Fraser Forster or John Ruddy to start for England with Joe Hart temporarily benched

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Joe Hart’s poor form with Manchester City has officially bitten him at the international level too.

With Roy Hodgson having told reporters earlier in the week that Hart will be sat for at least one of England’s two upcoming friendlies in this international break, the England manager confirmed today that he will remain on the bench against Chile on Friday.

That means it will be either Celtic’s Fraser Forster or Norwich’s John Ruddy to don the gloves and try to put pressure on Hart’s place.

Both men are in their mid 20’s and have just one cap between the two – Ruddy’s second-half appearance against Italy in 2012 remains the only appearance for either ‘keeper.

The development is an interesting one, but still doesn’t give us a good enough peek into Hodgson’s mind in regards to the embattled City stopper.  Hodgson has done a complete U-turn in his opinion of Hart’s job security.

Back in October, when Hart was beginning to get national attention for his struggles, Hodgson backed Hart to remain his number 1 between the sticks no matter the situation at City.

‘I’m not blind to the situation, I do realise it is not a good moment for Joe” said Hodgson on October 3 before England’s final round of World Cup qualifiers. “He is a proud man and a very good goalkeeper and I am sure when he is criticisied he is unhappy. I still believe in Joe, I believe he is the right man for the job and I don’t believe he will let England down.”

However, now Hodgson isn’t so sure.  He uses terms like “for now” and “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” when discussing his struggling starter.

source: Getty Images
Fraser Forster’s fine form with Celtic in Scotland has made him the favorite to get the start over the temporarily benched Joe Hart

“Joe has only lost his place one game ago” said the England boss back on Monday. “That might be a more relevant consideration for me in March or February even – if it’s gone three months, he’s been replaced and never gets a game. I’ll have to cross that bridge if we come to it. For now, I’m still picking him.”

Tomorrow’s match with nothing on the line is a good chance for Hodgson to see exactly what he has waiting in the wings.

Fraser Forster has had the most noise surrounding his selection, given his excellent form with Celtic, especially on the biggest stage.  In the Champions League qualification stage, Forster had a blinder, picking up five clean sheets in Celtic’s six matches.

After Celtic drew Barcelona, AC Milan, and Ajax in the group stage – about as difficult as it could have possibly been – Forster has not kept a clean sheet but has only conceded five goals in the four matches.

On the domestic stage, the 25-year-old has three clean sheets in twelve matches as Celtic remain unbeaten thus far into the Scottish Premiership season.

For Ruddy, it’s been a rougher go so far this season as Norwich have underperformed and their manager Chris Houghton has come under fire.  However, the 27-year-old remains a good, experienced choice despite his lack of caps, as opposed to some of the younger options in Jack Butland and David Stockdale.

What Hodgson chooses to do with Hart remains to be seen, but it’s clear he’s starting to lose faith just like Pellegrini, and tomorrow’s friendly against Chile is a perfect opportunity for someone to plant even more doubt in their manager’s mind.

Rapids add longtime Bundesliga winger Aigner from 1860 Munich (highlights)

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The Colorado Rapids are hoping for an injection of offense from veteran Bundesliga right winger Stefan Aigner.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old has played 274 games between the first and second tiers of German soccer, with 25 goals and 25 assists in Bundesliga play and a further 31 and 25 in the second tier.

Most recently with 2.Bundesliga side 1860 Munich for a third time, he’s played most of his career between Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.

[ MORE: BVB’s Merino to Newcastle ]

Aigner has the resume to succeed and perhaps star in MLS, especially if he wasn’t slowed too much by a knee injury last season (He returned and produced at the 2.Bundesliga level).

Here’s what Rapids interim general manager Padraig Smith said:

“We’re excited to add a player of Stefan’s caliber to our roster for the next three-and-a-half years,” said Smith. “As an organization we are committed to fielding a forward-thinking side and bringing in Stefan – a technical and versatile player who can excel in multiple attacking roles – will help us achieve that vision.”

UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic held; U.S. GK Horvath busy

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It was a busy night in the UEFA Champions League, with clubs battling for berths in the playoff round where they could draw big names Liverpool, Napoli, Sevilla, Sporting CP or Hoffenheim.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 


Club Brugge 3-3 Istanbul Basaksehir

American backstop Ethan Horvath was under siege at home, but his Club Brugge side overcame throwing away a 2-0 deficit to claim a 3-3 draw with İstanbul Başakşehir. The three road goals will give the Turkish visitors every reason to feel good about the Aug. 2 second leg.

Celtic 0-0 Rosenborg

Brendan Rodgers‘ Scottish champions outshot the visitors 12-8, but couldn’t find a way into the goal. Now the Bhoys will have to score in Norway to advance to the next round.

Nice 1-1 Ajax

Mario Balotelli‘s 32nd minute staked Nice to a halftime lead, but the UEFA Europa League finalists snared an away goal through Donny van de Beek to send Ajax back to Holland with a slim advantage.

UCL first legs

Tuesday
Qarabag 0-0 Sheriff
Slavia Prague 1-0 BATE Borisov
AEK Athens 0-2 CSKA Moscow
Steaua Bucharest 2-2 Plzen
Vardar 1-0 Copenhagen
Partizan Belgrade 1-3 Olympiacos

Wednesday
Astana 3-1 Legia Warsaw
Dynamo Kyiv 3-1 Young Boys
RB Salzburg 1-1 Rijeka
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-0 Ludogorets Razgrad
Viitorul 1-0 APOEL Nicosia
Maribor 1-0 FH

Terim steps down as Turkey manager after restaurant fight

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) Turkey’s soccer federation says it has parted ways with national team manager Fatih Terim.

The announcement on Wednesday came weeks after Terim and his two sons-in-law were involved in a fight with a restaurant owner.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 

The Turkish Football Federation statement said Terim, 63, and the federation agreed that “it would be healthier for both sides to part ways,” saying non-football related issues were harming both Terim and the federation.

It also thanked Terim, who has headed the national team since 2013, for his services.

Terim previously managed Galatasaray, Milan and Fiorentina. There was no word on who would replace him.

BVB mid Merino reportedly undergoing Newcastle medical

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It’s been a wild year for Mikel Merino, and now the Spaniard is close to playing for a legend from his home country.

Merino joined Borussia Dortmund from Osasuna last summer, and the 21-year-old had a hard time getting playing time under Thomas Tuchel.

[ MORE: Gold Cup Final preview ]

A defensive midfielder who also plays center back and a bit further up the pitch, Merino is set to join Rafa Benitez on loan at Newcastle United for the club’s return to the Premier League next month.

Merino was photographed in Newcastle on Wednesday, and would join a central midfield with Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden. Both players thrived in the Championship last season.

The Magpies turned Christian Atsu‘s loan permanent to start the summer, and then purchased Florian Lejeune, Jacob Murphy, and Javier Manquillo.