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.


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.

Zlatan announces LA, MLS arrival in bizarre fashion

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has arrived in Major League Soccer.

The veteran striker terminated his contract at Manchester United earlier this week and the 36-year-old Swede will reportedly signed a two-year deal worth over $3 million per season with the LA Galaxy.

He confirmed that the Galaxy will be his club on Friday by taking out a full page advert in the LA Times in typically sarcastic fashion.

Zlatan kept it short and sweet, as the Galaxy’s new No. 9 will certainly be a blast in MLS, just for his off-the-field antics alone.

VIDEO: Usain Bolt trains with Borussia Dortmund

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Usain Bolt has taken part in his first proper training session with Borussia Dortmund’s first team as he continues to chase his dream of being a professional soccer player.

The eight-time Olympic champion, who retired as a sprinter earlier in 2017 after the World Championships, is on a two-day tryout with Dortmund which many are merely saying is a publicly stunt.

Yet with Dortmund allowing Bolt, 31, the chance to train with first team stars on Friday it may be a little more than just a chance for media members to flock to watch Dortmund in an open training session. Given the fact that Dortmund are sponsored by Puma, the same sponsor Bolt has, many are connecting the dots and it was a laid back training session on Friday as Bolt spent plenty of time signing autographs after scoring a header and a penalty kick.

Remember: Bolt is a lifelong Manchester United and has mentioned many times over the years that he would like to turn to professional soccer.

Earlier this month he announced he will captain a World XI at Old Trafford in a UNICEF charity game in June 2018, with Bolt teasing the planet on social media by saying he had signed for a soccer team. With his speed, power and size, is it really that far-fetched to think he could be a good targetman if he can sort out his hold up play and work on his endurance to last 90 minutes?

Watch the videos below as the Jamaican superstar scored a pretty solid PK, took part in training and obviously had most of Dortmund’s star players, such as Mario Gotze and Nuri Sahin, in awe.

Let’s see what the future holds for Bolt, but this is probably little more than Peter Stoeger and Dortmund having a longstanding offer accepted by Bolt to train with them. Maybe he could turn out for Dortmund’s reserve squad in a scrimmage and go from there?

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.