Advice from U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard’s on defending free kicks: don’t foul in the first place

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KANSAS CITY – The United States back line has been the least of its trouble, a slip from Clarence Goodson here, or a slide there from Geoff Cameron notwithstanding.

Three of five goals conceded by the United States in five matches have come on direct free kicks. One of those was in the second half against Guatemala back in June, when Marco Pappa reminded everyone that he can hit a swell free kick, and that he change the game in an instant when handed a good dead ball situation.

Two months later, the United States went up a goal against Jamaica down in Kingston. But fouls from U.S. midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu provided the home team with two big opportunities to aim direct free kicks at Tim Howard’s goal. Sure enough, they converted both, spelling the difference in a 2-1 Jamaican victory.

So, the problem isn’t defending per se. It’s fouling in dangerous areas, which leads to free kicks, which … well, you can connect the dots.

I asked Tim Howard today if there was anything in particular the United States defenders and midfielders could work on to quash this alarming tendencies for fouling in dangerous spot, or if it was just an awareness issue?

“Yeah, just not doing it,” he said.

Howard recalled a run at Everton where something similar was happening, where too many free kicks and corner kicks were proving painful and costly. The manager addressed it by harping on the need to avoid giving away those chances.

“If you can drill it into people’s heads, they don’t do it,” Howard said.

“That’s just getting lazy, not concentrating, getting a little bit fatigued. I think it’s the easy way out of defending, to give away fouls in dangerous areas. I think, 25 yards from goal, the only way you should give away fouls is if the guy is clear in one goal. Otherwise you’ve got to trust your defenders, you’ve got to trust your goalkeeper. You just can’t give away fouls.”

source:  It’s a particularly prickly issue in this one because Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz is a peach at drawing fouls. And Pappa (right), as we know, can finish them.

“It’s tricky,” U.S. center back Geoff Cameron said,” because he looks to initiate the contact. But then if there’s too much contact, he’s looking to draw the foul.”

There’s one more issue to consider here, however, that works to the U.S. advantage. Clint Dempsey reminded reporters just before Monday’s evening workout at Livestrong Sporting Park that “home cooking” and CONCACAF tend to cook up well together. He pointed out the number of juicy opportunities on free kicks the other fellows tend to get when the Americans are visiting. But in fairness, he knows the Americans get a bunch of them at home, too. (They certainly did against Jamaica last month in Columbus.)

So, maybe it won’t be such a problem tomorrow, after all.

Fabinho admits interest in Manchester United

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If even a fraction of this summer’s transfer interest is real, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has taken every precaution against his biggest 2017 enemy: scheduled congestion.

Mourinho was a regular critic of United’s schedule last season in the run-up to its UEFA Europa League title win over Ajax, and is building his roster up for the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Saief completes USMNT switch ]

The manager already had plenty of attacking options, and has added Victor Lindelof to his stable of defenders while reportedly flirting with PSG’s Marquinhos, too. Defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic is also a reported target (as are half of the world’s elite footballers).

And now, a wry smile from Monaco’s Fabinho hints that Mourinho may be making progress with another target.

‘‘It’s a tempting invitation. … I would first talk to my agent, Monaco too, to decide everything right. But it’s a great club, sure enough I would think well about it.”

Fabinho played mostly right back in 2014-15 before splitting time between that position and defensive midfielder the following year and seeing most of his time at CDM last season. Mourinho has lavished praise and given a contract extension to right back Antonio Valencia and has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Paul Pogba at CDM (though the latter can certainly operate higher up the field).

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.