Next stop, Sporting Lisbon: Seattle Sounders announce Fredy Montero’s latest loan

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After a spell with Colombia’s Millionarios that saw him score 10 goals in 29 games, Seattle’s Fredy Montero has earned a ticket to Europe, albeit not the one he and his club may have originally hoped for. Montero’s on his way to Sporting Club of Portugal on loan, with an option to buy seeing the Sounders’ all-time leading scorer potentially move for a reported $3.3 million.

The club confirmed the move Monday, one which had been rumored for some time, though most anticipated the transfer would be a permanent one from the get start. But while a loan does get Montero to Portgual, it also makes his initial spell with Sporting a try-out. If he doesn’t perform well this fall, the club can walk away, leaving him to return to Seattle.

This isn’t exactly what many anticipated when Montero left Seattle this winter. When the Sounders let Montero return home, the player’s professed (but thin) explanation was to increase his chances to get into the Colombian national team. Others saw a Copa Libertadores campaign as a potential springboard to European transfer. After decent results (eight goals in 22 league games, no goals in five Copa matches), the full transfer didn’t come, though Montero has earned a look from one of Portugal’s three biggest clubs.

But with that look being only a loan, it’s worth considering whether this process has been worth it for Seattle. Or the player. Adrian Hanauer, Chris Henderson, and Sigi Schmid made the decision to move away from Montero this winter, a choice portended by Schmid’s use of the player at the end of last year’s playoffs (removing him from his final game). Combined with Montero’s desire to move, the loan to Millionarios seemed like a win-win situation for both parties. Montero gets his springboard, and Seattle gets to remake a club they felt needed to be tweaked in order to advance farther in the playoffs.

But with Seattle struggling in the standings and Montero failing to land a permanent move, both sides seem worse off for the gambit. Had Montero stayed, it’s likely he would have continued producing at the same levels that made him one of the league’s best attackers. Seattle, retaining their most creative player, could be playing more like last year’s team than the one that’s slumped to seventh in the Western Conference. Granted, we’d still be having the same trite debates about Montero’s big game performances and effort, but on the field, both the Sounders and the player may be better off.

Now comes Montero’s chance to establish himself in Europe, which won’t be easy. His failure to light up the Colombian league meant Sporting were reluctant to pay the $3 million-plus fee Seattle was said to be asking, leaving Seattle willing to accept a chance at recouping that money in the future. If that can’t — if Montero can’t do more to justify the fee than he did in Colombia — Seattle and their franchise’s best player may be set of an awkward reunion at the end of the loan.

Italian soccer federation signs deal with Chinese government

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ROME (AP) The Italian soccer federation has signed a wide-ranging memorandum with the Chinese government to promote soccer between the two countries.

The deal foresees playing the Italian Super Cup or Italian Cup in China within the next three years.

[ MORE: Upsets in EURO qualifying ]

The Italian Super Cup – which pits the Serie A champion against the Italian Cup champion – has already been played in China four times over the last 10 years.

The meeting with China Media Group head Shen Haixiong also focused on TV content and rights, collaboration over developing young Chinese players in Italy and instruction for using the video assistant referee.

Shen was in Rome for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Italian federation president Gabriele Gravina says, “Soccer has shown once again to be a bridge between different cultures.”

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

WATCH: Asprilla scores terrific bicycle kick on USL cameo

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Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla has had to spend some time in the USL Championship this season, and the second tier would probably like to see Gio Savarese keep the Colombian in Major League Soccer.

[ REPORT: Liverpool to sell Keita? ]

Asprilla scored twice and added an assists on Saturday night in a defeat of Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas Lights, and he put up a near picture perfect bicycle kick on the highlight reel.

Watch as he sets himself up, willingly or not, for the endeavor before splashing a shot in the side panel for an amazing aesthetic.

Report: Bayern, BVB ready to buy Keita from Liverpool

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A report claims that Liverpool is ready to admit defeat in the case of Naby Keita.

Keita, 24, was bought from RB Leipzig last season and arrived at Anfield in the summer, but has struggled to find consistent playing time under Jurgen Klopp.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Saief shines for FC Cincinnati ]

Viewed as the missing link between the Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s torrential attack, Keita has not come close to replicating the form that saw his price tag reach $69 million.

Indeed, Team Talk says Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look prepared to pay around $53 million to bring Keita back to the Bundesliga.

Keita has played 27 matches in all competitions for Liverpool, accumulating 1,388 minutes and just one assist. He had nine goals and seven assists in more than double the minutes one season ago.

According to WhoScored.com, he’s passing the ball better and taking almost a foul less than last season, but almost every other measurable has declined since he moved to England.

I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking Keita would be everything the Reds required after an improved 2017-18, but he’s either being used very poorly or having trouble adjusting to the culture.

It’s early to quit on a player so talented, but maybe Klopp and he just don’t mesh well. But if it isn’t a case of clashing with the club, it may be worth waiting out a player who looked a giant just eight months ago.

EURO qualifying: Hungary stings Croatia, Israel hangs 4 on Austria

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It wasn’t just Germany and the Netherlands staging a tight and entertaining match in EURO 2020 qualifying on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: Saief, Manneh lead FC Cincinnati ]

Hungary 2-1 Croatia

Ante Rebic’s early goal made a “business as usual” statement for the World Cup runners-up, but Hungary can be a handful against any opponents and rallied at home.

Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai brought the hosts level at halftime, and Mate Patkai gave Hungary a deserved 2-1 win in Budapest.

Coming three days after a loss in Slovakia to start qualifying, it was an early almost-must-win for Marco Rossi’s men.

Israel 4-2 Austria

Marko Arnautovic‘s brace in defeat couldn’t have come with different vibes. His eighth minute marker gave the Austrians a leg up, his 75th minute goal meaning very little with the side having conceded four-straight in between.

China-based striker Eran Zahavi scored a hat trick for Israel, and RB Salzburg star Munas Dabbur scored the fourth goal to keep the hosts within sight of first place Poland.

Austria is winless through two qualifiers.

Elsewhere
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Netherlands 2-3 Germany — RECAP, VIDEO
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Slovenia 1-1 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia