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Americans Abroad Preview: Guzan, Cameron square off as surging Premier League squads meet

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The Premier League continues to grind this weekend, and with it, so does its Americans.

The headliner this week happens to come from Aston Villa, as goalkeeper Brad Guzan looks to steer the Claret and Blue to their third straight victory.

In Sunday’s “primetime” slot on NBCSN at noon ET, Villa will take on a surging Stoke City looking to build on consecutive impressive wins over Chelsea and Norwich City. Guzan conceded just a single goal over those two matches.

On the other side of the pitch will be American defender Geoff Cameron, looking for their third win in four matches.  Stoke have just a single loss since February 1, and Cameron has been at the forefront.  The 28-year-old has gone 22 straight Premier League matches in which he’s played every minute for the Potters.

Elsewhere around the Premier League, Jozy Altidore looks to have a better showing than his poor second-half appearance last week. Sunderland travels to Norwich City in an outstanding opportunity to pick up points. Altidore has done little with his recent opportunities, but he may get another chance this weekend with Steven Fletcher out injured.

Tim Howard will stand tall in goal as Everton host Swansea City. The Toffees are looking for all the points they can get to hold off a stumbling Tottenham in the Premier League’s fifth position.

In the Championship, there’s some Americans playing important fixtures.

  • Reading will look to Danny Williams in the midfield as they sit just a point outside the playoff zone, taking on Jonathan Spector and Will Packwood‘s Birmingham City.
  • Tim Ream‘s Bolton travel to struggling Yeovil.
  • Oguchi Onyewu hopes Sheffield Wednesday can deal Doncaster a relegation blow.
  • Huddersfield Town recalled Duane Holmes from his short loan spell at Yeovil, and will take on Blackpool. It will be interesting to see if Holmes is involved.

Outside of England, Aron Johannsson‘s AZ Alkmaar found out they will play Benfica in the Europa League quarterfinals in today’s draw, but that’s not for another two weeks.  Tomorrow, AZ gets PEC Zwolle in a bigtime matchup in the Eredivisie with the two clubs are separated by just 3 points in the table.

Johannsson has done everything in his power to catch Jurgen Klinsmann’s eye, with three goals and two assists in his last five matches.  However, he was held off the scoresheet last week in a 2-1 loss to second-place Twente.

Juan Agudelo‘s FC Utrecht has the weekend off.

Kicker reported today that John Anthony Brooks could start for Hertha Berlin this weekend.  The 21-year-old defender has just six total minutes since the new year, but according to the report he could replace Georgian starter Levan Kobiashvili who has played the full 90 in the club’s last six matches.

US Soccer also revealed today that scouts will be in attendance to watch Bundesliga players Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim) and Julian Green (Bayern Munich) along with Terrence Boyd (Rapid Wien) in Austria. Green’s Bayern has 5th placed Mainz 05 tomorrow at 10:30, and he hasn’t featured in the Bundesliga yet this year, but US Soccer sending a scout to watch could suggest he might play a part with Bayern holding a massive league lead.

With Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League into its playoffs, Sasha Kljestan‘s Anderlecht drew a two-leg tie with regular season champions Standard Liege.  Those playoffs don’t start until next Friday, with Anderlecht scheduled to play Saturday, so the club is off this weekend.

In Turkey, the race for 2nd place sees Jermaine Jones and Besiktas need a big showing against seventh-placed Akhisar Belediye.  Besiktas are just two points back of Galatasaray, who get basement dwellers Kayserispor.

There is Liga MX action tonight, with Puebla’s DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco look to gain ground on Herculez Gomez and Joe Corona‘a Tijuana in the Clausura’s bottom half.  Jose Torres and Tigres host Queretaro tomorrow.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.

NASL weekend preview: Miami, Minnesota meet playoff fortunes head on

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There are still two full months of soccer to go in the NASL’s Fall Season, but this weekend could be a major day for the title fortunes of one squad in particular.

Miami FC and Minnesota United are level on points with 15 heading into Saturday’s match at FIU Stadium.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

If you’re unfamiliar, the NASL Playoffs involve four teams: the Spring champion (Indy Eleven), the Fall champion, and two other teams with the best combined record between seasons.

Miami’s played one fewer game, and both it and Minnesota — fresh off the news it’s headed to MLS in 2017 — are seven points shy of first-place FC Edmonton.

But Minnesota is on pace to make the playoffs through combined schedule, while Miami had a poor first half and would be better served to win the Fall Season if it wants a shot at the NASL Soccer Bowl Trophy.

Saturday
Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos
Rayo OKC at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Minnesota United at Miami FC

Sunday
Indy Eleven at Ottawa Fury
Puerto Rico at FC Edmonton

Arsenal reportedly set for $69 million double Friday buy

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger‘s much-maligned transfer business is about to take the “much” off the verb.

Lucas Perez of Deportiva de la Coruna is reportedly going to be joining Arsenal on Friday, and the Gunners are also close to finally landing Valencia center back Shkodran Mustafi.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Perez, 27, broke out for a career-best 17 goals last season, and scored on debut last weekend. He’s set to cost $22.5 million, while Mustafi makes up the other $46.5 million.

The 12-times capped German center back stands 6-foot, and would bring stability to a Gunners unit which has (again) been beset by injuries.

From the BBC:

Spaniard Lucas, 27, scored 17 goals in 37 games last season and Arsenal will meet a 20m euro (£17.1m) buyout clause.

Germany international Mustafi, 24, is set to join for a fee in excess of £35m.

Is this, coupled with the Granit Xhaka buy, enough to help Wenger right the ship? Mustafi, especially, would be a key piece. Perez is a bit of a lesser-known quality.

MLS Weekend Preview: Desperation mounts as rivals meet in Oregon

Portland Timbers defender Vytas Andriuskevicius, second from right, trips up Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, right, in the second half of a MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Seattle. Andriuskevicius was called for a foul on the play, and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey scored a goal on the resulting penalty kick. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Desperation is up-and-down the schedule this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the playoff race really heats up.

The calendar turns to September next week, and teams will end this weekend with a clear view of their runs into the season’s final Sunday: Oct. 23.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).

Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:

Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).

Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.

Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.

Schedule

Friday
Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT

Saturday
Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT

Sunday
New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT