Interview with AS Roma’s gritty Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan

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It hasn’t come easy for Radja Nainggolan, but the hardy AS Roma midfielder was built for tough play. On loan from Cagliari, the Belgian veteran became a big part of i Lupi‘s success in late 2014 and was expected to be a big part of his club and nation’s charge ahead.

But things don’t always play out as expected. PST had a chance to speak with the 26-year-old on Monday about his Roma success and Belgian omission.

PST: Congrats on the move to Roma and a strong first half-season. What were your feelings when you made the move to Roma?

Radja Nainggolan: “I’m very happy, it’s a great club that was already doing very well before I got here. My teammates have been great in making me feel part of the team right away, I’m very happy.”

PST: How excited are you at the prospect of Champions League football next year?

RN: “The Champions League was a dream and is now a reality, I’m very happy and we will have to prove that we deserved it.”

PST: Pjanic, De Rossi, Strootman (when healthy)… how competitive is training every day?

RN: “Competition is good and healthy for the team, it keeps everyone from doing anything but their best. They are great players and I think the players who will play will be the ones who proved they deserve it.”

PST: Obviously we know Roma can compete for the Serie A title, but do you think you can be a threat in the UCL in your first year back?

RN: “This year we did our best and will continue doing so. Right now we need to focus on giving everything next season, the rest will come.”

PST: I’m sure it’s hard to be on the stand-by list for World Cup, but it’s a great honor and it shows how deep Belgium is. What are the expectations for the nation in Brazil?

RN: “I was expecting to be in the 23 to make the team to be honest. There are a lot of great players, unfortunately I wasn’t chosen and I have accepted this and will certainly support the team.”

U.S. 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

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.