U.S. man Michael Bradley talks about the fight, determination that prevailed Friday

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Was a match that turned into something surreal, something most of the United States men’s national team players had never quite dealt with, a serendipitous moment in disguise?

Did Jurgen Klinsmann’s team bond a little over a match of meteorological mayhem, one that looked more like a backyard battle of will, and a lot less like a two high-level teams in latter stages of World Cup qualifying?

Veteran U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, one of the longest serving United States men, echoed something that we wrote about yesterday, about something that had perhaps slipped from this version of the U.S. team. As the player pool has improved gradually and as Klinsmann pushed for greater technical ability and a more comprehensive professional approach, did the team unity and chemistry suffer slightly from neglect?

Whether it did or not, Bradley said the team talked about it before Friday’s snowy win over Costa Rica, about making sure that part of the enterprise was alive and kicking.

Said Bradley from beneath DSG Sporting Goods Park late last night:

“We talked about it this week, and we are still talking about it, knowing that the real response would come on the field. As a team on the inside, we talked about it beforehand, not knowing what the game would be like, not knowing how the conditions would be. But the thing that had to be there was the commitment, the mentality, the determination, the willingness for every guy to fight for the guy next to him.”

Bradley said they talked a lot this week about how this version has developed, going back to the semifinal qualifying round, when performances were admittedly less than perfect.

“Again, we talked about the things that always have to be there, the fight, the determination, the commitment. … We looked at each other and said, ‘Listen, this hasn’t been what it needs to be.’ So as we move forward, as the big games continue to come, in order for us to be a team that competes at the highest level, that can never, uh, that has to be at the absolute highest level every time we step on the field.”

By the way, Bradley was foremost in encouraging his teammates, some of whom were clearly ready to get into the locker room and thaw out a bit immediately upon the final whistle, to circle back and go thank the awesome show of U.S. support. The American Outlaws supporters group and all American supporters went through a lot to show their support Friday at sold-out Dicks Sporting Goods Park – and good on Bradley for making sure the U.S. players thanked them.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.