Bryan Ruiz heading back to the Eredivisie, set for six-month loan with PSV

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Call this a typical World Cup-year move, because for Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz, this is all about playing time. With his national team headed to Brazil this summer, the Ticos’ captain needs more than the spot duty he’s seen at Craven Cottage. As a result, two-and-a-half years after becoming Fulham’s record signing, the 28-year-old is moving back to the Eredivisie, joining PSV through the end of the season.

“The name Bryan Ruiz speaks for itself,” PSV technical director Marcel Brands said at Wednesday’s unveiling. “We attempted to sign him last summer and tried again this winter but it was still hard work … “

Ruiz had been connected with a loan move to Spanish Primera División side Real Betis. Instead, he returns to the Eredivisie, where he won a league title with FC Twente in 2009-2010. In 65 league games with the Enschede-based club, Ruiz scored 35 times, earning him a $17 million move to Fulham in August 2011.

This season, Ruiz had made 12 of 21 possible appearances for Fulham, seeing only 772 minutes for a team that’s transitioned from Martin Jol to René Meulensteen as manager. Since Jol was fired on Dec. 1, Ruiz has played six times, but without a goal since Sept. 28, the attacking midfielder has been allowed to go out on loan.

“When the opportunity arose I was interested,” Ruiz told PSV’s official website. “I want to get my confidence back, help PSV finish as high as possible and prepare for the World Cup.”

After four straight top-three finishes, PSV currently sit a disappointing seventh in the Dutch first division. Led in goals by 19-year-old Memphis Decay, Phillip Cocu’s team does not have a player who has found the net more than six times, something Ruiz’s production at FC Twente suggests he will remedy.

In his first year in Enschede, Ruiz scored 24 league goals, leading his team to the 2009-10 Eredivisie title. Next year, Twente finished second while claiming the Dutch Cup, Ruiz continuing to make good on the $7.7 million investment that brought him from Belgium’s Gent in July 2009.

To date, Ruiz has failed to pay similar dividends for Fulham, having scored seven times in 68 Premier League appearances. Still, in announcing the move on their website, the Cottagers emphasized its temporary nature, hinting they expect Ruiz to be back with the team after the World Cup.

“Everyone at Fulham would like to wish the Costa Rica captain well during his temporary spell in the Netherlands,” according to FulhamFC.com.

In the interim, Ruiz gets to play himself back into form, something that will be needed if Costa Rica stands a chance of getting out of a stacked World Cup group. Although the Ticos can also rely on Álvaro Saborío and Joel Campbell for goals, Ruiz provides some needed dynamism and creativity from midfield. Against the likes of England, Italy, and Uruguay in Group D, his ability to create chances down the right will be crucial to Costa Rican hopes of pulling off at least one upset.

Moving to PSV gives Ruiz a chance to hit the ground running come Brazil. It also gives him a chance to gain the confidence that could put his Fulham career back on track. Whether that career continues in the Premier League or Championship remains to be seen, but over the second half of the season, Ruiz’s bigger concern will be getting PSV closer to the top in Holland.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

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

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

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.

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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.”