Allardyce pulls no punches taking Nolan to task for red card at Fulham

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Before Kevin Nolan was dismissed for kicking Fernando Amorebieta in the 44th minute at Craven Cottage, West Ham had a chance to reverse a slide that’s seen them fall to 19th place. Though the teams started the second half even, Steve Sidwell’s equalizer pulling back Mohamed Diamé’s seventh minute opener, a 10-man West Ham were bombarded in the second half, Fulham racking up 30 shots as the Hammers fell 2-1.

[MORE: Fulham 2-1 West Ham: Kevin Nolan red card allows Fulham to ease by (video)]

For a team without a league win since Nov. 30, Nolan’s red card was more than a bad break. According to West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, Nolan’s action was inexcusable, particularly given it’s the second time this year his captain has seen a straight red card.

“Kevin is an experienced player and I’m surprised because he had a silly challenge at Liverpool,” Allardyce said after Wednesday’s loss.

“That’s two in the space of the month now,” he said, alluding to Nolan’s Dec. 7 red card at Liverpool. “It’s not something I will allow to happen.”

If that’s a threat, it’s an ill-timed one, though Allardyce may see himself as out of options with a player whose drawn two red cards in six weeks. Against Liverpool, West Ham were always unlikely to get a result, eventually falling 4-1. But against Fulham, the Hammers had a chance to end a six-match winless run, with the Cottagers coming of a 6-0 drubbing at the boots of Hull City. Nolan’s impertinence, however, opened the door for the Cottagers to claim full points, keeping West Ham in 19th place.

Unfortunately for Allardyce, Mark Noble is now hurt, the midfield linchpin forced to come off Fulham. Ravel Morrison is also hampered by injury, suddenly thinning out a position what should be a strength for the Hammers. Whereas Nolan’s presence would normally allow Allardyce to manage minutes between his captain, Diamé, and Alou Diarra, the absence of him and Noble leave the West Ham boss hamstrung, further highlighting the ill-advised nature of Nolan’s red card.

“Our captain was irresponsible. Not just today but for the future because he is suspended,” Allardyce explained.

“We have to rally round now. We only have a few players to select from so losing Kevin and Mark Noble injured is a massive blow.”

But in the moments after Wednesday’s disappointing loss, most of Allardyce’s focus was on Nolan’s actions at Craven Cottage, the West Ham manager unrestrained in his criticism of his captain.

“He’s let everyone down and himself. I just don’t quite understand where he’s lost his cool and why it’s happened.”

With his second red card of the year, Nolan will be suspended for the next four games, a ban that will sidelines him for matches against Nottingham Forest (FA Cup), Manchester City, Cardiff City, and Newcastle.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.