Atlanta-Toronto matchup represents a changing of the MLS guard

That might feel a bit like 20/20 hindsight about the 2016 team that won neither the Supporters’ Shield nor MLS Cup, burdened as it was by playoff failures past. Each of that year’s New York sides was flawed in its own way, Mauro Diaz’s knee injury blew open the Western Conference and no team had anybody like Sebastian Giovinco. But last season’s Toronto was a destroyer of worlds, the first club in MLS history ever to win a domestic cup, the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same calendar year.

The point is that Toronto has for a while now been the default answer when any rational fan is asked who was likeliest to lift silverware in the end.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

That is no longer the case. And the team that has picked up that mantle looks primed and ready to run TFC off the field on Saturday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta vs. Toronto (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) feels significant both as a marker of the changing of the guard and of shifting eras.

To clarify: I’m not writing off the Reds entirely. Two straight victories have them heading into the weekend six points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot, a formidable but not impossible hill to climb. With this team’s pedigree, and the amount of talent still packed into the roster, it wouldn’t be shocking if Toronto not only surged into the postseason but made some serious noise once there.

The team TFC faced in each of the past two Cup finals has mastered this kind of trajectory. Seattle is at it again, unbeaten in six following a dreadful spring and early summer, suddenly right in the thick of the hunt as if the first four months never happened.12

That’s part of the reason, however, why league observers outside of the Pacific Northwest are likely to remember this recent era as belonging to Toronto, not Seattle, even if the two clubs ended up with a championship apiece.

Standalone silverware is enough to appease your fan base, but in order to stand out in league history, the regular season does matter. Start-to-finish dominance does matter.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

And that’s what I mean when I say that Atlanta has picked up Toronto’s mantle: Even if it doesn’t ultimately go on to win the title, when you look back on the 2018 MLS season a few years from now, United’s breakout story is the one that will have stayed with you.

The numbers tell a convincing enough story on their own. Atlanta leads the league in wins (14), goals (48) and goal differential (plus-22). Forward Josef Martinez could get injured right this second, with 11 matches left to play, and he’d still probably win league MVP — his 24 goals are three shy of the MLS single-season record and we’ve only just come out of the All-Star break.

More than the stats, and something it shares with the TFC of 2017 specifically, Atlanta makes you feel every time they play. Tata Martino’s charges press high and counter at speed. They’re in your face, freewheeling and so, so fast, playing in front of capacity crowds larger than MLS has ever seen. They might not be the very best, but they’re as fun of a team as has ever called the league home.

Malcom a surprise signing by Barcelona but one that makes sense

His parents named him after Malcolm X, FC Barcelona scribbled out his name, hurriedly writing Silva where it originally said something else, and AS Roma didn’t name him at all. It was a joke, albeit a rather pointed one that quite a lot of people didn’t find very funny. Meanwhile, Ernesto Valverde couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t called Willian.

As for Hristo Stoichkov, he called him the new Hristo Stoichkov. Well, sort of. His full name is Malcom Filipe Silva de Oliveira, but everyone calls him just Mal cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Is it too late to do the “Malcom in the Middle” joke? It is? OK, but he was. A week ago, Malcom was on his way to Rome — fans had gathered at the airport to welcome him — only to end up at Barcelona instead. A deal had been done but not signed with the Italians, and yet, the next thing they knew, there he was kissing the Barcelona badge instead. It was, he said, a “dream come true.” For Roma, it was a nightmare. The president said he would never forgive the Catalan club… unless they sold him Messi.

Asked what he thought of Malcom a couple of days ago, Stoichkov said, conspiratorially: “He reminds me of a Bulgarian striker who came to Barcelona in 1990, ready to ‘eat the world.’ Things didn’t go too badly for him.” The Bulgarian was happily handing over his number, if not actually his name.11

“[Malcom is] daring and has personality: give him Stoichkov’s No.8!” Stoichkov implored his former club.

Persuading Stoichkov to join Barcelona back then was quite easy: all he wanted was a red sports car. “I signed for that,” he said. “An Audi.” He didn’t yet have a Spanish licence so he couldn’t drive it, but still, it was enough. Persuading Malcom was easy too, even with a deal basically done. And €41 million was enough to persuade Bordeaux to break from Roma.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“That’s normal,” their coach Gus Poyet told ESPN. “Barcelona appeared, improving the deal, and the club and the player decided. If Barcelona call you…”

Persuading everyone at Barcelona that he is the right signing might have looked a little more difficult, but it has happened surprisingly quickly. For now, at least.

On one level, that shouldn’t surprise. Barcelona had watched him for a couple of years while there were suggestions, not entirely tongue in cheek either, that they did the safe thing: wait to see what Roma sporting director Monchi was up to and then hijack his deal. Imagine, by the way, the mischief Monchi could have with that…

What Johnny Manziel’s trade to Montreal says about his NFL future

The view from 30,000 feet is rough: Johnny Manziel couldn’t beat out a CFL quarterback. He couldn’t, in fact, get on the field for a single snap in five games for a 2-3 team. Now he has started over, traded to one of the worst teams in the league with a third of the season already expired.

It’s easy to view the past two weeks as a setback for Manziel and his comeback attempt. Late last year, Hamilton Tiger-Cats coach June Jones predicted Manziel would be one of the best players in CFL history. On July 22, the franchise decided it was better off without him. So what happened in between to merit a trade to the last-place Montreal Alouettes?nike nfl jerseys cheap china

To hear the Tiger-Cats tell it, the decision was sealed by the record-setting play of starter Jeremiah Masoli and an undeniably massive bounty offered by the Alouettes. In an interview, Tiger-Cats general manager Eric Tillman said he also considered the “human element” of giving Manziel a chance to get on the field. And by all accounts, there was no off-field issue involved.4

Are you buying that explanation? Do you really think a team would trade a player it considered a potential future hall of famer for any reason? Or is there reason to fear that Manziel fell far short of the team’s expectations?

In reality, this all makes more sense than it might appear. Manziel hasn’t stumbled. If anything, he has followed the path predicted by those who pay close to attention to the CFL — a league that requires a bigger adjustment for U.S.-born players than many Americans realize. Players in similar positions have described a process of years, not weeks or months, before they were comfortable with the CFL style.

In truth, the trade put Manziel in a better spot to begin showing the skills he hopes one day can carry him back to the NFL. After sitting out his first game with the Alouettes last week, Manziel will start Friday night against — coincidentally — the Tiger-Cats (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“This is a decision we struggled with,” Tillman said. “If something had happened to Jeremiah, I’m very confident that Johnny would have come in and played at a high level. He has been great, on and off the field for us. We had no issues at all with him. I’ve had people calling me and asking me that, and the answer is no, no, no.

Bill Belichick on McCourty twins: ‘It’s hard to tell them apart’

Bill Belichick, who has been adept at creating effective disguises on defense over his 43-year coaching career, chuckled when he was asked about the possibilities with identical twin brothers Devin and Jason McCourty.

“It’s hard to tell them apart,” he said, smiling. “Got to take a second look to make sure I’m talking to the right one if they’re not in uniform.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The McCourtys are one of the NFL’s most notable sets of twins, and what has made 2018 particularly exciting for them is that they have a chance to play together with the New England Patriots. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the last time twins have played together in the regular season on the same professional team was 1926, when Gene and Tom Golsen suited up for the Louisville Colonels.

For the McCourtys, it is the first time they’ve been teammates since their time together at Rutgers from 2006-08.

Jason, who entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2009, has been a steady cornerback with Tennessee (2009-16) and Cleveland (2017).3

Meanwhile, Devin was a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2010 and has been with the franchise since, moving from cornerback to safety in his third season and elevating to captain in his second year.

The brothers talk all the time, but now that conversation can extend to the football field. Devin also notes that Jason’s experience playing for the winless Browns last season — and having never appeared in a playoff game — nike nfl jerseys cheap china brings an important perspective to the locker room.

“It’s something we always dreamed about, kind of thought would happen, but, you know, you kind of second-guess that and think maybe not,” Devin said. “I know he’s been a good player throughout his career, aside from us being twins or any of that. I thought he had a good year in Cleveland that helped him, and I thought a change of scenery might help him here. I think he has an opportunity to help us, as a veteran, a guy that’s played a lot of football, been in different circumstances.”

With Cooperstown inspiration, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes Triple-A debut

Spending the weekend in Cooperstown, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. received a reminder of how much dedication it took his father to earn induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It was a timely lesson for Guerrero now that minor league baseball’s acclaimed top prospect has entered the next phase of his career.

“I feel really happy that my dad achieved that, that he got there because it showed how much work he did to get there,” Guerrero said through a translator, Toronto Blue Jays mental performance coach Rafael Dubois. “And right now, it’s just keep working, keep working. And I’m happy that I’m here now.”cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Here is Buffalo, where the 19-year-old made his Triple-A debut with the Blue Jays’ top affiliate Tuesday night. And he did so wearing No. 27, the same number his father, Vladimir Guerrero, had during a 16-year major league career capped by his induction on Sunday.12

Hitting third, Guerrero drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to left-center with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. The ball was headed for the gap before left fielder Adron Chambers made a diving catch.

Guerrero also walked each of his first three times up, grounded out to second and scored twice in Buffalo’s 11-8 loss.

He made two notable defensive plays at third base in the second inning.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Guerrero snagged a hard one-hopper while falling backward, and calmly threw out Joey Meneses. Aaron Altherr, the next batter, hit a high bouncer up the third baseline, which Guerrero backhanded, and he threw a one-hopper to just beat the runner.

Guerrero doesn’t expect his father to see him play in Buffalo because of various commitments with the Los Angeles Angels.

His grandmother, Altagracia Alvino, will continue living with Guerrero as she did in New Hampshire.

He flashed a toothy smile when asked about his grandmother, who cooks for him and does his laundry — “She doesn’t allow me to do it,” he said.

“If I move to China, she comes with me to China,” Guerrero said. “I always get advice from her. She’s there to support me.”

What could happen in the final 24 hours before the deadline?

As the trade deadline approaches, it’s more about quantity of moves that could be made than moves that will make you say “wow.” Once Manny Machado left Baltimore for Los Angeles, the top closers came off the market and Cole Hamels was traded from Texas to the Cubs, the market became decidedly short on pizzazz.

With less than 24 hours remaining, a slew of relievers, back-of-the-rotation starters and positional depth pieces are ready to change teams. The Twins, Blue Jays, Padres, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Mets and Reds are among the teams with inventory to sell and no particular reason to hang on to it.

With the understanding that things are fluid at this time of year, here’s some buzz to pass along:cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

• Chris Archer remains the big name out there, and the Padres are the team most prominently linked to him. There’s a sense among some people that Archer will still be pitching in Tampa Bay after the deadline — and that the Rays’ talks in recent days were basically one big fact-gathering mission to lay groundwork for more extensive trade talks involving Archer this winter.

“They’re in no hurry to move him because of his contract,” said an official with one club that checked in on Archer. “I think they would have to be completely overwhelmed. I just don’t see it happening.”

• Are the Giants coming or going? No one knows for sure. They’re 3-8 in their past 11 games, but the front office seems loath to declare a sell-off.11

“The Giants don’t think they’re out of it,” said one person familiar with San Francisco’s thinking. FanGraphs calculates the Giants’ odds of winning the NL West at 0.5 percent and making the playoffs at 4.5 percent, so management is a lot more optimistic than it has a right to be.

If Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans decide to selectively sell Tuesday, relievers Will Smith and Sam Dyson could generate interest. Beyond that, Andrew McCutchen’s name could surface as a trade candidate in August because of his pending free agency. Problem is, McCutchen can’t play center field anymore, and his power production has dropped off a cliff. He’s 19-for-84 with three extra-base hits and a .286 slugging percentage in July.

