Americans Abroad Review: Cameron aids Stoke shock, Johannsson brilliant as usual

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The busiest Yanks were in England, though Holland saw Aron Johannsson’s star continue to rise and Stu Holden suffered another setback. Let’s dive right into this weeks Americans Abroad Review.

Jozy Altidore had even less reason to enjoy his club’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final, as the American striker was left out of the Match Day 18 altogether. While he’s been lauded for his work holding up the ball, his lack of proficiency as a striker is alarming for US and Sunderland fans alike.

Tim Howard picked up his 10th clean sheet of the season, but first in a month and a half, as Everton stymied West Ham by a 1-0 score at Goodison Park. The 10 shutouts match his total last season.

Brad Guzan didn’t keep it tidy early, allowing a Wes Hoolahan goal in the third minute thanks in large part to poor marking from his defense. But Aston Villa roared back with Christian Benteke leading Guzan’s Villans to a 4-1 win and moving them even closer to safety.

What else can be said about Geoff Cameron at Stoke City? As steady as you’d like, Cameron played 90 minutes in the back as the Potters shocked Arsenal 1-0. Cameron has now played the duration of all but one Premier League match for Stoke this season.

By the time Brek Shea subbed on for Barnsley in the 55th minute of their derby match against Huddersfield Town, the Tykes were down 3-0. It didn’t get any better with the blonde-haired speedster in the lineup, as Barnsley fell 5-0 and dropped in a precarious 23rd place in the Championship. And then… there’s the matter of his alleged obscene gesture toward his own team’s supporters.

Danny Williams played 90 in the back for Reading as they pulled to within a point of sixth-place Wigan in their fight for a spot in the Championship playoffs by drawing Duane Holmes (73 minutes) and Yeovil Town. Nottingham Forest was beaten soundly by Wigan, 4-1, and Eric Lichaj came out of the game with injury.

Birmingham City fell to Ipswich Town by a 1-0 margin, but Yank defenders Will Packwood and Jonathan Spector each played the entire contest, with Spector picking up a yellow card for a bad foul. Oguchi Onyewu played a strong match for Sheffield Wednesday in its 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Tim Ream also got 90 for Bolton, and almost opened the scoring with a header in the 4th minute before the Wanderers cruised to a 4-0 win over Blackburn. The Wanderers are now nine points out of the relegation zone, but the trouble more Americans will be concerned with has to do with Stu Holden. He suited up for Bolton’s U-21s on Monday in an attempt to comeback from his myriad injuries… and left after 22 minutes with an apparent knee injury.

Aron Johannsson was your proverbial man on a mission in AZ Alkmaar’s match against RKC Waalwijk. He upped his assists to 14 on the season by picking up two in the match. While he didn’t add to his goal total of 25, Johannsson was credited with attempting seven shots. Yes, seven. Altidore beware. This was all on the heels of playing 74 minutes in the Europa League tie against Slovan Liberec… so he’s got that whole “valuable” thing going for him.

Staying in the Eredivisie, FC Utrecht kept Juan Agudelo as an unused substitute in its 1-1 draw with Twente. In Belgium, Sacha Kljestan also didn’t play after making the bench for Anderlecht in a 2-0 win over Genk.

It’s two goals in three matches for Terrence Boyd, though the tally came in Rapid Vienna’s 6-3 loss to Red Bull Salzburg. Boyd played 62 minutes in the loss. Ale Bedoya played 67 minutes in Nantes 2-0 defeat at Evian, while Jermaine Jones finally got on the pitch Besiktas, playing 58 minutes in the Turkish club’s scoreless draw against Antalyaspor.

It wasn’t as busy as usual for Yanks in Germany as Steve Cherundolo and Timothy Chandler continue to fight injuries. Fabian Johnson played the first 87 minutes for Hoffenheim in its 6-2 win against Wolfsburg, and was at right back yet again. John Anthony Brooks did not play for Hertha Berlin in a 0-0 home draw with Freiberg.

Last but not least: watch DaMarcus Beasley turns on the jets to score Puebla’s winner this weekend.

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.

WATCH: Pair of inspiring Academy videos from Men In Blazers

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Men In Blazers produced a pair of videos on two teens from rival academies that should give all young players a sense of gratitude and inspiration for their chances in American soccer.

New York City FC Academy center back Prince Amponsah and New York Red Bulls Academy destroyer Amadeo Chapru-Tate get the mini-doc treatment from Roger Bennett.

Amponsah comes from Ghana, and his family moved to the United States where their son found his way to the youth national team.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Chapru-Tate comes from Haiti, adopted by his parents after a three-year process. His first game saw him score an own goal, but that was not a sign of what’s to come for the 15-year-old.

Confederations Cup: Scenarios before final group matches

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Seven of eight nations remain alive for the knockout rounds after two-thirds of the group stage at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

Only New Zealand has been eliminated, though the underdogs aren’t the sort of nations who will quit ahead of its group finale against Portugal.

That’s one of two Saturday matches, along with Russia versus Mexico, with two more on the docket for Sunday when Germany meets Cameroon and Chile duels with Australia.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

We’ve seen zany finishes at the Confederations Cup before, as the U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil topped Italy 3-0 on the final day of group play in 2009 to send the Americans past Italy and into the knockout rounds despite a tournament-opening 3-1 loss to the Italians.

Group A

Draws will be enough to send Mexico and Portugal into the knockout rounds, with Mexico currently leading the group by virtue of a single goal scored (The two sides drew 2-2 in the opener).

We mentioned New Zealand’s status as a wild card, but hosts Russia will be under immense pressure against Mexico. The cynic will note that the tournament’s location could help the Russians beyond simple home-field advantage, while a bigger cynic may not that Mexico has been the beneficiary of plenty of officials’ whistles and non-whistles in recent years.

The safe bet is Portugal to win and Mexico to advance via draw or win.

Group B

No one’s safe, but Chile is feeling very good about its chances coming into Sunday’s match against Australia in Moscow. The Chileans battered Australia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and a draw would give them a place in the next round.

The Socceroos need a two-goal win to pass Chile and assure a spot in the next round. A one-goal win could also do the trick for Australia if Germany loses and Australia outscores the Germans (who currently hold a one-goal advantage).

Germany knows it’s result-and-in for them, while Cameroon faces the longest odds. Not only do the Africans need to upset the Germans, but they need a two-goal win and help. If Cameroon won by one, it would fail to pass Germany.