Saturday’s games just started in the Premier League, so there’s still time for one or two U.S. internationals to have an impact on the day’s festivities. But with three big names failing to make their team’s starting XIs, it stands to be a quiet Saturday for England’s Americans Abroad.
Let’s go from least to most surprising.
Brek Shea made Stoke City’s 18. That’s good news. The 22-year-old had a foot problem this offseason. And in the grand scheme of things, he’s still very raw. That he’s been able to immediately make Stoke’s match day 18s is a big accomplishment.
With first choice left winger Matthew Etherington out, there was hope he’d make his first start today, but the former FC Dallas star was on the bench as West Ham visited the Britannia. To me, that’s still great progress.
More concerning is the absence of Geoff Cameron, a regular throughout the season for Tony Pulis.Young Ryan Shotton got the call at right back while Steve N’Zonzi and Glenn Whelan got the call in midfield. For the first time this season, we’re given reason to wonder if the U.S.’s first choice center half is part of Pulis’s ideal XI.
That could be very bad new for the U.S. It was already a problem that Cameron was seeing zero time at center back, his playing time at right back and in midfield keeping him from getting the valuable experience he needs to avoid mistakes like the one that contributed to the game-losing goal in Honduras. If Cameron’s not playing at all, a precarious center half situation for Jurgen Klinsmann gets even worse.
But let’s not draw too many conclusions from one game. Just put this on your watch list and hope things improve ahead of this month’s qualifiers.
And finally (and sadly), Tim Howard isn’t in the team for Everton. Two short of Everton’s record for consecutive appearances, Howard was left out of the team with what manager David Moyes described as a “knock” midweek.
The 34-year-old’s consecutive games streak ends at 210, two short of the club record held by legendary keeper Neville Southall.
Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs take place on Wednesday.
[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]
Leicester City of the Premier League head to Spain to face Sevilla in the UCL last 16 despite Claudio Ranieri‘s men battling for survival in the Premier League. The Foxes, as always, are the big underdogs in Spain as Sevilla have won the UEFA Europa League in each of the past three seasons and Jorge Sampaoli’s side are battling for the title in La Liga.
As for Leicester, they’re just two points off the bottom of the PL as they haven’t scored in their last six outings and have lost five on the spin as well as being dumped out of the FA Cup by third-tier Millwall at the weekend. So yeah, Sevilla head into this game as the heavy favorites and will hope to take a healthy lead to the King Power Stadium with them in two weeks time.
In the other UCL clash on Wednesday FC Porto host Juventus as the Portuguese and Italian giants collide at the Estadio do Dragao. Porto finished behind Leicester in the group stage, while Juv battled it out with Sevilla and clinched top spot. Massimiliano Allegri’s men remain top of Serie A and will look to Gonzalo Higuain to deliver the goals away from home. It promises to be an intriguing tactical battle in northern Portugal.
Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.
Wednesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs
Sevilla vs. Leicester City – 2:45 p.m. ET
FC Porto vs. Juventus – 2:45 p.m. ET
Manchester United beat Saint-Etienne 1-0 in their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg clash on Wednesday, but Jose Mourinho will be more concerned by injuries picked up ahead of the EFL Cup final on Sunday.
[ MORE: Mkhitaryan, Carrick injury updates ]
The Red Devils advanced to the last 16 of Europe’s second-tier club competition after a resounding 4-0 win on aggregate against the Ligue 1 side but with goalscorer Henrikh Mkhitaryan hobbling off in the first half and Michael Carrick removed in the second half, Mourinho will have some injury problems to sort out ahead of this weekends final against Southampton at Wembley.
Eric Bailly was sent off for two quick yellow cards in the second half but that didn’t impact the outcome as United cruised into the Round of 16 which will be drawn on Friday.
United have now lost just one of their last 25 games in all competitions. They are well and truly on a roll.
[ MORE: Europa League scoreboard ]
United controlled the early stages and went ahead after 15 minutes when Juan Mata picked the ball up on the left flank, drifted inside and picked out Mkhitaryan’s run as the Armenian playmaker flicked home. 1-0 to United on the night as the Red Devils led 4-0 on aggregate.
Mata again got free down the left in the first half and his cross hit two Saint-Etienne defenders and almost went in, while Mkhitaryan hobbled off soon after clutching his hamstring.
With Marcus Rashford coming on for Mkhitaryan, he almost made it 2-0 as Ashley Young‘s cross just evaded him. At the other end Saint-Etienne barely threatened as Loic Perrin sent a tame header in on goal which Sergio Romero saved easily.
In the second half United spurned good chances as Marouane Fellaini fired into the side-netting with teammates wide-open and then Paul Pogba went down in the box easily under a challenge. Zlatan Ibrahimovic then fired a shot just wide after another good break from Rashford as United dominated proceedings with link-up play between Pogba and Ibrahimovic imperious.
Carrick was then taken off with Bastian Schweinsteiger coming on in his place as it appeared that United’s veteran midfielder had a calf issue.
Bailly was then shown two quick yellow cards around the hour mark (he will miss their next European game) which saw United play out the game with 10-men and that buoyed the home side slightly.
However, United coasted through to the last 16 with Rashford and Ibrahimovic going close to doubling their lead late on in front of a raucous home crowd.
The Vietnamese Football Federation has imposed two-year bans on two players and suspended a coach for three years after their team was involved in a bizarre penalty protest during a league match on the weekend.
[ MORE: China or MLS for Rooney? ]
Long An players were furious at a late penalty awarded by referee Nguyen Tr?ng Thu to Ho Chi Minh City when the score was locked 2-2 late Sunday.
After initially walking off the pitch, the players returned to the field but goalkeeper Nguyen Minh Nhut turned his back as the penalty was taken, conceding a goal.
The whole team then stood motionless and allowed Ho Chi Minh City to score two more goals as the margin blew out to 5-2.
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In a statement, the VFF said that Mimh Nhut and captain Huynh Quang Thanh would banned for 24 months, “Due to disrupting the match, not respecting the decision of the referee and causing damage to the reputation and honor of the Vietnam Football Federation.”
Coach Ngo Quang Sang has been banned for three years, as has club chairman Vo Thanh Nhiem, who quit following the game.
Simone Zaza scored a stunner for Valencia against Real Madrid in La Liga.
Yes, that Simone Zaza.
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The Italian international striker, 25, spent the best part of six months on loan at West Ham United this season and just didn’t look interested as he failed to score in 11 appearances in all competitions. That prompted Slaven Bilic and the Hammers to cancel his loan deal from Juventus and the forward then joined Valencia in La Liga in January.
Fans of West Ham will be scratching their heads when watching the video below as Zaza swiveled and smashed home a perfect volley to put Valencia 1-0 up against Real at the Mestalla on Wednesday.