Sounders picture clears as Seattle reveals Johansson’s imminent departure

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After practice in Seattle on Tuesday, Sigi Schmid gave the verdict some had anticipated all offseason, though after four March games, others thought the news would never come. Yet there he was, the Sounders’ head coach, breaking the news to the media after today’s practice: Right back Adam Johansson, in Seattle for only one year, was gone.

The 30-year-old started 25 games for Seattle last season, a number that would have been greater were it not for his responsibilities with the Swedish national team. When available, he was Schmid’s obligatory first choice, which makes it all the more remarkable Johansson is being let go.

Johansson hadn’t been healthy enough to regain that role, a right knee problem keeping him out of the lineup for each of Seattle’s first four games. Now back from injury, Johansson is expected to be waived on Wednesday.

“It’s really a salary cap situation primarily,” Schmid told the assembled media after practice. Johansson’s 2012 cap hit was $175,000, a difficult hit to absorb when your team has other options.

The most obvious of those is DeAndre Yedlin, the 19-year-old right back who has started three of Seattle’s four March games. His long distance goal in last Tuesday’s win over Tigres has been the highlight of his season, one that’s made him a quick favorite with Sounder’s fans. His defensive contributions have been inconsistent, though his ability to burst forward fits perfectly with a Sounder approach that prefers to give Mauro Rosales and Mario Martínez the ability to cut in from the midfield’s right.

Just like Johansson, Yedlin’s eager to fill that space, only the Home Grown Player will do so at a fraction of the cost.

Seattle also doesn’t lack depth at right back. Veteran Zach Scott started March 6’s match at Tigres, while players like Marc Burch and the currently injury Pat Ianni could provide in-a-pitch solutions. There are immediate as well as emergency alternatives, should Yedlin’s defensive struggles start to overshadow his ability to get forward.

But the biggest news here may involve Brad Evans, somebody who has been a regular in Sigi Schmid’s midfield. Earlier this year, Evans discussed the possibility of him playing right back. Now it seems like that’s an inevitability.

“[W]e know that Brad Evans has played some at right back,” Schmid explained, “so that’s a consideration that we have moving forward — that Brad would go back there.”

It’s not a bad option. Full back isn’t exactly a position of strength in Major League Soccer1,2. If Shalrie Joseph becomes a regular contributor (something the Sounders seem convinced he will), being able to push a player of Evans’ quality to right back shows great depth. How many teams could not only outright cut a Swedish international but also replace him with a U.S. international, albeit one that’s moving from a different position?

We’ve talked before about how Seattle’s team was a bit of a work in progress, but thanks to the arrival of Obafemi Martins and departure of Johansson, we’re finally getting a clear picture of what Schmid’s ideal team. Evans will be the first choice right back. Yedlin will still get plenty of time as Evans’ utility man role sees him fill in across the midfield. Joseph will partner Osvaldo Alonso in midfield. Martins pushes Mauro Rosales back to right wing.

Four weeks ago, it didn’t look like that picture was going to come together until the summer. Now, we can see Seattle’s core, and with Johansson gone, there’s potential to find another Djimi Traore-level acquisition to add depth in midfield or attack. While that may not happen, losing a $175,000 player from a position of depth will give Adrian Hanauer options, even if he elects to use those options at the back (not middle) of the roster.

As Sigi Schmid said after Saturday’s draw with Portland, he finally has his full team. Now they can start moving forward, even if that means they’ll do so without a good right back. While one year in Seattle proved Adam Johansson to be a dependable player, he was one Seattle could do without.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.