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Track record of Top League vets bodes well for Rooney in MLS

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Sometimes you start researching a post, only to have just a few clicks on a stats page end any misgivings about the other side of your argument.

[ MORE: JPW on Rooney move ]

Wayne Rooney looks set to make a move to DC United, which is predictably being met by three sets of rallying cries:

  1. MLS is a retirement league (false)
  2. He’s not going to be worth it (relative and debatable)
  3. DC would be better served spend its money on younger Player X “not everyone’s heard of”

There’s little doubt that the fine work of Atlanta United has inspired and invigorated teams to look younger. Better to sign those on the stairway to the elite, not the escalator away from it.

But how often has a top European league starter, let alone a 10-goal Premier League scorer, produced at MLS?

Spoiler alert: Almost always. And the “clear busts” are very hard to find.

Here are two things we’ve learned, when it comes to Rooney or any player coming from an intense season in a top league:

  1. There are usually good signs in the abbreviated first season, but the second year is where the best output occurs (logically due to the stress of going from one season to the next and the ensuing offseason of rest).
  2. These may’ve looked like moves to sell jerseys and spread their club names worldwide, and they surely accomplished that, but class is close to permanent.

First we have to define the sample size, and we’ll stay in recent seasons considering the league — and this is not up for debate — is better than ever.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts to finishing 2nd ]

It’s still too soon to judge Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 17 goals for Manchester United in 2016-17 before missing most of this season.

We’ll also steer clear of Americans returning home, in part because that deserves its own post. Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, and Brad Guzan have met very different fates, but there are myriad components to their moves home.

Who does qualify? We look through traditional numbers and take a run through advanced stats site WhoScored.com to back us up.

Pre-S: For those who say, “but you listed some of the best names in modern soccer history,” … exactly.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Last team: Manchester United
MLS team: Chicago Fire
Age upon arrival: 32
Status report: Unqualified success; Chicago was on an entirely different level when Schweinsteiger was healthy, as the Fire went from also-ran to threatening a first-round bye in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.

David Villa

Last team: Atletico Madrid
MLS team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 33
Status report: One of the best players in MLS history. Don’t really need to write more, do I?

Giovani Dos Santos

Last team: Villarreal
MLS team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 26
Status report: Amazing start, but jury out; Dos Santos posted three goals and five assists in his first 10 MLS matches, then followed it up with a wonderful 14-goal, 12-assist performance in 2016. Last season was terrible, but the early returns make the deal worthwhile.

Kaka

Last team: AC Milan
MLS team: Orlando City
Age upon arrival: 32
Status report: Unqualified success; Twenty-four goals and 19 assists in three seasons with a brand new MLS club. That is not bad. His second of three seasons here was marvelous.

Sebastian Giovinco

Last team: Juventus
New team: Toronto FC
Age upon arrival: 28
Status report: One of the best players in MLS history. Next.

Andrea Pirlo

Last team: Juventus
MLS team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 36
Status report: Disappointment, but not as bad you recall; Pirlo had a bad ending at NYCFC, as his legs and waning passion caught up to him, but his first two seasons were good offensively, including an 11-assist campaign in 2016. He was 10th in key passes that season.

Steven Gerrard

Last team: Liverpool
MLS team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 35
Status report: Slow start, but a success; Gerrard was fine in his first half-season, but really shone when available as a sophomore. The Liverpool legend scored three goals and added 11 assists in 21 games; Only Sacha Kljestan recorded a better assist-per-90 minute ratio in MLS that season, and he was the 20th rated player in MLS by WhoScored.

Frank Lampard

Last team: Manchester City
New team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 37
Status report: Slow start, but a success; “Lamps” came to MLS at 37 after a long PL season, and fought injuries. But despite his age, Lampard scored 12 goals in 19 matches as a midfielder during his second season. Villa, Pirlo, and Lampard ranked 1, 4, and 5 on NYCFC’s performance score in 2016.

Ashley Cole

Last team: Roma
New team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 35
Status report: Just okay; Considering that his signing seemed a laugh to the majority of fans (everywhere), his consistent appearances with a poor LA defense move this above considerably above “bust” status.

Mourinho denies bust-up with Rose

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Jose Mourinho has denied he has had a training ground bust-up with left back Danny Rose.

Reports had circulated that Rose and Mourinho were involved in a heated argument in training on Monday after the England left back was unhappy to be left out of the squad for the 0-0 draw at Watford on Saturday.

Mourinho had said that Rose was out injured with a back problem but the left back has since denied he wasn’t fit to play against the Hornets.

Speaking to the media ahead of Spurs’ home game against Norwich on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), Mourinho wasn’t having any of it.

“I don’t know what you mean by tension in the air, I don’t have a problem with him,” Mourinho said. “On the Thursday before Watford late evening I got a call from my medical staff saying that Danny was calling them with a problem in his back and he wouldn’t train the next day. Friday it was a bit of a surprise to see him training, but even so I decided to play with (Japhet) Tanganga and have Ryan (Sessegnon) on the bench. That is the situation.”

Mourinho added that Rose’s display against Liverpool was “not phenomenal” and reading between the lines, he was dropped.

If there wasn’t an incident or at least some anger between Rose and Mourinho, why would reports of this nature surface?

With youngster Japhet Tanganga starting at left back for Tottenham, and doing a very good job as Mourinho praised him afterwards, it is understandable that Rose would have his nose put out of joint a little.

The England international has less than 18 months left on his current contract at Spurs and has already spoken publicly about his plans to run down that deal as chairman Daniel Levy hasn’t offered him a new deal.

It will be intriguing to see how this plays out as Tanganga now seems to be Spurs’ first choice left back and Rose will have to be happy with playing a bit-part role between now and the end of the season.

His experience and quality is undoubted but with Spurs’ defensive unit all over the place this season, Mourinho is well within his rights to mix things up with formations and personnel as he tries to make Tottenham tough to beat.

Solskjaer: United have made “strides forward”

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Ole Gunnaer Solskjaer believes his Manchester United side have taken “strides forward” following their 2-0 defeat at bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday.

United were outplayed for the vats majority of the game and were lucky to be only 1-0 down heading into the 90th minute but the grit and determination they showed impressed Solskjaer who lauded his young team.

Without the injured star duo of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba for the daunting trip to the Premier League leaders, United’s manager was in a positive mood ahead of their clash against Burnley on Wednesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

“We lost to Liverpool. A team that you all say are fantastic and we’ve been in the game until the last kick of the ball. For me, that’s strides forward,” Solskjaer said. “Of course we’re disappointed about losing the game. We don’t want to be behind them in the league. But there are signs there that we’re on the right track, definitely.”

Is Solskjaer’s positivity misplaced?

Some would argue that United were lucky that Liverpool’s finishing was lackluster and that is true but the Red Devils hung in there and should have equalized in the second half but Anthony Martial blazed over.

They were missing at least four or five players in key areas for the trip to United as Rashford, Pogba and Scott McTominay were out injured and they badly need another attacking midfielder (ahem, Bruno Fernandes) to help with their play in the final third.

Solskjaer is right, there were positives for United. Fred played extremely well in midfield and both Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka stood tall defensively out wide. But the main takeaway from their trip to Liverpool was that United were delighted to not lose by three or four goals. The gulf in class between the two teams was clear for all to see and although United are trying to sort out their disjointed and confused squad by signing young, talented players, they are so far off Liverpool it is scary.

USMNT youngster Vassilev praised by Villa boss

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18-year-old USMNT youngster Indiana Vassilev has been praised by Aston Villa boss Dean Smith after making his Premier League debut at the weekend.

Vasillev came on for the final 25 minutes at Brighton and Hove Albion with Villa 1-0 down and helped them rescue a point as his run opened up the chance for Jack Grealish to score a late equalizer.

The lively attacking midfielder/forward has excelled in Villa’s reserve side after his arrival in England in the summer of 2018 following impressive displays for the U.S. youth national teams.

With Villa struggling with injuries up top after main striker Wesley went down with a season-ending injury early this month, Smith is clearly ready to put his faith in Vassilev.

“He is definitely ready to start,” Smith said. “The kid’s a bright spark, and we’ve seen that when he’s come on so far. He gave them (Brighton) problems on Saturday when he came on. It was a super ball from Douglas but, unless Indi makes that run down the side, he doesn’t drag Webster across, and Jack get in for the goal. He knows what he’s doing up there, he’s got a lot of pace, and he can run all day as well.”

Villa’s boss didn’t stop there though, as he also revealed that the young striker born in Savannah, Georgia has the backing of the senior players around him to go on and become a regular contributor in the Premier League.

“I’ve never been afraid to go and put young kids in if I feel they’re ready. I congratulated him after the game and said, ‘You’re a Premier League player now.’ He’s surprised me in a good way,” Smith added. “Sometimes when you give an opportunity to a young player they can sink or swim. He is certainly a swimmer. He has looked really good so far. You can always tell how the reaction is through the other players, in their relationships with them. You can see them all behind him. He goes in and puts a shift in for them. If you do that and have quality to add to it you will do alright in the dressing room. He’s got a goalscoring ability, he knows where the back of the net is, he knows what runs to make. Tactically he’s intelligent. Physically he’s impressive as well.”

Vassilev comes from a long line of soccer players and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all played in Bulgaria and he was born and raised in the USA after his parents emigrated from the eastern European country in the early 1990s.

It looks like the USMNT have another top talent breaking through in Europe which is great news for Gregg Berhalter and potentially even better news for Villa as they badly need a forward to deliver goals in their fight against relegation from the Premier League.

Expect to see more cameos, and maybe even starts, from Vassilev in the final months of the Premier League season.

Chicharito on LA Galaxy arrival: ‘Right place, right time’

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Javier ‘Chicharito‘ Hernandez has made a living out of being in the right place at the right time.

The LA Galaxy’s newest Designated Player believes he is now in the “right place at the right time” in his career as Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer confirmed his move to Major League Soccer.

Hernandez, 31, joins the Galaxy from Sevilla in La Liga and the former Chivas Guadalajara, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United striker is ready to take MLS by storm.

“Like when people describe me playing. You know, that he’s always in the right place at the right time,” Hernandez said in his first interview as a Galaxy player, with the LA Times.

After a few years battling for minutes at West Ham in the Premier League and Sevilla in Spain after a successful spell at Leverkusen, Hernandez is heading closer to home as the Mexico star is ready to play week in, week out for the most-successful franchise in MLS history.

“I’m going to be playing. That’s what I want in my life,” Hernandez said. “People are going to say it was because I couldn’t make it [in Europe], but sometimes in football there are things that are not in your hands. The last two years, the managers decided on giving confidence to other players rather than me. And now, the LA Galaxy, the manager of the club and the league, are telling me, ‘Look, Javier, we want to give you all the trust, all the confidence to help us,’ and that’s why I’m taking this opportunity.”

He will link up with Mexico teammate Jonathan dos Santos in the Galaxy’s team as they try and wrestle back the City of Angels from MLS new boys and reigning Supporters’ Shield champions LAFC.

Hernandez was always destined to play in MLS before he retired and now that day has arrived. Following in the footsteps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be easy but if anyone can score goals, it is Hernandez.

Get ready for his jersey to be the fastest-selling in history as Mexico’s favorite son is ready to become an even bigger star in MLS in the final years of his career.