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Johnson, Dempsey goals give U.S. 2-1 win over Turkey

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If Tuesday’s performance was the warm up, Sunday’s at Red Bull Arena saw the U.S. ease its 2014 World Cup preparation out of neutral. Overcoming a slow start with Fabian Johnson’s first half opener, a U.S. team that waited until late to defeat Azerbaijan earlier this week avoided similar problems against Turkey. Adding a second half goal from Clint Dempsey, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side produced a 2-1 win over the world’s 39th-ranked team, taking another step in its buildup for Brazil.

Turkey produced the match’s first good chance in the 13th minute when Nuri Sahin went off Tim Howard’s left post. Twelve minutes later, however, a ranging give-and-go between Johnson and Michael Bradley saw the U.S. defender burst past the Turkey back line for the game’s first goal. Just after halftime, a failed Turkey clearance on a ball from Timothy Chandler allowed captain Clint Dempsey to double the lead from two yards out.

A giveaway from 90th minute by Chandler led to a Geoff Cameron hand ball after Mustafa Pektemek was allowed to go in alone on goal. Selcuk Inan’s conversion into the left side netting heightened the stoppage time tension, but the Turks only goal proved consolation for their 2-1 loss.

(MORE: Three things that could matter for the U.S., come Brazil)

The United States concludes its send-off series Saturday, June 7, against World Cup-qualified Nigeria in Jacksonville. Nine days later, the team begins the 2014 World Cup in Natal against Ghana.

Twelve minutes of relatively even play at the beginning of the match gave way to a Turkey chance after Geoff Cameron conceded a foul deep on the U.S.’s right. After the restart was cleared, play moving from Turkey’s left to the middle of the box found Nuri Sahin near the penalty spot. With the U.S. defense slow to respond, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder put his shot off the outside of the right post, giving the hosts an early reprieve.

In the 21st minute, after a spell of play left the U.S. on the verge of conceding, a turnover created by Michael Bradley nearly produced the opener. Winning a ball just inside Turkey’s half, Bradley created a 3-on-2 in transition against the visitors’ defense. A pass played wide to Altidore and back to Bradley saw the U.S. barely miss goal when a defender’s lunge caught a ball headed toward Kivrak’s far post.

Four minutes later, after gaining their first hold on the match, the U.S. was in front. Starting his team’s movement from 40 yards out, right back Fabian Johnson found Bradley just above the arc and continued his run into the penalty area. A lob over the defense allowed the new Borussia Moechengladbach player to one-time his shot into the left side of goal, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

With its play higher up the field proving more effective, the U.S. played out the rest of the half with few of the defensive worries that speckled the match’s first 20 minutes. Even after the goal, the half’s best chance fell to the U.S., with Clint Dempsey sent on a breakaway toward Kivrak’s goal. Tackled at the edge of the penalty area by Ozan Tufan, the U.S. captain was left appealing for a penalty as play went back the other way.

In the 52nd minute, however, Turkey gave Dempsey his goal. On a ball sent in from the left from Timothy Chandler, a failed clearance from Hakan Balta left the ball just outside goal for the U.S. captain. Getting his right foot to it before Kivrak could get down for the ball, Dempsey unwrapped his gift to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead.

After securing its lead, the U.S. settled into a substitute routine that started at halftime, with Brad Guzan, John Brooks, and Kyle Beckerman brought on for the game’s final 45 minutes. Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin would come on just after the hour-mark, with Jurgen Klinsmann selecting Mix Diskerud for this final sb in the 69th minute.

Along the way, Turkey nearly pulled a goal back in the 61st minute only to see Brad Guzan shut down a 1-on-1. Other half chances through the problematic left side of the U.S.’s defense were thwarted, with the visitors never adopting the intensity of a team pursuing a meaningful result. Even after a Chandler was caught on the ball 30 yards out, a giveaway that produced the game’s final goal, Turkey fail to summon the desperation needed to find its equalizing goal

The reason for that is obvious enough. For Turkey, the game didn’t mean much. For the U.S., however the performance was all about progress, and while the team may not be ready for June 16 right now, it still showed improvement from Tuesday night. Against a much more talented team, the U.S. produced a slightly more convincing result.

