MLS News
Is Sacramento Now the Favorite for MLS Expansion?
MLS News
Friday, 30 January 2015 21:53

The Sacramento Republic received a big boost on Thursday night. The San Francisco 49ers owners announced that they will invest in the team as the USL Pro side vies for MLS expansion, per the club's official website. The Sacramento Kings are also involved with Republic FC, and these two owners as business partners will make the California city an attractive market for MLS expansion.

Jed York, the 49ers' CEO, told The Sacramento Bee that the Republic's lead investors are "a great group of people" and that he's confident of the club gaining MLS status.

York's confidence is understandable. Vivek Ranadive, the Kings owner, is worth $700 million, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com, and is close friends with Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, per Marcos Breton and Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, York has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion as of 2013, per ESPN The Magazine's Seth Wickersham, so there is certainly no shortage of available monetary resources for the Republic's MLS project.

This project already includes a stadium (with renderings) if Sacramento is awarded an MLS franchise, and the demand is definitely there. Republic FC broke attendance records in its inaugural USL Pro season. The club finished the season by winning the league title this past September.

The investors' connections and the stadium plan gives Sacramento a significant advantage over other expansion markets. David Beckham's project in Miami continues to stall due to his search for a potential venue, as Don Garber's wish for the building to be located in the downtown core is causing delays.

However, Beckham told EOnline (h/t MLSSoccer.com) that significant news is coming on the stadium front as well as other announcements on the expansion team.

On the other hand, the same thing was said in December and subsequently no further information was disclosed. This very well could be another false alarm.

The problems in Miami are fueling Sacramento's prospects, but the city is also competing with a few other big names as well.

Commissioner Garber said there is interest from St. Louis, Minneapolis and Las Vegas. League representatives from the latter two cities and Sacramento visited MLS headquarters in November.

Zygi Wilf, the owner of the Minnesota Vikings, is one of two interested parties who want an MLS team in Minneapolis. In St. Louis, there are plans to build a stadium worth nearly $1 billion, which could also house an MLS team, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. The city recently acquired a USL Pro franchise as well.

Las Vegas is also a contender as it just had a stadium approved by the city with the proviso that it must land an MLS team.

However, Sacramento is ahead of every other competing market. The city has strong investors who are committed to the project, there are passionate fans and a stadium is being built in a fantastic location. Other markets meet the above criteria but having both NFL and NBA owners has to be a huge boost.

Garber has to be intrigued by what is transpiring in the Californian capital. He will announce the next round of expansions later this year, and it looks like Sacramento is the front-runner right now.

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Are the Chicago Fire a Team to Fear in MLS After Offseason Acquisitions?
MLS News
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 01:37

During the wild and crazy Major League Soccer offseason, the Chicago Fire have flown under the radar with their slew of acquisitions. 

The Fire, who have missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, are once again looking for new designated players to bring them back to the promised land. 

In the busy offseason, the Fire have brought in Kennedy Igboananike, David Accam and Shaun Maloney as their latest designated players. All three players are expected to improve the team's attack, which already features Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa and Harrison Shipp. 

Given the history of designated players in Chicago, it is easy to doubt the talent the Fire will put out on the pitch in 2015. Only Cuauhtemoc Blanco experienced a good amount of success in a Fire shirt as a designated player from 2007 to 2009. 

Despite the lack of trust in the club's eye for talent, there is plenty of hope surrounding the Fire heading into the new campaign. 

On top of stockpiling talent in attack, Frank Yallop's side have attempted to secure the back line with the additions of Adailton, Joevin Jones and Eric Gehrig. 

Unlike the depth in attack, Chicago only has a few returning players in the back four in Lovel Palmer and Greg Cochrane, which means the first month or two could be rough for the unfamiliar lineup. 

Although there are plenty of concerns about the defense, the Fire do have a very reliable 'keeper in Sean Johnson. If the United States international can shine during the first half of the season, he will give the defense time to work out their growing pains. 

