Photo credit: Atlanta United / @ATLUTD

Three MLS Things: Growing pains in ORL; hat-trick hero

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The third Saturday of the 2018 MLS season is in the books, and we learned a few (more) things along the way.

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

One game is just one game; two games is too small of a sample size; but three games is the beginning of a trend…

[ LISTEN: Talkin’ Touches podcast — breaking down Week 2 in MLS ]

Lots of changes, lots of kinks to work out

Inside the last nine months alone, Orlando City SC acquired the following who’s-who list of MLS star-level players: Dom Dwyer, Yoshi Yotun, Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram and Uri Rosell. That’s one half of an uber-talented, but brand new, starting lineup (at a massive cost) — which is to say, Jason Kreis and Co., have made serious changes, and everything isn’t going to coalesce overnight.

Throw in the fact that Kljestan was suspended the first two games, Dwyer has battled multiple muscular injuries since January and is yet to make his 2018 debut, and Rosell didn’t arrive in Orlando until the week before the season opener and hasn’t played either, and you begin to understand how “such a talented team can have just one point from their first three games.”

Saturday’s 2-0 loss away to a David Villa-less New York City FC was frustrating in more ways than just “we’re still figuring things out, but we’re getting there.” Both of NYCFC’s goals resulted from self-inflicted, avoidable mistakes in possession which turned into easy counter-attacking chances going the other way.

Rosell will undoubtedly fix many of Orlando’s problems with regard to ball circulation and defensive organization/transitions, but only upon his arrival into the lineup can his tricky and important integration begin.

NYCFC, on the other hand, have three wins from three games, have conceded just once (while scoring six) and now hold a nine-point lead on the defending champions from Toronto. Oh, and did I mention they looked just fine without David Villa?

Martinez closing in on history

Just 23 games into his MLS career, Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez is one hat trick from tying the all-time record for hat tricks in a career (5 – currently held by Landon Donovan, Stern John and Diego Serna). To put that into perspective, the three aforementioned players made 340, 55 and 124 appearances during their respective MLS careers.

Assuming he doesn’t pick up another long-term injury (he missed 10 games between March and June last year) and/or transfer back to Europe in the summer, Martinez should summit the hat trick-scoring chart by early June. Given the veracity and vigor with which Atlanta engulf their opponents, Martinez scoring at least two more hat tricks this season feels like the safest bet one could make in a league full of constant flux.

Take, for example, Saturday’s 4-1 thrashing of the Vancouver Whitecaps, which not only saw the Five Stripes fire 21 shots (4 on target – 100 percent, obviously), but more importantly hold more than 72 percent of possession and limit the visitors to just five shots in total (Kendall Waston was sent off in the 13th minute, leaving the ‘Caps a man short for much of the evening). Jeff Larentowicz has solved most of the problems in midfield and allowed Darlington Nagbe to settle in quickly and thrive. If that trend is to continue, the sky is truly the limit for Tata Martino’s boys, and Martinez will bag goals by the handful.

Where’s the real Sporting KC defense?

Should we be a little worried about the Sporting Kansas City defense, a group which finished 2017 as the league’s stingiest unit and returns its entire back-six in 2018? After conceding just 29 goals in 34 games last season, the group led by past Defender of the Year award winners Ike Opara and Matt Besler has conceded seven goals in their first three games this year.

If it were any other team, and any other group of MLS veterans, with any other coach, I’d be officially worried right now. But, given their (perennial) stake to one of the league’s best defensive records, I remain in a holding pattern, even after giving up another soft/sloppy goal in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made a fair and valid point following the game, reminding the assembled media that playing more freely going forward — a massive weakness for Sports in recent seasons — comes at the expense of defensive positioning and numbers. Sure enough, they’ve scored seven goals in three games (tied for the most in MLS – all coming in the last two). Sporting scored their seventh goal of the 2017 season on April 29.

Here’s the thing about Sporting’s recent seasons: they’ve been a lock-down side throughout the regular season and never figured out how to consistently score goals, and it cost them plenty of points along the way and ultimately they played on the road in the knockout round each of the last four seasons. That style, which they’ll surely settle back into come playoff time, doesn’t lend itself to playing on the road. Securing a home playoff game, which would the first for the team since winning MLS Cup 2013 at home, is priority no. 1, and Vermes might just be willing to sacrifice a little bit of defense for a whole lot more offense (finally).

VIDEO: Rashford’s VIP Man United trip for American cancer survivor

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Marcus Rashford is one of the good guys.

We knew that even before this heart-warming gesture.

John Burk is a cancer survivor from the State of Georgia who had never been to Old Trafford to see his beloved Manchester United play.

Now he’s been to the Theater of Dreams. In style.

Last month John’s friends, led by Matt Waymont, reached out to Rashford on Twitter to ask if he could help with tickets as they had raised money to fly with John to the UK for Man United’s clash with Brighton on Nov. 10.

The power of social media did the rest, as Rashford didn’t only get them tickets but gave them a VIP experience for the 3-1 win against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday. Rashford scored United’s third goal to cap off a sensational trip for John and his friends.

United legends Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown all got in on the act too, as Rashford and Co. rolled out the carpet for their fans from the USA. They watched the game from Rashford’s private box, ate at Rio’s restaurant, stayed at Neville’s hotel and were given a tour of Old Trafford by Brown.

Take a look at the video below to get a taste of what John and the lads got up to during their incredible trip to Old Trafford.

