Americans Abroad weekend preview: Agudelo to debut in Europe, Howard ready for Merseyside derby

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Juan Agudelo is set to make his debut for FC Utrecht, on loan from Stoke City following his move to Europe.

The 21-year-old isn’t able to play in England just yet, so he’s been sent out to the Netherlands to get playing time while his new parent club sit quietly until they can reapply for a work permit on his behalf.

Utrecht’s head of scouting Edwin de Kruijff called Agudelo “technically proficient” and “an all-round attacker with enormous quality.”  The Dutch club will take on 15th-place Roda JC Kerkrade tomorrow at 1:45 ET.

Across the Eredivisie, Aron Johannsson has two goals in his last two matches and got AZ Alkmaar back on their winning ways last week after a 4-match losing streak. They take on PSV Eindhoven at 2:45 ET tomorrow in a pretty crucial mid-table battle.  The winner will jump into 6th place in the table.

In the Premier League, Everton will play two matches in four days.  Therefore, you may very well not see goalkeeper Tim Howard until their all-important Merseyside derby with Liverpool on Tuesday at 3:00 ET (watch on NBCSN or live on NBC Sports Live Extra). Joel Robles could deputize for the American on Saturday in the FA Cup against Stevenage.

Jozy Altidore could see a good amount of time this weekend as Sunderland also get two matches in a four-day span.  With Altidore mostly relegated to substitute duties in recent weeks, he could see the starting lineup as the Black Cats take on fifth-division minnows Kidderminster on Saturday at 10:00 ET.  Sunderland continue on Tuesday in Premier League action as they host Geoff Cameron‘s Stoke City.

Cameron has surely impressed Stoke boss Mark Hughes, and he’s been rewarded handsomely.  The 28-year-old Massachusetts product has played every minute of the Potters’ season since October 26, adding up to 1,890 of their 1,980 Premier League minutes (and 2,160 of their 2,340 minutes across all competitions).  They look to get out of a rut, having dropped four of their last five, scoring just six times over that span and conceding 16.

Cameron’s Stoke teammate Brek Shea is resting until Tuesday when his current home Barndlsey will continue in the Championship against Blackburn at 2:45 ET. He has yet to go the full 90 for his loan club.

source: AP
Fulham will need Clint Dempsey to put aside his poor form if they wish to pick up points at Swansea on Tuesday.

Fulham’s Clint Dempsey could also be watching their FA Cup tie on Sunday from the bench, with the Cottagers playing twice in just three days, although with Rene Meulensteen looking for Dempsey to get as many minutes as possible, he could also see time in both. However, the Dutch manager has firmly stated their relegation battle is much more important than the FA Cup battle with Sheffield United at 8:00am ET, so Dempsey could be saved for their extremely important match with Swansea in the league on Tuesday at 2:45 ET.

Clint’s had a rough go in his first few matches back with Fulham, but he’s seen little service in the attack in a 4-1 loss to Sunderland and a 2-0 defeat to league-leading Arsenal.

Aston Villa fell in the FA Cup last round to Sheffield United, so Brad Guzan gets the weekend off, with Villa scheduled to host West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday at 2:45 ET. The 29-year-0ld has been a bright spot for his club this season, and will look to take advantage of West Brom’s struggles of late.

Alejandro Bedoya has a very important bounce-back match to look forward to against Ligue 1’s seventh-place Stade Reims.  Bedoya’s Nantes were destroyed 5-0 by league-leaders PSG last week.  The American was a 30th minute substitute for an injured Jordan Veretout with his team down 1-0, and it got way worse from there. This week though, if Nantes can put the performance behind them, a win could see them lead Marseille for sixth, although a loss would mean Stade Reims would jump ahead of them.

With the Bundesliga back in action this weekend, Jermaine Jones will try to cement his place in the Schalke lineup as rumors of his exit have quieted in recent weeks.  New Schalke signing Jan Kirchhoff, on loan from Bayern Munich, was supposed to pip Jones as he looked to leave, but Kirchhoff suffered a relatively serious ankle injury soon after arriving.  Schalke travel to Hamburg on Sunday at 11:30 ET.

Anderlecht are in the midst of a very heated 2nd place battle in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, and Sacha Kljestan figures to be a big part of it. Stade Rennais have run away with the league title, but with two fixtures to go in the season, three teams including Kljestan’s Anderlecht are all square on 44 points.  They host Club Brugge – one of the other teams on 44 points – on Sunday at noon.

In Mexico, Hercules Gomez, Edgar Castillo, and Joe Corona take the field for Tijuana in the fourth match of the Clausura at 10:00 ET tonight against Morelia.  DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco will play for Puebla against Chiapas at 1:00 ET on Sunday, although Orozco has struggled to find the pitch of late.

Tune back in on Monday for a full recap of the weekend’s action and a closer look at the midweek Premier League fixtures.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

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Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.