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Anton Walkes opens up on Atlanta United exit & his future with Charlotte FC



Exclusive – As Atlanta United released their list of unprotected players for the MLS Expansion Draft, Anton Walkes was relaxing at home, completely unaware of the huge upheaval ahead for his professional career and family life.

The English center-back was fresh from a career year in 2021 – his second back at the club following his return from EFL club Portsmouth – logging the most appearances (33) and minutes (2,773) of any Atlanta player in 2021.

Walkes even captained the team on four occasions and figured in the top three for a number of key defensive metrics. And yet, his name did not figure among the 12 players protected from Charlotte FC’s grasp by Atlanta United.

“When I found out I’d been left unprotected for the Expansion Draft, it came as a surprise because we’d been talking long-term about staying in Atlanta,” Walkes recalls in an exclusive interview with 90min. “Within the space of a week, I’m kicking back and relaxing then my phone is going off saying I wasn’t protected. It hurt a bit but I realized after that I’d be getting picked up.”

He added: “When you’re sitting at home and find out over Twitter that you’re being taken by another team, it’s not an ideal situation to be in when you’re trying to plan a long-term future for your family.”

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MLS-Owned Soccer United Marketing Extends With Mexican National Teams –




Soccer United Marketing, the commercial arm of Major League Soccer, is extending its relationship with the Mexican national team.

For the next six years, SUM will continue to serve as the exclusive middleman for the Mexican Football Federation in the U.S. That includes negotiating commercial partnerships and sponsorships, plus promotion and operation of the team’s lucrative U.S. tours. The relationship will continue beyond the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar and encompass the 2026 event that will be jointly hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The extension comes almost exactly one year after SUM lost a high-profile client—U.S. Soccer announced last May that it was taking its commercial rights in-house after 20 years working with SUM. That partnership was often criticized as a conflict of interest.

Terms of the extension with the Mexican federation weren’t released. These deals typically include a predetermined amount of guaranteed revenue.

Nicknamed “El Tri,” for the tri-color national flag, the Mexican men’s national team is very popular in the U.S., which is home to about 36 million people of Mexican descent. Roughly one third of the Mexican soccer federation’s revenue comes from the United States across matchday income, TV rights and sponsorship deals, according to president Yon de Luisa.

“For us, the U.S. market is part of our home market because we have about 40 million of our people in the U.S.,” de Luisa said in an interview. “And in terms of purchasing capacity, you can expect that the 40 million in the U.S. has way bigger purchasing capacity than the 120 million in Mexico.”

The Mexican team’s jersey outsells the U.S. jersey in America, and its televised games draw more viewers. Since 2003, the team’s U.S. games have averaged more than 50,000 spectators, including a record 90,526 at a 2010 game in Los Angeles against New Zealand.

Companies likewise pay a lot of money to be a part of that community. SUM has brokered corporate deals with a range of partners, including Adidas, AT&T (NYSE: T), Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD), General Mills (NYSE: GIS), Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD). (SUM doesn’t sell the Mexican team’s media rights, which are sold by the federation itself).

Moving forward SUM and the Mexican federation plan to increase their work with the women’s and youth national teams, including the men’s youth team, which won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Summer Games, and grow other programming around the U.S. tours, such as concerts and immersive shows. While most of the current schedule is built around the handful of games that the Mexican senior men’s team plays north of the border, the goal is to make the Mexican teams a 365-days-per-year commercial presence in the U.S.

There will also be increased opportunities for the Mexican men’s team to play in the U.S. in the next four years, de Luisa said. As a host of the 2026 World Cup, the Mexican team doesn’t need to go through qualifiers, and the federation intends to use those openings to play more in the U.S., he said.

Every MLS owner has an equity stake in SUM, which was founded in 2002 to help raise the commercial value of soccer in the U.S. As unlikely as it sounds today, back then no American broadcaster was planning to bid for the English-language rights to the 2002 and 2006 men’s World Cups, so MLS owners united to buy the rights for $70 million, packaged it with MLS games, and later negotiated deals with ABC and ESPN. Garber detailed the origin story during a SporticoLive  event last year.

MLS lost money on that deal, but gradually grew SUM’s sales and marketing staff to become one of soccer’s biggest dealmakers in America. In 2012, Providence Equity bought 25% of SUM for $125-$150 million; the league bought the stake back in 2017 and now owns all of SUM.

In addition to the Mexican soccer federation, SUM currently holds exclusive commercial rights to MLS, Leagues Cup, and other CONCACAF properties, including the Gold Cup, champions league and women’s events. Its relationship with U.S. Soccer expires at the end of the year.

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Match Recap & Highlights: Portland Timbers 0 – 2 Philadelphia Union




After a defensive collapse midweek against the San Jose Earthquakes, the Portland Timbers drop a second game in five days with a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union. Philadelphia opened the scoring in the fifth-minute via a Daniel Gazdag overhead kick that caught Aljaz Ivacic flat-footed on his goal line. The Timbers would then have to replace an injured Eryk Williamson in the 14th minute with Santiago Moreno.

After a disjointed opening 25 minutes to the half the Timbers grew into the game decently, bolstered by the lively play of Moreno. But despite the Timbers working their way back into the match, the Union doubled their lead in the 48th minute through a Sergio Santos header. Sebastian Blanco thought he had pulled a goal back for the Timbers in the 69th minute, but after a lengthy VAR review, the goal was disallowed for an offside in the buildup.

In the end, the two goals were enough for the Union to leave Providence Park with all three points.

  • 5’ The Timbers started the game in the worst possible way when Daniel Gazdag scored an overhead kick within five minutes of the game’s start.
  • The next 10 minutes were one-way Philly traffic, and the Timbers were lucky not to concede another in that span. To make matters worse, Eryk Williamson went down with an injury in the 14th minute and had to be replaced by Santiago Moreno.
  • 18’ Nathan Harriel was shown the first yellow card of the match for the Union for a poor foul on Sebastian Blanco.
  • 21’ The Union should have made it 2-0 when Julian Carranza got a free-header onto a floated cross into the box. Fortunately for Portland, the chance went sailing over the bar.
  • 27’ The Timbers’ best chance of the first half came from Bill Tuiloma just before the half-hour mark. A poor corner from Yimmi Chara hit the first man, but possession was regained by Moreno who then floated a wonderful cross to the center back, but the Timbers’ top-scorer couldn’t direct his header on target.
  • 42’ The Timbers again went close to scoring just before halftime and again the creative spark was Santiago Moreno. The forward received the ball on the edge of the box after a well-worked team move, but couldn’t keep his curling shot under the bar.
  • 43’ Diego Chara received a yellow card for a foul on Jose Martinez.
  • 45+5’ Justin Rasmussen received the ball on his left and un-corked a strike from outside the box, but couldn’t get the placement right and the shot sailed out for a goal kick.
  • The first half ended Timbers 0 – Union 1, with Philadelphia out-shooting the Timbers 10-3 despite Portland controlling just-shy of 66 percent of the possession.
  • 48’ The Union began the second half just as they started the match and doubled their lead through a Sergio Santos header to make the score 2-0 in favor of the visitors.
  • 66’ Justin Rasmussen and Cristhian Paredes were replaced by Larrys Mabiala and Marvin Loria. The Timbers switched to three at the back after the changes, with Josecarlos Van Rankin and Marvin Loria playing as the wing backs.
  • 69’ Just when it looked like another night where the Timbers failed to find the back of the net, Sebastian Blanco pulled a goal back for the Timbers after a shot from Moreno rebounded directly into his path. However, upon VAR review, the goal was disallowed for offside in the buildup.
  • 80’ David Ayala entered the match for Van Rankin.
  • 90’ The Timbers’ top-scorer Bill Tuiloma nearly made it 2-1 in the final minute of regular time, but Union ‘keeper Andre Blake pulled out a massive stop to keep his clean sheet in-tact.
  • Six minutes of stoppage time were added to the end of the second half after the lengthy VAR review for Blanco’s disallowed goal.
  • 90+6’ Zac McGraw replaced Dario Zuparic deep into stoppage time.
  • The game finished 2-0 in favor of the Union.

The Timbers travel across the country for their next fixture against Inter Miami on Saturday, May 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00.

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Portland Timbers shut down by Philadelphia Union in 2-0 home defeat; coach Giovanni Savarese rumored to be joining Venezia




In a showcase of one of Major League Soccer’s top defensive sides, the Philadelphia Union locked down the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Sunday night at Providence Park.

“A frustrating result,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “What differentiated this game from one team to the other is Philadelphia scored two goals, and we couldn’t find the net. We have created chances, but at the end of the day, they took advantage of the two or three moments that they had. Philly is a difficult team to play against. If you don’t have a constant energy, they never stop. Credit to them to the fact they found two goals that was the decisive separation for them.”

The Union (6-1-6, 24 points) dominated the shorthanded Timbers (3-5-6, 15 points) in the first half, displaying why they are the leading team in the Eastern Conference with stifling defensive play all night. Philadelphia opened the scoring early, too, in a spectacular moment.

Daniel Gazdag’s bicycle kick made it 1-0 Union early, silencing the Providence Park crowd.

Philadelphia continued to lurk in the attacking third, but nothing came of their immediate chances. In the 15th minute, the Timbers suffered what could be a serious loss as midfielder Eryk Williamson came off the field due to injury, shaking his head in frustration. He was replaced by Santiago Moreno.

“Sometimes, you come to a moment when it hits you,” Savarese said. “All of the sudden you have injuries, you have health situations that prevent you from having a full roster. It’s frustrating not to have everybody available. Eryk I don’t think will be available for this weekend (against Miami). He was very smart to come out of the game before he suffered something more difficult to handle. I think it will be something that won’t be too long.”

At 23 minutes in, the Union led 8-0 in shots. Portland’s first shot of the night came on a Bill Tuiloma header in the 27th minute on the feed from Moreno, but it went wide left.

In the 41st minute, Moreno had an ambitious take of his own from just outside the box, and it ended up just high of goal.

A moment of intense disagreement arrived in the 44th minute as Diego Chara was given a yellow card for a challenge in which he led with his head, and multiple players from both teams jawed at one another (and the officials) in the aftermath.

“I feel frustrated in that moment,” Diego Chara said. “In my opinion, it was a 50-50 ball, and we crashed. I don’t know why I got that. It’s a target always from the referees when they give me a yellow card. I didn’t deserve that yellow card, but it’s nothing to do.”

The match officials described Chara’s card as a “reckless challenge.”

Portland went into halftime looking outmatched on every level. That trend continued in the opening minutes of the second half.

Philadelphia doubled its lead in the 48th minute on a header from Sergio Santos, making it 2-0 Union as the road side’s defense continued to limit anything Portland tried to put together.

In the 65th minute, Portland brought on Larrys Mabiala and Marvin Loría to replace Justin Rasmussen and Cristhian Paredes. The Timbers’ attack soon found renewed life as Loría pushed the ball ahead to Moreno, whose shot was saved.

Unfortunately for the Union, the ball fell right to the feet of Sebastian Blanco, who put it in the back of the net in the 69th minute. It was called a goal initially and Philadelphia’s lead appeared halved, but after further review by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), it was disallowed due to offsides.

“Santiago Moreno was in an offside position when his teammate Josecarlos Van Rankin heads the ball to him,” the match officials said postgame. “The VAR was trying to establish if indeed, there was a touch by Josecarlos Van Rankin. Once the VAR found an angle which allowed him to confirm this touch, he recommended a review for an offside offence (sic) in the build up to the goal.”

In the 80th minute, Portland brought on youngster David Ayala for Josecarlos Van Rankin, adding another attacking talent as it desperately sought to break through for a goal.

Yimmi Chara had a chance from close range in the 86th minute, and Tuiloma had one of his own in the 90th minute, but both were saved. Beyond that, Portland had little to offer in the way of dangerous comeback scoring attempts. Philadelphia simply parked the bus in the second half, and the Timbers couldn’t often see past it, despite 12 shots and 11 corners. Philadelphia had the same number of shots and just five corners.

“Difficult match,” Diego Chara said. “We tried to win the game, but it was going in the wrong way. Philly did a good job. For us, it was difficult when we conceded that goal in the (5th) minute, and that changed our plans.”

Portland’s next match is Saturday on the road at Miami. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. PT (TV on Fox 12 Plus).

Savarese to Venezia?

Before kickoff Sunday night, Italian journalist Nicolò Schira reported that Italian club Venezia has selected Savarese as its new manager. The Timbers, in response to this report, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that “Gio (Savarese) is under contract for 1.5 more years and we have not been contacted by Venezia.”

After the match against Philadelphia, Savarese didn’t provide a clear yes or no answer to The Oregonian/OregonLive’s question about the report.

“I’d rather talk about the game today,” Savarese said. “This is the most important thing. I am the coach of the Portland Timbers, and this was a tough game to digest.”

To a follow-up question asking if he’d been in contact with Venezia, Savarese replied, “I’d rather stay on the game. I think that’s the most important part for today.”

— Ryan Clarke,

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