Americans Abroad Preview: Howard guns for Champions League, Jozy in six-pointer

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Tim Howard, fresh off announcing his retirement plans, is in the hunt for a return to the Champions League when Everton travels to Southampton with its sights on Arsenal’s 4th-placed slot.

Arsenal doesn’t play until Monday when they host Newcastle, but Howard can put the heat on the Gunners with a win at St. Mary’s Park. The Saints have little to play for, as do many in the mid-table, so this could be a chance for Everton to pounce, at 7:45am ET tomorrow on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

There isn’t much riding on the match, but Brad Guzan and Aston Villa are solidify their Premier League status with certainty as they travel to Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea in a similar position.

Both teams are five and six points from the drop zone respectively, and although relegation is a distant possibility at best, the two have yet to reach the magical 40 point mark.  They meet up at 10am ET live online at NBC Sports Live Extra. Guzan did yeoman’s work last week in a 0-0 draw against Southampton, but he’ll need his attack to help a little more to get Villa out of their rut.

Meanwhile, Jozy Altidore stated his intentions to get back in the Sunderland starting lineup with a key moment in their win over Chelsea. Now, the Black Cats look to build on that statement win and continue their march out out of the relegation zone.

Sunderland are in 20th, but their win over the Blues has them within three of safety, and they host 18th-placed Cardiff City at 7am ET on Sunday, live on NBCSN.

Stoke City are looking to stake their claim at their first-ever top-10 finish, and Geoff Cameron figures to be right in the thick of things as they host Tottenham Hotspur. The London club are essentially in the Europa League by table position, and don’t have much riding on the last few matches.

WATCH ALL PREMIER LEAGUE GAMES THIS WEEKEND LIVE ONLINE AT NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

Lower in the English ranks, Jonathan Spector and Will Packwood are in a serious battle with relegation.  Just off the drop on goal difference, they’ll need a win over 16th-placed Leeds to ensure they remain above the line.

Danny Williams comes off a poor showing for Reading, and he’ll hope the manager sees past it for selection against Doncaster.

Bolton travels to Sheffield Wednesday as Tim Ream faces Oguchi Onyewu on Saturday. The two sides are adjacent in the middle of the Championship table but safely afloat.

Huddersfield Town gets a tough draw with promoted Leicester City. Duane Holmes has been on and off the bench, but will hope to get a run-out against the likely champions.

Leaving England, Sacha Kljestan has a massive match in front of him in the Jupiler Pro League.  With Anderlecht in third by a large margin, they have four matches to catch Club Brugge for second place and take on first-placed Standard Liege.

AZ Alkmaar was off last week in the Netherlands but are back on for the final two fixtures as Aron Johannsson looks to add to his 17-goal tally.  They take on ADO Den Haag on Sunday. Juan Augdelo was also off, but his FC Utrecht is on the pitch again at Heerenveen.

Terrence Boyd comes off his brace for Rapid Wien against SV Scholz Grodig to take on SV Salsburg.

In France, Ale Bedoya is on a roll with two goals in his last three matches.  His Nantes has already played, drawing 1-1 with Marseille to move back into the Top 10. Bedoya started and played the full 90 minutes.

John Anthony Brooks has played a decent amount the last few weeks, and Hertha gets Bundesliga opponents BTSV Saturday. Across the league, Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim host Eintracht Frankfurt.

Puebla pulled out a big road win 2-1 over Pachucha last week in their bid against relegation, and now host Morelia as DaMarcus Beasley looks to play more minutes. Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo are currently on the pitch for Tijuana as they trail Leon 1-0 at halftime.  Herculez Gomez is not in the squad.

Goal-machine Jermain Defoe signs for Bournemouth

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Jermain Defoe is back where it all began.

[ MORE: Sanchez to Man City? ]

Bournemouth announced the 34-year-old striker has signed for them on a three-year contract after a release clause in his Sunderland deal was triggered, meaning he could leave for free following the Black Cats’ relegation from the Premier League last season.

Defoe spent a season on loan at Bournemouth as a teenager back in 2000-01 when he was coming through the ranks at West Ham and during his first season as a pro he played with current Cherries manager Eddie Howe, scoring 19 goals in 31 appearances (including a run of 12 goals in 10-straight games) for the then third-tier club.

The England international, who scored 15 times for Sunderland last season, returns with both himself and Bournemouth in a very different situation.

“It’s great to be back and I’m really looking forward to this challenge.” Defoe said. “When the opportunity came about to return to AFC Bournemouth I just knew it was the right one. It was an easy decision, joining a top team with a top manager. It’s a great place to be. The Bournemouth fans know that every time I pull the shirt on I will give 100 per cent, and the one thing I can guarantee is goals.”

Howe added that he was “delighted” that Defoe has returned and said it was a “huge moment” for the club as they continue their progression following a ninth-place finish in the PL last season.

During his distinguished career Defoe has scored goals by the bucket-load wherever he has played. He has 269 goals in 649 total career appearances and he has proven that he still has plenty left in the tank.

Playing for West Ham, Portsmouth, Tottenham, Toronto FC and Sunderland, he is a predator in the box and has kept himself in fine fettle over the years with a vegan diet just one of the ways he has elongated his career. Defoe’s form for Sunderland over the past two-and-a-half seasons has seen him recalled to the English national team in his mid-30s after scoring 37 goals in 93 goals.

He will not only add goals but will also help the development of young strikers Josh King, Benik Afobe and Lys Mousset at the Vitality Stadium.

This move was a no-brainer for both Bournemouth and Defoe as the Cherries continue to strengthen and add PL experience. Asmir Begovic has already arrived as their new starting goalkeeper and Chelsea’s promising defender Nathan Ake, who spent time on loan at Bournemouth last season, is expected to arrive later this week.

Heading into their third season as a PL club, Howe is addressing his needs early and impressively.

Alexis Sanchez to Man City reports gathering steam

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Alexis Sanchez’s future has still not been sorted out but Manchester City are increasingly optimistic he will be playing for them next season.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s twin sons born

Sanchez, 28, is still on international duty with Chile who have reached the 2017 Confederations Cup final and his Arsenal future is no closer to being sorted with just one year remaining on his current contract with the Gunners.

The Guardian reports that Man City are expecting to seal the $64.7 million deal for Sanchez due to the Chilean’s desire to be reunited with his former boss at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola.

Sanchez and his agent had talks scheduled with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger at the end of the season but with the Gunners not qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season it appears increasingly likely the oft-frustrated forward will move on this summer with a new contract offer of $324,000 per week reportedly turned down.

Each and every day new stories and snippets emerge on Sanchez’s future but the Chilean star (who scored 24 goals and added 10 assists in the PL last season) rarely gives interviews, leading to increased hype around his situation at Arsenal at every turn.

Previous reports in Chile quoted Sanchez as saying he wanted “to stay in London, but for a club that wins” so Chelsea was his next destination. When Danny Welbeck‘s name was above the No.7 shirt on Arsenal’s website for a brief moment during their new kit launch there was hysteria. Bayern Munich are now said to be out of a deal for Sanchez due to the high transfer price Arsenal is demanding. The list goes on and on and everyone wants to know one thing: will he stay or will he go?

Arsenal’s reluctance to sell to a direct PL rival — especially to City, once again, after they bought Sami Nasri, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna from the Gunners in the past — remains the main sticking point in this deal with the north London club preferring to sell Sanchez overseas to Bayern or PSG rather than see him inspire the attack of a rival in England.

From a pure playing standpoint, a move to City seems perfect for Sanchez.

He gets to play in a fluid front three system and can roam alongside Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and potentially Sergio Aguero. City, and Guardiola, also match his intense hunger to win trophies at any costs and challenge for titles in the PL and Europe, something he hasn’t been able to do at Arsenal. Yes, he has won the FA Cup twice during his three-season stint at the Emirates, but he wants more. He always wants more.

That’s why seeing Sanchez remain at Arsenal after scoring 72 goals in 145 games in all competitions seems highly unlikely.

Cristiano Ronaldo announces birth of twin sons via surrogate

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not play in Portugal’s third-place match at the 2017 Confederations Cup this Sunday.

He has bigger things to sort out.

Ronaldo, 32, was released from Portugal’s squad late Wednesday after their defeat on penalty kicks to Chile in the Confed Cup semifinals in Russia.  The Real Madrid and Portugal superstar will now travel to visit his new twin sons, who were born via a surrogate earlier this month, with Ronaldo set to meet them for the first time after captaining Portugal in Russia over the past few weeks.

According to reports from Portuguese TV channel SIC, the surrogate mother was based on the west coast of the U.S. (I can already hear you guys asking ‘does that mean they’re eligible to play for the USMNT?’). Ronaldo is now the father of three children after already having a seven-year-old son, Cristiano Ronaldo Jr.

Reports also suggest that his 22-year-old girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez is five months pregnant, so soon he could be a father for the fourth time. He would then be able to field a five-a-side team of Ronaldo’s for indoor games…

Below is the post from Ronaldo confirming his departure from Portugal’s squad, which the national team also confirmed, as he is set to meet his new children for the first time.

“I was in the service of the national team, as always, body and soul, even though my two sons were born. Unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve the main sporting objective that we wanted, but I am sure we will continue to give joy to the Portuguese.

“The President of the Portuguese Football Federation and the national picker have today had an attitude that has touched me and I will not forget. I’m very happy to finally be with my children for the first time.”

Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic