Arsenal to up their bid for Luis Suárez, keep Gonzalo Higuaín on hold

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The encouraging part for Arsenal fans about this ongoing saga is that it’s becoming all the more obvious Arsène Wenger does, in fact, have a war chest to empty in this summer’s transfer market. The discouraging part: No major purchases have been made, and if old ideological-based concerns are going to get in the way of spending money new advertising deals have given the Gunners, then what’s the point?

We’ll get to that in a minute. For now let’s talk about the latest reports out of England surrounding Wenger’s newfound fascination with Liverpool’s Luis Suárez, the want-away striker moving slightly closer to Arsenal after reports the London club has upped their offer for the Uruguayan dynamo from $45 million to $52.8 million (or, £35 million), just $7.5 million short of the number Liverpool would reportedly consider. If that number was a negotiating stance, you have to assume Arsenal’s getting close to hitting Liverpool’s real evaluation.

In the mean time, Gonzalo Higuaín waits in the wing. The Real Madrid man is reportedly ready to complete his prolonged transfer to North London, but before Wenger leaves with the Argentine, he’s taking another trip around the bar, seeing if he can get one of the women he was chaing at the beginning of the night to give him some time before he settles. At last call, it might not be the classiest move, but in world soccer, it can be part of the deal. (Until a team undercuts them, like Bayern just did to Manchester United.)

In the past, “part of the deal” for Arsenal has always been a seeming reluctance to overspend, a product of their economically-driven view of players and part of the reason their record transfer purchase remains £15 million (Santi Cazorla, Andrei Arshavin). Arsenal can clearly spend more, but once you start getting farther from the £6-£10 million purchases Wenger’s comfortable making, heightened, model-breaking demand based on elite player scarcity starts creating inefficiencies.  It’s unclear Wenger’s Arsenal has ever been comfortable with this inefficiencies.

In the past, the reason for that may have been financial as much as philosophical, but with the club’s influx of cash, they can afford to embrace the market’s imperfections in the name of competing for trophies. Nobody said sports markets are perfect (they are usually defined by irrational actors). Perhaps being the most resourceful rational actor in a market would be a good long-term strategy for Arsenal if they had assurances the big boys would themselves out of existence, but by the time that happens (if it ever does), Wenger will have long left North London.

So while Arsenal has money to spend, the question if whether Wenger will capitulate to meeting the prices of an insane market. All indications are he might, but until we actually see the professor sign off on one of these purchases, it’s all theory.

The tides have turned significantly for Toronto FC

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2017 gave Toronto FC its first MLS Cup, as well as significant notoriety for the club’s historic season, but Greg Vanney and his side are in a world of trouble in 2018 for reasons that are still unfathomable.

[ MORE: NYCFC tops TFC in come-from-behind victory ]

A deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League (which ended in heartbeat at the hands of Chivas) and a number of injuries have plagued Toronto this season, and for that, the defending champions find themselves in unchartered MLS waters.

Over the course of Major League Soccer’s 22 previous seasons, only three defending champions have gone on to miss the playoffs the next year (D.C. United in 2000, LA Galaxy in 2006 & Portland Timbers in 2016).

So, how poor has TFC been through nearly half the season?

The Canadian side has acquired 15 points in as many matches, which puts the club on pace to finish with 34 points in 2018.

That total would leave TFC well below the average points needed for a club to get into the playoffs. It varies on a year-to-year basis, but teams typically need somewhere in the range of 45 to 50 points to finish above the red line in their respective conferences.

Last season, three teams in MLS finished with less than 34 points (D.C. United, LA Galaxy & Colorado Rapids), and none of the clubs finished within striking distance of the postseason.

While Toronto wouldn’t be the first team to show signs of struggles in the first half of the season and then proceed to turn things around over the second portion, there are definite concerns for Vanney and Co.

In 2018, the Reds haven’t earned back-to-back victories in MLS play, leaving the club in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

The talent within the squad remains there, and if TFC gets the rest of its squad healthy there could be a run made by the team, but as things stand, the club’s historic run a season ago looks to be crumbling in 2018.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE