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West Ham slam Payet; Hammers fans return jerseys

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It’s safe to say that Dimitri Payet will not be welcome back at West Ham United anytime soon.

Probably never.

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Payet, 29, completed his $31.2 million move from West Ham to Marseille on Sunday, ending the saga which saw the French international playmaker refuse to play for the Hammers at the start of January as he wanted to force through a move away from the London Stadium.

He finally got his wish as the Hammers reluctantly sold their star man, with reports from Sky Sports also stating that West Ham made Payet pay back his wages for January before he moved on.

In a statement released by the club on Monday, co-owner David Sullivan slammed Payet’s actions and revealed he and fellow owner David Gold wanted to let Payet rot in the reserve squad to make an example of him.

“The Club would like to place on record its sincere disappointment that Dimitri Payet did not show the same commitment and respect to West Ham United that the Club and fans showed him, particularly when it rewarded him with a lucrative new five-and-half-year deal only last year.

“I would like to make it clear that we have no financial need to sell our best players and that the decision to allow Payet to leave was in accordance with the wishes of the manager and the interests of squad unity. To be frank, my Board and I would have preferred for him to have stayed in order to make an example of him, as no player is bigger than the club.”

What did Payet have to say about all of this?

Well, he was unveiled in Marseille on Monday and stated he felt he had done absolutely nothing wrong over the past few weeks…

“I lived an exceptional year at West Ham, I have a great memory of the fans of the club. Going back to Marseille is a personal choice,” Payet said. “I no longer felt well at West Ham, I needed to return to my roots. Marseille is a very pleasant city to live in.”

In a separate yet connected note, fans of West Ham can now return any jersey with Payet’s name on the back and pay $30 to get a brand new shirt with the name and number of another player on the back. West Ham’s vice-chairman Karren Brady confirmed the offer on Monday.

It has been widely reported that Payet has taken a pay cut to join Marseille, with the playmaker earning $125,000 a week back at his old club compared to the new $156,000 per week deal (which was for five-and-a-half years) he signed at West Ham just over six months ago.

Payet sent out the message below on Monday as he headed back “home” to Marseille as the French international rejoins the Ligue 1 giants 18 months after leaving and he has reportedly doubled his wages from what they previously where when he joined Marseille from West Ham in the summer of 2015.

His legacy and image has been ruined after refusing to play for the Hammers and Payet will not be welcome in east London for many years. There is a way to go about getting a transfer and by refusing to play Payet has tarnished his reputation not only among West Ham fans but the wider soccer community.

If he is truly moving back to Marseille for family reasons then that is understandable. Still, he went about securing this transfer in completely the wrong way.

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.