MLS

MLS: Atlanta down Orlando as Portland edge unlucky Vancouver

By Sports Desk September 10, 2021

Atlanta United picked up a critical win in their quest for the MLS play-offs, defeating Orlando City 3-0 Friday to give Gonzalo Pineda his first win as head coach. 

George Campbell headed home the opener in the 25th minute for his first MLS goal and Atlanta benefitted from an own goal by Daryl Dike in the 38th. 

Ezequiel Barco ended any suspense by netting in the 72nd minute after taking a long ball and working his way laterally across the penalty area before firing home with his right foot.

The emphatic win leaves Atlanta level on points with D.C. United, who remain seventh in the Eastern Conference on goal differential.

In Western Conference play, Portland defeated Vancouver 1-0 thanks to a 66th-minute own goal by Ranko Veselinovic. 

Felipe Mora's low drive from the right side got past Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and appeared headed for the net, but it was Veselinovic who made sure it got there with a failed clearance.

Portland moved past Minnesota and into fifth in the conference with the victory, while Vancouver remained just outside play-off position, one point adrift of Real Salt Lake.

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  • Ronaldo asks to leave Man Utd: Napoli, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern... MLS? CR7's transfer options Ronaldo asks to leave Man Utd: Napoli, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern... MLS? CR7's transfer options

    Cristiano Ronaldo is poised to become the biggest news of the transfer window, with reports stating he is keen on leaving Manchester United to continue playing in the Champions League.

    The Portuguese superstar has played in Europe's elite competition for 19 consecutive seasons since first moving to United from Sporting CP in 2003 and stands as the highest-ever scorer in the tournament with 140 goals.

    However, United's sixth-placed finish in the Premier League last season means that Erik ten Hag takes over a side who are set for Europa League football – and it is now reported that Ronaldo is pushing for an exit.

    If he does get his wish, there are only a few likely destinations for the 37-year-old and Stats Perform has assessed some of them.

    Napoli

    A return to Serie A has been touted for Ronaldo, with The Athletic naming Napoli as potential suitors – they have a void in their team following the exit of Lorenzo Insigne.

    In Ronaldo's three years in Italy with Juventus, no player scored more Serie A goals than his tally of 81 and, despite spending the past year with Manchester United, only Ciro Immobile has scored more Serie A goals since 2018.

    Napoli, having finished third in Serie A last year and nine points ahead of Juventus, would match Ronaldo's desire to play Champions League football – although the club's finances and Ronaldo's wage demands may prove to be restrictive.

     

    Chelsea

    Fresh from Todd Boehly's takeover, Chelsea are looking to rejuvenate the squad and finances do not appear to be a problem, given they have allowed Romelu Lukaku to return to Inter on loan just a year after spending a club-record £97.5million on the Belgium forward.

    Interestingly enough, it has been reported that Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes, has already met with the new Chelsea owner this summer and the Blues are in need of a striker having lost Lukaku, with Timo Werner performing better from a deeper role.

    Whether Ronaldo would accept a move to a Premier League rival, given his status at Old Trafford, is the biggest question regarding any hopes the Blues may have in signing the veteran forward and, if he is keen, United would likely demand a significant return on the investment they paid last year.

    Chelsea also have interest in Raheem Sterling and Leeds United attacker Raphinha, but Ronaldo would be a statement of intent for the new owner.

    Sporting CP

    With a United homecoming already under his belt, could Sporting secure a sensational return of their own and bring Ronaldo back to where it all began? It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.

    Second in Primeira Liga last season, Sporting have the Champions League football that Ronaldo craves and he is already a great at the club – though his success has come in his years since he left his home country in 2003.

    Ronaldo had just a single season in the senior squad with Sporting before he moved to United, so he may feel he has unfinished business – and it is a side that can definitely compete, having ended a 20-year barren spell without a league title in the 2020-21 season.

     

    Bayern Munich

    Ronaldo has shone in three of Europe's top-five leagues, the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, with only the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 left standing – and Bayern have been touted as potential suitors, though Paris Saint-Germain are not said to be interest (sorry, no link up with Lionel Messi just yet, sports fans).

    With Robert Lewandowski's future at the Allianz Arena continuing to be shrouded in speculation, it may fall into place for the Poland international to get what he wants, a move to Barcelona, and for Bayern to land Ronaldo as his replacement.

    In the past five years, no player has scored more league goals than Lewandowski (193) but Ronaldo, along with the addition of Sadio Mane, should be able to fill any goalscoring void that would be left in the event of a departure.

    Real Madrid

    Another possible return destination... could Ronaldo wind back up in the Spanish capital?

    The Champions League winners are hardly in need of another superstar forward, given the incredible form of Karim Benzema, but bringing Ronaldo back to the club where he scored 450 goals would surely appeal to president Florentino Perez? 

    Madrid missed out on Kylian Mbappe, much to their frustration, and having Ronaldo in their side would plug a gap, so to speak, until the PSG forward is further into the new, three-year contract he signed with the French club in May.

    MLS

    Champions League football has been documented as the reason for Ronaldo's desire to leave but, if such offers are not forthcoming, could a move to MLS be on the cards? 

    Financial rules and designated player spots would make a switch complicated, with there only being a handful of teams likely to be able to make a move possible – likely to be those in Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

    With the 2026 World Cup taking place in North America, bringing Ronaldo to MLS would raise the profile of the league further – and would undoubtedly be the biggest acquisition for the league since David Beckham's move to LA Galaxy in 2007.

    That move marked the start of a new era of soccer in the US and has evolved considerably since, though Ronaldo's arrival would send things to a completely new level.

    It has been reported that United do not wish to sell Ronaldo, but with his contract being up next year, could a switch to North America be likely? 

  • Cristiano Ronaldo 'made United worse' – Carragher questions why transfer request has come now Cristiano Ronaldo 'made United worse' – Carragher questions why transfer request has come now

    Cristiano Ronaldo should have told Manchester United he wanted to leave at the end of last season rather than drop a July bombshell, according to former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher.

    Superstar Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford last year, having enjoyed a remarkable career in 12 seasons away with Real Madrid and Juventus, but widespread reports on Saturday said the 37-year-old wants to leave again.

    He is said to want to play in the Champions League, according to The Times, which first reported the news, and United cannot offer that after a disappointing sixth-placed finish last season.

    The Portugal striker has been a mainstay in that competition throughout his career, and the prospect of being away from the frontline of elite European football would be a step down.

    New United manager Erik ten Hag will target a return to the Champions League, but that is at least a year away, and veteran Ronaldo does not have time to waste.

    Unless Ronaldo has been given unexpected information about his role at United in the new season, Carragher said he could not understand the timing of his apparent request to move on.

    Carragher sparked a debate with former United captain Gary Neville on Twitter when he wrote: "Ronaldo did exactly what I thought he would do, score goals but make the team worse. The transfer request also kills the idea he turned down Man City because of his love for Man United."

    That was a reference to the saga that saw United seemingly pip Manchester City to the signing of Ronaldo last August, when Alex Ferguson appealed to his former star player to return to the Red Devils.

    Carragher's comments triggered a rebuttal from Neville, who said: "I get it, you’re full of yourselves but he can turn down City for United because he likes them more and still want to leave this summer. He left before but still loved the club. Enjoy Saturday night and your short period of success."

    Carragher, who has seen Liverpool rack up a string of trophies during a lean recent period for United, did not leave it at that.

    "City didn’t want him you [clown] and you're the same fella who kept saying it was like Elvis had arrived in Manchester! Elvis has left the building," Carragher replied.

    Carragher added: "Also, why now? Has ETH [Erik ten Hag] told him he is not part of his plans or will play a limited role?? Surely the end of last season was the right time to tell the club."

    Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions last season, including 18 in the Premier League.

    United finished with their lowest points tally in the 30-year history of the Premier League, a competition Ronaldo won three times during his first United stint from 2003 to 2009.

    Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo has recently been linked with United's domestic rivals Chelsea and Jose Mourinho's Serie A outfit Roma. The Italians would be unable to offer Champions League football in 2022-23, but Chelsea could, having finished third in last season's Premier League.

  • Modric: We're not going to crucify Mbappe Modric: We're not going to crucify Mbappe

    Luka Modric believes that Kylian Mbappe could still move to Real Madrid in the future despite snubbing the Champions League winners to remain at Paris Saint-Germain.

    Mbappe was widely expected to move to the Santiago Bernabeu, with his contract at PSG having been set to expire, but instead he elected to pen a new deal to extend his stay in Paris through to 2025.

    That led to an angry reaction from Madrid fans, and even LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who expressed his frustration by declaring the decision an "insult to football" as he launched a complaint to UEFA.

    However, Modric has stated that Mbappe should not be crucified for staying in France and believes the door remains open for the 23-year-old to head to Madrid in the coming years.

    "Mbappe decided as he decided, that is his right and now he lives with that decision. It goes on," Modric told Sportske.

    "We all thought he would come to us, it didn't happen and – now what? Well, we're not going to crucify the man.

    "Mbappe is a great player, but as I always repeat, in any context, no player is more important than the club. Real is the greatest, above every player and it will always be like that.

    "Who knows what can happen tomorrow, let alone in three or four years in football? Only time will tell."

    Mbappe's snub did not affect the end to the season for Madrid, who having wrapped up another LaLiga title, went on to defeat Liverpool 1-0 in the Champions League final, which was held in Paris.

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