MLS announces inaugural class of free agents, re-entry draft candidates

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Who says there’s such a thing as the Major League Soccer “offseason?” And who says we were supposed to kick back and enjoy such a thing on Monday, barely 24 hours after the Portland Timbers hoisted the 2015 MLS Cup?

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Not only have we already witnessed a flurry of early offseason trades today, but MLS also announced the inaugural class of free agents — players who are eligible to negotiate new contracts with any of the league’s 20 teams after meeting its brand new age-28 and eight-years-MLS-experienced requirements.

(All salary numbers taken from MLS Players Union salary release, found here.)

FULL LIST OF 2015-16 FREE AGENTS (by position, alphabetically)

Goalkeepers

Jon Busch — Chicago Fire
Troy Perkins — Montreal Impact
Kyle Reynish — New York Red Bulls
Andrew Weber — Portland Timbers

Defenders

Corey Ashe — Orlando City SC
Bobby Burling — Colorado Rapids
Ty Harden — Chicago Fire
Michael Harrington — Colorado Rapids
Steven Keel — FC Dallas
Jeff Larentowicz — Chicago Fire
Drew Moor — Colorado Rapids
James Riley — Colorado Rapids

Midfielders

Eric Avila — Orlando City SC
Brian Carroll — Philadelphia Union
Ricado Clark — Houston Dynamo
Ned Grabavoy — New York City FC
Nick LaBrocca — Colorado Rapids
Justin Mapp — Montreal Impact
Paulo Nagamura — Sporting Kansas City
Nathan Sturgis — Houston Dynamo

Forwards

Chad Barrett — Seattle Sounders
Edson Buddle — LA Galaxy
Conor Casey — Philadelphia Union
Kenny Cooper — Montreal Impact
Alan Gordon — LA Galaxy
Mike Magee — Chicago Fire

Of the above listed players, the following names (no particular order) seem most likely to garner the most interest on the open market: Mike Magee, Justin Mapp, Paulo Nagamura, Ned Grabavoy, Jeff Larentowicz and Drew Moor.

Magee, who won the MLS MVP award just two years ago, has fallen off spectacularly since that 2013 campaign in which he scored 22 goals in 29 games while splitting time between the Galaxy and Fire. In the two seasons since, he has scored just seven goals in 29 appearance for his hometown club. Given his $400,000 cap hit in 2015, he’ll have to take a pay-cut, but he will land somewhere.

Mapp might just be the gem of this inaugural class. Sure, he just turned 31 years old and he missed most of 2015 due to a long-term injury, but he’s only one year removed from back-to-back eight-assist seasons in Montreal. For the right price ($186,725 cap hit in 2015) and with the right team, he’ll be one of the best fringe-starter wingers in the league.

[ MORE: MLS offseason kicks off with flurry of big-time trades ]

Larentowicz, Magee’s now-former teammate in Chicago, is a more-than-serviceable starting center back, even at 32 years old, with the ability to seamlessly slot in at defensive midfield. He’ll be an intriguing option for teams looking to shore up either position with a craft veteran (hellooooo, D.C. United!), though he’ll likely have to do so at a slightly lower price than his $265,000 cap hit from 2015.

The other possible starter of the players mentioned above is Grabavoy, who ended up with NYCFC at the behest of Jason Kreis, who is no longer the team’s head coach. He’s approaching 300 games played in his MLS career and was a massive part of Real Salt Lake’s sustained successes from 2009-2014. As with Larentowicz, on the right team and the right system, Grabavoy will be a useful pick-up for something a little below his 2015 cap hit of $200,000.

Nagamura is wanted in Kansas City, where there are hopes he’ll take a reduced salary ($230,000 cap hit in 2015) to remain the first midfield option off the bench for Peter Vermes’ side. Moor is an interesting case in his own right, in that he’ll turn 32 in January, but he’s coming off of arguably the best season of his career. He could actually get close the his 2015 cap hit of $258,500 if a team believes he’s still a full-time starter.

Celtic, Aberdeen games called off after coronavirus breaches

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Celtic and Aberdeen have been slammed by the Scottish government and their games in the next week will not go ahead after coronavirus breaches from players.

[ MORE: UCL, Europa picks ]

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the situation regarding the two Scottish Premiership clubs and said fans should “not expect to see Aberdeen or Celtic play over the course of the coming week.”

It has emerged that Celtic player Boli Bolingoli had traveled to Spain and failed to quarantine on return before Celtic’s game against Kilmarnock on Aug. 9, breaking Scottish law, as the club released a statement saying the Belgian wide-man will be disciplined and slammed the ‘stupidity’ of his actions.

That came after eight Aberdeen players apologized after they broke guidelines by going out to a bar following a loss to Rangers on Aug. 1.

Here is more information on the situation in Scotland regarding Boli Bolingoli and the Aberdeen players from our partners at Sky Sports:


“What I regret is that some football players seem incapable of living up to their responsibilities. I very much regret that. When I stood here on Friday I think my frustration with the Aberdeen football situation was pretty palpable,” Sturgeon said.

“I don’t want the season to be in jeopardy. I don’t want people who are not responsible for this to pay the price but we have to be very clear that this situation is not acceptable. We’ll set out the conclusion of the talks later today but as a minimum, you should not expect to see Aberdeen or Celtic play over the course of the coming week.”

It comes just days after Aberdeen’s trip to St Johnstone was called off due to two of their players testing positive for coronavirus.


Quite simply, these players should know better.

The Scottish government went on to acknowledge that the vast majority of people with Scottish football are following the guidelines but the actions of a small minority are putting everyone at risk.

After ending the 2019-20 season early due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020-21 Scottish Premiership season has just kicked off and already these issues are cropping up.

Celtic were due to play St Mirren on Aug. 12 then, ironically, Aberdeen on Aug. 15. Aberdeen were due to play Hamilton Academical on Aug. 12.

Solskjaer warns “could have been one of those nights” for Manchester United

Manchester United Solskjaer
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clearly relieved after his dominant but wasteful Manchester United finally beat goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson and Copenhagen in extra time of their Europa League quarterfinal in Cologne.

“I think it was just one of those nights,” he said after the win. “I think we deserved to win, that’s clear, but they made it very hard for us.”

Johnsson made 13 saves as United out-attempted the minusM-1000 underdogs from Denmark by a 26-9 margin. The Red Devils blocked several Copenhagen chances in tight, making the Danes’ total of zero shots on target a bit deceiving.

[ RECAP: Manchester United 1-0 Copenhagen ]

“Their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times,” Solskjaer said. “It could have been one of those nights that you end up with a shootout. We had to block, defend well and they made it hard for us.”

But United was clearly the better team on the day, as expected. Juan Mata entered late in the game and was an influential sub in extra time.

He says the Red Devils were a bit beat up on a hot night in Germany.

“The team is quite tired physically,” Mata said. “At this stage of this season it is important to win games like today and we go through. We stay in Germany for quite some time and hopefully we can win.

“Both teams got a little tired and there were more spaces and more chances. They played some good football and credit to them. We could have scored more goals in extra time but we are through.”

United will meet either Sevilla or Wolves in a dynamite semifinal in one week.

Manchester United breaks through Copenhagen in extra time

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Manchester United – Copenhagen: The Europa League’s biggest underdogs of the quarterfinals took the tournament favorites to extra time before succumbing 1-0 in Cologne.

Bruno Fernandes highlighted his Man of the Match performance by converting an Anthony Martial-won penalty in the 95th minute for Manchester United, the only way past Copenhagen’s terrific goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson.

But Fernandes gave United a scare, needing care for his hamstring at the final whistle.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Johnsson made 13 saves, seven from inside the box, to keep Copenhagen within a sucker punch of eliminating the Red Devils over 90 minutes.

Manchester United heads to Dusseldorf for an Aug. 17 semifinal against the winner of Tuesday’s tilt between Wolves and Sevilla.


Three things we learned

1. Copenhagen plays prime tournament soccer: The heaviest underdogs in the quarterfinals, Copenhagen executed a traditional 4-4-2 in a less-traditional low block for much of the match. The low block wasn’t the surprise, but instead of two banks of five, the rows of four with two men hassling up front challenged United for time and helped spring a number of dangerous counters. The Danes opened up in extra time after going behind, but taking it to extra time was more than many expected out of them.

