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    I have one of the weirdest jobs in football – every time my team scores, I fire up my chainsaw and chop wood

    FOOTBALL has had plenty of eccentric mascots but none more so than a man with a chainsaw.Portland Timbers of the MLS have a tradition that when the home team scores, a chainsaw is fired up and a piece is sliced off a giant log and placed on a stand behind one of the goals.
    Timber Joey has been firing up his chainsaw since 2008Credit: Getty
    Portland Timbers’ Fanendo Adi celebrated a goal by jumping the fence and holding up the chainsaw for the fansCredit: AP:Associated Press
    Timber Joey succeeded Timber Jim back in 2008 and has been firing his chainsaw up ever since.
    The slice of wood is taken around the stadium with fans invited to touch it and at the end of the game the slice is presented to the goal scorer.
    If a goalkeeper keeps a clean sheet then they also get a slice, sometimes players keep the piece of wood and other times they sign them and donate to charity.
    Speaking to The Athletic, Joey whose full name is Joey Webber said: “There’s goal celebrations all over the world that have big traditions.
    “Spiking the ball and doing your dance for a touchdown in NFL, or a baseball player might point to the sky after they hit a home run.
    “This is just a tradition that started with Jim, but it’s something that everyone can get involved with.”
    The logging industry has played a huge part in Oregon’s culture and economy.
    Joey added: ” I grew up in a town that had 16 timber mills when I was a kid, so everyone in that community for the most part was employed in the forestry industry.
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    “If you walk out of our stadium and look up you see on the largest parks in the world inside city limits, Forest Park, which is full of the same trees I’m cutting.”
    Joey feels the tradition is special and is glad people who didn’t grow up like he did can experience it.
    He said: ” I think it’s even a bit more special because people who didn’t grow up the way I did get to witness it right there in downtown Portland.
    “I think it’s a neat tradition, there are nearly two million people in the surrounding area and people travel from all over the state to attend games, which is another million.”
    Joey is hopeful that every time he slices off a piece of wood, people who haven’t seen it before could become attached to the club.
    “Every time we saw off a slice of timber there might be one new person who hasn’t seen it before and it could attach them to the team the way I was attached to it.”
    Portland Timbers currently sit eighth in the MLS Western Conference.
    Fanendo Adi celebrates a goal for the Portland Timbers by grabbing Timber Joey’s chainsawCredit: Getty More

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    MLS salaries released with three ex-Prem stars in top ten including Man Utd cult hero

    A FORMER Liverpool star is the top earner in the MLS.The league’s salaries were released this week – and there are plenty of familiar names in the top ten.
    Xherdan Shaqiri is the top earner in the MLSCredit: AP

    The likes of Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have made high-profile switches to America in recent years.
    But now the No1 star in the country in terms of pay is Xherdan Shaqiri, as confirmed by the MLS.
    The former Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Stoke winger, 31, earns a guaranteed £6.53million for Chicago Fire in 2023 – almost as much as the rest of the squad combined.
    That makes him the only player on more money than Lorenzo Insigne.
    The Euro 2020 winner left Napoli for Toronto in 2022 and put pen to paper on a staggering base salary £6m-a-year contract.
    Ex-Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez is third, with the 34-year-old pocketing a tasty £5.97m at LA Galaxy.
    Insigne was joined by fellow European champion Federico Bernardeschi at Toronto last summer and will earn £5m per year – despite his new side’s nightmare start to the season.
    Austin FC’s Argentine attacker Sebastian Druissi completes the top five with his £4.8m annual deal.
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    Hector Herrera is now at Houston Dynamo, with the 104-cap Mexico ace starring for Porto and Atletico Madrid in Europe until the end of last season.
    He earns £3.35m per year, just clear of the £3.3m for LA Galaxy’s ex-Juventus ace Douglas Costa and Luiz Araujo who gets £3.2m at Atlanta United.
    Inter Miami striker Josef Martinez completes the list in tenth, with £3.1m per year as the top-paid player on David Beckham’s squad list.
    But just above him – earning a base £3.15m in 2023 – is Christian Benteke.
    The former Liverpool, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace man spent ten years in the Premier League, scoring 86 goals.
    But he left Selhurst Park to join DC United in 2022, now starring under Wayne Rooney in Washington.
    Javier Hernández is still playing for LA Galaxy aged 34Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    Christian Benteke is the ninth-highest paid player in the MLSCredit: Alamy More

