MLS Preview: Portland Timbers at D.C. United

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Both teams set to perform Saturday at RFK Stadium are on upswings of success – even if success here is defined in such radically different ways.

Success for the home club, Ben Olsen’s heavily wilted D.C. United, looks like this: “One in a row!”

Olsen’s team snapped its club record seven game losing streak with a 1-1 draw last week – a controversial result, at that, as Sporting Kansas City’s potentially game-winning goal was incorrectly ruled offside. Either way, Olsen and Co. chalked up the afternoon at RFK as progress.

What other way to see it for a club that sits 10th in the 10-team Eastern Conference, with just 5 of a possible 33 points. United’s nine-game winless streak remains intact, however, one game short of an 11-year old club record. United players and coaches seemed a little too content with a draw at home, but Olsen tried to explain:

“There’s a lot to work on,” he said. “I’m not sugar-coating this tie, but it beats losing.

“I think there’s a little bit of an exhale [in the locker room], if I’m completely honest with you. It’s not easy to lose this many games and not have doubt. I think this gives them a chance to exhale and maybe smile for a day or two and understand that here’s an opportunity to really change things next weekend against Portland.”

Portland, meanwhile, is rising in ways not even thought about over its previous two seasons in Major League Soccer. Caleb Porter’s team is unbeaten in 10 consecutive matches, having extended their club record undefeated streak dramatically last week in Vancouver. Down to 10 men on the road, the Timbers still managed to dig up the late equalizer.

Other than what it means for the collective confidence, the Timbers ability to gather up points on the road has been a big part of 2013 success. A club that was a dismal 3-21-10 on the road over its first two seasons is unbeaten away from Jeld-Wen Field this year (1-0-5).

Mikael Silvestre’s season-ending injury continues to cause problems, as Saturday’s contest will see yet another change along the Timbers’ back line. Center back Futty Danso will sit out following last week’s ejection. He had partnered successfully with Andrew Jean-Baptiste over the last three Portland matches.

Then again, Portland may only need to hold serve on defense against a team with just six goals in 11 matches, last in the league.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. ET; the official league preview is here:

Other quick talking points for this one:

  • D.C. United’s Nick DeLeon played centrally last week, and Olsen indicated he’s not averse to playing the exciting your attacker, normally a flank midfielder, on the interior again.
  • This will be the teams’ only meeting of 2013 (unless they meet in MLS Cup)
  • Chris Pontius (pictured), whose 2013 struggles are certainly among the problems around RFK this year, made his first appearance since late April in the draw with Kansas City. Admittedly nowhere near match-fit, Pontius did help set up United’s goal during his 45 minutes.
  • Former United man Rodney Wallace has moved up the field, from defender to left winger, and is having a fantastic season there.
  • Dwayne De Rosario, a former MLS MVP, has just one goal and one assist in eight matches this year.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfield unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”