• The Twins are working hard to deal Brian Dozier, but potential landing spots have fallen off the board in recent days. The Diamondbacks acquired Eduardo Escobar, the Brewers picked up Mike Moustakas, and the Dodgers didn’t have much need for a second infield acquisition after they added Machado. The Phillies were looking for a more versatile infielder with the ability to play shortstop, so they went for Asdrubal Cabrera (even though the metrics and scouts seem to agree that he’s now a defensive liability at the position).cheap official nike nfl jerseys

The reported second-tier-interest teams are less-than-ideal fits. Cleveland needs a center fielder more than a second baseman. Boston is focused more on bullpen upgrades and has already acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler. And the Giants might be more motivated to sell than buy, given their place in the standings.

Packers lose Jake Ryan, Kentrell Brice to injuries

What looked like a standout practice for the Green Bay Packers’ burgeoning defense — which picked off Aaron Rodgers three times — turned into an injury-filled disaster.

Two potential starters — linebacker Jake Ryan and safety Kentrell Brice — were carted off the field Monday with injuries. And that was after defensive tackle Mike Daniels dropped out.

While Daniels appears to have avoided anything serious, Ryan and Brice might not have been as fortunate. One source said the Packers fear Ryan sustained a significant and potentially season-ending injury to his right knee. The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 drill late in practice. Ryan pounded his fist on the ground as he received medical attention.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Ryan was slated to start at inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez, who tied for the NFL lead in tackles last season.

“He was just devastated,” Martinez said after practice. “Obviously, he was super-excited about the season. He’s been putting a tremendous amount of work in. He’s been awesome throughout OTAs and these past four practices. It’s been good for him. It’s just really tough.

“I talked to him right after I got off the field. Basically, told him if he needs anything, I’m here for him. I obviously don’t know the extent of it. Obviously, everybody will know when they know. I’m just praying for him and hoping the best for him. I know he’ll come back even stronger.”12

This could accelerate the need for rookie third-round pick Oren Burks to play a bigger role on defense. Also, defensive back Quinten Rollins has worked at inside linebacker in the sub packages, and the Packers are high on undrafted rookie linebacker Greer Martini of Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, Brice also had been working with the No. 1 defense and was perhaps the leading candidate to replace Morgan Burnett, who signed with the Steelers in free agency. Brice missed the final nine games of last season with a right ankle injury. It was unclear if Monday’s injury was related.

“I think he’s definitely having one of the best offseason programs,” McCarthy said during the June minicamp. “The thing that goes unnoticed, and rightfully so from our perspective, is his communication skills. I love the way he plays. I think the ability to get past the injury and be here the whole time, having him full-go in the strength and conditioning program, you can see he’s really comfortable out there with the adjustments and the communication. I would definitely be shocked if we’re not sitting here after the season thinking that he’s definitely taken a big jump, because I’ve seen it throughout the offseason.”cheap nfl jerseys nike china

 

Conflicting information about new helmet rule irks Eagles players

A presentation this week by NFL referees to the Philadelphia Eagles on the new helmet rule caused frustration among the players, according to team members, and created further confusion for some about what is expected of them.

“We were trying to ask questions to get a better understanding, and yet they couldn’t really give us an answer,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “They couldn’t give us what we were looking for.”

Under the new rule, cheap official nike nfl jerseys a player will be penalized 15 yards and potentially fined or ejected for lowering his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.

During the presentation, which lasted close to an hour according to Bradham, players were shown clips of what are now considered illegal hits — some of which appeared to them as routine tackles.

Seeking further clarification during the Q&A that followed, the players showed the presenters a video of safety Malcolm Jenkins’ hit on wide receiver Brandin Cooks during Super Bowl LII that knocked Cooks out of the game. The refs were split on whether it would now be considered an illegal hit.10

“I’m going to make that play 10 times out of 10. If it’s a flag, it’s a flag,” Jenkins said after practice Sunday, adding that he doesn’t believe that hit would lead to an ejection under the current policy. “You can’t slow yourself down thinking about rules in a split second. The game happens really, really fast, faster than the rules, I think, take account for, but I won’t let it affect the way I play.”

The rule applies to not only tacklers but linemen and ball carriers as well. The concern for running backs is that they are going to have to retrain themselves after years of attacking a certain way.

“It’s going to take a different approach to learn as individuals how to keep our head up and see what we’re doing,” Matt Jones, a 6-foot-2, 239-pound power back said. “But it’s going to be kind of hard because we’re taught to run through guys and put our helmet where their number is at. It’s like if it’s a third-and-1 and you have to have it, and you meet in the hole,nfl cheap nike jerseys there’s no way possible you’re not going to meet head-on-head and helmet-on-helmet.”

The meeting between the Eagles and refs was described as spirited, with the players expressing consternation over the new rule.

“[The refs] were kind of like, ‘Hey, we didn’t make the rules.’ Because I think guys were kind of frustrated,” running back Wendell Smallwood said. “Most of the defense was like, ‘Man, how are we supposed to tackle?’ They were frustrated.”

Roma join Manchester City in pursuit of Australia’s Daniel Arzani – sources

Roma are rivalling Manchester City for Australian teenage sensation Daniel Arzani, sources have told ESPN FC.

Melbourne City star Arzani is one of the hottest properties in world football after impressing for club and country during the last 12 months.

The skilful attacker burst onto the scene halfway through last season’s A-League campaign and his performances saw him win a call-up to Australia’s World Cup squad.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

The 19-year-old was the youngest player at the World Cup and his featured in all three games during Australia’s World Cup campaign.12

Arzani made a positive impression during his cameo appearances at the World Cup and his performances have brought him to the attention of a number of Europe’s top clubs.

Manchester City have been leading the race for Arzani as Melbourne City are the Premier League champions’ sister club under the City Football Group umbrella.

City plan to sign Arzani and then possibly loan him out like they did with Aaron Mooy before eventually selling him to Huddersfield Town.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

However, Roma are monitoring Arzani’s situation at Melbourne City and they are ready to offer the forward a pathway to first-team football in the Italian capital.

Roma have shown they are shrewd operators in the transfer market having signed young talents like Justin Kluivert from Ajax this summer and they see Arzani as a potential star in the making.

U.S. Open Cup: Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia Union book places semifinals

Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas each scored twice, accounting for three second-half goals within 22 minutes, as the host Houston Dynamo overcame an early deficit to storm past Sporting Kansas City 4-2, sending the defending U.S. Open Cup champions out in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

SKC’s Johnny Russell got the champs on the board first at BBVA Compass Stadium with a goal in the second minute. The lead held up for more than a half hour, until Quioto evened it up in the 35th minute. Twenty minutes after intermission, the floodgates opened.

Quioto scored his second goal in the 66th minute to give the Dynamo a 2-1 lead. Three minutes later, Manotas made it 3-1. He made it 4-1 with an 88th-minute goal to put the game away. Yohan Croizet scored in the third minute of stoppage time — with an assist from Russell — to make it 4-2.

SKC’s loss also means the U.S. Open Cup will once again fail to have a repeat winner since Seattle won three in a row from 2009-11.11

Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya scored in the fourth minute, and the Philadelphia Union kept Orlando City out of the net to advance to the semifinals with a 1-0 win at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa.

After Orlando keeper Earl Edwards Jr. made the save off a Fafa Picault header, Bedoya put the rebound into the net to move the Union to within a win of their third U.S. Open Cup final. They have never won a trophy, having lost in the championship match of this tournament in 2014 and 2015.

The win also stretched the Union’s streak of U.S. Open Cup matches without an official loss to 13 — the Union’s last three losses in the event have been on penalty kicks, which don’t count as official losses. Orlando has never reached the U.S. Open Cup semis.

The Chicago Fire had little trouble with their USL foe Louisville City, scoring early and often in a 4-0 win at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., to easily advance to the semifinals. They will play Philadelphia on Aug. 7 or 8 for a spot in the championship match.

Four different players scored for the Fire: Nemanja Nikolic, Aleksandar Katai, Diego Campos and Elliot Collier. Chicago is a four-time U.S. Open Cup champion but has not been to the final since losing to Seattle in 2011.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

An own goal off Portland Timbers midfielder David Guzman opened the scoring in the 33rd minute and ultimately proved to be the difference as LAFC advanced to the semis with a win at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.