The attack did little after being handed a second goal, but in terms to the U.S. trajectory toward Brazil, Sunday represented a move in the right direction. Particularly at the back, a number of questions went unanswered, but seven days from now against Nigeria, the team gets its next chance to offer a response.

Lineups

United States: Howard (Guzan 46′); Johnson (Yedlin 64′), Cameron, Besler (Brooks 46′), Chandler; Zusi (Diskerud 69′), Jones (Beckerman 46′), Bradley, Davis (Green 64′); Altidore, Dempsey

Goals: Johnson 26′, Dempsey 52′

Turkey: Kivrak, Balta (Demirok 83′), Dogan (Ozek 46′), Gonul, Inan, Erdinç (Kisa 80′), Sahin (Çalhanoğlu 70′), Ozyakup (Adin 66′), Tufan, Erkin, Camdal (Pektemek 64′)

Goal: Inan 90′

10 Premier League teams enter Football League trophy

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Sesc Fabregas (L) of Chelsea celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates Gary Cahill (C) and Tammy Abraham (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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10 Premier League teams have accepted an invitation to play in a revamped version of the Football League Trophy during the 2016-17 season.

Relaunched as the “EFL Trophy” the competition was previously only open to teams in League One and League Two, the second and third tiers in the English soccer pyramid, but in a one-off trial the Football League has included 16 Category A academy teams from both the Premier League and English Championship to participate.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza

Chelsea, Leicester City, West Ham United, Everton, Southampton, Stoke City, Swansea City, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough are the 10 PL teams who have decided to enter the competition.

A number of other Premier League clubs declined the invite and some purists in England are concerned that essentially “B teams” from the top two tiers will run away with the competition and easily win it. For example, PL side Southampton won the Football League Trophy in 2010 when they were in the third tier but now their U-21 side will be competing in the competition.

Shaun Harvey, chief executive of the Football League, explained the reason to mix things up as member clubs in the Football League voted in favor of the changes this summer.

“When opting to make these innovative changes to the competition, at the very heart of our thinking was to ensure younger players got an opportunity to test themselves in competitive games against experienced professionals. By involving them much earlier at senior level, we have a real chance of developing more and better home grown players.”

A regional group stage draw took place on Wednesday with eight groups in the south and eight in the north. Each team will play three games and the top two teams from each group will then compete in a knockout tournament with the final at Wembley Stadium in April.

The full schedule for the upcoming tournament can be found in the link below.


Zidane suggests Real Madrid in the hunt to sign Paul Pogba

Real Madrid's headcoach Zinedine Zidane follows a Champions League, round of 16, first-leg soccer match between Roma and Real Madrid, at the Rome Olympic stadium, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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Zinedine Zidane is a mischievous so and so.

With Juventus sealing a $98.7 million move for Gonzalo Higuain on Tuesday, everybody is expecting the Italian champs to sell Paul Pogba to Manchester United in the next few days for a fee in excess of $130 million.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza ]

Well, hold your horses. Real Madrid could be back in for Pogba.

Speaking to the media ahead of Real’s opening 2016 International Champions Cup game against Paris Saint-Germain in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, Zidane has

“I do not know if he’ll come. Until August 31 anything can happen,” Zidane said. “Pogba is a great player and when you’re with Madrid you always want the best. But today he is not a Madrid player, he is with Juventus. I cannot say anything else.”

Zinedine, my friend, quickly try and screw the lid back on that can of worms you’ve just opened.

[ MORE: How did Yedlin, CCV do for Spurs? ]

Pogba, 23, is currently on vacation in Florida with his agent Mino Raiola and it has been reported that his potential world-record transfer to Manchester United has hit a snag. Raiola is in line to make over $22 million on the deal but reports suggest Juve and United are at odds over who pays Pogba’s agent that fee.

All of that aside, do Real really need Pogba?

Yes, he’s a fine player but as we’ve already discussed at PST, is he really worth over $130 million? As his up and down form at EURO 2016 proved, he may still not be the complete player but his athletic ability combined with his deft touches and penchant for taking over games with his lung-bursting runs are his biggest assets. The lure of working with Zidane, a French national team legend, could be strong for Pogba and of course Zizou knows all about switching Juve for Real Madrid as he made the same move during his playing days for a then world record fee.

Zidane already has Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic in central midfield but maybe the reigning European champs will look to strengthen further by adding yet another glittering star to their ranks.

If Pogba does head to Real Madrid, then surely the Los Galacticos nickname will be back in full force.

Guardiola responds to banning pizza, overweight Man City players from training

SHENZHEN, CHINA - JULY 27:  Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola attends a press conference for 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Shenzhen Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola isn’t too impressed with the fitness levels of Manchester City’s players.

The new manager of City has apparently ordered certain players to train on their own away from the first team.

[ MORE: Winter break for the PL? ]

That’s according to French left back Gael Clichy, who said that “if your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team” and added that “you hear it a lot but, for my part, it’s the first time any manager has really done it. And we have a few players who are not training with the team yet.”

Clichy also revealed that Guardiola has banned “some juice and, of course, pizza and all the heavy food is not allowed” as part of a strict new diet for the Citizens.

Wow.

Speaking in a press conference in China ahead of City’s clash against Borussia Dortmund on Thursday, Guardiola revealed his issues with the current fitness of his squad.

“They are not overweight, but I want my players fit,” Guardiola said. “The weight is so, so important. You need to run, fight, jump, head the ball and then after two days you need to do it again. After three days you have to do it again, then another three days you need to do it again. When you are not fit, danger is coming. You are not fast enough or quick enough in the head. That is why you need to be fit.”

So, Guardiola didn’t deny this is the case but it goes to show just how meticulous and ruthless he is when it comes to getting his players in peak condition.

Now, it’s probably an honest slip of the tongue from Clichy to reveal all of this but will he regret telling the world about Guardiola enforcing a strict diet on the team? Who knows. Probably not.

It’s no secret that Guardiola is a hard taskmaster. Speak to players at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. You’re either with him or against him. There’s no ambiguity.

I’m expecting to see huge cardboard cutouts of pizza slices in the stands at City’s games this season…

Conte not going to sell Matic, enjoys quality midfield headache

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20: Nemanja Matic of Chelsea reacts during the friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Velden, Austria. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte feels he has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in his midfield, not that it’s a problem outside of deciding who hits the pitch.

The Chelsea boss does not plan on selling Nemanja Matic despite the acquisition of N'Golo Kante — in fact Conte thinks Matic can be one of the best in the world.

[ MORE: New club for Pato ]

That’s not surprising, given that Matic was one of the keys to Chelsea’s 2014-15 PL title run.

Conte says he has some tricky selections to make in the coming days, as Chelsea prepares to open its Premier League season Aug. 15 at West Ham United.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Kante is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club took this player, it’s fantastic,” said the 46-year-old. “The players in a great team like Chelsea must know there are many players that can play. It’s important for me to have a good choice to try the best solution game by game. It’s important for me to see always the right attitude and behaviour from the players.

“When I have players like N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc, Oscar and Chalobah, and Mikel who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”

For a manager who loves to keep it tight in the midfield, it would be far from shocking to see Matic and Kante behind two attacking mids (Willian and Hazard?) or even three.

Regardless, Chelsea’s match day tactics will be one of the more fascinating subplots of 2016, especially when Conte matches up against the Blues’ former boss Jose Mourinho (Oct. 22 at Stamford Bridge and April 15 at Old Trafford).