Marco Pappa 3

Fit the final question as Seattle selects Marco Pappa

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That big Marco Pappa versus Erik Friberg talk we had on Wednesday? Come Thursday, it was irrelevant. Friberg had signed with Bologna, eliminating one of Seattle’s options. Instead of potentially luring the former Sounder back to Major League Soccer, Seattle could either take the already signed up Pappa — returning for a failed 16-month spell in Holland — or trade the first pick in the allocation order. Either way, they had to decide by Friday at 4p.m. ET.

Hours ago their decision became official, with Pappa becoming the latest addition to the 2014 Sounders. Though Seattle did try to trade the pick, the price they were asking amounted to due diligence. If nobody was willing to give them beyond Pappa’s value, Seattle appeared happy to add the Guatemalan international.

If they’ve acquired the same player Chicago sold to Heerenveen in August 2012, Seattle’s got another All-Star caliber player to an attack that already features Clint Dempey, Obafemi Martins, and Kenny Cooper. With Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans also likely starters in the team’s front six, the Sounders’ offseason shakeup has left them with an enviable group in front of defense. And of course, that defense has added Chad Marshall and Stefan Frei, albeit at the cost of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Michael Gspurning.

If, however, Seattle get a player that’s regressed at Heerenveen, they’ve got another a Eddie Johnson-esque restoration project on their hands. When the U.S. international returned to MLS, he’d rarely played during his final days at Fulham (or, his various loan destinations). Sigi Schmid, however, made him into an All-Star, a transformation he may have to repeat with Pappa. Languishing at club level (283 league minutes in 16 months), Pappa has also seen his production drop for Guatemala.

To get him on track, Seattle may have to abandon the idea of a midfield diamond, a formation they seemed to be leaning toward as the likes of Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani left this summer. With those players, though, there with other reasons for leaving the team – details that had nothing to do with how Schmid planned to set up his team. Though the squad and Schmid’s use of Dempsey implied Seattle would stay with a diamond, nothing’s set in stone.

With the acquisition of Pappa, Seattle has a significant incentive to ditch an approach that became a hinderance during last year’s postseason. Best when deployed wide and allowed to come in, Pappa doesn’t fit in the setup Schmid used at the end of last season. Any attempt to squeeze him in might complicate Seattle’s ability to get him back on track.

If, however, Schmid goes back to flat midfield, everything all of a sudden falls into place. He’s got Alonso and Evans in the middle, Martins and Cooper up top, and Dempsey and Pappa wide. Everybody’s playing their natural positions. Schmid goes back to a setup that’s worked recently. The offseason shake-up could lead to a refreshingly back-to-basics approach.

It’s also an approach that gives Seattle the best chance to make this pick worthwhile. Whether he excels or falls on his face, Pappa’s worth this ‘gamble’ (which only required giving up the top spot in allocation). But that gamble has a much greater chance of succeeding if Pappa’s put in a natural spot.

Klinsmann wants top-four finish at Copa America, but can the USMNT do it?

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: The USA soccer team poses for a group photo before taking on Bolivia in the international friendly match between Bolivia and United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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With the United States kicking off the Copa America this Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann has made his goal clear:

Reach the final four.

After a disappointing showing last summer in the Gold Cup and a poor finish to 2015, the USMNT heads into the Copa winners of six of their last seven matches and ready to make a run. But can they really reach the semifinal?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. faces their toughest test in the opening match against Colombia. One of the most dangerous teams in the tournament, few are expecting the U.S. to get a result against Los Cafeteros. Just a draw would be a great result for Klinsmann’s men, but it will be a big ask against the fourth-ranked team in the world.

The second match against Costa Rica is key. The two CONCACAF foes have plenty of experience playing against each other, and it is a relatively even matchup. The last time these sides met in October, the U.S. put in one of their worst performances ever under Klinsmann, and he must avoid a similar result at the Copa. If the United States wants to secure their position as one of CONCACAF’s top two sides along with Mexico, they cannot afford to drop points against Costa Rica.

Paraguay will be the USMNT’s final opponent, a very intriguing matchup for Klinsmann. Paraguay’s recent form doesn’t look threatening on paper, as Ramon Diaz’s side has not won since November, taking just two wins from their last 12 matches overall. However, they reached the quarterfinals in last summer’s Copa, earning a draw against Argentina and knocking out Brazil in penalty kicks.

