United States finishes 2013 with 1-0 loss at Austria

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A fantastic year for the United States has ended on a bit of a downer, two consecutive scoreless nights.

In the latest, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team dominated Austria after intermission Tuesday but could not match the home team’s first-half goal in the driving rain of Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna. So something of a breakout year for the Klinsmann and the World Cup-bound United States finished with a 1-0 loss to Austria.

Austria’s Marc Janko took advantage of some questionable defensive positioning from young U.S. center back John Brooks, converting from close range for the game’s only goal. Perhaps most disappointing among a bunch of defensive mistakes was that Austria had gotten the ball originally on a foul throw-in, of all things.

Jozy Altidore was involved in the best U.S. chances, but good opportunities were sparse as both teams dealt with the slippery footing. So the United States finished its year by being shut out twice in a row. The team played to a scoreless draw last Friday in Scotland.

Still, Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team will finish with a 16-4-3 record, its best winning percentage ever.  The 16 victories are a record for a calendar year, topping the previous mark of 13 wins in 2005 and 2009.

(MORE: Geoff Cameron certainly helped himself with a good night)

The night was a big test for two young attackers in particular: Brek Shea, not playing at all for Stoke City, started on the left in the team’s 4-2-3-1. And Aron Johannsson, having lined up previously as a forward, was assigned the role of attacking midfielder, tucked in behind Altidore, once against Klinsmann’s first choice at striker.

Brooks, the 20-year-old German-born center back, also got his second start under Klinsmann. He was generally solid, aside from some needed positional adjustments here and there.

(MORE: Video of Geoff Cameron’s goal for the United States … that wasn’t counted)

United States pressed mightily through the second half, energized by a steady flow of attacking substitutions. While Klinsmann kept his back line intact until the game’s final minutes, the U.S. manager added young striker Terrence Boyd along with veteran forward Eddie Johnson early in the second half.

With a shift into a 4-4-2, in fact, Klinsmann had three natural strikers on the field; Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson, who was on the left.

United States’ lineup (4-2-3-1): Tim Howard; Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks, DaMarcus Beasley; Jermain Jones, Michael Bradley; Alejandro Bedoya, Aron Johannsson, Brek Shea; Jozy Altidore.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.