Conflict, confusion mark the end of John Terry’s international career

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It’s never easy with John Terry, a man whose controversies rival his medals. Now part of the captain’s career has succumb to those conflicts.

On Sunday, the former England, current Chelsea captain retired from international soccer, his representation releasing the announcement:

“I am today announcing my retirement from international football.”

“Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honour. I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision.

“I want to wish [England manager Roy Hodgson] and the team every success for the future.”

NBC Sports: John Terry quites England squad before FA hearing

Terry represented his country at two World Cups and two European Championships during a 78-cap career that began in 2003. He twice served  as England captain (Aug 2006-Feb. 2010, March 2011-Feb. 2012), originally awarded the armband when David Beckham vacated the role after the 2006 World Cup. Now, at 31, he’s called a premature end to that international career.

The announcement comes as a shock, but Terry’s statement make his reasons crystal clear. The English Football Association continues to pursue disciplinary action against him stemming from an Oct. 2011 incident that occurred in a match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.

Terry is accused hurling a racial epithet at Rangers’ defender Anton Ferdinand (younger brother of Manchester United defender and former England captain Rio Ferdinand). Although Terry was cleared of corresponding criminal charges on July 13, The FA announced its own charges on July 27.

I am making his statement today in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable.

It’s unlikely many of us considered this point of view before, but laid out in a single sentence, it makes perfect sense. How Terry represent an organization that’s intent on punishing him? Regardless of how you view the case’s evidence, the two parties don’t see eye-to-eye on the incident. For Terry to represent The FA while espousing his innocence feels hypocritical.

For some, Terry’s decision will be greeted with sadness. Others will be rejoice. Most will greet the news with a feeling of confusion. Over the last decade, no player has been more readily associated with the England national team than John Terry. Having already continued to represent his country despite losing his captaincy (twice), Terry walking away didn’t seem like a possibility. But with his disciplinary committee to begin Monday, things must have reached a point of no return.

This is also a point of no return for those who have closely followed Terry’s career. To this point, Terry’s controversies had led to a series of nebulous costs, the stripping of his captaincy meaningless for those narrowly concerned with final scores. Today’s decision indesputably changes part of that picture. We can no longer argue over whether Terry’s controversies have cost him (or his teams) anything. Today, a circumstance create by Terry has cost his national team one of their first choice defenders.

And although we may feel conflicted that a capable, iconic player feels compelled to turn his back on his country, we must remember that Terry’s had the heaviest hand in this situation, even if The FA’s played a necessary part. For those who have seen the video of what Terry said to Ferdinand, there’s little doubt as to what was mouthed. The most flattering thing that can be said in Terry’s defense is that a compelling alternatie narrative has yet to be presented.

In a criminal court, the evidence didn’t warrant a conviction, but the Football Association has good reason to discourage that kind of behavior. English soccer can’t be seen as looking the other way on race hate, particularly given the precedent it set in last year’s Luis Suárez case.

If the Ferdinand affair is an aberration – if it is inconsistent with how people know John Terry on a personal level – it makes the situation all the more unfortunate. But it is still something Terry has caused, just as ultimately he’s caused the circumstances that have ended his international career.

Report: American teenager linked with Manchester United

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The U.S. Men’s National Team is always looking for more Christian Pulisic-like players, and another star-in-the-making could be on his way to Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Three keys for USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

American teenager Will Vint is reportedly being pursued by Premier League giants Manchester United after previously having trialed with Fulham and Everton.

Vint, the 15-year-old son Everton academy director Peter Vint, has reportedly impressed the Red Devils while on trial as of late. Additionally, the teen’s Instagram page describes him as a “Footballer at Manchester United.”

The number of Americans in England’s top flight have dwindled down over recent years, however, USMNT mainstays like Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan (moving to Atlanta United) still reside in the PL.

Chapecoense announces match against Colombia’s Nacional

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazilian club Chapecoense will play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional on April 4 in what will be an emotional home match.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina XI to face Bolivia ]

In November, 19 members of the Brazilian team died in an air crash outside Medellin as they travelled to play Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final. Out of 77 passengers, 71 died in the incident, including players, journalists, and club officials.

Chapecoense says they will play at 22,000-seat Arena Conda in southern Brazil in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana.

The tragedy made Atletico Nacional pronounce Chapecoense as champions, and the South American confederation agreed.

The Recopa Sudamericana is between the champions of the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa Libertadores.

Aguero left off Argentina starting XI to face Bolivia

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Sao Paolo striker Lucas Pratto will receive a fantastic opportunity on Tuesday when Argentina faces Bolivia in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT travels to Panama in CONCACAF WCQ ]

It just so happens that Pratto’s gain is a major letdown for one of the Premier League’s top strikers. The 28-year-old is tied for second this qualifying campaign for Argentina with two goals.

