USWNT-China preview: Plenty of post-firing intrigue on NBCSN tonight

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There’s far more intrigue involved in Thursday’s rematch between the United States women’s national team and China (Watch live from California at 11pm ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) than there was after the Yanks controlled possession and chances but lacked finish in a 2-0 win in Colorado on Sunday.

That’s because US Soccer unexpectedly parted ways with head coach Tom Sermanni mere hours after the win, and the explanations since have been anything but sufficient. US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the coach’s style wasn’t meshing with the organization’s goals, and hinted that there were “personality-driven” issues.

But don’t tell that to the players, who to a woman are saying how shocked they are and how tremendous a coach and person Sermanni was during his 15 months in charge. Star Carli Lloyd was “shocked as everyone else,” while legend Abby Wambach was flat-out dismissive that there was a player revolt.

Which, of course, is why there have been rumors that players were barred from talking about the firing on social media (that only renegade Hope Solo disobeyed).

So it seems tonight is a bit of a no-win situation, aside from the obvious “W” that comes from beating China. If the US finishes the a larger percentage of the chances created against China earlier in the week, they’ll absolutely squash the competition and there will be some talk that the players threw their coach under the bus. If the US looks poor again, well, that’s an even bigger problem.

If Sermanni did anything while in charge, it was having the guts to introduce the next generation into the full national team fold ahead of World Cup 2015 in Canada. Some of those faces will be on the scene tonight, and the starting lineup from interim coach Jill Ellis — longtime US assistant going back to the Pia Sundhage era — could tell us more than a little about who’s speaking truly about the upheaval at US Soccer.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.