Grabavoy winner prolongs Portland’s agony against Real Salt Lake (video)

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Leave it to Portland’s nemeses to nullify the team’s most encouraging performance of the season. Growing desperately winless, the Timbers were left empty-handed after their best game of the season, with a late Ned Grabavoy goal at Rio Tinto extending Real Salt Lake’s unbeaten streak over Portland to 11 games. The 1-0 loss also left the Timbers, first in the West at the end of the 2013 regular season, without a victory seven weeks into the 2014 season.

Were it not for some late Nick Rimando heroics, however, the Timbers would have gotten something from Saturday’s game. In the 85th minute, akick save on an Alvas Powell shot from the right of the area left the young Jamaican stonewalled after a one-on-one. Three minutes later, a leaping block toward his upper-right hand corner saw Rimando deny Gastón Fernández. Though Portland created the better chances and held Real Salt Lake’s biggest weapons in check, RSL’s quality in goal allowed the Western Conference champions to extend its dominance over their guests.

At the other end, Portland added another defensive error to the team’s growing list of breakdowns, though whereas it’s been the central defense that’s hurt the team through most of the season, it was the midfield and one veteran fullback that succumbed on Saturday. In the 78th minute, a ball worked from right-to-left at the edge of RSL’s final third left Grabavoy with the ball. The veteran midfielder turning toward goal, surprisingly pulled away from Darlington Nagbe, who has been hampered by a leg injury. Jack Jewsbury, back in the team at right back, was drawn wide by Joao Plata, leaving the left channel exposed. Grabavoy quickly released a shot from the edge of the area that bounced into Donovan Ricketts’ lower left-hand corner.

That the goal came after a strong hour of play from the visitors can be seen as a silver lining. For a Portland team that needs to assess whether the squad has the right ingredients, there were a number of positives in the performance. If the Timbers had played like that in its six previous games, they wouldn’t have entered Rio Tinto winless.

But the team is winless, and as we saw after the Timbers failed to gain momentum from an offensive outburts against Seattle, one good night may not foreshadow of future performance. Portland got up for a team that’s become its second rivals, but with errors at the back and a lack of quality up front, the same questions remain ahead of next week’s trip to Houston.

As for Real Salt Lake, this is who they are. Perhaps it wasn’t the team’s most convincing performance, but it was a resourceful one. Though the team didn’t have the usual success they do against Portland, Jeff Cassar was able to look to his bench, insert Sebastian Velasquez and Joao Plata, and see his first two substitutes contribute to the winning score. Velasquez played the ball across to Grabavoy, while Plata drew Jewsbury out of the channel.

Against a quality opponent, RSL gave the type of performance teams need to content at the top of their conferences. At 3-0-4, that team remains the last of the unbeatens.

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

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TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

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 midfielder 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.