Offshore drilling, France (Coupe de la Ligue final): Marseille 1, Lyon 0

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Man of the Match: What does it say about a match when a man who played only 23 minutes takes this award? Probably not much, as it concerns the quality of the match, but Marseille forward Brandão became the different-maker when, seven minutes after coming on, he outmuscled Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti to a ball in the left of Hugo Lloris’s six-yard box. The Brazilian target man kept his left-footed shot low and, beating Lloris into the far side-netting, won Marseille’s third straight Coupe de la Ligue.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Brandão was the change that was begging to be made. For 97 minutes, head coaches Didier Deschamps (Marseille) and Remi Garde seemed (for some unknown reason) too scared of ruining their sides’ mediocre performances. Lyon was more capable but never really tested Steve Mandanda, while Marseille was more plucky than able. One tweak from either side could have swayed the match either way. The managers decided not to rock the raft.
  • And in that way, this match was completely wasted by Garde. OL were always one, positive tweak away from breaking the game open. But Garde never made that tweak, and with only a very organized Marseille line (continuously drawing crucial offside calls) keeping OM in the match, the Lyon boss mistakenly waited for his opponent to capitulate. Against a team that hadn’t won in two months, you would have thought he’d have taken some initiative.
  • After 105 minutes, Alexandre Lacazette finally came on for Kim Kallstrom. Garde needed to make that move a half-hour earlier. Instead, Lyon waited until they were down to put on their bench’s best attacking option.
  • Though it’s only his first season with the club, it’s very difficult to look at a match like this and think Remi Garde is the right man for Lyon. He sits fourth in league (with top two talent), was seen out of Europe by Cypriot cinderella APOEL, and let the league cup slip through his fingers. A Coupe de France final against third division Quevilly gives Lyon one more route to silverware, but after seeing Garde allow Deschamps 97 minutes to win this match, you can’t help but ask questions.
  • For that reason, Deschamps should be seen as lucky rather than good. With his team consistently able to get behind Anthony Réveillère on Lyon’s right, he needed one of Brandão or André-Pierre Gignac on the field to work in the penalty area. That the match was so tight and looked like it could be decided on a set piece was even more reason to make that tweak. Instead, Deschamps waited for extra time, when a ball from Marseille’s left led to the goal.
  • The win was Marseille’s first since Feb.22, when they defeated Inter Milan 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup. Though they sit ninth in Ligue 1, the  trophy earns them  spot in next year’s Europa League.
  • As for Lyon, they have an easy Ligue run-in, one which could allow them to pass Lille for France’s final Champions League spot. They’ll need to bounce back from today’s result, something which may not be that difficult. They’re unlikely to be as frustrated by this performance as we were.

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.