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    Watch Christian Benteke score incredible overhead kick as ex-Crystal Palace striker shines for DC United

    CHRISTIAN BENTEKE scored an incredible bicycle kick in DC United’s 3-0 win over Charlotte FC.The former Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace striker has netted five goals in ten games for Wayne Rooney’s side.
    Christian Benteke scored a stunning bicycle kick as DC United beat Charlotte FC 3-0Credit: Alamy

    Benteke previously scored a spectacular overhead kick in his Liverpool days against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
    And the Belgian forward repeated the feat with a stunning effort against Charlotte.
    Having missed a penalty on his full DC United debut back in September, Benteke wowed with an astonishing bicycle kick in Saturday’s win.
    The acrobatic effort came after a poor defensive header from Charlotte defender Harrison Afful.
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    Benteke was first to react, and with his back to goal jumped up and lashed into the back of the net past a helpless George Marks.
    His goal, sandwiched between strikes from Taxiarchis Fountas and Jacob Greene, gave Rooney’s side a third straight MLS win.
    The DC United boss is well aware of Benteke’s ability, having played in the game in 2015 that saw the striker scored a staggering bicycle kick for the Reds.
    Speaking on Benteke’s effort, Rooney said: “Christian’s actually scored a few.
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    “He scored one against me at Old Trafford against Manchester United.”
    Football fans were also left in awe by Benteke’s astonishing strike.
    One reacted on social media: “Gawd damn.”
    Another wrote: “Still got it.”
    And a third gushed: “This was crazy.”
    The win put DC United up to seventh in the Eastern Conference.
    Benteke signed for the Washington DC-based club in August of last year after leaving Crystal Palace. More

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    I’m an ex-Premier League star who was accused of kidnapping a PENGUIN – now English clubs want me as their transfer guru

    EX-PREMIER LEAGUE ace Lutz Pfannenstiel has been targeted by West Ham and his former club Nottingham Forest as their next sporting director.Pfannenstiel had a short stint in the Prem having played for Wimbledon and of course Forest during a globetrotting career that saw him working in every single continent – even Antarctica.
    West Ham and Nottingham Forest eye Lutz Pfannenstiel as their next sporting directorCredit: Bongarts – Getty
    Pfannenstiel used to play in the Premier League as a goalkeeperCredit: PA:Press Association
    Pfannenstiel was previously quizzed about a missing penguinCredit: Alamy
    The German is now enjoying plenty of success in the US as the sporting director of St Louis City SC with his work leading the MLS club to the top of the the Western Conference table.
    According to Bild, West Ham and Nottingham are keeping tabs but will have to work hard to convince him to leave America as he has big plans in Missouri.
    The former goalkeeper has had quite an eventful life that has seen him spend 101 days in a Singapore jail when he was accused of match fixing.
    Not long after, the now 49-year-old was declared dead on the pitch when his lungs collapsed following a collision during a game in England.
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    Pfannenstiel was also quizzed by police over a stolen penguin in Germany back in 2017.
    Amazingly that was not the first time the former Germany Under-17 international was accused of the same crime.

    The former Hoffenheim scout confessed in his autobiography The Unstoppable Keeper to “borrowing” a penguin from a New Zealand beach during his time with Dunedin.
    Pfannenstiel said: “The police phoned me about a stolen penguin. They had received an anonymous tip-off that I might be involved.
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    “But it wasn’t me. I urge the thief to return the penguin, as this is no joke. I know it well from the sins of my youth.
    “In 2003 I took a penguin home from its colony and put it in my bathtub.
    “But I returned it inside two days after my club chairman explained penguins were a protected species.
    “Besides, my housemates were not delighted, as it stank like a fish factory. I did not steal it – I just borrowed it.”
    His fundraising efforts in recent years have seen him live in an igloo as well as persuading the late great Diego Maradona to play a charity game in Antarctica. More

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    I was axed by Fulham for being too small and quit pro football.. now I’m 6ft 6in and have battled Rooney, Zlatan & Bale

