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Transfer rumor roundup: West Ham soften Payet stance; Reus to replace Alexis

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Will he stay or will he go? It’s the question consuming the entirety of the January transfer window, as West Ham United desperately attempt to keep hold of their brilliant, want-away midfielder Dimitri Payet. Having already rejected numerous bids for the 29-year-old French international, a report from the Mirror claims the Hammers may be prepared to soften their not-for-sale stance and concede defeat in the face of Marseille’s continued pursuit. But only for $36 million, or more.

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer rumor roundup | Wednesday | Tuesday | Monday ]

Rumors regarding the future of Alexis Sanchez have swirled for weeks and months now. With Sanchez’s contract set to expire next summer, the Gunners could be forced to recoup whatever they can for the Chilean this summer if he refuses to commit his long-term future to the club. That money will have to be reinvested, of course, to acquire his replacement. According to WhoScored.com, a $64-million bid would be made for 27-year-old Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Branislav Ivanovic‘s Chelsea career could be coming to a close, as the 32-year-old Serbian international is reportedly in talks with Zenit St. Petersburg. Ivanovic would see out the remainder of the 2016-17 Premier League season before moving to Russia on a free transfer in the summer.

[ MORE: Wenger suspended 4 games for pushing referee ]

Gaston Ramirez could be leaving Middlesbrough for Leicester City — a $15-million bid has been rejected, but a follow-up is expected, with $19 million the reported price tag — thus Boro are expected to reinvest the Ramirez fee in the form of a bid for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish.

[ MORE: FA Cup 4th round preview — is it time for Cupsets? ]

Mathieu Debuchy is eyeing a return to Ligue 1 after being told he is welcome to leave Arsenal this month. The 31-year-old returned to first-team training on Friday following a hamstring injury, but has been highly critical of manager Arsene Wenger in recent weeks, thus his future at the club seems sealed. Debuchy has played just 16 minutes in the PL this season.

Mohamed Salah starts for Egypt despite int’l retirement talks

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Mohamed Salah is coming off of his best season as a professional, but reports suggest that his time with the Egyptian national team could soon be coming to an end for reasons that extend beyond soccer.

Salah will however be included in Egypt’s Group A finale against Saudi Arabia on Monday, though, after the team sheet was revealed by the Pharaohs ahead of the match.

CNN reported over the weekend that Salah believes he is being used by Egypt as a political symbol to represent Chechnya, which has sparked talks of the talented Liverpool winger ending his international career.

Egypt has already been eliminated from reaching the Round of 16 after losing its first two matches at the World Cup.

The tides have turned significantly for Toronto FC

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2017 gave Toronto FC its first MLS Cup, as well as significant notoriety for the club’s historic season, but Greg Vanney and his side are in a world of trouble in 2018 for reasons that are still unfathomable.

[ MORE: NYCFC tops TFC in come-from-behind victory ]

A deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League (which ended in heartbeat at the hands of Chivas) and a number of injuries have plagued Toronto this season, and for that, the defending champions find themselves in unchartered MLS waters.

Over the course of Major League Soccer’s 22 previous seasons, only three defending champions have gone on to miss the playoffs the next year (D.C. United in 2000, LA Galaxy in 2006 & Portland Timbers in 2016).

So, how poor has TFC been through nearly half the season?

The Canadian side has acquired 15 points in as many matches, which puts the club on pace to finish with 34 points in 2018.

That total would leave TFC well below the average points needed for a club to get into the playoffs. It varies on a year-to-year basis, but teams typically need somewhere in the range of 45 to 50 points to finish above the red line in their respective conferences.

Last season, three teams in MLS finished with less than 34 points (D.C. United, LA Galaxy & Colorado Rapids), and none of the clubs finished within striking distance of the postseason.

While Toronto wouldn’t be the first team to show signs of struggles in the first half of the season and then proceed to turn things around over the second portion, there are definite concerns for Vanney and Co.

In 2018, the Reds haven’t earned back-to-back victories in MLS play, leaving the club in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

The talent within the squad remains there, and if TFC gets the rest of its squad healthy there could be a run made by the team, but as things stand, the club’s historic run a season ago looks to be crumbling in 2018.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.