[ MORE: Klinsmann excited about USMNT’s promising youngsters ]

The two sides that advance from Group A will face off against Group B in the quarters. Brazil are the heavy favorites in that group, paired with Ecuador, Peru, and Haiti. The U.S. beat Ecuador last week, defeated Peru in a September friendly, and are strides above Haiti, arguably the weakest team in the field. With Brazil likely to win Group B, a second-place finish in Group A would give the U.S. a brutal matchup in the quarters. Brazil embarrassed Klinsmann’s side in Massachusetts last fall, walking over the U.S. en route to an easy 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Mexico’s Pulido fought off kidnappers to call police for help ]

With the prospect of potentially facing Brazil in the quarters, the U.S. needs to put all their focus on winning Group A if Klinsmann really wants to reach the semifinals. The only match that the U.S. is not expected to take points from is the opener against Colombia, meaning a surprise result, however unlikely it may be, could kickstart a nice little run for the Stars and Stripes.

Firm issues plan urging companies to let employees watch EURO 2016

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's second goal of the game during the International Friendly match between England and Australia at Stadium of Light on May 27, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Worried about trying to balance work with EURO 2016 this summer? Acas is here to help.

Acas, a British conciliation firm that helps companies maintain good working relationships with their employees, has called for bosses to allow their staff to watch EURO matches.

[ MORE: Bellerin to make Spain squad ]

Some matches, including England’s Group B showdown with Wales, kick off during the workday at 3 p.m. London time.

Sir Brendan Barber, who is the chairman of Acas, believes workers should be given some time off during games, or work later hours on other days to allow time to watch the EURO.

The EURO 2016 tournament is an exciting event for football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

Employers should have a set of agreements before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive while keeping staff happy too.

Our guidance can help managers get the best from their teams, arrange substitutions if necessary and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings off.

With the tournament getting underway on June 10, I suggest printing out Acas’ statement and seeing if your boss will follow the sage advice of Sir Brendan Barber.

VIDEO: Payet scores sensational free kick winner for France

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 25:  Dimitri Payet of France in action during the International Friendly match between Netherlands and France at Amsterdam Arena on March 25, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Don’t let Dimitri Payet get a free kick, because he’s probably going to score.

After scoring four of his 12 goals for West Ham from dead-ball situations this season, his touch has carried over to the French national team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

With France playing Cameroon and the match tied 2-2 in the 90th minute, Payet stepped up from about 30 yards out and did this:

While there may be some suspect goalkeeping on this one, it’s a stellar strike that found the top corner perfectly from a tough angle for a right-footed shot.

[ MORE: Saints set to give Long new contract as Liverpool, Spurs show interest ]

Payet has three goals for the French national team, with two of them coming from free kicks. After being named to the PFA Team of the Year this season, Payet will be a key member of the France squad that has high hopes as the host nation for the upcoming EURO.

El Tri striker Pulido fought kidnappers, used cell phone to call police

HYERES, FRANCE - JUNE 01:  Alan Pulido (no.19) of Mexico celebrates his goal during the Toulon Tournament Final between  Mexico and Turkey at Stade Perruc on June 1, 2012 in Hyeres, France.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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More details have been released regarding Alan Pulido’s kidnapping in Mexico.

The Mexican international and Olympiakos striker was taken at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Tamaulipas. He was then freed on Monday after a police “rescue operation.”

Seen leaving the police station with a bandaged hand, officials have now given information on how Pulido was injured.

[ MORE: PSG defender Aurier arrested ]

The 25-year-old striker cut his hand while punching through a glass pane in an attempt to escape. Officials also said Pulido fought his kidnapper, doing enough to grab a cell phone and notify police of his whereabouts.

From BBC News:

State prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla said the masked gang had taken Pulido to a house in Ciudad Victoria where he eventually found himself alone with one of his abductors.

“They traded blows. He takes it [the phone] and calls [emergency number] 066. It all happened very quickly,” Mr Quintanilla told Imagen radio.

An official report of the calls Pulido made to the emergency operator, obtained by the Associated Press, revealed that he threatened and beat the kidnapper while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were.

In one of the calls, Pulido said police were outside and starting to shoot so he described what he was wearing to avoid being mistaken for a kidnapper.

A wild situation, but the most important thing is that Pulido is safe while one arrest has been made.