Tranquillo Barnetta

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Which players should Minnesota, Atlanta target in Expansion Draft?

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Tuesday afternoon may not fully determine the future of either squad, but the Expansion Draft can certainly help both Atlanta United and Minnesota United as they enter their first MLS season.

[ MORE: Arena hopeful Dempsey will be ready when WCQ resumes ]

On Monday, all 20 current MLS clubs released their lists of protected players (11 players that cannot be selected in the Expansion Draft) so at PST we want to take a look at which options make the most sense for Atlanta and Minnesota.

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In order to assess which players are likely fits for MLS’ two newest additions, we have to first take a quick glance at the players that both Minnesota and Atlanta currently possess. While Atlanta has been extremely active in its lead up to entering the league in 2017, Minnesota currently has three players signed, two of which were on the team’s NASL squad last year.

Gerardo Martino and Atlanta have gone after several high-profile talents thus far, including Designated Players Kenwyne Jones and Miguel Almiron, as well as MLS veteran Michael Parkhurst.

With a plethora big names available in Tuesday’s Expansion Draft, let’s take a look at who Atlanta and Minnesota should target.

Jermaine Jones

While age, cost and injuries certainly play a factor for the 35-year-old midfielder, Jones’ veteran presence would surely lift either side in the event that he is selected on Tuesday. Not only was Jones a key figure in the Colorado Rapids midfield in 2016, but he continues to be involved in the U.S. Men’s National Team setup, proving that he can still play in his mid-30s.

Cristian Maidana

The three-year MLS attacker had a bit of a quiet year in 2016 with the Houston Dynamo, but the Argentine possesses plenty of creativity and skill to make Atlanta or Minnesota an immediate contender. Just two seasons ago, Maidana led MLS in assists (15) and at 29 years old he likely has a lot left in the tank.

Steven Beitashour

While Beitashour and Toronto FC just fell short in the MLS Cup final, either expansion side would be getting a top-end defender to bolster their backline. A seven-year veteran, Beitashour has established himself as one of the league’s best outside backs and can provide a major boost in both the attacking and defensive thirds.

Tranquillo Barnetta

Barnetta hasn’t been earth-shattering since joining MLS, but he has provided the Philadelphia Union in their attack. His ability to handle set piece situations makes him a top commodity, while the 31-year-old’s European experience also gives him strong leadership qualities in the locker room. Despite traditionally playing on the wing before coming to the United States, Barnetta has become a solid central midfielder and can play facilitator in the attack.

Clint Irwin

While reports have surfaced linking Brad Guzan to Atlanta, Minnesota could be a very good destination for the veteran goalkeeper, who nearly helped his TFC side win its first MLS Cup. At 27, Irwin should be on the eyes of Adrian Heath’s side after a strong campaign for the Eastern Conference side.

MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 1-1 Montreal Impact (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Philadelphia Union were fewer than five minutes from closing out a 1-0 home victory over the Montreal Impact and making the top of the Eastern Conference standings a gridlocked disaster. A victory would have moved the Union to within a single point of East-leading New York City FC and level on points with the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC. Tranquillo Barnetta put the Union ahead with a long-range effort in the 45th minute, and Jim Curtin’s side held on for the vast majority of the second half, until Matteo Mancosu popped up at the back post and headed home Hernan Bernardello’s cross in the 88th minute, snatching a point for the visitors. The draw sees the Impact’s run of form hit just one win in their last six games, but is enough to move them six points clear of seventh-place D.C. United in the race for the playoffs.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered 

45′ — Barnetta strikes low, pinpoint from distance — Barnetta is easily one of the more underrated signings of the last two seasons. Not many guys in MLS hit it so sweetly and so precisely as this.

62′ — Blake comes up big to deny Mancosu — Ignacio Piatti finally worked out the code to the Union midfield and defense with a perfect through ball to spring Matteo Mancosu in on goal. Unfortunately for Mancosu, Andre Blake played it perfectly.

88′ — Mancosu heads home at the back post for 1-1 — It only takes a second. It only takes once chance. One look. One opening. The game is tied at ones.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Barnetta (45′), Mancosu (88′)

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 29

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Week 29 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — it was the most MLS weekend of MLS results.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Five of the weekend’s 10 games were won by road teams (24.3 percent win percentage by road teams in 2015), and six of the league’s top 10 teams lost, including each of the top three teams in the Western Conference, by a combined score of 9-1. That’s MLS.

[ WEEK 29: VAN 0-3 SEA | POR 0-2 RBNYMTL 3-0 NE | DCU 1-2 CLB ]

Sebastian Giovinco bagged two more goals (18 and 19 for the season) and an assist (14), putting him four ahead of Kei Kamara, who picked up one of each (21 and 8) for the league lead of goals and assists combined. Benny Feilhaber found the form that saw him a serious MVP candidate two-thirds of the way through the season (two goals, for 10 on the season), while Luis Robles was busy locking up his second straight Save of the Year award.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 29

Goalkeeper: Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)

MLS Goalkeeper

Defenders: Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders), Aurelien Collin (Orlando City SC), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact)

MLS Defenders

Midfielders: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Tranquillo Barnetta (Philadelphia Union), Ned Grabavoy (New York City FC)

MLS Midfielders

Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), Devon Sandoval (Real Salt Lake)

MLS Forwards

Swiss star Barnetta moves to MLS; Orlando City signs a pair of Europeans

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It’s a busy day in the transfer window inside of Major League Soccer, headlined by a three-time World Cup roster member beefing up an Eastern Conference midfield.

