to the turf but also collided with a teammate while tracking a pass. Referee Paul Tierney didn’t see anything in it, and surprisingly neither did VAR.

The Cherries had a good spell of play after that, a mini-vibe of how Spurs looked after the Harry Kane goal was took off the board against Sheffield United.

The game flowed back into Spurs control for the final stanza before halftime.

Spurs let Bournemouth stick around and Harry Wilson’s nice run led to nothing in the 68th minute as the match looked destined for goose eggs, sadly enough.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton, Southampton battle to draw

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Everton – Southampton was a tight, tense clash as Danny Ings’ opener was canceled out by a fine Richarlison goal.

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Saints first missed a penalty kick as James Ward-Prowse’s spot kick hit the bar but Ings scored soon after as Saints impressed. Everton hit back just before half time through Richarlison’s lovely finish and despite chances for both teams in the second half, it ended even.

EVERTON – SOUTHAMPTON: FULL REPLAY

With the point Everton have 45 for the season and remain in 11th, while Saints have 44 and stay in 12th.


Three things we learned

1. Ings sharp throughout: Danny Ings hit the bar, scored a goal, was occupied by several Everton defenders throughout and still came out on top. The Englishman has 19 goals this season and his hold-up play and quality on the ball compliments his clever runs and incredible work ethic. It is great to see Ings in full flow like this and he is key, obviously, to Southampton sitting in midtable. He may come up just short in the Golden Boot race but he’s had a superb season.

2. Everton’s formation switch changes game: Everton were lucky to go in level at the break and then the maestro Carlo Ancelotti changed the game with his tactical switch. He went to a 3-4-3 formation with Sidibe on as a right wing back and that pinned Saints back and stopped their high-press. Everton were much better in the second half and looked more in control. Ancelotti has improved Everton’s defense impressively since he arrived and these little tactical tweaks show his experience.

3. Both teams set up for top 10 in 2020-21: Both of these teams have improved massively from December onwards and they look to be set up nicely for a top 10 finish next season. Saints and Everton are evenly-matched but have very different budgets and Europa League for Everton next season is a must, while Saints will be happy to finish in the top 10.

Man of the Match

Danny Ings – He was absolutely everywhere as he scored, hit the woodwork and Everton just couldn’t handle his movement.


Southampton thought they had taken the lead as Ings wriggled free superbly and crossed for Adams who knocked the ball down to Stuart Armstrong who finished, but the Scotsman had just strayed offside. James Ward-Prowse had a shot from the edge of the box but his own player Adams as they set the tempo.

Lucas Digne’s cross fell to Alex Iwobi at the back post but his powerful shot was pushed away by Alex McCarthy. Ward-Prowse then had a free kick at goal which Jordan Pickford tipped over. From that corner Ings hit the crossbar as Everton half cleared and a few moments later Ward-Prowse was then brought down by Andre Gomes for a penalty kick.

Ward-Prowse smashed the bar with the penalty as Saints passed up a great chance to take the lead but soon after they were ahead. Armstrong’s scuffed shot found the lively Ings and he adjusted his feet superbly and tapped home to make it 1-0.

Gordon went down in the box after a shoulder barge from Kyle Walker-Peters but no penalty kick was given and just before half time Everton equalized. One long ball over the top from Digne found Richarlison who lobbed home. 1-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At half time Everton made a tactical switch as Djibril Sidibe came on and they move to a 3-5-2 system with Gylfi Sigurdsson also on to replace the injured Gomes before the break.

Saints went close twice early in the second half as Pickford pushed Adams’ shot away, then Ward-Prowse’s free kick was deflected wide. An almighty scramble then saw Ings denied as Everton somehow cleared after Adams’ shot was blocked.

McCarthy then denied Sidibe as Everton’s formation change saw them improve drastically in the second half. In the closing stages Saints kicked on again but couldn’t find a winner as Ings had a shot blocked, plus Nathan Redmond flashed a shot wide and Armstrong smashed it over.