Rio Tinto Stadium

News and notes on United States national team

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A scattering of news and notes on the United States national team as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side prepares to gather Sunday in Cleveland ahead of five big matches, including three World Cup qualifiers in June:

Brad Evans has been added to the U.S. contingent set to assemble this weekend. Evans is a heady midfielder who can play a number of positions through the middle third. But don’t forget this: he can also play at right back, where he as appeared previously for the national team. Given the injury to Timothy Chandler and the absence of habitually under  appreciated Steve Cherundolo, that’s a very good thing.

The June 18 match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah is sold out. No surprise there considering the size of the ground and that past U.S. matches in Salt Lake sold well.

Sacha Kljestan is a champion. Again. We talked about that one yesterday.

Everyone will be excited about the match against Germany (June 2 … the full U.S. schedule for the coming weeks is below) will gobble up most of the attention. It’s Klinsmann’s old team against his new one, you know? Plus, it’s the match selected for U.S. Soccer to celebrate its centennial.

But considering all the German absences, and considering the stacked and packed roster Belgium is bringing, the tougher match may well be May 29 in Cleveland. The lowlands country defines “up and comer” in European soccer at the moment.

The Belgian roster includes Chelsea livewire attacker Eden Hazard, Spurs midfielder Moussa Dembele, Everton guiding light Marouane Fellaini, Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, Aston Villa scorer Christian Benteke and quite a few others namey names of European soccer.

More on the Belgian roster is here.

The arrivals of Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson into the United States camp will be delayed – which in this case represents good news. Williams was not involved but Johnson did play as a huge Hoffenhiem win on the final Bundesliga match day. And it wasn’t just any win – their side downed powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, 2-1, in one of the most dramatic Bundesliga matches this year.

The result put Hoffenheim in a playoff against FC Kaiserslautern; the winner of the two-legged series will be a Bundesliga side next year, while the loser sets up for a season in 2. Bundesliga. That would represent a drop for Hoffenheim … and wouldn’t be good for Williams or Johnson.

Those German playoff matches are May 23 and 27.

Details of how it all unfolded are here from the official Bundesliga site and also here from U.S. Soccer.

U.S. Soccer says the ticket sales are at about 18,500 for the Belgian friendly, about 32,000 for the qualifier in Seattle and 39,000 for the friendly against Germany in Washington, D.C.

The schedule (up to Gold Cup activity later this summer) is here:

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Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.

Emre Can back in the Liverpool side ahead of Europa clash vs. Villarreal

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Emre Can of Liverpool battles for the ball with Idrissa Gana of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Emre Can has recovered from an ankle injury and will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Europa League semifinal against Villarreal on Thursday night.

The German international has not played since April 14 when he was forced off in the Reds’ wild 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool prepping for Villarreal ]

Giving his team update on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said Can is back in the team, although captain Jordan Henderson is still out. The Reds enter the second leg trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Another positive note out of Melwood was the return of Danny Ings to first-team training. The 23-year-old striker signed with Liverpool last summer, but managed just eight appearances before having his season end to a torn ACL in October. Ings is still far away from his full return, but it was a good sight to see him back on the pitch and making progress in his recovery.

Disappointed Pellegrini rues lack of offense in Man City’s loss to Real

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
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Manchester City put in an uninspired performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, losing the match 1-0 and falling out of the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City ]

The match was decided by just one goal, but the scoreline was flattering to City as they failed to create any kind of real chances at the Bernabeu. Over the two legs, City managed just two shots on target.

While City were wildly disappointing in the second leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini did not think the match was that one-sided, saying both teams struggled on the attack.

I am disappointed because I think that was a very close game with two teams who did not create many chances. The two teams were working with no-one making a difference.

It is not the best thing changing a defender very early but I don’t think we had any problems in defence, we had problems creating, same as Real Madrid. They did not create many chances.

Real Madrid was not in top form, but they still could have scored three or four goals on Wednesday. Joe Hart had to come up with some big saves to keep things close, as the England goalkeeper was by far City’s most valuable player throughout the tie.

[ MORE: Liverpool preparing for Europa League match vs. Villarreal ]

The absence of David Silva through injury certainly hurt City’s attack, but there was very little service moving forward from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. The poor play in the midfield left Sergio Aguero stranded alone up top, nearly invisible in the second leg.

Without service, Aguero was forced to track back to try and find the ball himself, leaving City no options to hit on the counter. For a tie between two of the most expensive teams in the world, neither side was truly impressive, but City surely disappointing.