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Sounders add Russell Wilson, Ciara, Macklemore to ownership group

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SEATTLE (AP) The Seattle Sounders are adding Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and recording artist (and wife) Ciara, hip-hop artist Macklemore and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to the MLS club’s ownership group.

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Other investors are also coming aboard while current majority owner Adrian Hanauer is increasing his investment stake in the club. Hollywood producer Joe Roth, who helped bring the MLS to Seattle, is leaving the franchise.

Wilson has been attempting to get into sports ownership. He was previously a partner in an effort to build a new basketball arena in Seattle and has also been part of the project in Portland, Oregon, to build a baseball stadium in the hopes of luring an MLB team to the city.

“When I got here in 2012, Seattle was a place that I felt I could call home forever. And obviously because of the Seahawks, and now because of the Sounders, it makes that really come to life,” Wilson said in a statement. “We’re really excited about building that winning culture. This city is a special place. The Pacific Northwest is a place we love and we get to raise our kids here and have a lot of fun while doing it.”

While the addition of Wilson and Macklemore will grab attention, other new additions to the ownership group have deep ties to Microsoft. Nadella is the most notable, but former Microsoft executive Terry Myerson and his wife, Katie, are the leaders of the new investment group.

“He quickly put together this rock star, literally and figuratively, group of owners and I had known several of them over time and met some new ones, and I guess it was humbling to know how much passion there was, how much connection there was to the club that we all have built together,” Hanauer said. “People were enthusiastic for all the right reasons.”

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In a lengthy post on social media, Myerson described the process of starting to bring new investors together more than a year ago. Pulling together 11 families and finalizing the purchase took longer than anyone expected.

“What motivated so many of us to come together was to make sure the Sounders were owned here in Seattle for our kids and for our community,” Myerson said.

Hanauer previously had a 35 percent stake in the franchise with Roth holding 32.5 percent, Vulcan Sports and Entertainment — headed by the late Paul Allen — holding 25 percent and actor Drew Carey holding 7.5 percent. Hanauer and Carey have upped their investment in the franchise, although Hanauer declined to specify by how much. The new owners have picked up the remainder of Roth’s investment. While the new investors are important, Hanauer made it clear the new structure didn’t immediately mean the club was flush with new money.

“The new money comes in the form of continuing to run a better and better business,” Hanauer said.

Roth spearheaded the effort that led to Seattle being awarded an MLS expansion franchise in 2007. He served as the majority owner for several years before Hanauer took over the majority share. There had been rumblings Roth was looking to sell his share of the franchise.

“When MLS gave me permission to look at the Pacific Northwest to start a soccer franchise, there was no question that Seattle was the place,” Roth said. “The last ten years watching our Sounders grow with their incredible fan support beat any hit movie I ever created.”

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.