Tom Sermanni

Australia offers another test for USWNT’s developing defense

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Tom Sermanni has a strong grasp on what his lineup looks like across about two-thirds of the field, but the back four for the United States women’s national team is still a work in progress.

Sunday’s game against Australia (1:30 p.m. ET on NBC) – the team he last managed – is the first of four matches in three weeks for the U.S. head coach to continue to get an idea of what his defensive unit might look like as the stretch-run to the 2015 World Cup approaches.

“It’s probably the area of the team that is most unknown,” Sermanni said. “I think from midfield up, it’s a fairly established group in a sense.

“But defensively, when you are looking at probably a more set, cohesive starting group, that is probably still kind of up in the air. At the moment, I don’t think we’ve got a ‘this is our best back four,’ ‘this is our most settled back four.’”

Despite personnel uncertainty in the back – and to be clear, there’s none in goal, where Hope Solo is still one of the world’s best – the United States has only given up eight goals in 12 games this year. They are 10-0-2 in 2013 and riding a 35-game unbeaten streak and 73-game home unbeaten streak.

[MORE: US women bringing full-strength roster for Sunday’s friendly]

The most set of the defensive line is captain Christie Rampone, who is still the team’s best defender at 38 years old, but whose status for the 2015 World Cup remains to be seen. She is typically paired with Rachel Buehler, though Becky Sauerbrunn’s emergence in the National Women’s Soccer League as the leader of FC Kansas City’s impressively cohesive defense has boosted her stock considerably.

And soon to be 26-year-old Whitney Engen continues her long wait for more minutes. She’s been the U.S. center back of the future for a few years, but still only has nine appearances for her country. Confidence should be high for Engen, though, who just anchored Liverpool to its first-ever first division league title in England and immediately joined Swedish club Tyresö for their UEFA Champions League campaign (a successful one thus far, beating PSG in the Round of 32).

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Crystal Dunn, 21, has emerged as one of the United States’ best options at fullback. (AP Photo)

But the recurring question for the past few years has been on the outside. Ali Krieger was arguably the best right back in the 2011 World Cup (Japan’s Yukari Kinga the other), but left back has been a revolving door. Amy LePeilbet admirably filled in there in 2011 and then at right back during the 2012 Olympics (for an injured Krieger) despite being more comfortable centrally. LePeilbet had surgery early this year on her left ACL and Sermanni expects her to join the team for its December training camp, along with forward Amy Rodriguez, who missed the entire calendar year due to pregnancy, giving birth to her son in August.

Kelley O’Hara has been the first-choice left back since early 2012 after converting from forward, but she hasn’t played since early July and underwent right ankle surgery in August that will keep her out until early 2014.

So who does Sermanni turn to at left back, with Krieger looking healthy and ready to own the right back role once more? Crystal Dunn, the 21-year-old North Carolina Tar Heel who won the 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best player, is the most likely answer.

Dunn plays in an attacking role for UNC, leading the No. 4 ranked team with 11 goals and 25 pts. But Dunn plays as a fullback for the United States. She has played there in all seven career senior team appearances, all during this “very impressive” year, as Sermanni calls it.

“I don’t have any concerns about her playing the different positions and then coming in and playing the fullback for us, because she is such a focused player,” he said. “As a young player, I don’t think I’ve come across anyone who has got a focus like she has, so I don’t have any concerns with her coming in and switching from an attacking midfield player to a fullback.”

Dunn is only in camp for Sunday’s game against Australia and will miss the Oct. 27 and Oct. 30 matches against New Zealand. It seems unlikely she would be called in for the No. 10 game against Brazil on NBC, since that is the same day as the ACC Championship.

Also in camp just for Sunday are defenders Leigh Ann Robinson and Stephanie Cox. Robinson earned her first cap last month against Mexico and Cox is back in the fold having last played for the U.S. in May 2012. Cox had her first child on April 7 and played in four games late in the season for Seattle Reign FC.

Hart excited for Torino, but tells fans he ‘will struggle to replicate’ Man City joy

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Joe Hart of Manchester City waves to fans after the UEFA Champions League Play-off Second Leg match between Manchester City and Steaua Bucharest at Etihad Stadium on August 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Leaving Manchester City is proving difficult for longtime backstop Joe Hart.

