Aston Villa 1-1 Swansea: Hosts hang on for a point (video)

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A draw does little to help either side, but both Villa and Swansea will have to accept just a share of the spoils from this rather dreary match at Villa Park. Both clubs will go into 2014 in the top half of the bottom of the table, but both will want to start the year putting a bit more breathing room between themselves and the drop zone.

Aston Villa took a surprising early lead in the first half, but Swansea came back with an unsurprising equalizer to put the sides level before the interval.

It was the Villa captain that gave the hosts the early lead. Andi Weimann split open the Swansea defense with a lovely ball, allowing Gabby Agbonlahor to latch on to the end of it. The forward’s speed took him behind the Swans players, giving him plenty of time to slot past Gerhard Tremmel for the opening goal. The skipper, along with the rest of the Villa squad, then ran to the touchline to celebrate with Paul Lambert.

But after the first ten minutes, the Villa took their foot off the gas, losing their fluidity and resorting to the hoofed ball. Unsurprisingly, the visitors took advantage.

In the 35th minute, Villa were unable to clear a shot, with the ball falling to Jonathan De Guzmán. The Dutchman’s shot went just wide, but a minute later, the hosts were out of luck. Pablo Hernández put in an inviting cross that floated over to the far post, where Roland Lamah was waiting. Antonio Luna couldn’t get there in time to prevent Lamah from heading home.

Swansea spent the next ten minutes doing whatever they could to get the go ahead goal, and Villa were lucky to go into the break with the scoreline level. In fact, they were lucky to come out of the match with the scoreline level.

Throughout the entirety of the match, the hosts had just 27% of the possession, spending the majority of the time blocking Swansea’s 17 shots. It’s quite possible that, as Villa were coming off a run of four straight defeats, Paul Lambert was looking to simply find a point. He succeed, but will it be enough to pacify the home fans?

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Luna, Westwood, Bacuna (El Ahmadi 70), Weimann (Albrighton 79), Delph, Agbonlahor, Tonev (Kozák 61)

Swansea: Tremmel, Tiendalli (Rangel 55), Williams, Chico, Davies, Canas, de Guzman, Shelvey, Hernandez, Lamah (Pozuelo 68), Bony (Álvaro 84)

VIDEO: American teen Wright scores first 2.Bundesliga goal

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For all the talk about Schalke’s 18-year-old American wunderkind, Weston McKennie, it’s easy to forget that three young Yanks signed for the Bundesliga side.

One of them, Haji Wright, scored four goals in a preseason match before being loaned out to Sandhausen in 2.Bundesliga.

Ex-New York Cosmos striker Wright, 19, came off the bench for Sandhausen in its league opener Saturday, and didn’t wilt when given a clear scoring chance alone in the 18.

[ MORE: Bundesliga preview with Howedes, Nastasic ]

Wright has scored 31 goals at the U.S. youth national team level, and Bruce Arena will be quite familiar with him given a four-year stint with the LA Galaxy Academy.

Fellow American striker Andrew Wooten is on the books at Sandhausen, but the veteran was not in the 18.

Here’s video, found by American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta:

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.