United States now in great shape for World Cup qualification

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There is still a long way to go, and things can certainly go wrong. But the United States is in wonderful shape to qualifying for Brazil 2014 and extend that ongoing streak, to find its way into a seventh consecutive World Cup.

Given the U.S. history in World Cup qualifiers on home soil – basically, they don’t lose at home – and given that Jurgen Klinsmann’s team has already gained four of a possible nine points on the road, there is no other way to see it.

Remember when the CONCACAF draw came out? We all looked at the schedule and, exhaled and said, “Well, that didn’t work out very well.”  For Klinsmann and Co., it was all about keeping their heads above water through early June – through Friday, specifically.

So a late goal in Jamaica goes a long, long way to achieving the bigger goal.

Three of the first four matches in final round World Cup qualifying were on the road, and qualifying matches in CONCACAF (anywhere around the world, really) are perilous pieces of work. But a loss in Honduras to begin the final round was mitigated somewhat by a draw in Mexico and now … a huge, huge win in Jamaica.

In between, the United States prevailed in that bizarre, snowy night in Denver.

The formula for qualifying is always the same: win at home, nick a few points on the road and start looking for the best hotels and training grounds inside the World Cup host country.

At this point, the United States has six matches remaining in final round qualifying, and four of those are at home. It starts Tuesday in Seattle against Panama and then flows south of there in Utah a week later against Honduras.

At this point, the United States needs eight or nine points – something that looks quite achievable given the schedule ahead.

  •  June 11, vs. Panama in Seattle
  • June 18, vs. Honduras in Salt Lake City
  • Sept. 6, at Costa Rica
  • Sept. 10, vs. Mexico in Columbus
  • Oct. 11, vs. Jamaica in Kansas City
  • Oct. 15, at Panama

MLS Snapshot: Minnesota edges Timbers; D.C. tops Atlanta… again

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The game in 100 words (or less): Abu Danladi scored the game-winner on Wednesday night but the rookie striker had about as interesting a six-minute run of play as anyone you’ll see this season. The Minnesota forward notched second goal of the year after the hour mark before being sent off minutes later for a nasty encounter with Sebastian Blanco, who was also dismissed. It was a back-and-forth affair all night, with both sides having their chance to land a punch or two but Adrian Heath’s team moves off the bottom of the Western Conference with their win.

Three four five moments that mattered

7′ — Okugo own goal hands Minnesota lead — Good things happen when you get crosses into dangerous areas, and this was a prime example.

37′ — Valeri buries from the PK spot — It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Diego Valeri doesn’t convert this honestly…

47′ — Ramirez continues to be a goalscoring machine — Yeah, that’s right. Nine goals on the year now for Christian Ramirez. Looks like this guy is going to be just fine in MLS.

50′ — Another own goal… — Francisco Calvo is the unfortunate recipient of this own goal, but again, dangerous crosses pay off.

Man of the match: 

Goalscorers: Amobi Okugo (OG – 7′), Diego Valeri (PK – 37′), Christian Ramirez (47′), Francisco Calvo (OG- 50′), Abu Danladi (64′)


The game in 100 words (or less): For all the things that have gone wrong for D.C. United this season, Ben Olson’s side has actually played well against Atlanta United. That continued again on Wednesday night as D.C. picked up its fifth win of the season behind goals from Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko. Atlanta went ahead inside the opening 20 minutes when Yamil Asad set up Julian Gressel, who tapped home for the visitors. From there, Atlanta had a tough time of it capitalizing on their chances.

Three moments that mattered

17′ — Visitors leave D.C. in the dust for the opener — They make this look so easy… By the way, that’s nine assists on the season for Yamil Asad, who leads the league in that category.

23′ — Acosta equalizes for D.C. — Really sloppy play out of the back from the visitors, and Luciano Acosta made Atlanta pay with his fourth goal of the season.

60′ — Slow to react, Nyarko makes Atlanta pay — That’s some volley from Patrick Nyarko, but where’s the defending from Tyrone Mears? 2-1 D.C.

