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Americans Abroad Review: Howard shines, Diskerud nets (video)

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A busy, busy weekend for Yanks across the pond and South of the border. We’ll begin in England’s top flight…

If Stoke City has an ironman, it’s Geoff Cameron. He went 90-strong for the Potters as they continued their hot streak with a 1-0 win over Hull City at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke has climbed into 10th place in the Premier League, and Cameron has been a major part of their ascension. His 2,790 minutes have better his mark from 2012/13 and there’s still a half-dozen games left on his slate.

Seven saves were the magic number for Tim Howard, who was much busier than the 3-1 scoreline would indicate as Everton took care of a pesky Fulham side. For those who don’t play fantasy PL, Howard’s been one of the best options in the game this season, putting up better numbers than all keepers not named Cech or Szczesny.

Howard’s USMNT backup didn’t fare as well… at all. Aston Villa continued to leave Brad Guzan out to dry. Again the Villans allowed four goals in a PL match, this time against Manchester United after giving up the same figure — and scoreline — in a 4-1 loss at Stoke City on March 23. Up next are Fulham and Crystal Palace, so hopefully he’ll have a chance to find form.

Jozy Altidore and Sunderland will play West Ham United on Monday. Altidore has played 90 minutes in each of the Black Cats last two outings, both losses.

The English Championship division saw a little less American action than usual. Oguchi Onyewu again went 90 for Sheffield Wednesday, though they got blown out 4-1 against Watford. Jonathan Spector appeared but Will Packwood did not in Birmingham City’s 4-2 loss to Bournemouth, while Danny Williams went 79 minutes in a 1-1 draw versus Huddersfield Town. Tim Ream went the distance as his Bolton side drawing Wigan 1-1.

In the Netherlands, FC Utrecht drew NAC Breda 2-2. Juan Agudelo played 66 minutes and registered two shots. Utrecht scored both of their goals after he left the game. Aron Johannsson missed a penalty on Thursday for the second time in recent weeks, and this one cost his club dearly. AZ Alkmaar fell to Ajax 1-0 in a big game. Huge miss in a huge spot, so monitor the youngster to see how he responds. Hard to tell from Saturday, when he made an 8-minute cameo off the bench in a 0-0 draw at Cambuur Leeuwarden.

Norway’s top flight is back in session, and Mix Diskerud‘s name makes its first appearance in a while in this space. He scored off the bench for Rosenborg in a 2-2 draw with Viking. Here’s Mix’s powerful cross-body goal:

Staying in Norway, Bob Bradley‘s campaign as boss of Stabaek got off to a strong start with a 3-0 win over Sogndal.

Jermaine Jones went 90 minutes for Besiktas in a 1-0 loss at Karabukspor.

Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht had a big match in the Belgian Jupiler League against Standard Liege and neither player nor club was happy after a 1-0 loss in which Kljestan only played the first half.

What snub? Jose Torres scored another dynamite goal for Tigres despite not being named as part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for Wednesday’s friendly with Mexico. He scored a bananas goal, again. Also in Mexico, DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco Fiscal put in full games for Puebla in its 1-1 draw against Leon.

Terrence Boyd went 89 minutes for Rapid Wien, picking up a yellow card in a 2-0 win over Stum Graz, while Herculez Gomez played 59 minutes in Tijuana’s 2-1 loss to Queretaro. Ale Bedoya played 78 minutes for Nantes in a 0-0 draw against Bordeaux.

Germany had a few Americans running the pitch, with Fabian Johnson taking part in a thrilling 3-3 draw between Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich that ended a 19-game winning streak for the Bavarians. Julian Green featured for Bayern Munich II and picked up an assist in a 5-2 win over Bamberg.

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.