U.S. striker Jozy Altidore starts again, but Sunderland falls to Manchester City in Asia


Edin Dzeko’s early, wonderful half volley from 25 yards for Manchester City was the only goal against Sunderland on Saturday as the Premier League teams continued preseason prep while competing in the awkwardly named Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong.

Dzeko (pictured from Saturday) later missed spectacularly from the 12-yard spot as the Bosnian’s effort flew well high into the stands. No matter; it’s just preseason, which is why it seems a little surprising the match went on through heavy wind and occasionally ridiculous rains.

Sunderland went unchanged from the lineup that took down Spurs as the brief tournament opened in midweek, That means Jozy Altidore was back in his new side’s starting 11. The U.S. international, having just moved over from AZ in Holland, played the first 45 minutes.

Impressive in Sunderland’s tournament opener against Spurs, the U.S. striker looked up for the job once again for Paolo Di Canio’s side, despite Saturday’s tough conditions. His best moment was a terrific touch that arranged a chance for Sunderland’s new Italian attacker Emanuele Giaccherini.

For City, recent signing Alvaro Negredo got his first start since the $30 million move from Spain’s Sevilla. Sunderland defender John O’Shea gave the Spaniard a proper Premiership welcome with a big, bruising hit.

Jesus Nava made his debut for the Blues, off the bench; the small Spanish winger had his moments, although he also had issues dealing with the footing.

Bigger take-aways: Not many, really, considering this was such a quick and quirky little tournament. Dzeko picked up a player of the tournament award, and new manager Manuel Pellegrini picked up his first hardware for City, such that it was.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.