This is truly wonderful.

Inter Miami to host LA Galaxy in historic MLS home opener

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Circle March 14, 2020 on your calendar.

It is the day Inter Miami CF will arrive at home in Major League Soccer, which will be over six years since the Florida city was awarded an MLS expansion franchise.

This also means that Inter Miami will begin their inaugural season on the road, as the 2020 MLS campaign is scheduled to being in late February.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

On Wednesday it was announced that David Beckham’s MLS franchise will finally play their first home game as an expansion franchise, as they host LA Galaxy at Fort Lauderdale Stadium at 2:30 p.m. ET.

This will be a lovely moment for Beckham, as the team he has co-ownership of will face the MLS team he played for as a Designated Player.

“Futbol comes full circle as Inter Miami faces former MLS club of David Beckham, the LA Galaxy. As a player, the Galaxy was the MLS side of Beckham between 2007-2012. Now, as club owner of inter Miami, Beckham will be supporting alongside the 18,000 in attendance and countless tuning in from afar.”

This will also mark the second time an MLS has played in Miami, as the now defunct Miami Fusion played from 1998-2001 and called Lockhart Stadium (on the same site as Inter Miami CF’s brand new Fort Lauderdale stadium) home.

Beckham’s ownership group are in ongoing talks with the City of Miami and other parties about building their permanent 25,000 capacity stadium on the Freedom Park site close to Miami International Airport. A key vote this week saw the plans for Freedom Park stalled once again, as Beckham continues to struggle to find a permanent home for his team in and around downtown Miami.

Until then the 18,000 capacity temporary stadium in Fort Lauderdale will be home, and when they finally move into a more permanent venue its capacity will be reduced to house their reserve side, while Inter Miami CF’s training ground will be located on the same site.

Many refused to believe Beckham’s Inter Miami CF would ever arrive in Major League Soccer, but he is now their Director of Soccer operations and work on their home in Fort Lauderdale is well under way.

Now that their first home game is scheduled and it is just four months away, it all seems very real.

Danny Rose: I will run down my Tottenham contract

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Oh, good, just what Tottenham needed. Another contract rebel.

Danny Rose, 29, has told the London Evening Standard he will run down the remaining 18 months of his contract.

In an open and ruthlessly honest interview, Rose revealed that Spurs wanted him to leave in the summer but he wants to leave on his own terms.

Rose didn’t travel with the team for their preseason tour of the Far East and he revealed exactly why that was the case.

“It’s pretty obvious what happened [in the summer]. People upstairs at Tottenham were trying to do what they were trying to do. I’ve said [to them] I’ve got 18 months left on my contract and I’m not going anywhere until my contract has ­finished,” Rose said. “In January, you’re probably going to hear something [about my future]. I’m telling you right now that I’m not going anywhere until my contract is finished. [Tottenham chairman] Daniel Levy told me in the summer there was no new contract for me at Tottenham, which is fine. I respect that. We move on.

“My contract is up in 18 months’ time and I’ll leave the football club then. People [in the media] can save their time ­trying to get stuff ready for January about me being sold. Because I can tell you now: it ain’t happening. I know what people were trying to do in the summer… There were no bids — that was rubbish.”

Wow.

Rose has not held back, at all.

He has started 11 of Spurs’ 16 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season and although he admitted he has made some big mistakes so far, he said he is very happy playing for Mauricio Pochettino and the two have a very good relationship.

However, this situation adds to the growing unrest in the dressing room with Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld all out of contract next summer, it appears that Pochettino has a growing player revolt on his hands.

It’s not all his fault though, as Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is a stickler for a bargain and was unlikely to let any of the aforementioned players leave on the cheap this summer.

But the product of keeping players against their will and not offering new contracts is that Spurs now have a large chunk of their first team who know they are a) not wanted and b) won’t be able to move until May.

Even though Rose and others know they will be moving on soon, they will of course try and give their all for Spurs. But with an eye on a move, you can certainly understand why Tottenham’s players have dropped their levels by a few percent.

That is all it takes to stop being title and top four contenders to being in 14th place and hoping for a top six finish.

Bernardo Silva banned over Benjamin Mendy tweet

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Manchester City winger Bernardo Silva has been banned for one-game after being found guilty of breaching FA Rule E3(1).

Silva posted a message on his Twitter account on September 22 with a photo of close friend and City teammate Benjamin Mendy next to a mascot for Spanish confectionery brand Conguitos.

He posted the message “Guess who?” above the photos before deleting it and then saying “Can’t even joke with a friend these days… You Guys…”

Along with the one-game ban, Silva was also fined $64,000 and must complete face-to-face education after admitting the charge.

Below is the FA’s statement in full:

Bernardo Silva has been suspended for one first team competitive fixture, fined £50,000 and must complete face-to-face education after admitting a breach of FA Rule E3.

“The Manchester City midfielder’s social media activity on 22 September 2019 breached FA Rule E3(1), as it was insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute, and constituted an “Aggravated Breach”, which is defined in FA Rule E3(2), as it included reference, whether expressed or implied, to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin.”

The ban will see Silva miss Man City’s home game against Chelsea on Saturday, Nov. 23 (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) and this ban seems more lenient than many were expecting as all parties agreed to the sanctions and Silva’s previous good behavior was taken into account.

Also, here is a look at some of their mitigating circumstances when it came to investigating the situation and handing out the sanctions.