U.S./France Olympic preview, or how to combat Les Bleues’ charm offensive


And so it begins. Momentum is as stake in the U.S.’s first Olympic group stage match tomorrow against an endearingly modish French side.

The U.S. stumbled out of the starting blocks in 2008 when the team dropped its first Olympic match against Norway. Does recent history promise to repeat itself on Wednesday? France likely pose the biggest threat to U.S. chances until the Knockout Round. Les Bleues nearly got the best of the U.S. in the World Cup Semifinals last summer, but failed to contain Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. It’s a match-up between perennial powerhouses vs. potential powerhouses and anything can happen.

Who gets the starting nod in midfield; Lauren Cheney or Carli Lloyd? The USWNT’s previous three friendlies have seen Pia Sundhage do the improbable as Carli Lloyd remained on the bench in favor of Lauren Cheney. While Lloyd is certainly capable of being a productive force (she scored the game-winning goal in the 2008 Gold Medal match, after all), inconsistency and wastefulness have made her a frustrating figure to USWNT devotees. Sundhage rolled the dice by giving Cheney the surprise start in the U.S.’s opening game against  North Korea at the World Cup last summer. Will it be déjà vu in Glasgow?

(MORE: Hope Solo talks about her new autobiography)

Expect France to rack up the style points. It’s been said at least a dozen times before but it bears repeating before special occasions like this. Les Bleues’ meteoric rise on the international scene can be partially attributed to the vast successes amassed by Olympique Lyonnais at club level. Lyon have been lauded for their progressive, possession-oriented style of play; a style France has worked to duplicate. Eleven players on France’s 18-player squad won the Champions League title with Lyon last May. Look for Lyon midfielders Camille Abily and Louisa Necib (she’ll be the one with the eyeliner) to provide France’s attacking thrust. Both are capable of some truly wondrous performances.

How will the U.S.’s defense fare against France’s flair? The United States defense has experienced its share of woes this calendar year. 23-year-old newly-converted defender Kelley O’Hara could be tabbed to start at outside back. France’s speedy wingers are nearly as dangerous as the side’s mercurial attacking midfielders. Lapses in concentration are likely to be punished. The U.S. defense should be prepared to face its stiffest test so far this year.

–  Will Alex Morgan continue to make strides towards history? It seems not even the allure of Alex Morgan can fill seats at Hampden Park (80% of tickets were reportedly distributed to school children in response to sluggish ticket sales). Still, Morgan will have the chance to light up the scoresheet as she’s done so many times this year. She’s merely three goals away from becoming just the fifth player in U.S. WNT history to net 20 goals in a single season. And her premiere World Cup goal came against France, y’know.

(MORE: Comparing the 2008 and 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic sides)  

Final say: Between Morgan, Wambach, and Megan Rapinoe, the U.S.’s frontline looked ferociously potent in the team’s previous three friendlies. Defensive frailties have remained present, however, so it won’t be a shock to see the team cough up a first half goal. Still, one of the U.S.’s three aforementioned attacking players will be eager to make it 2-1. France might need an additional group game before truly hitting form, but a highly competitive duel of contrasting styles will likely be on tap.

The proceedings begin at 12 PM EST on NBC Sports.

Jurgen Klopp coy over links with Liverpool

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25:  Jurgen Klopp manager of Borussia Dortmund speaks during a Borussia Dortmund press conference, ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group D match against Arsenal, at Emirates Stadium on November 25, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Based on all the reports, it seems like a matter of when, not if, Jurgen Klopp will be named the next manager at Liverpool.

The former Borussia Dortmund boss had been heavily linked with the Liverpool job even before Brendan Rodgers was fired, and now that Rodgers is out, Klopp’s name is once again grabbing all the headlines.

While some reports state he could be appointed manager by the end of the week, nothing is official yet as Klopp is still in Germany, unemployed as of today.

[ REPORTS: Nigel Pearson approached by Sunderland ]

Klopp was approached by a reporter from German news outlet Bild in Leverkusen, and was asked about the vacant Liverpool job. While he did not confirm he was in talks with the club, he didn’t deny the links either.

There’s nothing to say. Neither a definite yes nor a definite no. I’m going home now.

It is believed that a deal between the club and the manager is in the works, with a few details still needed to be worked out before anything is made official.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback: Rodgers gone, but not forgotten ]

One of the biggest roadblocks in the deal is Liverpool’s use of a transfer committee when buying new players, while Klopp is supposedly keen on having full control over the team’s signings. The club has said no moves are made without the manager’s approval, although it is reported that Rodgers was limited on what players he could bring in, having multiple moves shot down by the committee.

Former Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is still in the running for the vacant position, but at this time, Klopp is the out-and-out favorite to take over.

Reports: Sunderland reaches out to Nigel Pearson

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  Nigel Pearson, manager of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City at The Hawthorns on April 11, 2015 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Sunderland is without a win and without a manager, as the Black Cats are in desperate need of some help.

After manager Dick Advocaat resigned following Sunderland’s 2-2 draw against West Ham, the club has been searching for a replacement to help lead the club off the bottom of the table.

Reports out of England state the North East club has approached former Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson, who has been out of work after being fired over the summer.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Pearson knows what it takes to win with a team in a relegation battle, as he led Leicester to a 14th place finish last season after sitting bottom of the table at Christmas. Still in last place in March, the Foxes won seven of their final nine matches to stay up in the Premier League.

However, Pearson was sacked over the summer after having a fall-out with the Leicester board, and it was well-documented that he had a tumultuous relationship with the club’s owners.

It is being reported that Sunderland’s technical director Lee Congerton approached Pearson about the job, but that club owner Ellis Short would rather bring former West Ham manager Sam Allardyce on board.

[ REPORTS: Liverpool could appoint Jurgen Klopp manager by end of the week ]

When you look at Nigel Pearson, he is a polar opposite of Dick Advocaat. Advocaat came to Sunderland towards the end of his managerial career, with experience winning titles with major clubs throughout Europe. However, he had never managed in the Premier League, and had no experience with a club fighting for survival.

Pearson, on the other hand, is fresh off a relegation battle and his fiery attitude may be what’s needed to turn Sunderland around. While Pearson may not always see eye-to-eye with the media or the board, he is fiercely loyal to his players and is a no-nonsense type-manager.

With the Premier League on an international break, Sunderland has a bit of time to figure things out, but expect Pearson’s name to continue to be linked with the job.