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Man of the match: Patrick Nyarko

Goalscorers: Julian Gressel (17′), Luciano Acosta (23′), Patrick Nyarko (60′)

Juventus confirms Dani Alves will be released, opens path to Man City

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Pep Guardiola could be one step closer to reuniting with one of his former pupils at Barcelona, and the Manchester City manager has Juventus to thank for that.

[ MORE: Bayern says clubs “risk FIFA punishment” for pursuing Lewandowski ]

The reigning Serie A champions confirmed on Wednesday that the club will release outside back Dani Alves, clearing the veteran defender’s path to join Man City this summer or another club.

“We’re not talking about a breakdown in the relationship, it’s motivation that is fundamental for players,” said Juventus chief executive Beppe Marotta.

“Alves has realised he has a desire to try a new experience, so we’re trying to reach a mutual termination of his contract and we wish him good luck.

“There’s certainly sadness because of what’s been said, but I can confirm there’s been no breakdown in our relationship.”

Alves signed a two-year contract with Juve last summer after previously playing for Barcelona since 2008, however, the winners of six consecutive Italian titles are willing to let the Brazilian walk away without acquiring a transfer fee.

Man City appears to be the preferred destination for Alves, who turned 34 in May.

PL champions Chelsea have also been linked to Alves’ services, but it’s more likely that the right back will reconnect with Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

Bayern says clubs “risk FIFA punishment” for approaching Lewandowski

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Two Premier League giants are reportedly in the market for Robert Lewandowski, however, his current club isn’t having any of it.

[ MORE: Mexico tops New Zealand behind comeback second-half effort ]

Bayern Munich has threatened repercussions from FIFA after Chelsea and Manchester United reportedly made contact with Lewandowski’s camp recently over a possible move to England.

[ MORE: Ronaldo goal lifts Portugal past Russia ]

The 28-year-old goalscorer is said to be displeasured with the Bundesliga champions after having a falling out with manager Carlo Ancelotti towards the end of the 2016/17 season.

Despite the alleged uncertainty between player and manager though, Bayern has no intentions of allowing their prized striker to leave.

Below is the statement released by Bayern to Sky Deutschland on Wednesday amid the speculation.

“Robert Lewandowski is under contract at Bayern and only recently renewed his deal until 2021. Bayern Munich waste no thought on a Lewandowski move.

“There are no talks with other clubs, and there won’t be any. If other clubs negotiate with players who are under long-term contracts, they risk FIFA punishment. The agent also confirmed to us that he has not held any contract talks.”

While Bayern would clearly be losing a key asset if Lewandowski were to exit this summer, Chelsea and United are two clubs certainly in the market for a striker.

The reigning PL champions are expected to cut ties with Diego Costa in the lead up to the 2017/18 campaign after the Spaniard showed a text message exchange with manager Antonio Conte displaying the Italian’s disinterest in bringing back the striker.

Meanwhile, United released Zlatan Ibrahimovic after this past season following a devastating ACL injury that he suffered in April.

Raiola: Ibrahimovic attracting interest from MLS, Serie A

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Despite coming off an ACL injury, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is showing no signs of ending his long and successful career.

[ MORE: NYCFC makes 16-year-old Sands first Homegrown signing ]

And according to his agent, Mino Raiola, the Swedish striker has offers from both MLS and Serie A sides.

The LA Galaxy have been strongly linked to Ibrahimovic, who was recently let go of by Manchester United after just one season in England.

The logistics of signing a player of Ibra’s caliber are still uncertain though as the Galaxy currently have three Designated Players under contract, and bringing in the star forward would surely require significant wages.

“Many clubs are interested in Ibrahimovic; from MLS in the USA, but also in Italy would be possible,” Raiola said. “Napoli? Everything is possible, but I think Napoli will not be his next club.”

One club that Raiola did rule out for Ibra’s services though is third-place side from a season ago in Italy; Napoli.

The 35-year-old Ibrahimovic missed the end of the 2016/17 Premier League season for United after suffering the knee injury during the club’s UEFA Europa League win over Anderlecht.

Prior to his injury last season, Ibrahimovic notched 28 goals across all competitions for Jose Mourinho’s side, proving just how potent a striker he still is after 18 professional seasons.