2. VAR denies the Red Devils: A rout would’ve been on if this match was staged a year ago without VAR, as the assistant referee twice allowed United goals to go to video. Harry Maguire was offside before assisting the first would-be Red Devils goal, while Mason Greenwood was off before ripping a rocket off the far post and into the goal.

3. Bruno is a beast: Fernandes was everywhere, cueing up his teammates for chances when he wasn’t smashing them off the frame in a bid to win it himself. The Portuguese playmaker registered three key passes, put three of his five shots on target, and won the majority of his duels on top of scoring the game’s lone goal (SofaScore). Now United must hope his late leg injury was just a product of 120 minutes and nothing major.

Man of the Match

Fernandes, and yes we had him here before he smashed his penalty home. Fernandes is now the Europa League’s leading scorer with seven goals between Sporting Lisbon and United.


Manchester United – Copenhagen recap

United has plenty of the ball in the first 10 minutes but Copenhagen provided legitimate danger that Eric Bailly managed in his own six.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka blocked a cross with his face and needed treatment, looking quite dazed before returning to the game.

Another Copenhagen chance was blocked in the six by Bailly (again), who proved a wise choice over Victor Lindelof.

VAR had a look at an early United goal and rightly chalked Harry Maguire offside in the build-up. And it took Mason Greenwood’s hammer off the far post off the board for offside early in stoppage time.

Copenhagen was in it at the break. Would United pay?

[ MORE: Lukaku leads Inter past Bayer Leverkusen ]

The early stages of the second half remained with the Red Devils, Copenhagen parking all its men behind the ball at times.

Rashford flubbed a chance to shoot or pass to Paul Pogba when Bruno Fernandes spotted him at the back post just after the hour mark.

Fernandes tried his luck from distance in the 63rd, ripping a shot off the far post.

Ex-Everton man Bryan Oviedo nearly put Copenhagen ahead in the 66th only to see Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bailly clog his shooting lane after Rasmus Falk dazzled to get into the box.

Karl-Johan Johnsson made a flying save on Anthony Martial to force an 84th-minute corner that came to nothing for United.

Johnsson denied Martial again in-tight at the start of stoppage time, but the high was short-lived as the Frenchman was dropped in the box moments later.

Fernandes stepped to the spot and used a stuttering run-up before blasting his penalty home.

Martial nearly had it 2-0 after the restart when he dribbled through the Copenhagen 18 but took it himself instead of laying off to Juan Mata in what would’ve been a fairly straight-forward chance for the Spaniard.

Johnsson denied Fernandes at the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time, United unfortunate to not score on the ensuing corner when Mata’s shot was blocked to Lindelof, who fired off the outside of the post.

Lindelof made a fine intervention to block a close-range equalizer bid in the 116th.

Inter Milan rides early goals past Bayer Leverkusen

Inter Milan - Bayer Leverkusen
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While Manchester United and Copenhagen played chess across the country, Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen were staging double jumps all over a checkerboard in Dusseldorf.

Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella scored twice in six first-half minutes before Kai Havertz answered in the 24th to account for all the goals in Inter’s 2-1 defeat of Bayer.

Lukaku has scored in nine-straight UEL matches, a new record.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Inter now waits for an Aug. 16 semifinal in Cologne, where it will meet the winner of Tuesday’s match between Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk

Bayer now must settle for the Europa League again via its fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga.

The three goals in the nine minutes were highlighted by Lukaku doing his best “Harry Kane versus Leicester City” falling down finish.

Nicola Barella put Inter ahead after a quarter-hour when he made the most of a loose ball outside the 18.

A Manchester United connection saw Inter ahead by two when Ashley Young found Romelu Lukaku and the Belgian striker maintained his composure while being dragged to the ground, beating Lukas Hradecky with a low shot.

Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland’s interplay near the box ended with the transfer rumor mainstay slipping a shot home to bring Bayer back within one.

Lukaku had penalty decisions taken off the board by VAR in each half.