    FOR the majority of footballers, the route to the top is simple.Scouts swarm parks across the country and invite the best of the best to join their academy.
    Jack Elliott is one of the MLS’ biggest stars, but his road to the top from his youth in Surrey has been far from the normCredit: Getty
    Jack Elliott has battled against the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his careerCredit: Getty
    Wayne Rooney is another big-name star to have been marked by Jack ElliottCredit: Getty
    After a decade or so in the youth ranks, they’ll get their big break… if they’re up to it.
    But for Jack Elliott, his road to the top has been an altogether different story.
    While most talented youngsters are spotted around the age of eight, Elliott was cherry-picked by Fulham aged 12.
    After just a single season, the budding centre-back was released for being too short.
    Elliott bagged a trial at Crystal Palace, but the Eagles turned down the chance to sign him.
    So, like all football-mad teenagers, the defender played for his school, turned out for a Sunday League side and enjoyed a five-a-side kickabout with pals at the local Powerleague.
    By his own admission, he was forced to learn how to play against bigger opponents due to his slight nature – but claims that’s made him a better player today.
    Aged 15, almost miraculously, Elliott grew an entire FOOT in a single summer.
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    Despite that, it seemed far too late in the day to try to break back into the academy game.
    At the age of 17, Elliott was at school preparing to go to university to study geography.
    But, he was still playing football – and one night saw the trajectory of his life change – as he turned out for Old Wilsonians for their Surrey Premier Cup quarter-final against against Walton Casuals.
    Elliott’s side lost that cold evening, being dumped out on penalties.
    Yet this wasn’t to be the end of his journey… in fact, it was only the beginning.
    That night, Elliott played alongside team-mate Dan Stratford – who was a coach at West Virginia University in the USA.
    Stratford had invited the university’s head coach Marlon Blanc to watch the game.
    So impressed by Elliott’s performance despite defeat, Blanc sensed an opportunity.
    The head coach asked Elliott to snub his uni plans in the UK and accept a scholarship to play under him in West Virginia.
    College soccer – like with all American sports – is the main route to the pro game.
    Jack Elliott has gone on to become one of the top players in the MLS and dreams of earning an international call upCredit: Getty
    Jack Elliott went toe-to-toe with Gareth Bale in last year’s MLS Finals – scoring an 127th-minute equaliser to force a penalty shootoutCredit: Reuters
    Suddenly Elliott’s dream of making the big time was back – five years on from his Fulham axe.
    Elliott battled searing 35C heat in summer training but stuck it out to play 68 times across three years for West Virginia University before being invited to attend the MLS Draft Combine – a chance to show his skills for every team’s scouts, coaches and owners.
    The defender, now a soaring 6ft 6in, entered the MLS draft and was taken with the 77th pick by the Philadelphia Union, who’s reserve team was now being coached by Blanco.
    Elliott was nominated for the league’s Rookie of the Year award after forging a supreme centre-back partnership with Arsenal star Auston Trusty – currently on loan at Birmingham.
    His very first match was up against Barcelona and Spain legend David Villa and he’s gone on to face the likes of Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale since.
    In fact, it was Bale – in his last-ever club game – who scored a 127th-minute equaliser in the MLS Finals to send the game to penalties, with his LAFC ultimately edging out Elliott’s Philadelphia Union.
    Elliott had scored a 123rd-minute goal for what appeared to be the win, only for Bale’s even later heroics.
    Now aged 27, Elliott is still going strong at Philadelphia Union – with ten goals from defence in 163 games.
    The defender even has international aspirations now after his sensational form in the States… but not for England.
    Born in England to Scottish parents, Elliott told The Athletic: “Scotland would be a dream for me.
    “I’ve been brought up that way and it would be something amazing (to get a cap).
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    “There have been rumours here and there, but nothing concrete, so hopefully I’ll get a chance at some point, but I’ll just keep working and see where that goes.”
    Either way, he’s a long way from the Surrey Premier Cup now… More

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    Lionel Messi could make shock MLS transfer with ‘all 29 clubs willing to cover £900,000 wages to dodge league’s pay cap’

    LIONEL MESSI could complete a shock move to the MLS this summer, according to reports.The 35-year-old has just three months remaining on his current contract with Paris Saint-Germain.
    All 29 MLS clubs want to contribute to Messi’s wagesCredit: Getty
    He is yet to agree terms for a new deal but has the option to stay in France for another year.
    Messi has been linked with several clubs since the start of the year, including Inter Milan and Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal.
    He has also been tipped to make a triumphant return to Barcelona where he won four Champions League titles and a whopping 10 LaLiga titles.
    However, according to Spanish outlet Sport, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner could be heading stateside.
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    All 29 MLS clubs have discussed a unique structure that would see Messi join the league.
    Every club has committed to funding a percentage of the forward’s £900,000-a-week salary in the hope that his presence in the league will attract huge commercial benefits.
    MLS chiefs also hope that he will bring increased viewing figures ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which will take place in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
    If he does decide to make the switch, Messi will have the opportunity to choose which club he joins.
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    But, various reports have suggested that he currently prefers to stay in Europe.
    Messi, who won the World Cup with Argentina in December, has scored 18 goals in 32 appearances for PSG so far this season. More

