National team camp convenes amid injury concerns for Ashe, Gatt

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As the U.S. Men’s National Team convenes upon San Diego ahead of July 9’s Gold Cup opener, new injury concerns cast doubt on two players who were expected to play a part in this month’s even. Unfortunately, though U.S. Soccer acknowledged the ailments in today’s update from San Diego, there are few new developments on the injuries to Corey Ashe and Josh Gatt.

Although he went the full 90 yesterday in New York, Ashe (pictured) was left frustrated in the moments after the game, having to be helped from the field by teammates while hobbled with a leg injury. Having joined his national teammates in San Diego, Ashe has been diagnosed with a thigh contusion and is preliminarily classified as day-to-day.

Gatt’s injury could be more serious, though with results of an MRI still pending, it’s impossible to estimate the damage to his knee. The Molde winger was taken from his Saturday league came just before half time and was evaluated on Sunday. His status for the Gold Cup and beyond is still unknown.

The U.S. is scheduled to play Guatemala on Friday, their only friendly before opening the Gold Cup next Tuesday against Belize in Portland. In between, the players will be subject to the training and testing that have characteristic of Jurgen Klinsmann’s camps. How Ashe and Gatt perform in those sessions could dictate their status for the Gold Cup.

Any prolonged absence would be a significant blow for either player, with the potentially three week-long Gold Cup giving each a chance to not only showcase their talents for Klinsmann but also illustrate how they can assimilate into the team environment. While both have been with the team before — Gatt capped twice; Ashe called in for a friendly before leaving with an injury — those were for shorter stints. Gold Cup call ups (as well as stretches like last month’s qualifying process) give players a chance to settle into a routine with the national team staff, a process particularly valuable for inexperienced players.

On the field, the U.S. may not miss either, with Klinsmann and company having a variety of options at their positions. But for the players, the Gold Cup represents a showcase, one that could win them consideration for the last four World Cup qualifiers as well as, in the long run, Brazil 2014.

Given the places Ashe and Gatt occupy in the national team pecking order, the Gold Cup could be the boost needed to get into the World Cup picture. Injuries would be a major setback.

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

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Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.