Eddie Johnson, Giancarlo Gonzalez

Eddie Johnson fit and likely to face Portland Timbers

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When D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson went down in last Saturday’s 4-1 home win over FC Dallas, many feared the forward could be lost for an extended period of time.

After missing training earlier in the week, however, Johnson returned to practice on Wednesday raising hopes of his inclusion in the lineup for Saturday night’s crunch tie with the Portland Timbers.

Aware of United coach Ben Olsen’s cautious approach to bringing players back from injury too early, our good friends at Soccerly break down the coach’s options:

Should Johnson minutes be limited, expect forward Conor Doyle to receive significant minutes. Doyle, who came in for Johnson in last Saturday’s match against F.C. Dallas, has played in all seven matches for United this season. He has yet to score a goal in the 2014 campaign, but scored two goals last season after coming to the club on loan from Derby County in the English League Championship. At 6’2″ 172 pounds, he possesses size and strength that could be an asset against Timbers defender Pa Mamadou Kah, the imposing center-back for Portland.

Olsen could also go with Espindola as the lone striker up front and play a 4-5-1. Expect Lewis Neal to be added to the starting midfield if Olsen goes this route.

The 30-year-old Johnson has endured a difficult start to the 2014 MLS season, starting all 7 games but failing to find the back of the net and only managing 12 shots on goal. In his wake, Espindola has stepped up, scoring four goals and notching two assists.

Johnson’s form has improved of late but as Sean Maslin points out, competition is fierce for World Cup spots on Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad:

With fellow American forwards Terrence Boyd (18 goals with Rapid Vienna in Austria,) Aron Johansson (25 goals with AZ Alkmaar,) and Chris Wondolowski (3 goals in 6 matches with the San Jose Earthquakes) all performing very well for their prospective clubs, Johnson might find himself on the outside of the Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad should he miss any time with D.C. United.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia