FBL - WC2014 - QUALIFIER - USA - HON

U.S. national team in high spirits as sensational 2013 draws to a close

5 Comments

GLASGOW — Laughing and joking around on a cold, blustery November morning on the outskirts of Glasgow, all is well with the U.S. national team.

And why shouldn’t it be?

They’re coming off the back of one of their best ever international seasons under Jurgen Klinsmann’s tutelage, losing just three times during 21 games so far in 2013, going on a record-breaking 12-game winning streak, qualifying at a canter for the 2014 World Cup,  currently ranked 13th in the world and have arguably the strongest player pool the USMNT has ever had. Life is good for fans of the U.S.

Friendlies against Scotland on Friday (watch live on ESPN, 3pm ET) and Austria next Tuesday (2:45pm ET, live on NBCSN) close out an incredibly successful year. Being up close and personal with the squad, you can tell the players are enjoying themselves as they train in Scotland. A large group playing a possession game erupt into giggles and whoops of delight on numerous occasions early on in Tuesday’s morning session. Life is good for the national side.

“This team has always been about the collective group,” AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We’ve always had a team that no matter who is available on a given day, no matter who is there, they’re going to step on the field and be committed to putting a performance in that really reflects the group and makes everyone proud.”

(MORE: Exclusive – U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard agrees governing bodies can help with head injuries)

That large squad Bradley speaks of has been evident over the past six months as Klinsmann’s project has cranked up a notch. A Gold Cup win over the summer with mostly MLS players and young European and Liga MX hopefuls showed just how deep the USMNT are.

source: Getty Images
Tim Howard and Michael Bradley both agree this USMNT is thriving thanks to great spirit and togetherness.

One of those player who used clutch performances in the USA’s Gold Cup success to propel himself into the forefront of Klinsmann’s plans was Seattle Sounders striker Eddie Johnson. Speaking after training on Tuesday, the 29-year-old forward believes a strong feeling of togetherness is helping all USMNT players to get better.

“There are a lot of familiar faces, a lot of the guys who’ve been in the qualifying rounds, friendlies, Gold Cup, so we’re all used to playing with each other,” Johnson said. “The more we can have familiar faces, the better understanding and camaraderie we have as a national team on the field and getting better. This is a good test for us, two good games and every player here is eager to do themselves justice as far as putting themselves in a good position to end 2013, as well as put themselves in a good position to be selected for the World Cup.”

That team spirit is something Bradley, a stalwart for the U.S. in central midfield and perhaps the first name on Klinsmann’s team sheet, also alluded to.

“It’s a special group to be a part of,” Bradley said. “In the way with the team spirit and the way we get on with each other. When you look at the calendar, there’s not a lot of games left between now and the World Cup. We’re looking to use every chance that we get to move ourselves up the ladder.”

With big things expected at Brazil 2014 after breezing through qualifying and beating the likes of Germany, Bosnia and Italy in friendlies over the last few years, I asked U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard if this was the best USMNT team he’s ever played on. The Everton star paused and gave a glowing appraisal of the current roster.

“This is the most diverse,” Howard said. “I’ve played on some good U.S. teams, particularly when I was younger. This team has a lot of diversity in both age and background, I just think the best thing about this team so far is the balance. We’ve got the best balance, we’ve got depth in a lot of positions, we’ve got people who play in lots of different countries, we’ve got some olds and youngs. The balance is very good, the chemistry is very good.”

Allardyce after Black Cats’ big win over Man United: “We got what we deserved”

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13:  Sam Allardyce, manager of Sunderland thumbs up on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at the Stadium of Light on February 13, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In some ways, Sunderland took a page from Leicester City’s book in keeping their Premier League safety hopes alive with a 2-1 win over Manchester United on Saturday.

The Black Cats allowed visiting United two-thirds possession — 66 to 34 — but were very good when they had the ball in out-attempting the visitors 21-12.

[ MORE: Stream 10 a.m. ET matches or watch full PL match replays ]

Manager Sam Allardyce saw a win like this coming, and the normally bombastic Englishman says the three points were both deserved and overdue.

“Today was very similar to the way the Manchester City game went (which Sunderland lost 1-0) but this time we got what we deserved from the chances we created.

“I thought we might be punished for not taking them and wondered whether it was going to go our way, but it ended up being an unbelievable win for us.”

The real story for Big Sam is that Sunderland’s transfer window buys are looking fantastic. Ex-Bordeaux man Wahbi Khazri, at least to start, has looked like an absolute game-changer, while Lamine Kone bolted in the winner (even if it’s being credited as an own goal).

Sunderland is now a point back of derby rivals Newcastle United for 17th place, and four points back of Swansea. The Magpies face Chelsea at 12:30 p.m. ET, while Swans hosts Saints at 10 a.m. ET.

Sunderland 2-1 Man United: Huge win for Black Cats; dark day for Van Gaal

during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at the Stadium of Light on February 13, 2016 in Sunderland, England.
Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Black Cats 1 point from safety
  • Wahzri scores 1st for Sunderland
  • United six points off top four

Sunderland beat Manchester United 2-1 at the Stadium of Light as two January signings made the difference in a huge win for the Black Cats.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays

Wahbi Khazri gave Sunderland the lead early on but Anthony Martial equalized before half time with a superb finish. In a second half which Sunderland edged, Lamine Kone headed home late on (the goal later went down as a David De Gea own goal) to send the home fans wild.

With the three points Sunderland move to within one point of safety on 23 points following Sam Allardyce‘s first-ever home win against United, while the Red Devils stay six points off the top four and Louis Van Gaal‘s tenure is becoming increasingly untenable.

A frantic start saw Sunderland take the lead with Khazri scoring less than 10 minutes into his home debut to put the Black Cats 1-0 up.

The Tunisian playmaker whipped in a harmless looking free kick from the left which went towards Defoe and as he attempted to flick the ball goalwards but missed, the skip off the service deceived De Gea and nestled into the far corner.

Less than 15 minutes in Sunderland had to make a change as defender Jan Kirchhoff was forced off with a hamstring injury and Jack Rodwell replaced him. Anthony Martial continued to be United’s brightest attacking talent as Rooney couldn’t quite get on the end of his teasing cross.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

As half time approached Sunderland looked dangerous on the break with Khazri curling a shot over and then having a penalty appeal turned down after his shot struck Morgan Schneiderlin‘s arm in the box. At the other end Juan Mata sent a harmless shot towards goal which Vito Mannone saved easily.

Before the break United also had to make a change with Donald Love coming on for his debut and replacing the injured Matteo Darmian. Moments later USMNT international DeAndre Yedlin — who had been dealing with the threat of Martial well — was first booked for blatantly diving and trying to win a free kick, then United were level. Mata’s shot was saved by Mannone by Martial lost Yedlin and delicately dinked the ball home. 1-1. Game on.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

In the second half United looked to take control but Sunderland had a great chance to go ahead when Patrick Van Aanholt got behind Love and his cross almost found Jermain Defoe but Daley Blind‘s last-ditch tackle denied him.

A big chance arrived for Sunderland just after the hour mark when Dame N'Doye was set free but De Gea’s outstretched leg denied him to keep the scores level.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

United regrouped and increased the pressure late on as Mata’s shot was blocked well by Rodwell, Chris Smalling had a header deflected wide and then Memphis sent a shot right at Mannone after good work from the impressive Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

Kone then rose highest in the 83rd minute and headed home Khazri’s corner from the right which a combination of De Gea and Martial couldn’t clear. 2-1 to the home side.

Memphis then forced Mannone into a fine stop and had another effort blocked by John O'Shea late on but United couldn’t grab an equalizer and the “Van Gaal out” brigade is growing stronger by the day.

Watch Live, Stream links: Everton-West Brom, Palace-Watford; every 10am ET game

Everton's Tom Cleverley, left, celebrates his goal with his teammates during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Everton at St James' Park, Newcastle, England, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
AP Photo
1 Comment

Five Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, with plenty of tasty matches on the slate.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Click on the link above, or the individual links below, to stream every single game live online via Live Extra. Plus, if it’s lineups, stats and a box score you are after, click on the link below.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

So, here is your one-stop streaming shop for every PL game kicking off at 10 a.m. ET.

Saturday, 10 a.m. ET kick offs

Everton vs. West Brom – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

After two wins on the spin, the Toffees’ top six hopes are alive. Can the Baggies give themselves some breathing space from bottom three?

Norwich City vs. West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) – [STREAM]

After five-straight defeats the Canaries have dropped into the bottom three. The injury-hit Hammers will be hoping to stay in the top six with a win.

Crystal Palace vs. Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Just one point from six games for the Eagles in January. Alan Pardew needs Emmanuel Adebayor to deliver some goals. As for Watford, they only have one win in eight. Expect a nervy encounter.

Bournemouth vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Stoke are sliding after three defeats on the spin. Can they get back on track at Bournemouth? The Cherries are 2-1-1 in their last four but are still in danger of getting sucked into the relegation battle.

Swansea vs. Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

The Swans are four unbeaten but still in touch with the bottom three, while Saints have kept five clean sheets in a row and have won four of their last five to keep their top six hopes alive.

Van Gaal would be “disappointed” if Mourinho talks held

Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louis Van Gaal has admitted he’d be “disappointed” if he found out Manchester United’s directors have held talks with out of work Jose Mourinho behind his back.

The current United boss, 64, is contracted to be in charge at Old Trafford until the end of next season.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

However, amid mounting speculation that Mourinho is being lined up to replace him and with United currently sitting six points off the top four with 13 games to go, many expect LVG to be let go this summer.

Asked by the media if he’d be upset if he found out executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and other United directors had been holding talks with Mourinho behind his back, LVG had this to say.

“Then I’d be disappointed,” Van Gaal said. “In a football world that is possible, I know, but I do not think that. I have a relationship with Ed and the Glazers, they tell me, I think.”

Following United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea last Sunday LVG snapped at a journalist for asking about his future and the fact that the club hasn’t made any comment about the Mourinho rumors or publicly backed their current boss with any statements. Van Gaal insists he’s fine with the club policy of not commenting on speculation but you do sense a growing realization from the Dutchman that Mourinho’s shadow is lurking ominously over Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Rumors persist about Mourinho arriving at United

A top four finish for United and winning either the FA Cup or the UEFA Europa League this season seems like the only thing that can save Van Gaal beyond the summer.

He will be given until the end of this season to prove his worth to United but after 18 months of erratic results, an early UEFA Champions League exit this season and spending over $375 million on new players, time is running out. He knows it, but he is also correct to be “disappointed” if Mourinho is holding talks with United right now.

Doing things the right way has always been paramount to United and even though it would be smart to already have a successor lined up for Van Gaal should they fire him, it would also be incredibly disrespectful for one of the most successful coaches in Europe.