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    Arsenal fans love it as Martinelli cracks Ted Lasso joke while Turner teaches him and Nketiah about MLS ahead of US tour

    ARSENAL fans loved it as Gabriel Martinelli cracked a Ted Lasso joke to American goalkeeper Matt Turner.As part of an MLS promotion, the US international goalkeeper has been teaching Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah about his home league ahead of the Gunners’ summer tour.
    Gabriel Martinelli made a Ted Lasso jokeCredit: Twitter
    American Matt Turner took the quip in his strideCredit: Twitter
    Arsenal will take on an MLS All-Star team in Washington DC on July 19.
    And Martinelli, 21, hopes that there will be a special guest.
    Turner introduced the forward duo to Audi Field, where the All-Star game will take place.
    The 28-year-old said: “You’re looking at Audi Field, and lucky for us we’ll have the chance to play there in the MLS All-Star game on Apple TV.”
    Nketiah, 23, then said: “The stars are really aligning for us, innit.”
    And Martinelli added: “Does it mean Ted Lasso will be there?”
    To which Turner replied: “I know a few people, I’ll see what I can do.”
    Hit TV series Ted Lasso is currently in its third season and is an Apple TV original, the same platform that broadcasts all MLS matches.
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    Eddie Nketiah also appeared in the advertCredit: TWITTER
    Hit Apple TV show Ted Lasso is currently in its third seasonCredit: AP
    It sees fictional American coach Lasso move to Premier League strugglers AFC Richmond, joined by his ever-wise assistant Coach Beard.
    Despite the interaction being staged, Arsenal fans loved Martinelli’s quip.
    One wrote: “Does it mean Ted lasso will be there lmao 😭😂😂 I love gabi man”
    A second tweeted: “Great ad 😃”
    While a third commented: “The Ted Lasso comment freaking love it 😂😂😂”
    And another added: “They should make Ted Lasso a coach for MLS team.”
    The actual coach of the MLS team will be England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney.
    Wazza, 37, has been in charge of DC United since July last year – but has only won three of his 18 matches in charge,
    Wayne Rooney will manage MLS All-Stars against ArsenalCredit: Alamy More

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    Arsenal set to face MLS All-Star XI managed by Wayne Rooney as Man Utd legend ‘lets slip’ details of match

    ARSENAL will take on a team of MLS All-Stars ahead of the 2023-24 season, reports suggest.The Gunners currently sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table with 10 games left to play.
    Arsenal will face the MLS All-Stars in JulyCredit: Reuters
    Rooney will coach the best of the MLSCredit: Reuters
    This season they have been highly regarded as one of the best teams in Europe with the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka receiving praise from some of the world’s top managers.
    But while Mikel Arteta and his team continue to chase the domestic title, club chiefs are already putting plans in place for the summer.
    According to The Athletic, Arsenal will face the MLS All-Stars in a pre-season friendly ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.
    The match is set to take place on July 19 at Audi Field in Washington D.C.
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    And Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney is set to take charge of the MLS team.
    Rooney, who has managed D.C. United since July, reportedly announced the news inadvertently during a fan event on Thursday.
    However, an official announcement is yet to be made.
    Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the best of the MLS would join forces on an annual basis to take on some of the biggest teams in Europe.
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    The MLS All-Stars have previously faced the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Roma, Man Utd, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
    But, the annual event was cancelled in 2020 when the world was sent into lockdown as a result of the pandemic.
    With travel restrictions still in place in some areas in 2021 and 2022, the MLS superstars took on a team of Liga MX All-Stars twice in consecutive seasons.
    But with everything now back to normal, this summer will mark the return of Europe’s elite.
    Arsenal previously faced the MLS All-Stars in 2016.
    The Gunners won 2-1 with Joel Campbell and Chuba Akpom bagging the goals. More