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Twenty-three* thoughts from MLS Week 1

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At regular intervals during the 2018 Major League Soccer season, we’ll provide one thought for every MLS team.

[ MORE: MLS teams in CCL quarters ]

An asterisk is needed this week, with three sides yet to debut (Chicago, New York Red Bulls, Colorado). Here’s what we picked up from the 20 debuts.

Atlanta United: Just. Throw. The. Game. Tape. Out. The. Window.

Columbus Crew: Winning on the road is tough, and winning at BMO Field has been darn near impossible for teams not named Toronto FC. Columbus made it two teams in two years by getting stuck into 50/50 challenges and getting the ball the heck out of dodge as often as possible. While Toronto (See below) whiffed on several chance to pick up a point, the Crew sent a message that whatever’s happening off the field, there are a number of players left who danced this team deep into the playoffs.

[ MORE: All #SaveTheCrew news ]

Wil Trapp was special for Columbus, completing almost 96 percent of his passes over 90 minutes. That includes three key passes and six successful long balls.

And, oh yeah, #SaveTheCrew.

DC United: Yamil Asad got his debut goal for DC, who was better defensively than expected. There’s a lot of men with motors in the Black-and-Red, and Ben Olsen’s unit is going to be a tough out every week. The biggest difference maker? Probably defender Frederic Brillant.

FC Dallas: Eighteen shots, and FCD’s only goal in a 1-1 home draw was courtesy the other team. Max Urruti and Michael Barrios combined for nine shots. Throw in Mauro Diaz and it climbs to 12. It could’ve been worse.

Houston Dynamo: Wilmer Cabrera might still be grinning ear-to-ear after hanging a 4-0 on Tata freaking Martino’s Atlanta United. Alberth Elis was everywhere and he’ll need to continue that presence. Also, DYK Philippe Senderos scored a goal? Yes, that Philippe Senderos from Fulham and Arsenal who’s played 31 total times for four teams since the start of 2014-15.

LAFC: Bob Bradley knows how to coach, but we’re thinking LAFC supporters would do well to relish the good vibes of Diego Rossi’s 11th minute opener (from Carlos Vela) and a quality win over Seattle. Who knows what’s next, but this looks nice.

LA Galaxy: Carson, California, saw a home win and an attack which feels like it could cue Ola Kamara up for a goal or more per game. It’s just one game, but amazing what a solid defensive midfielder can do to shore up a back line. Perry Kitchen’s back, team.

Minnesota United: 

End of last season: “Hey Minnesota, fix your leaky defense.”

Minnesota: “Okay. We’ll try the backup goalkeeper.”

Start of this season, after a 3-2 loss to San Jose: “See our end of last season thoughts, please.”

Montreal Impact: Remi Garde has to press the reset button on an ugly debut against Vancouver. And, yes, it’s early, but maybe do the same on the idea of a 4-1-4-1.

New England Revolution: Brad Freidel may turn out to be a heck of a manager, but if he does it with this group he’s a hero of the highest order and we’ll all be working on our unique accents. It’s just one match, on the road, with a red card, but New England’s best hope is its steady vets playing steely ball.

New York City FC: David Villa turned 36 in December, and he didn’t look it on Sunday. The Spaniard managed six shots and an assist in the 2-0 win over Sporting KC. The five-man midfield was especially fun to watch. Not like-for-like but Jesus Medina and Yangel Herrera are among the players who could ease the worries of Jack Harrison’s exit.

Orlando City: It feels a little like that first gift you get at Christmas, watching Justin Meram and Orlando play without suspended Sacha Kljestan. Santa Mustache is coming soon, though, and the 1-1 draw with DC United is acceptable enough given 49 minutes down a man.

Philadelphia Union: How will David Accam and CJ Sapong co-exist? Just fine if Opening Day is any indication. Not a bad night for Haris Medunjanin in the middle of the park, either, as Philly takes advantage of New England on their schedule.

Portland Timbers: Gio Savarese’s baptism by fire came at the hands of LA’s talented attack, but don’t sleep on the Timbers’ response to going down 2-0. Away from home is a beast in MLS — even despite LA’s 2017 in Carson — and the Timbers finished the game with more attempts than the Galaxy and put seven on target to LA’s three. Sometimes it’s just about bounces.

Real Salt Lake: Outshot by double, the Utah-based visitors still came within five minutes and an own goal of getting Mike Petke a quality road win in Texas. Real also won 80 of 128 duels with FCD. There’s enough to like from a 1-1 draw.

San Jose Earthquakes: I was one to say Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili was being used poorly by last year’s coaches. One goal and two assists later, even against defensively-challenged Minnesota, I’m feeling good about that opinion being closer to fact. Mikael Stahre was an intriguing hire as coach, and is off to a winning start.

Seattle Sounders: Outshot LAFC 22-5 in a 1-0 loss. If there was ever a time to relax, it’s now. Things will be fine in Washington, especially once Magnus Wolff Eikrem becomes more than a sub. Nicolas Lodeiro led the league in passes with 106, seven more than his closest competitor. He also paced MLS in key passes with eight and crosses delivered with five.

Sporting KC: A match to forget against a very talented team, we learned that playmaking spots are up for grabs in Kansas City. Diego Rubio and Yohan Croizet both came off with around a half hour to play, with Daniel Salloi and Gerso Fernandes entering the fray. Young Salloi made a couple of chances, and gives a little hope to an otherwise moribund home loss.

Toronto FC: Losing at home is a rarity for TFC, and maybe they needed a dose of humility after waltzing past Colorado in the CONCACAF Champions League and winning everything in sight last season. The Reds now turn to a tricky tie with UANL Tigres in the CCL quarters, and Greg Vanney’s tactics will be important as ever. Lineup selection will be something to monitor moving forward, as newcomer Ager Aketke is an intoxicating talent but there are only so many ways to organize him with Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio…

Vancouver Whitecaps: Alphonso Davies won’t be here for long, so let’s enjoy him. No player in MLS had a better rating from WhoScored this weekend.

By the way, something to bookmark: Kei Kamara looked okay.

Reyna, Busio headline U.S. U-17 squad for CONCACAF Championships

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Two of the top teen-aged talents the U.S. has ever produced will be wearing the red, white, and blue next month at the 2019 CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s Championship.

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Raphael Wicky announced his 20-man squad for the upcoming tournament, set to take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It’s a small irony, as this is the first year without the residency program that was housed on the IMG Academy property.

The U.S. squad is led by Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio and the son of USMNT legend, Claudio Reyna, Giovanni, who is reportedly set to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy officially in the coming months. Also included in this squad is FC Dallas youngster Ricardo Pepi, who already has four goals in USL League One this season. Another forward, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is coming into the camp in red-hot form, having scored a hat-trick and helped lead his Seattle Sounders to the GA Cup title.

Griffin Yow just made his full D.C. United debut, and Las, just 17, has already reportedly attracted attention from Europe.

Here’s a look at the U.S. roster.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.; 13/0), 12-Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alta.; 4/0)
DEFENDERS (7): 4-Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 14/0), 3-Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 11/0), 13-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), 14-Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 10/0), 5-Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 14/1), 2-Joseph Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 14/1), 15-John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 7-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greensboro, N.C.; 7/2), 20-Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.; 13/0), 8-Bryang Kayo (D.C. United; Poolesville, Md.; 0/0), 6-Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.; 0/0), 16-Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 17/1)
FORWARDS (6): 18-Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.; 0/0), 17-Tyler Freeman (Sporting Kansas City; Shawnee, Kan.; 3/1), 19-Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance; Kent, Wash.; 14/5), 9-Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC; McKinney, Texas; 6/1), 10-Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 8/1), 11-Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 6/3)

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man City preparing $79 million bid this summer; Bale to leave Real Madrid

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Pep Guardiola has identified the successor to Fernandinho, and he’s convinced Manchester City to break the bank to acquire him.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Per a report in The Telegraph, Manchester City is preparing a transfer bid of nearly $79 million to sign Atletico Madrid central midfielder Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, better known as Rodri. In his first season in Madrid, the 22-year-old has made 28 La Liga starts along with six in the UEFA Champions League, anchoring the second-place Atletico Madrid midfield.

In addition to his defensive duties, he’s also scored a pair of goals this season.

If true, Rodri’s transfer will break Man City’s previous record when it signed Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for almost $78 million.

Fernandinho continues to be a world class holding midfielder, but coming up on 34-years old, he’s surely coming up on time when he won’t be able to cover as much ground as he used to. With Rodri in tow, Fernandinho can slowly take a reserve role in the team, or move to another club for one last big contract.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe:

(more…)

USMNT’s Brooks scores equalizer for Wolfsburg

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John Brooks is enjoying a career year for Wolfsburg, and he just added another highlight to his strong season.

Brooks, running up in the attack in a rare foray forward, tapped home into an empty net to save Wolfsburg a point at home in its 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. It was Brooks’ third goal of the season and second in the last two months.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The U.S. Men’s National Team centerback has played and started 29 times this season for Wolfsburg, the most games he’s ever played in a single season in Germany’s top tier. Brooks started alongside Aaron Long in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador in Orlando in late March, and could play a key role for the USMNT this summer at the Gold Cup, unless coach Gregg Berhalter decides to let him rest this summer.

Season over: Hudson-Odoi suffers suspected Achilles tear

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One incident on Monday showed why some players are so desperate to change clubs when given the chance. They may never get it again.

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Callum Hudson-Odoi said on his Instagram post Monday evening that he had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. If confirmed by the club, it’s usually a nine-month recovery process, with some players needing a full year to return to full fitness. Considering the timing of this, towards the end of the season, it means that Hudson-Odoi may miss an entire season of top-flight soccer, as well as possibly miss out on a chance to move to Bayern Munich this summer.

The injury is a huge blow to the 18-year-old, who had forced his way into the Chelsea side after strong performances in the UEFA Europa League, and now he’s making regular Premier League starts at the tender age of 18. Hudson-Odoi had started four-straight Premier League games including Monday, but now he faces a long layoff.

In Hudson-Odoi’s favor is his youth. While it can be a career-ending injury, hopefully Hudson-Odoi could retain his electric pace once he recovers and can return to the starting lineup for Chelsea.

But it’s a big disappointment to the young Englishman, who surely would have played for England youth national teams this summer and could have potentially made a big-money move abroad.