Dutch Eredivisie - Roda JC Kerkrade v FC Utrecht

VIDEO: Juan Agudelo scores first goal for FC Utrecht, will he make late World Cup charge?

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After just three games in Europe, Juan Agudelo notched his first league goal on foreign soil as the Stoke City attacker, on loan to Dutch side FC Utrecht, bagged a beauty to give everyone a reminder that he hasn’t left MLS to mess around.

Agudelo is still just 21-year-old, but following his January move to Stoke City which saw him immediately loaned out to Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie due to work permit issues, the U.S. international forward is certainly taking to life in Europe.

During his current loan spell to Utrecht, Agudelo has reminded us of the 17-year-old kid that burst onto the scene in 2010 when he scored in two of his first three senior international for the USMNT, including this beauty vs. Argentina at MetLife Stadium.

On Thursday night against FC Zwolle he picked the ball up on the edge of the box, performed a fluid half turn and then rifled the ball into the top corner with his right foot to put Utrecht 1-0 up. The Dutch side ended up losing 2-1 (minor details) but Agudelo put in a solid performance that shows his game is developing and he is more than capable of making a concerted push to get on the plane to Brazil.

(MORE: Klinsmann says roster door remains open, regular match time a must for USMNT hopefuls)

It seemed as though the career of the promising young striker, who came through the MLS academy system with the New York Red Bulls and then bounced around to Chivas USA and the New England Revolution, was starting to falter. But this loan move and regular action overseas could be exactly what he needs to get back into the U.S. fold.

This summer may be too quick for Agudelo to worm his way back into Klinsmann’s plans, but after the U.S. head coach spoke on Tuesday about the likes of Tim Ream, Oguchi Onyewu, Danny Williams and Timmy Chandler getting a second chance and that the majority of his squad for the friendly vs. Ukraine in March will be from his European contingent.

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Will Agudelo be on the plane to Brazil this summer? It is a big ask…

Surely Agudelo has one more chance to shine in front of the U.S. coaches?

And let’s face it, with Jozy Altidore struggling for goals at Sunderland, and only Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski as out-and-out strikers to back up Jozy (let’s assume Eddie Johnson will operate out wide) surely Agudelo has an outside chance of going to Brazil?

I know, I know, for all you skeptics out there I realize this was only one goal in the Dutch top-flight, which many believe to be one of European soccer’s backwaters when it really isn’t, but coming from someone who has seen Agudelo up close and personal tear up top European opposition back at the 2011 Emirates Cup, this kid has got genuine talent.

After his New York team scored a late equalizer against Arsenal to win the Emirates Cup, a prestigious preseason tournament that included Boca Junior, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain, I spoke to Agudelo in the tunnel at the Emirates Stadium about playing in Europe” “This is where it’s at man, this is where I want to be,” he replied.

(MORE: Americans Abroad Review – Cameron dependable in upset, Agudelo picks up assist)

Now he’s finally in Europe, I think this kid has come along way since his raw athleticism often stole the show a few years back.

Last fall the reaction from New England Revolution fans was telling when Agudelo decided to head to Europe, they did not want to see him leave MLS. But even if he doesn’t make the plane to Brazil, Agudelo’s European experience at Utrecht will do him the world of good. Plus if he ever gets a work permit and is allowed to play for his parent club Stoke City in the PL, I’d expect him to shine there too.

But right now, these next few months are huge for Agudelo. Given the chance, this kid can play. He has pace to burn, an eye for goal and he has no fear when he brings his A-game.

I have no doubts Klinsmann will be keeping a close eye on Agudelo between now and May.

Spurs’ Bentaleb off to Schalke on loan, joining PSG’s Stambouli

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: Nabil Bentaleb of Spurs U21 looks on during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Leicester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspurs U21 at The King Power Stadium on March 18, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Schalke’s quest to rejoin Germany’s elite was buttressed by a pair of interesting pickups on Thursday.

The Royal Blues have added Benjamin Stambouli from Paris Saint-Germain and Nabil Bentaleb from Tottenham Hotspur.

The Bentaleb deal is a loan, as the oft-injured attacker looks to shake off his underperforming reputation. The 21-year-old has 19 caps and three goals for Algeria.

[ MORE: Boufal to Saints ]

Stambouli joins on a four-year deal. A defensive midfielder, Stambouli left Spurs for PSG last year and made 27 appearances for the French champions.

The side nabbed high-profile prospect Breel Embolo earlier this offseason, and should be a problem for most opposing sides when the season begins this weekend.

Schalke finished in fifth place last Bundesliga season, and brings back captain Benedikt Howedes and Olympic star Max Meyer.

Ranking toughness of UCL groups for Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City

Kompany and City's defense struggled to contain Messi and Barca in the first half.
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Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City all entered the UEFA Champions League at the group stage and they found out their fate on Thursday following the draw in Monaco.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

Right now Leicester, Arsenal and Spurs will be feeling pretty good about their chances of advancing to the UCL’s Round of 16. As for Man City, boy, it will be a tough route through the group stage once again for them.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins top award ]

Below is a look at the toughness of the group stage draw for all four PL teams.


