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Juan Agudelo signs for Stoke City, joins Premier League in January


Make that four US national team players now playing in the red and white for Premier League side Stoke City.


20-year-old forward Juan Agudelo has signed a pre-contract agreement with Mark Hughes’ side and will join the Potters in January after the 2013 Major League Soccer season has finished.

Stoke might as well add a few stars to their red and white striped jerseys. They’re the new “Fulhamerica.” How about the “United States of Stoke”… anyone?

Ahem, so,  Agudelo — currently playing for the New England Revolution after joining from Chivas USA — is signing for Stoke on a free transfer after his contract with MLS runs out on December 31. Losing the talented young forward for absolutely zilch is a big blow for MLS. There’s no doubt about it. He came up through the New York Red Bulls academy and shone for the US before he ever did in MLS. To get nothing in return for all that development, baring a few possible dollars for training fees, is a travesty.

After bursting onto the scene for USA at the age of 17, Colombian born Agudelo has flitted from club to club in recent seasons and has struggled to find a settled home in the US. Now he will turn his attentions abroad to try and fulfill his undoubted potential.

(MORE: Juan Agudelo will join Stoke City in January)

While Stoke’s penchant for signing American internationals continues, with Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea and Maurice Edu all on the books at the Staffordshire club. During the Potters preseason tour of the US this summer, plenty of rumors were flying around about Agudelo possibly linking up with Hughes’ team and now it’s legit.

Hughes has been a long-time admirer of the speedy American forward, with Agudelo catching Hughes’ eye whilst he was Manchester City’s manager a few years ago. He’s kept close tabs on him since and is delighted to add Agudelo to his ranks.

We’ve put a lot of work into this deal, and I am delighted that we have managed to get the deal over the line. It’s a good deal for us, because he is a very good young player who boasts a lot of talent as well as a lot of potential too.

I’ve known of him for a couple of years now. He burst on to the scene for the United States at the age of 17 and everybody has paid attention to him since. I have kept my eye on him for the last 18 months, and thankfully we were in a position where we were able to pull this deal off.

So Hughes is a massive fan and Agudelo will surely get time to develop and become a regular. And Stoke’s Chief Executive Tony Scholes sung Major League Soccer’s praises, saying that Stoke have been “consistently impressed with the quality we’ve come up against” after playing against five MLS teams in the past two years.

(MORE: Premier League Preview, Stoke City)

With Agudelo highly rated at Stoke, his pace and youthful exuberance will likely see him feature when he turns up in January. Playing alongside fellow USMNT buddies Shea, Cameron and Edu will help the youngster settle in. And heading into a World Cup year, if he does well at Stoke then Jurgen Klinsmann’s selection headache will intensify.

I remember speaking to Agudelo two years ago when he played for the Red Bulls in the Emirates Cup at Arsenal’s stadium. He said then that playing in Europe was where he wanted to be. Now he’s got it. Well, from January at least.

But with everyone singing the praises of Major League Soccer for acquiring Clint Dempsey from Tottenham, should we worry about losing another young talent to the Premier League?

Maybe Clint’s move will stop this from happening in the future, or maybe this switch isn’t significant and in the grand scheme of things, Agudelo’s departure won’t matter…

Just a thought.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.