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USA’s World Cup opponents: What to expect from Germany, Portugal and Ghana

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We all knew this World Cup was going to be difficult, but the U.S. have certainly been handed a tough task to make the last 16. Drawn in Group G alongside European powerhouses Germany and Portugal and another meeting with old foes Ghana, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side couldn’t have got a tougher draw as they’re entrenched in a dreaded “Group of Death.”

(MORE: 2014 World Cup Draw – USA in Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, Ghana – Schedule, times, venues)

It’s not all doom and gloom, as the USA face Ghana in their opening game before battling it out with Germany and Portugal, both of whom are ranked in the worlds top five… Wowzer. Let’s take a quick gander at the three teams the USA face in the Group G and what we can look forward to next summer.

GERMANY (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #2) Klinsmann will face his home nation in the final group stage game, you just knew it would turn out likes this? Klinsmann’s former assistant for the German national team, Joachim Low, has taken the side to greater heights since the the U.S. coach left and the German national team are now stacked with some of the most exciting young talent in world soccer. Low has the likes of Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Lukas Podolski, Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller amongst a whole host of other to choose from… and that’s just his attacking midfield spot. Germany are one of the favorites and although the USA beat the three-time World Cup winners in a friendly in Washington D.C. last summer, that was a weakened German side. At full strength and with all their players on form, Germany may be the favorites for this summers tournament. They’ve made the semifinals in the past three World Cups as USMNT head coach Klinsmann helped reignite the country’s hopes. Is he the man to dash them at Brazil 2014? Key Players: Mesut Ozil, Philip Lahm, Manuel Neuer

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Ronaldo will spearhead a talented Portuguese team. Can the U.S. defense stop him?

PORTUGAL (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #5) They had to go through the European playoffs to make the World Cup, but make no mistake about it, Portugal will be one of the favorites to lift the trophy in Brazil. Spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese swept aside Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in style as the Real Madrid star scored four goals over the two legs. Former Portugal defender Paulo Bento is the manager and his side are stacked with experienced players and stars such as Joao Moutinho, Nani, Helder Postiga and many more, on their day Portugal are one of the worlds best teams. One man will cause the USMNT problems: Ronaldo. If Klinsmann’s defense can somehow keep the man many expect to be named World Player of the Year quite, they’ll have a chance. Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Helder Postiga

GHANA (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #24)

source: Getty Images
Can the Black Stars knock the USA out of a World Cup once again?

Ah, you again! The U.S. know Ghana only too well, as the African nation sent home Bob Bradley’s men from the last World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and beat the USA in the group stages of 2006 with the same 2-1 scoreline. That last 16 defeat over three years ago still rattles many cages of U.S. fans and plenty of national team supporters wanted another pop at the “Black Stars” to put things right. Well, now you have it. Coached by Ghanian James Appiah, they are solid and dependable and absolutely obliterated Bob Bradley’s Egypt in the finally qualifying round to make the World Cup. Their main striker Asomah Gyan has spent time in the Premier League and was a star in the last World Cup when Ghana were just a penalty kick away from being the first African side to make it to the semifinals. Expect a well-organized unit full of pace and skill on the wings. Revenge would be sweet, if they can deliver, against Ghana. Key Players: Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Harrison Afful

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton extend unbeaten run in Saturday’s PL play ]

Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Whitecaps acquire U.S. defender Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City

Toronto FC v Orlando City SC
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With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.

[ MORE: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018 ]

The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.

“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”

Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.

Report: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen & Mexico
AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.

Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.

Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.

ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.

In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.

PL Sunday: Spurs look to regain second against Stoke

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Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.

Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.