Tranquillo Barnetta is set to join Maurice Edu in the Philadelphia Union’s engine room, as the 30-year-old Bundesliga veteran makes his move on a free transfer.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Barnetta, was on the Swiss roster for the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, though he did not feature in the most recent edition. On top of his 74 caps and 10 goals for Switzerland, Barnetta spent 2004-2015 in Germany’s top flight. His best offensive season came when he scored 7 goals for Bayer Leverkusen in 2007-08. He more recently was Schalke property, enduring an up-and-down trio of seasons which included a loan to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Orlando City picked up a Swiss player of its own, and added a former Real Madrid youth player as well. The first player is Adrian Winter, a 29-year-old  attack-minded midfielder who comes by way of Swiss Super League side FC Luzern. As this video shows, he’s got a rocket for a right foot.

The Lions also added 6-foot-3 center back David Mateos, who spent more than a decade at the disposal of Real Madrid, only playing twice for the First Team. After loans at AEK Athens and Zaragoza, Mateos spent the last two seasons with Ferencvaros in Hungary.

Barnetta is almost a lock to see some degree of success with Philadelphia. Orlando’s signings certainly carry more questions marks. How do the top flights in Switzerland (UEFA coefficient 13) and Hungary (UEFA coefficient 28) rate compared to Major League Soccer?

Real Madrid 3-4 (5-4) Schalke: Reigning champs survive huge scare to make quarterfinals

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Real Madrid lost 4-3 to Schalke at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, as the reigning European champions stumbled into the last eight of the UEFA Champions League after winning 5-4 on aggregate.

In what was supposed to be a routine home win, Schalke twice took the lead in the first half through Christian Fuchs and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar but Cristiano Ronaldo equalized twice with his head to make it 2-2 at the break as a below-par Real struggled to contain the Bundesliga outfit.

After the interval Karim Benzema put Real 3-2 up, but Schalke scored through youngster Leroy Sane to make it 3-3 and Huntelaar added another late on to set up a thrilling finish. Real held on, but Schalke gave them an almighty scare as the pressure continues to mount on Carlo Ancelotti and Los Blancos.

[ RELATED: Ancelotti feeling pressure at Real ]

After good work by Max Meyer on the left Cameroon international Eric Choupo-Moting side-footed a decent effort wide inside the first 10 minutes as Schalke started brightly at the Bernabeu.

Teenage winger Meyer then ran at Real’s defense but scuffed a shot wide as the hosts continued to slumber in the early stages. Schalke deservedly took the lead in the 20th minute, as Austrian international Fuchs slammed home at the back post but his strike should have been stopped by Iker Casillas. 1-0 to the Bundesliga outfit as whistles started to surface from the home fans.

However Schalke’s lead was short-lived, as Ronaldo headed home Toni Kroos’ corner in the 25th minute, as the Portuguese international glanced an effort into the net for his 77th goal in European competitions. 1-1.

source: Getty Images
Real were given an almighty scare by Schalke at the Bernabeu.

Real were buoyed by that goal and Schalke lost their early impetus, but just before the break Raphael Varane’s slack back pass put Casillas in trouble and former Real forward Huntelaar almost capitalized. Following that Huntelaar smashes the crossbar from distance and then in the 40th minute he slammed home after Casillas spilled Meyer’s shot. 2-1 to Schalke and it was no more than they deserved. However right on half time, that man Ronaldo headed up Fabio Coentrao’s perfect cross at the back post to score his and Real’s second, as the sides were level at 2-2 at the interval.

[ RELATED: Benzema, Bale, Ronaldo under pressure ]

In the second half Schalke continued to press but Real Madrid took the lead for the first time in the game in the 52nd minute as Benzema picked up a loose ball and ran past three players and the goalkeeper before slotting home. 3-2 to Real as their passage to the quarterfinals was all but secured. Schalke, to their credit, did not give up and Sane curled in a wonderful goal, his first in the UCL, to make it 3-3 in the 57th minute as Schalke needed two more goals in the final 30 minutes to advance.

Tranquillo Barnetta drilled an effort into the box which flashed across goal and Meyer dragged another shot wide, as Schalke pinned Real back late on. Huntelaar made it 4-3 with five minutes to go as he smashed home after Sane and Luka Modric got in a tangle. With Schalke needing just one more goal, Sane curled a great shot on target which Casillas palmed away and then Howedes volleyed on goal late on but Casillas saved with Real holding on to make their fifth-straight UCL quarterfinals. Just.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa (Nacho, 83′), Varane, Pepe, Coentrao (Marcelo, 58′), Kroos, Khedira (Modric, 58′), Isco, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema.

Goals: Ronaldo (25′, 44′), Benzema (52′)

Schalke: Wellenreuther; Howedes, Fuchs, Nastasic, Matip; Meyer, Hoger (Goretzka, 57′), Barnetta (Uchida, 81′), Neustadter; Choupo-Moting (Sane, 29′), Huntelaar

Goals: Fuchs (20′), Hunetlaar (40′, 84′), Sane (57′)