La Albiceleste have announced their starting lineup ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Bolivia, which features mainstays Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Meanwhile, Aguero — who started in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday — is the lone change from manager Edgardo Bauza.

The Copa America runners’ up are currently depleted with a combination of injuries and suspensions. Four players will miss Tuesday’s meeting in La Paz due to suspension, including Gonzalo Higuain, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas will each miss the match after sustaining respective hamstring and knee injuries.

Argentina currently sits third in the CONMEBOL table while Bolivia is in danger of elimination with a loss on Tuesday. La Verde have managed just seven points in the first 13 rounds of World Cup qualifying.

Three keys for USMNT against Panama

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Coming off of Friday night’s dominating effort against Honduras, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks for their second win in five nights when Bruce Arena and co. head to Panama.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT goes for second win in Hex on Tuesday ]

Strong performances from players like Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic have USMNT fans buzzing ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Panama City, but there are several questions that lie ahead for Arena as the U.S. goes for its second win in the Hexagonal.

How does Arena cope with injuries?

The only downside of the team’s 6-0 win over Panama on Friday was the aftereffects if the match. John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Michael Orozco and Jordan Morris are no longer with the USMNT after sustaining injuries/illnesses, leaving Arena shorthanded as the Stars and Stripes head into the Estadio Rommel Fernández.

While Clint Dempsey’s emphatic national team return will provide Arena with some assurances up front, along with the emergence of Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, there are some questions in the midfield and defense for the U.S.

Jermaine Jones is available to return from his one-match suspension and could potentially fill the void left by Sebastian Lletget after his injury on Friday. While, Alejandro Bedoya — who replaced Lletget in the Honduras match — will also be in line for a starting spot.

Defensively is where it gets a bit tricky though, as Arena has to make up for an already-depleted backline. There was no DeAndre Yedlin or Fabian Johnson coming into this round of qualifiers, and John Brooks’ release from camp leaves the defense even thinner. Tim Ream appears to be Arena’s next choice to start at centerback with Brooks unavailable, but will he stick with Omar Gonzalez in the center or slide Geoff Cameron back into the middle?

It seems like the latter choice, especially given Cameron’s experience in the central defense, but that would mean Arena has to slot somebody else into the right back position. Graham Zusi has had slight experience in that role as of late, but it could be a bit of a gamble for Arena in another high-stakes match.

Bradley must control the middle once again

Forget Michael Bradley’s superb goal, which lifted the U.S. lead to 2-0 on Friday, it was the captain’s overall performance that is exactly what should be expected from the center midfielder.

Bradley completions/MLSSoccer

In 90 minutes of play against Los Catrachos, Bradley only missed on six passes while also making several successful tackles and recoveries to limit the Honduras attack.

The loss of Lletget is definitely a significant one for the Americans, given his lively movement going both ways. However, LA Galaxy teammate will likely be in line to replace the vibrant midfielder on Tuesday as he returns from a one-match suspension.

In regards to Bradley though, the U.S. veteran is at his best when he is able to move freely throughout the midfield, but Jones’ inclusion could present more of a burden for the Toronto FC player.

Jones is still a very capable midfielder, but he simply doesn’t have the pace to match that of a Lletget, which leaves Bradley more liable for covering ground defensively in front of the backline.

On top of that, the back four will see more changes on Tuesday after Brooks’ exit from the USMNT, making Bradley’s role all the more critical when facing players like Luis Tejada and Gabriel Torres.

[ MORE: CONCACAF qualifiers resume Tuesday afternoon ]

Dempsey/Pulisic bond continues to evolve

It couldn’t have gone much better for the pair on Friday night as Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic were directly involved in five of the game’s six goals.

The budding relationship between the two key attackers though is an intriguing one, and will likely determine just how successful this USMNT can be down the road. At 34, Dempsey is certainly on the back end of his career, however, his effort against Honduras shows just how dangerous the Seattle Sounders man can be, even after missing significant time due to a heart problem.

Meanwhile, Pulisic continues to shine in European with giants Dortmund, appearing both in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. The two likely won’t be together on the international scene for long, perhaps only until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the partnership is something to monitor over the next year-plus.

Not only does the duo represent a dangerous one-two punch in the attack but also a changing of the guard. Dempsey has been one of the most talented USMNT players in the nation’s history, and many believe Pulisic has the talent to match or even surpass that of the 55-time goalscorer.

We’ve seen it before when Landon Donovan was phased out of the U.S. squad and Dempsey was essentially handed the reigns of the attack, and this time Pulisic will be doing so with much more time to make an impact. The 18-year-old already has four international goals in 12 appearances, and if he improves on that goalscoring pace the U.S. will be enjoying his presence for many years to come.