Still looking for U.S. Soccer’s miracle moment

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Today is the 33rd anniversary of what was surely the most memorable moment in United States sports history. Ever. It was the Miracle on Ice, a place where an enormous upset in athletic competition metastasized due to the global geopolitical (i.e., Cold War) implications.

For a lot of years, U.S. Soccer was in a place to manufacture something close.

Anyone around the 1994 World Cup wondered, if only in their private moments, whether the United States national team could possibly create something similar? In terms of stacked odds, the circumstances were roughly similar to the U.S. hockey team that so implausibly took down the mighty Soviets en route to that storied 1980 Olympic Gold in hockey.

The United States, remember, didn’t even have a proper top tier league at the time. Then-coach Bora Milutinovic had to scare up a whole rack of friendlies just to get games for guys whose World Cup prep would be mostly done on the practice field otherwise.

As it turned out, playing close to Brazil in an elimination match (in a 1-0 loss on July 4) was as close as we got to a 1994 Miracle on Grass moment.

World Cup ’98 in France had some promise. By then, the majority of U.S. starters had spent time in Europe, acclimating further to the high-level stuff it would take to manufacture a series of upsets. But a shocker of a run is mostly about chemistry and belief, and the United States failed miserably there. Long story short, they finished 32nd of 32 teams. We’re talking anti-miracle here.

We got close in 2002, although characterization as a “miracle” was getting tougher to come by. Winning the whole banana probably would qualify, but anything shorter and we were only talking about varying degrees of “terrific World Cup run.”

From that point on … well let’s face it, we may be past any Miracle Moment in global soccer. (For the United States, that is.) There are simply too many capable U.S. players getting the business done in esteemed leagues abroad.

Plus, the United States has now been in every World Cup since 1986 (the last one the country missed). The World Cup experience now matches the country’s resources and athletic pool.

If the United States somehow wins in Brazil, it will be a hallmark achievement and certainly a victory for the ages. But a miracle? Given so many talented figures earning paychecks as starters in the power leagues of England, Germany, Italy, Mexico – and, yes, even those making hay in gradually improving Major League Soccer – that might be a stretch.

Oh, well … enjoy the final few seconds of the amazing 1980 moment:

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Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

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A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

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Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.

USMNT veteran Geoff Cameron extended by Stoke City

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Forget a return Stateside, as Geoff Cameron is sticking around the Potteries.

The versatile American midfielder and defender, 31, has extended his stay at Stoke City by two years, the Premier League club announced Friday.

Cameron has played 165 times for Stoke since arriving from the Houston Dynamo in 2012. He’s been capped 50 times by the USMNT.

Turning 32 next in mid-July, Cameron missed three-and-a-half months with a knee injury this season. That span saw Stoke go 6-5-5.

Advanced stats site WhoScored rated Cameron as Stoke’s best player — by far — this season. He was a bright spot along with loan man Bruno Martins Indi, and his extension is good news for both U.S. and Stoke fans.

Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland is preparing for more banter:

Double the Silva? Monaco star undergoing Man City medical

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Pep Guardiola is looking to Monaco in his chase for (lowers sunglasses) Silvaware.

Thanks, we’ll be here all day.

Bernardo Silva is in Manchester on Friday, with the Manchester Evening News saying the playmaker is close to joining unrelated surname sharer David Silva in the Sky Blues’ attack.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

“The 22-year-old arrived at Manchester Airport on Thursday night on a flight from Mallorca and is believed to have had a medical at the club’s academy on Friday morning,” writes James Robson.

At 22, Bernardo Silva has already made 124 appearances for Monaco, registering 25 goals. He scored eight goals in Monaco’s Ligue 1 title run, adding three in the Champions League.

He’s also been capped 12 times by Portugal.

Where does Silva fit? He featured heavily at right wing for Monaco this season — 43 of 56 apps — also spending time in an attacking central midfield role. In City’s final match of the PL season, Gabriel Jesus lined up wide right next to David Silva