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2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: Remember “E-A-S-Y”? U.S. could get another, or maybe luck will even out

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Four years ago, this cover (right) from The Sun got under the skin protecting U.S. soccer’s rumored chipped shoulder, the English press’s “Phew” describing a draw that placed the Three Lions with Algeria, Slovenia, and the United States for South Africa 2010. Joke was on them: England would go on to finish second in a group that was always likely to be weak. After all, the packet’s seeded team was one of the least threatening in the tournament.

We’ve talked about it before, but you just can’t have a Group of Death Pain if it’s seeded team doesn’t inspire fear, and with four of Brazil 2014’s teams either questionable (Switzerland), promising but unproven (Belgium, Colombia) or unconvincing in 2013 (Uruguay), there are a lot of ways to avoid an particularly difficult group. Especially since a good-but-not-great teams like Bosnia, Croatia, Greece and Russia could be pulled from the European bucket to take up new residence in Pot Two for the draw, there’s a good chance the United States will avoid one of the worst case scenarios.

[MORE: World Cup Draw: United States in Pot Three]

But say the U.S. gets unlucky and that roughly 1-in-8 chance of an eye-bulger comes good on Friday. Say the U.S. will have to navigate Spain, Chile, and Italy to get to another knock out round. The odds would certainly be against the team advancing out of their group, but in light of what happened in 2010, it would hardly be cause to rue the unfair nature of World Cup draws. The U.S.’s group for South Africa was one of the easiest draws any team could have hoped for. Should a team expect to get those kinds of breaks every time they qualify for a World Cup?

It would be nice if we could find a way to make these groups as even as possible. FIFA should keep working toward that, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Until then, some teams will get easy draws, while others will get hard ones. It would be nice if the same teams didn’t always get primrose paths, just like we don’t want the same nations always being undone by overly tough opposition. Ideally, things would even out.

[MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: The sum of all fears scenario for the United States]

Regardless, it’s curious that so much more attention is paid to the Group of Pain, though it seems like human nature to do so. I alluded to that mythical shoulder chip U.S. soccer is supposed to carry around, but elsewhere in the soccer world there’s also more attention paid to nightmare draws than easy roads. This isn’t just stateside paranoia. When it comes to draw scenarios, everybody fixates on the bad to the exclusion of the good.

And although those other places tend to have an undo disregard for U.S. Soccer, it’s worth noting: Many parts of the world would have a hard time considering a draw with the United States as a Group of Death. Reputation being what it is, many are going to look at Pot Three and see Mexico and Asia’s champions (Japan) as the danger teams, with the U.S. as a plucky yet limited side. What we in the U.S. see as a Group of Death might be a regular draw to the rest of the soccer world.

[MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: Here’s how it’s going to work]

But if you’re U.S. focused and wary of that Group of Pain, Friday will start to get interesting when Pot Two is drawn. If there’s a strong European team (Italy, Netherlands, or Portugal), they’ll join Chile, Ivory Coast, Ghana and (to a lesser extent) Nigeria as the danger squads. Whichever are drawn with Brazil, Spain, Germany, or Argentina will quickly form the groups to avoid. When final pot is drawn, U.S. fans should hope to miss those same strong European sides. At least two will still be Pot Four.

You could also elect to spend the next two-plus days thinking about the best case scenarios, though. While all the seeded teams will be tough, being drawn with Switzerland, Colombia or Uruguay would be considered a minor victory, especially if Pot Two has already revealed Algeria, Cameroon, or Ecuador. While there’s no particular reason to believe that’s how the draw will play out, it could prove a nice alternative to this week’s inevitable Group of D—- talk.

[MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: So we’re not using the world rankings to solve the nine-team pot problem?]

Teams to “want” on Friday:

  • Group A: Switzerland, Colombia, Uruguay
  • Group B: Algeria, Cameroon, Ecuador, lesser European team, Nigeria
  • Group D: Greece, England, Croatia, Bosnia, Russia

Report: RBNY send McCarty to Chicago for hefty allocation fee

New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty reacts towards the fans after an MLS playoff soccer match against the D.C. United, at RFK Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Washington. McCarty scored the only goal and New York won 1-0. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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UPDATE: The Fire and Red Bulls have officially announced the trade. The deal will send $200,000 of allocation money to RBNY in 2017, and $200,000 again in 2018.

Don’t look now, but the Chicago Fire are building something noteworthy in Bridgeview.

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Three weeks after signing three-time MLS Cup-winning (LA Galaxy) midfielder Juninho to anchor the midfield in Veljko Paunovic’s second season in charge, the Fire sent a hefty chunk of general allocation money to the New York Red Bulls in exchange for do-everything stalwart Dax McCarty, who’ll partner the Brazilian in comprising one of MLS’s toughest midfield duos.

According to a report on FourFourTwo.com, the Fire will send $400,000 of general allocation money to the Red Bulls, which represents the largest sum of MLS dollars to change hands since the league began announcing figures during the 2017 SuperDraft on Friday (New York City FC traded $250,000 to the Fire in exchange for the no. 3 overall pick, which helped fund the acquisition of McCarty). In total, McCarty made 169 regular-season appearances for the Red Bulls, serving the last two seasons as club captain, and helping the red half of New York to the only two major trophies in club history, the 2013 and 2015 Supporters’ Shields. The 29-year-old (he’ll turn 30 in April) is currently participating in January camp with the U.S. national team.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

The Fire also signed 28-year-old Hungarian striker Nemanja Nikolic to a Designated Player contract last month. Nikolic has nearly 200 goals to his name in 326 career games played.

With seven weeks still to go before First Kick 2017, the Fire’s opening-day starting lineup is shaping up to look something like this…

Nikolic

Accam — De Leeuw — ???

Juninho — McCarty

Vincent — Meira — Campbell — ???

Bava

The Fire might be good this year.

FA Cup replay preview: Fixtures are quickly piling up for Liverpool

SWANSEA, WALES - OCTOBER 01:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts  during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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The last thing Liverpool needed was an FA Cup third-round replay against Plymouth Argyle.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Already locked in a race for the Premier League title, and a two-leg semifinal tie with Southampton in the EFL Cup, the month of January was always going to be a trying period for Jurgen Klopp‘s side — not to mention, leading scorer Sadio Mane (nine PL goals this season) is away on international duty (Africa Cup of Nations) for the next two weeks (at minimum).

Here are the Reds, though, 24 hours after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, preparing for that third-round replay, away to a League Two (fourth division) side all the way on the opposite end of England, on Wednesday (2:45 p.m. ET). Swansea City await in PL action on Saturday, followed by the second leg against Southampton the following Wednesday, and a visit from league leaders Chelsea six days later. Should they knock off Plymouth, they’ll squeeze in a visit from Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fourth round the Saturday between Saints and Chelsea.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Elsewhere, fellow PL sides Burnley and Sunderland are set to face off at Turf Moor after playing to a scoreless draw a week ago. Crystal Palace will welcome League One side Bolton to Selhurst Park, and Southampton have a rematch with Norwich City.

Full FA Cup third-round replay schedule

Tuesday

Burnley vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET
AFC Wimbledon vs. Sutton United — 2:45 p.m. ET
Barnsley vs. Blackpool — 2:45 p.m. ET
Fleetwood Town vs. Bristol City — 2:45 p.m. ET
Crystal Palace vs. Bolton — 3 p.m. ET
Lincoln City vs. Ipswich Town — 3:05 p.m. ET

Wednesday

Plymouth Argyle vs. Liverpool — 2:45 p.m. ET
Southampton vs. Norwich City — 2:45 p.m. ET
Newcastle United vs. Birmingham City — 2:45 p.m. ET

PHOTO: Juventus unveil new logo, identity rebrand

New Juventus FC logo (Photo credit: Juventus / Twitter: @juventusfcen)
Photo credit: Juventus / Twitter: @juventusfcen
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Minimalism — noun — a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Less is undoubtedly more in 2017 — according to marketing whizzes — as minimalistic design and branding grows more prevalent by the day. That goes for the sports world, too, where a number of teams — in all sports, it doesn’t matter — around the world have opted to rebrand in a simpler, minimalist fashion in recent years.

Enter Juventus, the defending five-time Serie A champions, who on Monday unveiled the club’s brand new logo.

If the logo itself doesn’t do anything for you, you’ll surely be captivated by some of the brilliant identity marketing built around the new-look logo, including the following video.

Chinese authorities to halt “irrational investments” in players

BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 06:  Carlos Tevez of Juventus reacts during the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona at Olympiastadion on June 6, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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BEIJING (AP) The governing body of Chinese soccer plans a series of measures in response to what is termed “irrational” spending by clubs on transfer fees and player salaries, amid concerns that foreign stars are crowding out local talent and harming the country’s goal of becoming a global force in the sport.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

The Chinese Football Association said in a statement Monday the steps will target the “operations and management” of teams in the top-tier China Super League and the China Premier League, one step below it.

The measures will address “recent irrational investments by clubs, high-figure transfer fees and salaries paid to domestic and international athletes and other issues,” the CFA said in a statement.

Spending by Chinese clubs on players such as Argentina’s Carlos Tevez has drawn global attention, raising fears among some that domestic players will be denied opportunities. That could stifle the government’s attempts to produce talent capable of achieving its stated goal of winning the World Cup by 2050, part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s push to make soccer success a national priority.

[ MORE: PL Playback — One from six; who are the title favorites now? ]

Other rules announced by the CFA appeared firmly aimed at addressing the lack of opportunities for Chinese players. They reduce the number of foreigners who can appear at any given time for a club from four to three and require each team’s starting lineup include at least two Chinese players under age 23.

Shanghai Shenhua said it paid an $11 million transfer fee to Argentina’s Boca Juniors for Teves. Oscar was purchased from Chelsea, and Brazilians Hulk, Ramires, Alex Teixeira and Paulinho, Colombian striker Jackson Martinez and Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi also joined the league.

Chinese Super League clubs are thought to have spent close to $300 million in the winter transfer window.