A busy news day out of Seattle Sounders FC camp

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Is there any question that Seattle will be one of the super interesting teams to watch this year?

And the “interesting” start now. Not once we get into the busy summer. Or not even as Major League Soccer begins passing and trapping in matches that count in March … but, like, right now!

As the team got into camp today, the Seattle Times reports that Shalrie Joseph was absent and apparently not in the teams’ plans. That’s a bit sad, in a way, as Joseph was such an influential player for so long around MLS. These things do have to end, of course, but Joseph’s tumble from competitive relevancy, starting more than a year ago with his trade out of New England, seemed particularly harsh.

Past that, there are fascinating positional battles to watch as Sigi  Schmid puts the pieces together around CenturyLink Field.

Stefan Frei, who as so good before a series of injuries took him out of the picture at Toronto, has a shot at the No. 1 jersey. But he might have to withstand a challenge from Marcus Hahnemann (pictured),  41, who could still perhaps handles the job.

Between Obafemi Martins and Kenny Cooper, someone will be picked to partner up with Clint Dempsey. Or, maybe Schmid decides that Chad Barrett is the best fit. He’s a wildly undependable finisher, but Barrett always puts in the work, and that might be the best way to free up Dempsey to slip into those channels.

(MORE: MLS training camps now is session)

It will be interesting to watch the progress of DeAndre Yedlin, who has clearly done well enough in his first look-see under U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann. The kid will need to keep his head on straight; it’s one thing to excel as the unknown rookie, but something else entirely to get things done when fans and the club expect it.

Alongside, Chad Marshall has long been in the upper echelon of MLS center backs. But he has gone a bit stale over the last couple of years, so it will be interesting to see if the change of scenery can jump-start a revival of the old Chad Marshall. At 29, he’s still got some tread on the tire.

All that, and we also know the Sounders, quite active in the offseason, is still looking to import fresh talent.

As we said, “interesting” … right away.

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.