Fiery striker Pablo Osvaldo set to join Fulham… this could go badly

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Controversial AS Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo is close to securing a switch to Premier League side Fulham.

Why the negative vibe you ask? Well, he’s got previous.

The only reason Osvaldo is leaving Roma is because he’s had an almighty fall out with just about everyone at the club.

Do Fulham and their new mega-rich owner Shadid Khan really want to deal with Osvaldo’s antics next season?

Also, what if he doesn’t get along with Dimitar Berbatov? That has the potential, from those two alone, to make Fulham’s locker room one of the stroppiest and most negative in the Premier League.

But it shouldn’t all be doom and gloom.

Behind the veil of a troubled and flamboyant individual lies a sensational soccer player. How often do we see these mercurial talents gone bad in today’s game? Mario Balotelli, Joey Barton, Carlos Tevez and a handful of others could easily take the mantle as soccer’s bad boys.

Yet Italian international Osvaldo has the potential to be one of the very best. In flashes he has shown his goalscoring potential at Roma and in La Liga at Espanyol. The Argentine born striker has scored 47 goals in his last 99 league games, he is as strong as an ox, has incredible acceleration and can bring others into the game telepathically with his hold up play. On his day, he’s sensational.

But when things don’t go his way, it’s not a pretty sight. He’s been sent off nine times in six seasons, has returned late for winter camps, fans have vandalized his car at the training ground after he snatched a crucial penalty kick away from captain Francesco Totti… then missed it. The list goes on and on.

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Can Osvaldo finally exorcise his demons?

Like I said, he has previous.

But the latest blowout from Osvaldo is why he’s on his way out of Roma. The 27-year-old was dropped for Roma’s biggest game in years, a Rome Derby in the Coppa Italia final in May against their bitter rivals Lazio.

Following Roma’s loss, Osvaldo refused to get his runners-up medal and insulted interim manager Aurelio Andreazzoli before punching an advertisement board used for post-match TV interviews. Andreazzoli didn’t hide his feelings towards Osvaldo.

“Causing a scene when the TV cameras are running is nothing new for him,” Andreazzoli said. “But then in private he just moans and whines. That’s his problem, though, not mine. For a player who represents the national team, he should have better ethics. But again, that’s his problem.”

After hearing that interview, Osvaldo sent out the following Tweet. “You’d do more good if you admitted to being incompetent… Go celebrate with Lazio.”

For that outburst Osvaldo was left out of Italy’s Confederations Cup squad. Oh dear. Someone didn’t go to the social media training day…

Anyway, at Fulham maybe Martin Jol can keep a handle on Osvaldo and get the best out of his talents. A change of scenery and a new challenge could do the Italian forward the world of good.

But if it all goes pear shaped, expect an in-game scuffle between him and Berbatov. Flip a coin, this could go either way for Fulham.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia