With their loss to Stoke, Fulham are relegated.

Stoke City 4-1 Fulham: Fulham are relegated (video)

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Fulham are officially relegated after losing to Stoke City on Saturday. A late goal from Kieran Richardson was not enough to save the side, whose defense looked shaky throughout the match, and whose attack was unable to muster more than two shots on target.

It was the visitors that were fighting for their Premier League lives, yet it was Stoke that very nearly took the lead inside five minutes. A cross from Steven N’Zonzi fell kindly to Oussama Assaidi, but he managed to put his shot both wide and well high.

Fulham did their best to hang on, soaking up any pressure, possibly thinking that a point just might save them from relegation. But Stoke managed to break through in the 38th minute. Stephen Ireland hit the crossbar, but Peter Odemwingie was on hand to mop up the damage. Dan Burn very nearly cleared away Odemwingie’s shot, but fell down instead – possibly a good anecdote to sum up the Fulham season.

Despite an early change from Felix Magath – Ashkhan Dejagah replaced Lewis Holtby in the 34th minute – Fulham just couldn’t muster anything resembling a quality attack. Scott Parker’s shot early in the second half was only their third, and it was the first that required a save from Asmir Begović.

So Stoke’s second came as little surprise. The hosts hit poor, beleaguered Fulham on the break. Almost before the Cottagers knew what was happening, Odemwingie slipped the ball across the face of goal, setting up Marko Arnautović to knock in for Stoke.

Fulham were dead and buried – and they knew it. Sure enough, another Stoke goal came almost too easily for the hosts. Another counterattack saw Arnautović as the provider this time, putting the ball in for Assaidi to tap home.

Up 3-0, Mark Hughes thought it ok to make a couple changes, removing Odemwingie and Assiadi for Jonathan Walters and Matthew Etherington. Shortly after, Fulham managed to score. Darren Bent, getting a rare start, put one in for Kieran Richardson, who dutifully knocked in a low shot. But with the side all but down, there was barely any celebration.

Nor defense, for that matter. Just two minutes later, Walters restored the Stoke lead. Charlie Adam easily slipped a through ball inside the Fulham defense, practically giggling as he did so. It was all too easy for Walters to get on the end of it, easily beating David Stockdale with his low shot.

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Begovic; Pieters, Muniesa, Wilson, Cameron; Arnautovic, Nzonzi, Whelan, Assaidi (Etherington 75); Ireland (Adam 70), Odemwingie (Walters 78)

Goals: Odemwingie 39′; Arnautović 54′; Assaidi 73′; Walters 82′

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Burn (Mitroglou 58), Riise; Holtby (Dejagah 34), Parker, Sidwell, Diarra (Kasami 73), Richardson; Bent

Goals: Richardson 80′

Report: NASL’s New York Cosmos terminate all player contracts

SO KON PO, HONG KONG SAR - FEBRUARY 19:  Daniel Szetela (R) of New York Cosmos and Siu Kwan Chan of South China in action during the 2015 Lunar New Year Cup match between South China and the New York Cosmos at Hong Kong Stadium on February 19, 2015 in So Kon Po, Hong Kong.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
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As we await the future of both the North American Soccer League and its champion New York Cosmos, another dark cloud arrived regarding both.

Empire of Soccer reports that the Cosmos have terminated all of its player contracts, putting a 2017 season into the neighborhood of improbability.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs second DP ]

New York’s staff is on furlough, and the club has been “on the brink of collapse” for weeks (if not longer).

The USL avoided having its champion collapse by finding new owners for the Rochester Rhinos in the offseason. Will New York be able to do the same?

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U.S. Soccer announces Players of the Year nominees

HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 01:  John Brooks #6 of United States and teammates Clint Dempsey #8,Michael Bradley #4,Geoff Cameron #20 and Julian Green #16 wait for the corner kick in the second half against Turkey during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on June 1, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey.The United States defeated Turkey 2-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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U.S. Soccer unveiled the finalists for its top 2016 Male, Female, and youth awards on Monday.

MLS stars Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey are joined by Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood as top men’s player nominees. The winner will be announced on the eve of Saturday’s MLS Cup Final.

[ MLS: Best XI has historic American low ]

Stoke City’s Cameron and Hamburg’s Wood are the European-based players on the list, while Fabian Johnson did not make the cut. Dempsey has been limited by heart problems, but still found a way to the list.

John Brooks and Christian Pulisic are also notable exceptions, though the latter is a finalist for the younger award.

The five-woman list for Female Player of the Year sees Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, and Becky Sauerbrunn vying to finish second behind Carli Lloyd (Sorry, we couldn’t resist even with Heath’s incredible season).

The Young Male award promises to be a showdown between Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), though it’s difficult to see the latter edging the former. Also in the frame are Spurs back Cameron Carter-Vickers, Atlanta United teenager Andrew Carleton and U.S. U-17 star Josh Sargent.

The Young Female nominees are midfielders Emily Ogle and Andi Sullivan, defenders Kaleigh Riehl and Karina Rodriguez and forward Ashley Sanchez.

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MLS Best XI has just two Americans (and that’s fine)

FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges, center, heads the ball near Seattle Sounders defender Zach Scott, second from left, in the second half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat FC Dallas 3-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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MLS released its season’s Best XI on Monday, and it’s the least American bunch in the history of the award.

Some have asked whether this be a concern. The short answer is: As long as you’re not a xenophobe, probably not.

There’s no question the league is better than ever, so in that sense no one should worry that only Matt Hedges and Sacha Kljestan earned nods in the league’s 3-4-3.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs second DP ]

Several times the league saw five Americans in its Best XI, and once it was four, but this year’s duo marks a new low.

MLS Best XI
GK – Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union / Jamaica)
D – Matt Hedges (FC Dallas / USA)
D – Jelle van Damme (LA Galaxy / Belgium)
D – Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids / Sweden)
M – Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas / Argentina)
M – Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy / Mexico)
M – Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls / USA)
M – Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact / Argentina)
F – Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls / England)
F – David Villa (New York City FC / Spain)
F – Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC / Italy)

Now of course the next question is, “Where do players 12-24 come from?” Let’s make a quick second XI (and include Nicolas Lodeiro despite his half-season status because, well, did you watch any MLS this year?):

GK – David Bingham (San Jose / USA)
D – Ronald Matarrita (New York City / Costa Rica)
D – Laurent Ciman (Montreal / Belgium)
D – Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas / USA)
M – Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle / USA-Cuba)
M – Darlington Nagbe (Portland / USA)
M – Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC / USA)
M – Diego Valeri (Portland / Argentina)
M – Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle / Uruguay)
F – Dom Dwyer (Sporting KC / England)
F – Ola Kamara (Columbus / Norway)

A bit better, huh? And Dwyer could be American in under a year. Next up would probably be several Americans (Dax McCarty, Luis Robles, Michael Bradley, Jordan Morris, Drew Moor).

The idea of better players shouldn’t be about Americans racking up the top spots, rather U.S. players being improved by the level of competition.

Look at the Premier League’s Best XI, the PFA Team of the Year, which had a total of four Englishmen (five if you include English-born Jamaican back Wes Morgan). While some will argue for a cap on foreign players — which MLS has — you don’t mess with what makes it great.

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After latest loss, Hull City gets blunt: “We need help”

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05:  Curtis Davies of Hull City jumps with Calum Chambers (25) and Victor Valdes of Middlesbrough (26) during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Hull City at Riverside Stadium on December 5, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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Hull City players and staff are not being bashful.

Mired in the drop zone and following yet another loss, this one a relegation six-pointer at the hands of hosts Middlesbrough, Tigers were speaking out on the talent at the KC Stadium.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Manager Mike Phelan said “hopefully” there will be action by the club in the January transfer window, as the club continues its quest to stay in the Premier League.

Phelan said the club is lacking “firepower”, and veteran defender Charlie Davies put it even more plainly.

From the BBC:

“We need help. We made signings in the summer and they have done their bit but they were all last-minute. We are thin up top and we need someone who can put the ball in the net.”

Hull went through a mess during the summer, with player acquisition problematic and manager Steve Bruce quitting the club. After a hot start led to Phelan getting the job on a permament basis it’s clear that, like Swansea boss Bob Bradley, this isn’t about who’s in the dugout.

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