The English No. 1 is heading out on loan to Torino after dropping down Pep Guardiola‘s depth chart at the Etihad Stadium after 348 appearances for City.

[ MORE: Deadline Day’s done deals ]

Hart needed to play, as he’s still in Sam Allardyce’s plans for England, and couldn’t wait around for a chance in Manchester.

That didn’t stop the 6-foot-5 keeper from a very emotional goodbye in his last City start, last week’s win over Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Champions League.

Days later, the goalkeeper is trying to put it all into words, saying in a Facebook post that he will miss Manchester:

I am very grateful that Torino has given me this opportunity to play for their great club. But the feelings I felt during the recent Steaua Bucharest game will live with me forever. You can’t buy that and I will struggle to replicate them. So thank you for that and all the amazing memories.

Hart joins a Torino side with European aims, and is not the only big name loan on the books. Leandro Castan and Iago Falque have joined the Turin side from AS Roma.

Arsenal star Jack Wilshere signs for Bournemouth in shock deal

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AFC Bournemouth have secured the biggest signing in club history on Transfer Deadline Day.

Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere, 24, has signed for Bournemouth on a season-long loan deal at the Vitality Stadium.

Put your jaw back in its correct position.

[ LIVE: Every Deadline Day deal ]  

Wilshere only became available on Tuesday after holding talks with Arsene Wenger and the outcome was that he wouldn’t get regular minutes with the Gunners this season.

The England international is a star talent and as soon as he became available over 22 teams registered their interest in taking him on loan. Three front-runners emerged early on Wednesday with Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and AS Roma all keen on Wilshere.

However, tiny Bournemouth won the race in the Wilshere stakes to dish up the biggest shock of the transfer window so far.

This is a massive transfer coup for Bournemouth.

In only their second-ever season in the Premier League they have landed a star midfielder with vast UEFA Champions League and international experience.

Yes, Wilshere has a history of injuries but now he has the chance to prove everyone wrong and play in a sustained run of games for the Cherries (he was likely fifth or sixth on the depth chart in Arsenal’s midfield this season) as he aims to get his career back on track after several injury-hit seasons.

It is thought that Wilshere preferred playing for Bournemouth over the likes of Palace and Roma due to the style of play of Eddie Howe‘s side as the Arsenal academy product loves to pass and move the ball. He will fit in very nicely for the Cherries on the south coast and will become an instant hit with the Bournemouth faithful as his signing gives them a massive boost after a tough start to the season.

Nobody could’ve predict this move. The madness of Deadline Day lives on.

Leicester adds Algeria star Slimani for reported $38 million fee

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Tipped for several Premier League destinations, Islam Slimani has joined Algeria teammate Riyad Mahrez at Leicester City.

Slimani, 28, spent the last four seasons as Portuguese powerhouse Sporting Lisbon, scoring a career-best 31 goals last year.

[ MORE: Sissoko to Everton for medical]

He scored two his 23 international goals at the 2014 World Cup, netting against both South Korea and Russia.

Slimani said Mahrez helped with his decision:

He added: “My friend Riyad Mahrez spoke to me about the Club and about the atmosphere the Leicester fans create at King Power Stadium. I will give absolutely everything I have on the pitch for them and for my team-mates and I hope that together we can achieve something special.”

Get the jersey ready. Slimani, Mahrez, Vardy, and Musa could be a deadly bit of depth as Leicester strives to strike hard in the UEFA Champions League.

West Ham adds depth with accomplished Real Madrid back Arbeloa

STRATFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31:  Alvaro Arbeloa is unveil as West Ham United's latest signing on August 31, 2016 in Stratford, England.  (Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Alvaro Arbeloa
Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images
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West Ham United has strengthened their flanks with the addition of two-time UEFA Champions League winner Alvaro Arbeloa.

The 33-year-old back played in the Premier League with Liverpool from 2006-09 before skipping town for Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sissoko off to Everton for medical ]

Arbeloa has been with Real since, scoring six goals and making 233 total appearances. His appearance dipped to just nine last season, and he’ll finish his time at the Bernabeu with

He also was a part of Spain’s EURO-World Cup-EURO sandwich between 2008-2012.