GROUP G: Leicester City, FC Porto, Club Brugge, Copenhagen

Their first-ever season in the UCL, the draw could not have gone any better for reigning PL champs Leicester in terms of their dreams of advancing. Claudio Ranieri‘s side have FC Porto, who will be a very tough test, but in Club Brugge and Copenhagen they drew two of the easier teams they could have faced. Overall, this is not a tough group especially when you see the full draw. Looks like the fairytale for the Foxes will go deep in the Champions League this season. Toughness ranking: 3/10


GROUP A: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, FC Basel, Ludogorets

Arsenal will fancy their chances against PSG and when it comes to FC Basel and Ludrogorets they will expect to take two wins from each of these teams. But this is Arsenal so they’ll probably need a 3-0 win in their last group game to make the knockout rounds… Seriously, though, Arsene Wenger will be a relieved man to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich and Barelona in the group stage but Arsenal’s games against PSG will be pivotal in their chances of getting a good draw in the last 16. Overall, could’ve been a lot tougher. Toughness ranking: 4/10


GROUP C: FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Monchendgladbach, Celtic

It just had to happen for Pep Guardiola, didn’t it? He will return to the Nou Camp in his debut season at City to face his beloved Barcelona and Man City’s fans will be sick of the sight of Lionel Messi and Co. after they knocked them out of the competition in two of the last three seasons. That said, there will be two magnificent games between the giants with Barca the favorites to win the UCL this season. As for Monchengladbach, they are quietly a very strong team and even Celtic (who famously beat Barca in the group stage in 2012) will provide a tough challenge for City at Celtic Park in the away game. All in all, couldn’t have been tougher for City but they will likely squeeze through with Barca to the Round of 16.

Toughness ranking: 8/10


GROUP E: CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Monaco

Maurcio Pochettino’s side will be grinning like a Cheshire cat with this draw. Arguably it is even easier than Leicester’s with CSKA Moscow perennial strugglers in the UCL, plus German side Bayer Leverkusen very beatable and Spurs have done well against Monaco in the Europa League recently. Overall, if Spurs don’t win this group they will be very disappointed. A great draw for the north London club. Toughness ranking: 3/10


Best Player in Europe: Cristiano Ronaldo beats Bale, Griezmann to win award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal kisses the Henri Delaunay trophy to celebrate after their 1-0 win against France in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Best Player in Europe by UEFA on Thursday in Monaco, following the group stage draw for the UEFA Champions League.

Ronaldo, 31, beat other finalists teammate and Welsh international Gareth Bale and France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann to the award for the 2015-16 season. Barcelona duo Lionel Messi came fourth and Luis Suarez finished in fifth.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

The Portuguese striker scored 51 goals in 48 games for Real Madrid last season and led Portugal to its first-ever major title as a nation, winning the EURO 2016 trophy.

Ronaldo said on stage that he was “living his dream” by playing football as he won the award for a second time in his career, the list title coming in 2014.

Previous winners of this prestigious award, which takes into account the form of the player both for this club team in Europe and also for his national team, include Messi (the only other player to win the award twice), Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery.

UEFA Champions League group stage: Premier League teams learn their fate

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  The  UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Premier League teams got off very lightly, overall, in the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

The draw took place in Monaco on Thursday as reigning Leicester City were handed a very comfy group of opponents in Group G with FC Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen, as were Tottenham Hotspur who were placed in Group E with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco.

Arsenal also got a very decent draw with Paris Saint-Germain, FC Basel and Ludogorets in Group A, but Manchester City once again got a very tough draw at the group stage along with FC Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic in Group C.

[ MORE: Full UCL schedule

Reigning champs Real Madrid have been drawn in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw, with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid drawn together in Group D.

Below is the group stage draw in full with the opening group games to take place on Sept. 13/14 and a further five group games taking place — each team plays one another home and away — between September and December. The knockout stages then begin in February 2017 ahead of the UCL final in Cardiff, Wales on June 3, 2017.

You can click on the link above for the full schedule for group games.


GROUP A
Paris Saint-Germain
Arsenal
FC Basel
Ludogorets

GROUP B
Benfica
Napoli
Dynamo Kiev
Besiktas

GROUP C
FC Barcelona
Manchester City
Borussia Monchendgladbach
Celtic

GROUP D
Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven
Rostov

GROUP E
CSKA Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen
Tottenham Hotspur
Monaco

GROUP F
Real Madrid
Borussia Dortmund
Sporting Lisbon
Legia Warsaw

GROUP G
Leicester City
FC Porto
Club Brugge
Copenhagen

GROUP H
Juventus
Sevilla
Lyon
Dinamo Zagreb