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Durant joins ownership group of MLS’ Philadelphia Union

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Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant has joined the ownership group of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

Durant, a 10-time NBA All-Star, has a 5% ownership stake, with an option for 5% more in the near future, the Union announced Monday.

“I’ve always been a soccer fan and have wanted to get into it in a meaningful way. My team and I felt an instant connection with the Philadelphia Union ownership and staff and their vision for a partnership,” Durant said in a statement. “While you won’t get to see me at games for now, my team and I will be taking an active role in the community where I can help give back to Chester (Pennsylvania) and Philadelphia.”

[ MORE: Durant only behind Messi, Neymar, 4 others in earnings ]

The Union and Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures, a firm he runs with sports executive Rich Kleiman, will partner to grow the team’s profile and community outreach through the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation.

Thirty Five Ventures and the Union aim to develop community programs in Chester, Pennsylvania, home of the Union’s Subaru Park, to address racial and social injustice as well as recovery efforts from the coronavirus pandemic.

“This partnership was months in the making and in the process, our teams got to know each other very well and understand the true potential for the future,” said Kleiman, Durant’s agent. “We believe that Thirty Five Ventures and our expertise will attract new fans in Philly and beyond, so we’re excited to get started.”

Major League Soccer’s season has been on hold since March 12 because of the pandemic. The 26-team league is set to restart next month with a World Cup-style tournament in Florida.

The NBA has been shut down since March 11, the night Utah center Rudy Gobert became the first player in the league to have a positive diagnosis for the virus. The NBA also is planning an August restart, with playoffs held at Disney World.

Durant, who has also played with Oklahoma City and Golden State over a 12-year NBA career, has yet to play for the Nets after rupturing an Achilles tendon last year with the Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Toronto.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Durant had in the past shown interest in D.C. United, but nothing came of it.

The Union has increased its community outreach in the city, which lies southwest of Philadelphia. The team helped Chester High School bring back its varsity soccer team.

“From the first meeting between Kevin, Thirty Five Ventures, and our leadership team, it was evident that we shared a similar set of beliefs. We talked about the vision for our club and for the Chester and Philadelphia communities but also about what it takes to win,” said Union principal owner Jay Sugarman. “We’re excited to have someone as forward-thinking and driven as Kevin become a partner in our organization.”

Durant is not the first NBA player to buy into an MLS club. Houston Rockets star James Harden joined the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and the NWSL’s Houston Dash last year.

MLS 3 things we learned: When playing LAFC, don’t blink

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With nearly the entire league playing on Saturday this weekend, the two Sunday fixtures took center stage. LAFC and the Philadelphia Union played to a wildly entertaining 3-3 draw, while the Portland Timbers topped new boys Nashville S.C. 1-0 on a goal early on.

Still, with just a few games there are plenty of lessons to be taken from the slate of fixtures, with the Philadelphia Union learning maybe the toughest one of the bunch.

1) Don’t blink

The Philadelphia Union learned the hard way that goals only last until your next defensive shift. Three times the Union scored against LAFC, and three times they were undone moments later. The Union took a lead three different times in this match, and led for a combined total of 12 minutes. They were scored on nine minutes after bagging the opener, one minute after taking a 2-1 lead, and two minutes after going ahead 3-2.

It was unfortunate too, because Philadelphia produced some absolute bangers. Take this absurd free-kick from Union defender Jakob Glesnes who delivered from an incredible 40 yards out.

The Union leave Banc of California Stadium with just a single point, their first point of the season after another disappointing result on opening day. Philadelphia should be fine moving forward, but the dropped points represent missed opportunities as other teams start establishing themselves as contenders early on.

2) Diego Rossi might be the best overshadowed player in the league

Carlos Vela’s presence on LAFC does a whole lot more than provide oodles of goals. Just by being on the field, the Mexican takes all the narrative attention away from someone who might be even more important to the squad in Diego Rossi.

The 22-year-old Uruguayan has been electric for LAFC since joining prior to its inaugural 2018 season, with a combined 28 goals and 14 assists through his first two campaigns. He is already up to snuff this season, proving critical again on Sunday with the first goal of the new season, but more importantly he was once again ruthless on the counter. Rossi’s proficiency on the break is one of the most underrated yet valuable skills in the league, giving LAFC a viciously dangerous weapon in the back pocket should they sit back and absorb pressure for a time.

To be completely honest, it’s shocking that Rossi doesn’t get more credit for the success of this expansion side. He has yet to earn an international cap for Uruguay, although with Luis Suarez on the shelf maybe that changes this month. At just 22 years old, it’s likely that Rossi – called the “quarterback” of this LAFC club last season – makes a marquee European move at some point in the near future, so LAFC fans should appreciate him while he’s around. Carlos Vela takes all the spotlights so Rossi can provide the spark.

3) If you feel the need to park the bus, go for it

A year after making the playoffs, the Portland Timbers sat back and defended against new expansion side Nashville SC. It worked. After Valeri scored just 12 minutes in with a scrappy volley that found the inside of the right side-netting, the Timbers had seen enough up front. They generated just three shots all night to Nashville’s 14, but it didn’t matter as the hosts grinded out all three points.

It was a lesson for Nashville above all else that early goals can really hurt, but the Timbers also learned something valuable, and that is they can defend against an offensively inferior side for nearly a full 90 minutes without being breached, something they could take with them moving forward. After capitulating defensively to Minnesota United in a 3-1 opening day loss, the clean sheet is valuable for Portland and will give them confidence moving forward. Early in the season, that can be just as valuable as the three points.

FOLLOW LIVE: Two games top off MLS Week 2

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With 11 games already in the books, MLS wraps up week 2 of it’s 25th season with two must-see bouts.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard ]

The defending Landon Donovan MVP award winner, Carlos Vela, and LAFC look to extend their perfect start to the new season against the Philadelphia Union. Sunday’s game is the Supporter’s Shield winners’ last before the first leg of their quarterfinal CONCACAF champions league series against Cruz Azul on Thursday.

Action, however, kicks off in Oregon, as the Portland Timbers look to bounce back after a season-opening loss to Minnesota United. Nashville SC, who dropped three points in their league debut, will experience their first taste of Providence Park’s hostile environment.

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Portland Timbers v. Nashville SC — 7:00 p.m. ET
LAFC v. Philadelphia Union — 10:30 p.m. ET

MLS Week 2 preview: Rapids aim for 2-0; LAFC hosts Philly

MLS preview
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Major League Soccer’s first week of the 2020 season was low on surprises excluding Colorado’s 2-1 win at DC United.

The Rapids will hope for a surprising 2-0 start after that road triumph, with Orlando City headed to Colorado for Week 2.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Colorado didn’t win its first match until Week 13 of 2019, when it started a seven-match unbeaten run. The Rapids haven’t started 2-0 since 2012.

Head coach Robin Fraser would love to keep the good times rolling against an Orlando side that didn’t have Nani in a Week 1 draw with Real Salt Lake.

The Rapids announced a new deal for captain Jack Price on Thursday, the former Wolves defender entering his third year with the club and set for two more after that with an option for 2023.

“We like people that don’t fancy us, we’re not really bothered about them,” Price told The Denver Post’s Jake Shapiro. “They can talk, we know that we’ve got a good squad. We’ve added quality, and the players that were here towards the back end of last season. We were one of the best teams form-wise.”

That match, a 9 p.m. ET kickoff, is one of 11 Saturday matches. Other curious encounters including Columbus visiting Seattle and Toronto entertaining NYCFC.

That leaves just a pair of tilt Sunday, with a pair of 0-1 teams colliding when Portland hosts Nashville and a big test for cross-country traveling Philadelphia.

[ MORE: 5 things we learned from Week 1 ]

The Union opened with a loss at FC Dallas, and Sunday gets no easier with a home opener for LAFC.

LAFC now has an international roster slot open because Carlos Vela has an American green card.

Philly has a change of its own, as Alejandro Bedoya has had his Designated Player deal bought down with TAM.

That leaves the Union with only one DP.

MLS Week 2 schedule

Saturday (all times Eastern)
New England v. Chicago — 1:30 p.m.
Real Salt Lake v. New York Red Bulls — 2 p.m.
FC Dallas v. Montrela — 3 p.m.
DC United v. Inter Miami — 3:30 p.m.
Toronto v. NYCFC — 5 p.m.m
Atlanta United v. FC Cincinnati — 7 p.m.
San Jose v. Minnesota — 8 p.m.
Sporting KC v. Houston — 8:30 p.m.
Colorado v. Orlando City — 9 p.m.
Seattle v. Columbus — 10 p.m.
LA Galaxy v. Vancouver — 10 p.m.

Sunday (all times Eastern)
Portland v. Nashville — 7 p.m.
LAFC v. Philadelphia — 10 p.m.

Ex-USMNT winger Picault traded; Four selected in MLS Re-Entry Draft

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Four players found new clubs via Stage One of the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft on Tuesday, while a one-time USMNT winger found a new home by way of trade.

That player is Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, who is headed to FC Dallas in exchange for $300,000 of 2020 General Allocation Money and a conditional $75,000 in 2021.

[ MORE: U.S. Soccer announces award nominees ]

Picault, 28, had five goals and five assists in 35 appearances for Philadelphia this season, his third in MLS. He scored 17 times with eight assists his first two seasons in the league, and his next appearance will be his 100th in the league. He earned caps for the USMNT in 2016 and 2018.

As for the Re-Entry draft, Mikey Ambrose is headed from Atlanta United to first-year club Inter Miami CF, while fellow expansion side Nashville SC has selected Eric Miller from New York City FC.

A pair of goalkeepers are also moving, with Richard Sanchez going from Chicago to Sporting KC and Kendall McIntosh heads from Portland to the New York Red Bulls.