FA Cup roundup: Plenty of upsets dot third-round slate

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Three Premier League squads have fallen amidst plenty of upsets and upheaval during Saturday’s third round of the FA Cup, and all this before the North London Derby kicked off at 12:15pm ET.

The upsets…

Aston Villa 1-2 Sheffield United
It’s a good thing Paul Lambert’s not a big fan of the FA Cup, because it may help him ignore the jeers of the AV faithful after Sheffield United bounced the Villans out of the tournament. The Blades are through thanks to Scottish scoring from Jamie Murphy in the 20th minute and Ryan Flynn’s game-winning tally in the 81st after Nicklas Helenius briefly put Aston Villa level.

Southend United 4-1 Millwall
What a mess for last year’s semi-finalists, who got absolutely pummeled before and after a red card to Jermaine Easter for apparently stamping on Ben Coker. Martyn Woolford’s 64th minute goal was Millwall’s only moment and came with the team down 3-0. Barry Corr’s header put the Shrimpers ahead in the 22nd minute before Easter’s sending off in the 45th opened the floodgates. Roots Hall went rightly bananas all afternoon.

Rochdale 2-0 Leeds United
The League Two side used a loud home stadium to its advantage, as Scott Hogan and Ian Henderson scored against a pretty strong squad. Rochdale heads into the fourth round for the first time in 11 years.

Doncaster 2-3 Stevenage
Francois Zoko’s 49th minute goal kickstarted a match that featured five second half goals. Stevenage lead 2-0 and 3-1 before Liam Wakefield scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Barnsley 1-2 Coventry City
Jim O’Brien gave the hosts an early lead, but Franck Moussa and Leon Clark struck in the 78th and 89th minutes for the Sky Blues to send the League One side onward

Close, but not enough…

Stoke City 2-1 Leicester City
Southampton 4-3 Burnley
Bolton 2-1 Blackpool
Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Reading

Premier League ousters…

Newcastle United 1-2 Cardiff City
Vincent Tan will certainly be pleased to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pick up a win in the manager’s first game in charge, as the Bluebirds fought back after Papiss Cisse’s 62nd minute tally to win on the road. Craig Noone tied the game moments after subbing on and Frazier Campbell headed home the winner as Cardiff struck twice in seven minutes before holding on for the win. Looks to be yet another year without a shot at silverware for the Magpies.

West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Crystal Palace
Tony Pulis had to wonder how the road was so easy. Dwight Gayle scored in the first half and Marouane Chamakh added one deep into second half stoppage as the Eagles sent the Baggies to defeat.

Two of three fifth division sides survive for replays…

The Harriers of Kidderminster held Peterborough to a 0-0 draw, while Macclesfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday played to a 1-1 stalemate. Both clubs were at home and face challenging road replays. Grimsby Town nearly made it 3/3, but fell to Huddersfield 3-2 at home on an added time own goal.

No alarms and no surprises…

Everton 4-0 Queens Park Rangers
The Toffees smashed Harry Redknapp’s QPR to bits, a 4-0 decision at Goodison Park behind a brace from Nikita Jelavic.

Middlesborough 0-2 Hull City
The Tigers handled their road business in a tidy fashion to crash another Northeast club out of the tournament. Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz scored as Steve Bruce played mainly reserves and still ran roughshod over Boro.

Yeovil Town 4-0 Leyton Orient
The Championship side handled its business against an injury-ravaged Orient side. Two goals for James Hayter grabbed the headlines.

Onto the replays…

Blackburn 1-1 Manchester City (click for recap)
Bristol City 1-1 Watford
Ipswich Town 1-1 Preston North End
Kidderminster 0-0 Peterborough
Macclesfield Town 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Norwich 1-1 Fulham
Wigan Athletic 3-3 MK Dons

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.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.

Mourinho looks to pile title pressure on Chelsea

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A week ago, just before their 2017/18 Premier League season began, Antonio Conte declared Chelsea to be an underdog for the title. It’s right not to put Chelsea to be a favorite,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho disagrees.

Looking to deflect pressure away from his Manchester United squad, Mourinho declared Chelsea to not only be the favorites to win the Premier League this season and defend their title, but proclaimed it would be a massive disappointment if they didn’t.

[ MORE: Liverpool in an advantageous position regarding Coutinho ]

To Mourinho, the simple fact that Chelsea won last season means they should consider themselves the team to beat going forward. “For me the favorite is the champion,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United’s game against Swansea City on Saturday. “Always. Because for some reason [they were] the champion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win it – I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favorite.”

Chelsea seems to have a depth issue at the moment, with injuries plaguing the squad. New signing Tiemoue Bakayoko leaves a big hole in midfield, especially with Nemanja Matic sold to the Red Devils. In addition, Gary Cahill and Pedro will miss time in the near future with suspensions, while superstar Eden Hazard remains out as he recovers from a broken ankle.

Despite all the missing players, Mourinho believes that Chelsea always comes through in the transfer window, and that will solve their problems. “If they have [depth problems], in a couple of weeks the problems are over. They have very good teams, very good players and I don’t see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.”

Manchester United next meets Chelsea on November 5th in Premier League action at Stamford Bridge.