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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Juventus in for Torres, Upamecano to Arsenal

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The coronavirus shutdown across Europe and the world has given teams time to focus on improving their squads for the future. There’s no certainty about when the transfer window will take place as the 2019/20 season continues to be pushed back possibly bleeding into the summer or even the fall. But clubs will have no excuse not to be ready once the time comes for players to make moves.

Liverpool has been linked with Valencia winger Ferran Torres for some time now, with the 20-year-old seeing his contract with the Spanish side expiring in the summer of 2021. However, according to Italian publication Corriere dello Sport, the Reds will have competition for his signature.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Juventus is reportedly interested in pursuing the Spaniard, which makes sense given the makeup of the Juve squad. On the flanks in Turin are 35-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, 31-year-old Juan Cuadrado, and the oft-injured Douglas Costa. Only Federico Bernardeschi can be counted on long-term at Juventus, leading to rumors such as these.

[ MORE: What we love about each Premier League club ]

Elsewhere, Arsenal has been linked by tabloids in England to RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, with the 21-year-old French youth international said to have asked to leave this summer – or whenever the upcoming transfer window takes place. Upamecano has started every single league match for RB Leipzig this season after missing the first four due to injury. He also played the full 90 minutes of the 3-0 win over Tottenham in the Champions League that sent RB Leipzig through to the quarterfinals.

Upamecano’s contract with the German club expires in the summer of 2021, so like Torres’ situation at Valencia, it would be in the club’s best interest to sell the youngster this coming transfer window to maximize his transfer value.

Finally, Chelsea is reportedly interested in bringing aboard a second Ajax player after already securing Hakim Ziyech. According to Italian publication Calciomercato, the Blues are looking into left-back Nicolas Tagliafico after their chase of Ben Chilwell was turned down by Leicester City. Tagliafico, a 27-year-old Argentinian international, has been a fixture in the Ajax side since joining in January of 2018 from Argentine club Independiente. His Ajax contract runs out in the summer of 2022, so while there isn’t as much urgency to sort out his situation as with Torres or Upamecano, it is still within range.

The Blues currently have both Emerson and Marcos Alonso at left-back, so they are also not necessarily looking to urgently bring someone aboard in his position, but Tagliafico is versatility, able to play in the middle as well, making him a potentially useful player in a three-center-back system.

MLS 5 things we learned: Its Pity’s time to shine, can he?

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It’s matchday 2/3 of the MLS season and we’re already learning plenty about the season to come. Some teams are dealing with major injuries, others are dealing with squad incohesiveness, and still others are powering through low expectations.

Whatever the adversity, some teams have been able to push through while others are struggling to cope.

1)  The reign of Pity Martinez has begun

You knew this already, but with Josef Martinez out long-term, Atlanta United will be leaning heavily on Pity Martinez. While Pity was always important to this Atlanta United side even with Josef in the picture, his stature in the squad is now greater than ever. That was all too present in Atlanta United’s win over FC Cincinnati, which isn’t exactly a top test of his ability to carry this team, but it’s a start.

Unfortunately, after that moment and through the rest of the first half, Pity hardly saw a sniff of the ball and Atlanta’s attack suffered as a result. They managed just five total shots in the first half and none after the 25-minute mark, with just two shots after that point the rest of the game. Credit Cincinnati, who was able to match Atlanta’s tempo and go stride-for-stride in midfield through the first 45 minutes. While the possession numbers were 60-40 in favor of Atlanta and Cincy didn’t create much of anything in front of net, they still were able to get the midfield going.

Thankfully for Atlanta, Emerson Hyndman stepped up and created for himself as Atlanta won 2-1, but Pity Martinez will need to carry this team better down the road because tonight he did not have a full 90 minute performance.

2) Inter Miami has a long way to go

Inter Miami looked solid early at Audi Field, but it began to disintegrate as the first half went on, and then the wheels fell apart after the Torres red card. They have shown promise, and should be able to compete as the season rolls on and they become more in tune with each other, but at this point there’s significant strides to be made on a fluidity level.

It doesn’t help that playmaker Robbie Robinson may have suffered a long-term injury, which would further sap an attack that has been spotty at best thus far.

Speaking of which…

3) Ban injuries

Ugh. First Josef Martinez is cut down by a torn ACL, and now Robbie Robinson comes off with what looks to be a nasty one less than an hour after dazzling on Inter Miami’s first-ever goal. One can only hope that it’s not too serious, but if it’s indeed a long-term issue, this season has been brutal on early injuries sapping the league of its best and most electric talent. Nobody wins when the league loses star power. Thankfully that seems to be it for killer injuries so far, but with a few other guys like Miles Robinson and Nicolas Lodeiro dealing with some nagging things while Michael Bradley sits out the first few months, hopefully the league doesn’t suffer too many more big-name body blows going forward.

4) If at first you don’t succeed, keep shooting

Toronto FC was battering NYCFC all day long at BMO Field, but couldn’t find a breakthrough. Justin Morrow should have won a penalty, but VAR somehow said no and the hosts were still searching. Finally, after ripping off 16 shots with half of them on target, they found the breakthrough.

For Toronto, it was a deserved lead and a deserved win against a disappointing road performance. Toronto looks primed to be a force in the East, and they pushed ahead to seven points through three matches on the young campaign. Keep shooting boys, it’ll find a way through.

5) So like…Minnesota United?

Only two of the four PST writers picked Minnesota United to finish in a playoff position this season, and nobody had them higher than fifth in the Western Conference. And yet here they are scoring goals at will. After topping Portland 3-1 on the road, Minnesota only went and did it again on the road at San Jose with a 5-goal bonanza.

Minnesota found lots of joy down the left through Robin Lod who was a force both distributing in the final third and defensively, completing all five tackles he attempted including three in the opposition half. Lod also scored Minnesota’s fourth goal in first-half stoppage time to push Minnesota into a 4-1 lead. On the other flank, Ethan Finlay wasn’t as dangerous in the build-up but he was also spot-on tackling, with a 5/5 performance of his own. The defense has conceded a few soft goals but if they shore that up, this team can capitalize on opposition mistakes with venom.

5 things we learned from MLS opening day 2020

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2020 Major League Soccer opening day had it all. A late winner, a late equalizer, a victorious debutant, a defeated debutant, and lots of great goals.

[ MORE: MLS opening day roundup ]

One things people should avoid is making any broad assumptions about a team’s season from just 90 minutes of action, but we can still draw plenty from the Saturday results. From in-form players to injuries and new boys, there are lots of lessons from the first slate of games.

1) Nashville S.C. won’t lay down and die

While Nashville couldn’t find an equalizing goal against one of the league’s best squads, they certainly showed fight and determination. The MLS debutants were thought to be a more defensive squad, but David Accam and Randall Leal had plenty of good chances, threatening one of the more stout back lines on numerous occasions. If the MLS new boys can get more cohesion as the minutes tick on this season, they will be able to produce more venom on the chances that seemed to just barely go begging on opening day. With this kind of more aggressive performance on a regular basis, Nashville will be a tough out this season and could push for a playoff spot.

2) USMNT stars will shine

For U.S. national team fans, it was a great day of individual results. Walker Zimmerman scored the first goal in Nashville S.C. history. Emerson Hyndman bagged a fabulous volley. Jonathan Lewis picked out a late winner for Colorado. Paxton Pomykal struck late for FC Dallas in a win. Brad Guzan was stout in goal for Atlanta United.

During a time when USMNT fans have seen nothing but brutal injury news over the past few months, it was good to see a number of Americans have good days on the field. That could be a storyline all season long.

3) Cristian Pavon has a real shot at MVP

The LA Galaxy were only able to work a point out of their season opening visit to Houston, but Cristian Pavon looks a dangerous one. In addition to his brilliant early goal, Pavon delivered three key passes and was a general menace in the Houston attack. It was all the more impressive considering that otherwise, the Galaxy had little to offer up front outside of Joe Corona’s 66th minute chance. If the Galaxy attack builds into the season and helps Pavon, he could have a real shot at the MVP award this season, especially if Josef Martinez misses significant time. Speaking of…

4) Atlanta United is in trouble without Josef Martinez

When Josef Martinez collapsed into a heap and pointed to his knee, Atlanta United fans – and frankly, all fans of exquisite soccer – held their breath. It’s tough to speculate, but by the looks of it, one of the most electric players in the league could miss a significant amount of time. No one wishes that on Atlanta, but it sure looked a serious one.

Martinez’s exit sucked the life from Atlanta United, and they absorbed pressure through the final 20 minutes. There’s plenty of positives for Frank De Boer to take from the road victory, but the finish is unlikely to be one of them. The withdrawal of Pity Martinez was another reason for their lack of incisive personality, but Josef’s absence is a real problem for Atlanta. If he is indeed to miss significant time this season, de Boer has his work cut out for him to keep this attack as one of the most dangerous in the league.

5) Thierry Henry can coach

The Montreal Impact handed Thierry Henry his first MLS win in spectacular fashion as Max Urruti delivered an absolute stunner to win it in the 80th minute. That’s nice and all, but Urruti’s boss Thierry Henry way able to coach his way to victory as well. With a defensive formation that featured three center-backs, Henry hoped to sit deep, absorb pressure, and counter his way to victory. Montreal eventually held 57% possession against New England, but much of that was ultra-conservative passing out of the back, with very little actual attacking third action. Still, it choked the life out of New England – not in a Man City or Liverpool high-energy asphyxiation, but instead in a lull you to sleep type of way. It worked, at least on opening day, and the Frenchman could be on his way to an enjoyable managerial career if he can manage to tweak his system to fit his opponents each week.

BONUS: Don’t worry, there will always be controversy

It took until the final few moments of the day, but there was a clear moment of refereeing controversy on opening day. With Nashville S.C. looking to pour forward in the dying minutes of the game, Atlanta United broke the other direction which forced Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis to come and challenge near midfield. As the ball pinged around in the chaos, Willis lept into the air to stop an Ezequiel Barco shot from just past the midway line. Willis clearly raised his arms into the air and stopped the effort well outside his box which should have led to a blatant red card. The on-field referee, however, only gave a yellow and the VAR review did not reverse the call. While it didn’t change much in the game coming in the dying minutes and benefitting the eventual losing team, it does mean that Nashville won’t lose its goalkeeper for a one-game suspension and reassures fans that – don’t worry folks – there will be plenty of controversy to savor this season.

Late strikes, debut wins, and golazos all feature in 2020 MLS opening day

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Major League Soccer got its 2020 season under way on Saturday, and there were plenty of exciting storylines and moments to dot the Leap Day landscape.

[ MORE: Everything goes wrong for Liverpool ]

Most notably, Nashville S.C. got a rude welcome to the league as the debutants were dropped 2-1 at home against Atlanta United. Ezequiel Barco struck just nine minutes in on an exquisite Atlanta counter-attack, delivering a low right-footed shot inside the far post. USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman responded just before the half-hour mark, writing himself into the Nashville S.C. record books with the club’s first-ever goal. He rose high to meet a free-kick into the box, and while his header went basically nowhere, he was able to get a foot to it and poke the ball in for the equalizer.

Nashville would be happy to go into halftime level with one of the best teams in the league, but Emerson Hyndman made sure the visitors would enter the break on top, fizzing a blistering volley in for a deserved lead before the break.

Nashville was up for the challenge and had plenty of chances, but each opportunity seemed just a whisker away from being converted. David Accam nearly got to a 53rd minute Dominique Badji cross but his slide was inches away. With 12 minutes to go, Randall Leal smacked the post with a vicious shot.

Unfortunately, while Atlanta held onto the three points, they may have lost far more as talismanic playmaker Josef Martinez went down in a heap in the 67th minute, immediately pointing to his knee. Replays showed he twisted it awkwardly avoiding a challenge, and while the Colombian tried to come back on, he eventually needed to be stretchered off the field.

Elsewhere, the LA Galaxy went ahead early on the road in Houston on a Cristian Pavon golazo, but they were held from there in a 1-1 draw. Houston actually held the lion’s share of possession – 59% worth of it – but only managed to put two of its 15 shots on target.

The Pavon goal was brilliantly worked, coming straight from goalkeeper Dave Bingham who blasted the ball down to Pavon, and the Argentine did the rest, delivering a fabulous curler past Marko Maric.

Houston was able to eventually earn a point, breaching the Galaxy defense in the 54th minute via Mauro Manotas who took a wonderful through-ball from Zarek Valentin and blasted a right-footed effort through a charging Dave Bingham.

Chicharito‘s debut saw the Mexican international take just one shot, coming from outside the box and missing the target. After the match, Chicharito said scoring early may have actually been a detriment. “Football is ironic sometimes, the worst thing was scoring a goal so early because after that I think we let them play, build their confidence and then the game became equal.” Joe Corona had chances for the visitors past the hour mark, but otherwise neither side threatened much.

USMNT defender Jonathan Lewis gave the Colorado Rapids a dramatic 2-1 victory on the road at D.C. United with a 92nd minute winner. Russell Canouse and Kei Kamara had cancelled each other out past the hour mark, but Lewis was on hand at the far post to tap in a scrappy winner late. Colorado may have missed the playoffs last season, but Robin Fraser has them off to a fast start.

Thierry Henry picked up a win in his first match in charge as the Montreal Impact topped the New England Revolution in Canada 2-1. Max Urruti won it in the 80th minute with an absurd goal, chipping Matt Turner with a bonkers poke on a long ball from Saphir Taider.

Teal Bunbury had given New England the early lead 13 minutes in, volleying home a cross from deep onto the right flank to put the visitors up, but Romell Quioto cancelled that out before halftime with a set-piece header. It seemed like Wilfried Zahibo had put New England up with 17 minutes to go, but after a video review it was chalked off for offside. Then Urruti delivered a stunner to seal Henry’s first victory as Impact boss.

The San Jose Earthquakes snatched a late 2-2 draw with finalists Toronto FC thanks to a 95th minute equalizer from Oswaldo Alanis. The 30-year-old Mexican ripped in an absurd free-kick from a tight angle to salvage the draw, the final of two great goals for San Jose. Toronto had worked a 2-0 lead by the 51st minute on relatively cheap goals from Alejandro Pozuelo and Richie Laryea, with Pozuelo’s coming from the penalty spot. Andres Rios got one back for San Jose in the 53rd minute, just two minutes after Toronto doubled its lead, and while the hosts held 63% possession throughout, it took until deep in stoppage time until Alanis found his moment.

Full MLS results

D.C. United 1-2 Colorado Rapids
Montreal Impact 2-1 New England Revolution
Houston Dynamo 1-1 LA Galaxy
San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Toronto FC
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Orlando City SC 0-0 Real Salt Lake
Nashville SC 1-2 Atlanta United

What happens to Man City’s recruitment if ban is upheld?

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Money goes a long way, but the most elite footballers in the world can hardly be paid enough to miss two seasons of the UEFA Champions League in the prime of their careers.

Manchester City is currently set to miss the next two UEFA Champions League campaigns, and who knows how many players will ask to jump ship this summer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

But how many will still seize the opportunity to compete for a Premier League title at one of the best-paying clubs in the world? Especially if the lure of playing for Pep Guardiola is gone.

It’s hard to tell, as this isn’t like Nicolas Pepe choosing Arsenal despite the club’s Europa League standing.

This is two seasons without the UCL guaranteed — assuming the ban is not reduced — and there’s no close comparison in UEFA history when it comes to massive sides getting this heavy of a punishment while still staying top flight.

We’re in new territory here, fellow humans.

The closest comparison we have, perhaps, is when Juventus was sent to Serie B as a result of the calciopoli scandal. Juventus lost Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Emerson, Gianluca Zambrotta, Adrian Mutu, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

But The Old Lady was able to sign French international Jean-Alain Boumsong as well as Italian national teamers Cristiano Zanetti, and Marco Marchionni.

Good players, but not the cream of the crop.

Man City can kiss the idea of bringing Lionel Messi aboard if the world’s greatest player decides not to exit Barcelona this summer, and neither Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, nor Timo Werner will look its way.

Given the balancing that will need to come via Financial Fair Play and missing out on Champions League revenue, we may see City sell two players for heavy riches (and put a lot of faith in Phil Foden).

You have to think City will retain enough Premier League talent to remain a challenger in both domestic cups and perhaps even the league.

Can City supplement that by using one or two monumental transfer fees (Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne) to do what Real Madrid has done and buy green mega prospects to develop over two seasons? Maybe players a bit more developed, like Boubacar Kamara and Boubakary Soumare, who will take the rich new deals and believe City will get it done by qualifying in year two of the ban?

And could winning the Champions League sate some of the club’s longtime stars, like Sergio Aguero, and convince them to stick around through the “rebuild?”

How many times have we seen players from teams without UCL hope linked with Champions League desire as a reason for wanting out of their current clubs? At Newcastle alone we’ve seen Georginio Wijnaldum, Moussa Sissoko, and Yohan Cabaye use that rationale, while Wilfried Zaha at Palace and Abdoulaye Doucoure at Watford are prime current examples.

Now perhaps those players who want a look at a Premier League title and an upgrade and pay will turn their eyes to City anyway. Perhaps we’ll see a hyped-up old MLS approach, where very young megawatt prospects meet stars on the downside join City.

But it seems likely that City will drift from the top of the table and suffer for at least one season while their top dogs move away to greener pastures.

Either way, next season looks great for Liverpool.