When you look at the squad as a whole, there is plenty of potential for the Fire to contend for a playoff position in the Eastern Conference in 2015. 

Maloney and Shipp should provide plenty of quality on the wings with a bevy of hungry forwards waiting to strike against opposing defenses. The young duo of Igboananike and Accam could also come into the league with no fear and get off to hot starts. 

While the clubs Chicago faces at the start of the season will have information on the two forwards, they will not have the in-person experience of marking the two. Just like many first-year players in other American sports, the pair could thrive before tape is gathered on them.

Another positive quality about the forward depth is Magee will not face a ton of pressure up front by himself this season. The league veteran had an unreal 2013 in which he scored 21 goals for the Fire and LA Galaxy. 

In 2014, Magee's goal total dropped down to seven, which is still an impressive total for the player, who was never seen as a major threat in front of goal before the 2013 campaign. 

With plenty of experience under his belt in MLS, Magee should be able to help the pair of young newcomers and Amarikwa with their technique in front of goal. If all goes well, Magee will only have to score a handful of goals for the Fire to be successful. 

A lot of Chicago's success in 2015 will be determined by the play on the pitch, but it also helps that the East has weakened in quality with the departures of Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo. 

At the moment, only New England, D.C. and Columbus can be seen as locks for the playoffs. With six spaces now open for playoff teams in each conference, Chicago's chances of qualifying for the postseason have increased. 

However, just like a few other squads in the East, the Fire need everything to jell early in the season to be labeled as a contender. The Fire will be lumped in the same group as the other six clubs in the East in regards to their potential. 

With so many things up in the air in the East heading into the 2015 season, the Fire could very well produce a winning season and reignite the passionate fanbase in Chicago.

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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Report: Is Real Madrid Goalkeeper Iker Casillas Coming to MLS?
MLS News
Tuesday, 27 January 2015 13:23

World Cup winner and Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas told the Wall Street Journal that he is open to playing in the United States and Major League Soccer.

"I have no problem saying that I would like to play in the U.S.," said Casillas.

Casillas has been with the Galacticos for his entire career. He was developed in its youth academy and eventually earned a position as a starter. 

The Spanish international has won three Champions League titles, five La Liga trophies and the Copa del Rey twice with Real Madrid.

Casillas was also the starting goalkeeper for a Spanish national team that won the World Cup in 2010 and two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

The 33-year-old struggled at last summer's World Cup in Brazil. He split time with Diego Lopez until the ex-Valencia man was loaned to AC Milan. However, Casillas has become manager Carlo Ancelotti's No. 1 this season.

Casillas has started 28 matches for Real Madrid this campaign, guiding the club to the round of 16 in the Champions League and to the top of the table in La Liga. The shot-stopper is currently tied for second in clean sheets and has conceded just 14 goals, per Fox Soccer.

The Real Madrid legend has been in better form, but rumors about his future continue to emerge. The agent of Manchester United's David de Gea was asked about his client moving to Madrid. He told Spanish newspaper Marca (h/t ESPN FC) that "things can change every five minutes."

De Gea's United contract expires in 18 months, according to ESPN FC. This makes a potential move to the Spanish giant even more intriguing, especially with the timing of Casillas' wish to eventually play in America.

Both goalkeepers are mainstays in the Spain squad, but they have an icy relationship, according to El Confidencial (h/t Squawka). De Gea idolized Casillas as a youngster, but things are apparently fragile as the United shot-stopper is on the verge of replacing the Madridista as La Roja's No. 1.

If De Gea is signed by Real Madrid, that would likely signal the end of Casillas' tenure. He has to compete with the aforementioned Navas, so that could be the impetus for a move to MLS. 

Assuming Casillas joins MLS, he would instantly become a marketable star and a designated player. His contributions with arguably the greatest national team in history, coupled with his Real Madrid success would make him one of the most recognizable MLS players since David Beckham.

Any team that needs defensive help would love to have Casillas for his ability, leadership and marketability. He's still a quality goalkeeper who can make an impact on an MLS team. 

The Philadelphia Union, who had three starting-caliber goalkeepers at one point, were the center of jokes as soon as the Casillas story broke:

Whether it's the Union or any other club, Casillas would be an instant success in North America, should he choose to make the move across the Atlantic.

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Report: Toronto FC, LA Galaxy and New York City FC Want to Sign Iker Casillas
MLS News
Tuesday, 27 January 2015 13:23

Updates from January 28, 2014

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has attracted interest from three MLS teams since he told the Wall Street Journal that he'd like to play in MLS.

According to Fichajes.net (h/t Spanish newspaper AS), the LA Galaxy, Toronto FC and New York City FC are keen on signing the World Cup winner. 

In order to pry Casillas out of Madrid, then one of the clubs would have to pay a fee of €6 million. Inside Spanish Football claims that the shot-stopper would command annual wages of about €6 million as well.

TFC has already forked out several million dollars to acquire Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco on designated-player deals. The Reds have two other DPs in Michael Bradley and Gilberto, so they would have to offload two of them in order to afford Casillas.

The Galaxy would also need to either sell one of their three designated players, or pay down Casillas with allocation money in order to sign him.

The club's current No. 1 goalkeeper, Jaime Penedo, has been solid, but he does take a few too many risks and is 33 years old. Surely if Casillas is interested in signing with LA, the Galaxy brass will jump at the opportunity.

NYCFC has just two designated players. Casillas' ex-Spain teammate, David Villa, and Frank Lampard occupy those slots. The expansion side is the only team of the three interested parties that can sign the Madridista without having to shake up its roster.

However, the landscape of MLS is always changing. It's unlikely that Casillas will leave Madrid in January or even in the summer. If the Spain international decides to play in North America, there will be plenty of teams that will be chasing his signature.

Original Text

World Cup winner and Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas told the Wall Street Journal that he is open to playing in the United States and Major League Soccer.

"I have no problem saying that I would like to play in the U.S.," said Casillas.

Casillas has been with the Galacticos for his entire career. He was developed in its youth academy and eventually earned a position as a starter. 

The Spanish international has won three Champions League titles, five La Liga trophies and the Copa del Rey twice with Real Madrid.

Casillas was also the starting goalkeeper for a Spanish national team that won the World Cup in 2010 and two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

The 33-year-old struggled at last summer's World Cup in Brazil. He split time with Diego Lopez until the ex-Valencia man was loaned to AC Milan. However, Casillas has become manager Carlo Ancelotti's No. 1 this season.

Casillas has started 28 matches for Real Madrid this campaign, guiding the club to the round of 16 in the Champions League and to the top of the table in La Liga. The shot-stopper is currently tied for second in clean sheets and has conceded just 14 goals, per Fox Soccer.

The Real Madrid legend has been in better form, but rumors about his future continue to emerge. The agent of Manchester United's David de Gea was asked about his client moving to Madrid. He told Spanish newspaper Marca (h/t ESPN FC) that "things can change every five minutes."

De Gea's United contract expires in 18 months, according to ESPN FC. This makes a potential move to the Spanish giant even more intriguing, especially with the timing of Casillas' wish to eventually play in America.

Both goalkeepers are mainstays in the Spain squad, but they have an icy relationship, according to El Confidencial (h/t Squawka). De Gea idolized Casillas as a youngster, but things are apparently fragile as the United shot-stopper is on the verge of replacing the Madridista as La Roja's No. 1.

If De Gea is signed by Real Madrid, that would likely signal the end of Casillas' tenure. He has to compete with the aforementioned Navas, so that could be the impetus for a move to MLS. 

Assuming Casillas joins MLS, he would instantly become a marketable star and a designated player. His contributions with arguably the greatest national team in history, coupled with his Real Madrid success would make him one of the most recognizable MLS players since David Beckham.

Any team that needs defensive help would love to have Casillas for his ability, leadership and marketability. He's still a quality goalkeeper who can make an impact on an MLS team. 

The Philadelphia Union, who had three starting-caliber goalkeepers at one point, were the center of jokes as soon as the Casillas story broke:

Whether it's the Union or any other club, Casillas would be an instant success in North America, should he choose to make the move across the Atlantic.

 

Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @pgalindo16.

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MLS' Single-Entity Structure Is the League's Biggest Obstacle
MLS News
Saturday, 24 January 2015 19:06

MLS is on the rise. Average attendance was at an all-time high in 2014, and a new eight-year TV deal with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision Deportes will begin this season. This is all great news, but the league's single-entity structure is still restricting growth.

MLS defines its system on the Press Box page as "a single, limited liability company (single-entity). In the single-entity business structure, club operators own a financial stake in the League, not just their individual team." It sounds, and actually is, very confusing.

Commissioner Don Garber said that the league wanted to be more transparent beginning this year. However, Garber also indicated that the single-entity system wouldn’t change in order to accomplish that goal.

Also, it appears that Garber will have a serious fight on his hands during the CBA negotiations. According to Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated, the players are willing to go through a work stoppage in order to gain free agency.

It's understandable that the players are pushing for free agency. Their contracts are owned by MLS and they want to have freedom to choose their team. However, the league doesn't want to go down this road.

This isn't the only issue in a single-entity league. The ridiculous and confusing player acquisition rules are hurting MLS' reputation. Regulations dictate that a U.S. international who wants to sign with a team has to go through the allocation ranking.

However, when Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley returned to MLS, they immediately signed with the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC, respectively.

The MLS regulations page states that "designated players of a certain threshold—as determined by the league—are not subject to allocation ranking." However, according to Adam Jardy of The Columbus Dispatch, this was a recently created rule.

The Jermaine Jones saga was even more frustrating. The Chicago Fire and New England Revolution were pursuing Jones, who wanted to join MLS in August. The league decided to stage a blind draw to determine which team the American international would join. The Revs ended up with his signature.

On the bright side, Toronto FC's acquisition of Jozy Altidore was more black and white. TFC was sixth in the allocation order, but the two other clubs interested in Altidore (Portland Timbers and the New York Red Bulls) were lower in the ranking. The Reds ended up signing the ex-Sunderland striker after completing a swap for Jermain Defoe.

Timbers owner Merritt Paulson told Jamie Goldberg of The Oregonian that the Altidore deal is the beginning of a more transparent MLS. It's a significant statement from Paulson after the Dempsey debacle. Portland was first in the allocation but didn't end up signing the current Sounder.

MLS is a very secretive league. Terms of contracts and player deals are undisclosed, which makes it hard for fans to determine whether their team won the negotiations. The supporters are educated enough to form their own opinions.

MLS insults the intelligence of its fans by not releasing the details of a deal. Supporters cannot fully analyze a trade or signing unless they know what clauses were involved.

The Matias Laba trade involving Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps last year is a prime example. Laba was sent to Vancouver in exchange for "future considerations," which were not disclosed.

TFC supporters were left in the dark on the deal. The future considerations could have included cash, draft picks or players, but no one knew for sure. Once Laba was permanently acquired by the Whitecaps, MLSSoccer.com revealed that Vancouver had to pay money.

It's evident that the single-entity has to change in order for MLS to take the next step. Garber claims that the current structure has been successful and has brought the league to this point in its development.

However, the executives can't rely on the system forever, especially if they aspire to be one of the top leagues in the world.

 

Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @pgalindo16.

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The 9th Edition of Frank Lampard's 'Frankie's Magic Football' Is Poorly Timed
MLS News
Thursday, 22 January 2015 14:55

Just as New York City's wounds started to heal from the prolonged Frank Lampard contract saga, Lampard's latest children's book has been revealed. 

Nope, the timing of it is not good. 

Lampard, of course, signed with MLS' New York City FC (owned by Manchester City), was shipped on loan to Manchester and then extended his loan, delaying the start of his NYCFC career. The whole ordeal is broken down here. 

NYCFC fans were not fond of the move. 

So when the ninth edition of Lampard's children's book was revealed, "Frankie's New York Adventure," it's safe to assume it won't sell especially well in New York. 

It will be released on Feb. 5. At least NYCFC fans will get to see Lampard in book form before they see him in human form. 

[Who Ate All The Pies]

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10 MLS Players Who Could Be on the Move in 2015
MLS News
Thursday, 22 January 2015 10:56

The 2015 MLS season hasn't kicked off as of yet and there are already rumors surrounding many of the league's players. Among these are Jermaine Jones, who has indicated that he wants to go back to Europe, per Doug McIntyre of ESPN. MVP Robbie Keane has also hinted at leaving the LA Galaxy, as noted on MLS' official website.

Players who are rumored to be leaving MLS will be highlighted in this slideshow. The likelihood of each departure will also be analyzed, whether it's a contractual issue or interest from other clubs. 

Here are 10 MLS players who could be leaving the league in 2015.

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Why American Players Returning to MLS Is Good for the League and USMNT
MLS News
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 08:25

The U.S. men's national team now has 13 MLS-based players from its World Cup squad after Jozy Altidore signed with Toronto FC. Some fans are worried about the mass exodus of USMNT players from Europe, but it's a positive for both the league and the team.

Mix Diskerud agreed to a deal with New York City FC three days before Altidore moved to Toronto. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley (who's now retired from international duty) and Clint Dempsey have all signed with MLS teams over the last 17 months.

All of these men are crucial players on their respective teams. Bradley and Dempsey are also two of the richest MLS-based contract holders, per ESPN FC.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann hasn't been shy in saying that he'd rather see his players in Europe. However, that doesn't have to be the case.

When Klinsmann was asked by ESPN FC about Diskerud's decision to join NYCFC, the German tactician agreed with the midfielder's choice.

"In [Diskerud's] case, there's no Champions League team in Europe on a higher level that asked him to join them, so the options he had were probably not as attractive to him as the option he chose."

Diskerud has the potential to be an integral figure for Klinsmann in future tournaments. His electric style of play is something that the United States lacked at times during the World Cup. However, the only way for the 24-year-old to earn that starting spot is to do the same with his club.

Diskerud will be key in NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis' plans, so the midfielder could be a part of Klinsmann's system in the future.

As for Altidore, Klinsmann believes that the striker is a Champions League-caliber player, even though he scored only twice in 70 Premier League games. This would suggest that he is not at the level of Arsenal or Manchester United.

Altidore attracted interest from clubs such as Fiorentina, Napoli, Fulham, Sporting Lisbon, Lazio and Schalke, per MLSSoccer.com. However, most of them eventually looked elsewhere. 

There was also no guarantee that he would have started on any of those teams. Only a few of those clubs consistently qualify for the Champions League, so Altidore wouldn't have been playing at the level Klinsmann believes he can play.

Also, there's nothing wrong with accepting more money, especially as a professional soccer player. One bad tackle can instantly end a career. ESPN's Marc Stein reported that Altidore signed a five-year, $30 million deal with Toronto. That's a nice cushion for the 25-year-old when he retires.

There is wisdom in returning to a familiar league with the option of earning significantly more money. As long as Altidore plays and scores, that's all that matters from a USMNT perspective.

Clint Dempsey was also highly regarded by his national team coach, per NBC's ProSoccerTalk. 

My whole talk to Clint Dempsey for 18 months was [about how] he hasn’t made [expletive].

You play for Fulham? Yeah, so? Show me you play for a Champions League team, and then you start on a Champions League team and that you may end up winning the Champions League. There is always another level.

If you one day reach the highest level then you’ve got to confirm it, every year. Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, [Lionel] Messi. Confirm it to me. Show me that every year you deserve to play for Real Madrid, for Bayern Munich, for Manchester United. Show it to me.

No offense to Dempsey, but it's highly unlikely that he would have even made the bench for Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Manchester United. Teams like Everton, Liverpool and Sunderland were interested in the 31-year-old, per NBC's ProSoccerTalk. However, none of those sides were Champions League clubs at that time.

Again, in Dempsey's case, his best bet was going to Turkey or Russia in order to play in the Champions League. He opted to make significantly more money and play in his home country. It didn't affect his World Cup performance, either. He was the USA's top scorer with two goals in Brazil.

Bradley, who is still just 27, had the chance to move to Verona and Genoa in Italy, as well as Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, per MLSSoccer.com. The latter is a Champions League team, but Leverkusen constantly buys and sells players.

This is the same with Schalke, Sporting Lisbon and other aforementioned clubs. That's not a particularly stable environment for any player. There's no sense in sacrificing a raise and personal happiness in order to play a competitive game for 10 minutes every week, only to be sold after the season ends.

Klinsmann expects the U.S. to be a semifinalist at the 2018 World Cup. That looks unrealistic at this point, as the USMNT cannot be a powerhouse without a strong domestic league. 

Germany manager Joachim Loew, after being named FIFA Coach of the Year, credited the Bundesliga for its role in the national team's World Cup win (h/t Bundesliga.com).

The result at the World Cup was the result of years of hard work.

I'd like to thank all German coaches, who do such a great job with young and senior players. They're all coach of the year.

Of course I owe thanks to the Bundesliga, the league without which this success would not have been possible and continues to deliver such a high level of football.

USMNT players coming back to MLS is a good thing for both parties. The quality of the league will improve, and academy products will be able to play significant first-team minutes in what should be a stronger domain.

As Loew said in his speech, it takes a lot of hard work to become a competitive soccer nation, and it has to start somewhere. Attracting the best players will lead to a better MLS, and, in turn, a stronger national team.

 

Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @pgalindo16.

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Picking a Best XI of Players from the 2015 MLS SuperDraft
MLS News
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 00:47

Although we are less than a week removed from the 2015 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, we have a better idea of which players will succeed in their rookie seasons. 

By looking at depth charts, styles of play and raw talent, we were able to analyze who the best 11 rookies will be during the 2015 season. 

The team is set up in a 3-5-2 formation because of the wealth of attacking players set to thrive if all goes well during the preseason. 

Here is a look at our best 11 players from the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. 

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Sebastian Giovinco to Toronto FC: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction
MLS News
Monday, 19 January 2015 12:40

Toronto FC have completed the signing of Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco, with the Italian set to join the MLS outfit in the summer after the completion of the 2014-15 Serie A season.   

The Canadian club announced the move via Twitter on Monday but did not disclose any information about the financial terms of the deal:

Kurtis Larson of the Toronto Sun reports that Giovinco could be set to earn $7 million (£4.6 million) a year across a five-year contract.

This would potentially make the Italy international one of the highest-paid players in MLS with top-earner Kaka of Orlando City currently demanding a similar figure.

Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko hailed the signing of the 27-year-old Giovinco, per the club's website, which is something of a surprise move despite him being out of favour at Juve. He has started just twice in the league this season:

Today marks a very special day for Toronto FC with the addition of Sebastian Giovinco. Seba is in the prime of his career and he has chosen to join Toronto FC and MLS at a time when many of the top clubs in the world were pursuing him. We are very pleased to bring a fantastic player to Toronto FC for our club and for our fans, especially those in the Italian community.

Indeed, Toronto have pulled off quite a move in signing Giovinco, a high-profile signing for the whole league, per beIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri.

He joins the Canadian club following the recent addition of Jozy Altidore, who switched from Sunderland last week with Jermain Defoe going the other way.

Giovinco figures to bring some excitement and intrigue to his new club in the near future.

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