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LAFC blitzes DC United for 4-0 win to stay atop MLS table

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Carlos Vela started it off and Diego Rossi bagged a hat-trick as LAFC bulldozed D.C. United for a 3-0 road win at Audi Field to keep the Major League Soccer points leaders in charge.

Vela had a penalty saved in the 12th minute, but made amends almost immediately when he buried a left-footed curler in the 15th minute to open the scoring, willing his shot around his defender Steve Birnbaum and into the top-left corner past a bamboozled Bill Hamid. After his hat-trick against San Jose last time out, the goal is Vela’s seventh of the league season in just six games, leading the league over four players each with four.

Then Rossi was unleashed, and made his mark on the first half. In transition in the 27th minute, Vela on the right flank delivered an inch-perfect low cross to a streaking Rossi who somehow stretched to reach the ball and sneak it past Hamid’s near post, one the goalkeeper will probably want back.

He struck again just past the half-hour mark when Mark-Anthony Kaye snatched the ball in midfield and easily broke the back line with one pass to Rossi, who picked out the back of the net with a right-footed curler. He caught Frederic Brillant far too aggressively up the field and completely unable to get back and cover after the turnover.

The second half went from bad to worse for D.C. United as they lost captain Wayne Rooney after a very bad tackle lunging in studs up on the shins of Rossi near the touchline. The referee initially gave a yellow card, but after a very quick check of VAR – the speed of which told the tale – it was overturned to a straight red card, the fourth of his professional career and first with D.C. United.

D.C. manager Ben Olsen was furious about the call, requiring a lengthy talking to from the referee, but it was quite obviously a red card on replay. The hosts actually had their best opportunity of the match soon after falling a man down as Brilliant had a go with his right foot that required a kick-save off the line by Steven Beitashour on 57 minutes.

LAFC came inches from a fourth as Eduard Atuesta hit the top-left corner of the bar with a 67th minute free-kick, as close as you can get to scoring without finding the back of the net. They finally got the fourth in fitting fashion as Rossi grabbed his hat-trick off yet another giveaway just outside the D.C. box that looked far too easy for the visitors.

The win sees LAFC move to 16 points through six matches, four more points than anyone else in the league at this point. D.C., meanwhile, came into the day on a 15-game unbeaten run and level with Toronto and Columbus at the apex of the Eastern Conference, but their chance to take over the top spot slipped away, with Toronto sliding in front after a draw with Chicago and Columbus still to play New England later tonight.

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.