Timbers’ Steve Zakuani announces retirement from professional soccer

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Portland Timbers winger Steve Zakuani announced his retirement from professional soccer on Wednesday.

“When my career became more about the injections, MRIs, surgeries, doctors visits, painkillers and limited physical capabilities than the playing, enjoyment, love and passion for the game, I knew it was time to call it a day,” Zakuani wrote on his website, SteveZakuani.com.

After being selected No. 1 overall by the Seattle Sounders in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, Zakuani burst onto the scene, leading all rookies in goals and assists. The following season he continued his fine form, notching 10 goals and six assists in league play before a tackle by Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan in April 2011 broke the Congolese attacker’s tibia and fibia, sidelining him for nearly 18 months.

Upon returning to the fold, Zakuani was not the same player. His quick burst of pace and his confidence were both lost while the injuries kept coming. Seattle kept the faith and even allowed Zakuani to join Portland where he could play under the tutelage of his college coach at Akron, Caleb Porter. This season, Zak appeared in 17 league games for the Timbers, chipping in with three assists.

“It’s tough,” Porter told the media at Providence Park about Zakuani’s situation. “He lit it up in college, and he lit it up in his first five years as a pro, four years as a pro. And to see a player of his caliber have to retire in his prime, I think it’s just tough.”

“He’s going to move on into the next chapter and have a really bright future because he’s an intelligent young man,” Porter said. “He’s mature, he’s got charisma, he’s got conviction, and he’s going to do something, I’m not sure what, maybe president of Congo or something.”

2 Robbies: Manchester Derby, Liverpool win, draws for Chelsea, Arsenal

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle look back at a defining derby match between Man City and Man United (00:30), Liverpool’s comfortable win against Fulham (25:45), the stalemate between Chelsea and Everton (31:30) and a hard fought match between Arsenal and Wolves (41:30).

[ VIDEO: An unprecedented goal ]

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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MLS Best XI unveiled with awesome foosball video

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Major League Soccer, wow, this is terrific #content.

MLS released its Best XI on Monday with a dynamite video of the players passing the ball from Zack Steffen in goal to Josef Martinez up top… via a virtual foosball table.

[ VIDEO: An unprecedented goal ]

The XI is set in a 3-4-3, with the New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Atlanta United leading the way with a pair of players each.

My predictions? Well, I only got six correct. Whoops. The only absence that really surprises me is Graham Zusi, and Sporting KC not having representation at all. I guess that explains why SKC manager Peter Vermes is going to be announced as the next USMNT– Wait, what’s that? Oh. I’ll stop talking.

2018 MLS Best XI

Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus)

Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (RBNY), Aaron Long (RBNY), Chad Marshall (Seattle)

Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta), Luciano Acosta (DC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy), Josef Martinez (Atlanta), Wayne Rooney (DC)

WATCH: Striker scores potentially unprecedented goal while helping teammate

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“Look, I know you’re injured, but I’m gonna be right back. Got a goal to score for us.”

Maccabi Petah Tikva forward Habib Habibou scored what can only be described as an unprecedented goal — at least in terms of being captured on video — Israel this weekend.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Habibou, 31, and his club were locked in scoreless tussle with Maccabi Netanya on Saturday when one of his teammates was injured in the box.

The CAR striker, formerly of Zulte Waregem and Royal Charleroi, was taking care of said teammate when he spotted an 87th minute spilled rebound.

What was he gonna do, really, other than dart onto the loose ball, score the match-winner, and then return to his ailing mate?

Petah Tikva won 1-0.

Juventus executive: Bring season Serie A game abroad

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Juventus chief revenue officer Giorgio Ricci likes La Liga’s idea of taking a regular season match outside of its domestic borders.

Ricci would like Serie A to explore a similar move, saying Italian soccer can only benefit from putting its brand in other markets.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.

Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:

“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”

Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.