Americans Abroad Preview: US Internationals look to follow up big weekend with another

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Last week was a tough act to follow, with Geoff Cameron, Ale Bedoya, and Fabian Johnson all playing large roles in wins for their clubs.

Now, they’ll look to follow it up.  Cameron (pictured, left) and Stoke City host Hull City as the Potters look to solidify a top-10 finish.  Their win last week over Aston Villa put them into 10th, and now they’ll look to close the eight-point gap behind Southampton.

Villa’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan will hope to shake off that defeat to Stoke and deal David Moyes and Manchester United another big blow at Old Trafford.

Tim Howard and Everton look to stave off a disappointment and continue to put pressure on Arsenal for the 4th position as they travel to Craven Cottage and Fulham.  Howard will likely be looking to keep out Fulham’s 19-year-old striker Cauley Woodrow who has been a bright spot in their recent struggles.

Sunderland continue to struggle, now winless in their last five matches. At the forefront of that struggle is Jozy Altidore, who started and played the full 90 last week against Norwich but failed to score again in a 2-0 loss. He has not scored in the Premier League since December 4th.

In the Championship there is plenty to keep watch on.  Birmingham City takes on 10th-placed Bournemouth who have lost just two of their last 10. Birmingham’s Jonathan Spector has played the full 90 in seven straight matches after missing five months with a thigh injury. Teammate Will Packwood missed a few good chances in last week’s loss to Reading.

Reading won that match 2-1 without Danny Williams, but it looks as if the knee injury he suffered against Ukraine with the USMNT has subsided, and he could return from a 5-match absence Saturday against Huddersfield Town. Duane Holmes appeared for Huddersfield for the first time since returning from his loan at Yeovil Town, used as an 85th minute substitute last weekend.  He hopes for a starting spot this week on the road.

Tim Ream continues to be a warrior for 17th-placed Bolton, playing 2,884 of a possible 2,970 minutes in their last 33 matches.  They host Wigan on Saturday.

Struggling Sheffield Wednesday is in action against Watford, and Oguchi Onyewu hopes he can continue to inch closer to a possible World Cup spot with what would be his seventh-straight full 90 for the club.

Outside of England, Aron Johannsson saw victory last week, but personally hopes to rebound from a missed penalty as AZ travels to Cambuur Leeuwarden with a chance to catch Heerenveen in in 6th position.

FC Utretch had an early Friday game, and staged a miraculous comeback against NAC Breda to stave off relegation one more week, as a pair of goals in the last four minutes saw the clubs draw 2-2. However, Juan Agudelo had to watch from the bench after being substituted off in the 66th minute again without a score. He has just one goal in 651 Eredivisie minutes during his loan from Stoke City.

John Anthony Brooks earned himself a pair of starts for Hertha BSC last weekend, but the club conceded six goals to Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich. It put him back on the bench for their 2-0 loss to Schalke earlier Friday.

USMNT scouts were on hand to watch Fabian Johnson provide the match-winning assist to Anthony Modeste as Hoffenheim trumped struggling Bayer Leverkusen. He played the full 90 in a 3-1 win over Hannover just three days later, but now will have to face unbeaten Bayern Munich Saturday morning.  Bayern has already locked up the Bundesliga crown in record time.

Julian Green picked up an assist in a Bayern Munich youth squad match earlier today, which they won 5-2.

Rapid Vienna’s Terrence Boyd had a five-match start streak snapped midweek in their 3-0 win over FC Magna Wr. Neustadt, and will look to get back in the starting lineup Saturday against SK Sturm Graz. SV Salzburg has already run away with the Austrian Bundesliga title.

On Sunday, Sacha Kljestan gets his first crack at Standard Liege in the first leg of their playoff first round matchup.

Jermaine Jones and Besiktas need to pick themselves after a crushing 1-0 defeat to Karabukspor that seriously set them back in the Turkish Super Lig table earlier today. Jones played the full 90, picking up his second yellow card in as many matches.

Over in the French Ligue 1, Alejandro Bedoya earned a penalty (which was missed) in Nantes their first win since mid-January. He’s featured in five of their last six matches (with two starts) and the club can now gun for 9th-placed Bordeaux who sit just six points above Nantes with the two teams squaring off Saturday afternoon.

Mourinho reportedly close to Man Utd contract extension

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Jose Mourinho is scheduling an extended stay at Manchester United.

[ MORE: Donovan unveiled by Leon ]

The 54-year-old has a contract through the end of next season, the dreaded third at a club for Mourinho, but reports say United is keen to keep him around through 2021.

Mourinho has not tasted a fourth season with a club despite winning league titles at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.

The 2019-20 season at Old Trafford would be Mourinho’s fourth. According to the BBC:

Talks have progressed well and it is now just a matter of time before Mourinho commits to remain at Old Trafford beyond the expiry of his present deal in 2019.

Somehow, this feels it should be deemed another loss for Antonio Conte.

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

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Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.

FA Cup preview: Three more PL sides face 3rd-round replays

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Three more Premier League sides, including a top-four fighter, attempt to join a dozen of their top-flight contemporaries in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea and Swansea City host Championship opposition in the form of Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, while Bournemouth will make the 500-mile roundtrip to take on League One side Wigan Athletic.

The Blues, who now sit fourth in the PL after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Leicester City, could manage only a scoreless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road earlier this month. They are winless in their last four games across all competitions — all draws — including their League Cup semifinal first-leg draw with Arsenal last week; the last three of those all finished without a single goal scored. Chelsea, who are tied with Liverpool with the fourth-most FA Cups in their history (7), lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final at Wembley Stadium.

Swansea are undoubtedly the side on highest Cupset alert, as Wolves are the runaway leaders and champions-elect in the Championship (10 points clear after 27 of 46 rounds played), thus able to devote more attention to the FA Cup than the typical second-division side. With the two sides separated by just a single place in the English footballing pyramid (Swansea, 20th in the PL; Wolves, 1st in the Championship), they appear destined to swap places by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s punishment for conceding a pair of early goals to a side currently 32 places below them in the pyramid, is the long, midweek trip from the south coast to the DW Stadium in the northwest of England. It was the Premier Leaguers who needed a two second-half goals, including Steve Cook‘s 90th-minute equalizer, to draw level at home in the first meeting.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay actionFULL ROUNDUP

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town
West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Agent: 37-year-old Ronaldinho has retired

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SAO PAULO (AP) The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho announced Tuesday that the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football.

Roberto Assis made the announcement to Brazilian media on behalf of the 37-year-old midfielder, who played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

“Ronnie’s professional career is over. He wants to be a football ambassador, do charity, and work with his friends in music from now on,” Assis told The Associated Press.

Assis hopes to schedule some farewell matches for Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. The initial plan is to play games in Brazil, Europe and Asia and to also get Brazil’s national team involved, Assis said.

Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action.

The Brazilian’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two Spanish league titles with Barcelona, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).

Ronaldinho started his professional career at Gremio in southern Brazil in 1998. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 and was signed by Barcelona two seasons later.

At the Camp Nou, he was the engine of a team that took Barca back to the limelight. However, after a series of club trophies, Ronaldinho’s career took a downturn. He was often accused by Brazilian and Spanish media of lacking professionalism, despite his mentoring of a then youthful Lionel Messi.

In 2008, with Messi then leading Barcelona, Ronaldinho left for AC Milan. Despite being part of a team that won Serie A in 2011, he failed to reach his previous heights as a player.

When returning home became a real option, Ronaldinho frustrated Gremio’s efforts to re-sign him and joined Flamengo instead.

Disappointing performances in Rio de Janeiro took him to Atletico Mineiro, a club that then was more often fighting against relegation than for titles.

Yet a more mature Ronaldinho took Atletico to a different level.

In his last great run, Ronaldinho carried Atletico with his superb passes and dazzling dribbles to second place in the 2012 Brazilian Championship.

A year later, he was the key to his club lifting its first Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club trophy, but his hopes of playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were dashed.

Ronaldinho left to play for Mexico’s Queretaro in 2014-15, but was mostly on the bench.

He played his last seven matches as a professional for Fluminense, though his performances were a far cry from his best days in Spain.

Now living in Rio, he has appeared in advertisements all over the world since leaving Fluminense.