Nigerian coach ready for tough US test but wishes for more time

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Speaking before training at EverBank stadium in Jacksonville, Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi says his team is raring to go for the World Cup, but admits the end of the club season has left his team struggling to get fully prepared.

“We don’t have a lot of time, the time is very short, I wish we could have more time that would be much better,” Keshi said. “I am not alone, I think the rest of the coaches are experiencing the same stuff, but some teams are better than some teams, so we’ll just do the best we can do.”

Like many coaches have in the last few weeks, Keshi believes the fitness levels of his players are all at a different level, making things tough on him to get them to the correct level.

He said striker Ahmed Musa, who has a thigh strain, will not play in the match Saturday against the US, and defender Elderson Echiejile will miss out with a hamstring injury.  Keshi said “we hope to get them back by next week.” Juwon Oshaniwa, who was battling malaria, is back fit and training again.

However, with the Cup almost here, Keshi will use match against the United States as a barometer for his team’s preparation, and Nigeria will go full-tilt into the match.

He says tomorrow’s game will give him and his staff a great view into the team’s readiness for their first World Cup game, against Iran in Curitiba on June 16.

“[The US is] a very good team, I think [Jurgen] Klinsmann has done a wonderful job trying to set up a very strong team,” Keshi said of tomorrow’s opponents. “That is why it’s very good for us that we’re playing against the US before the Iran game.  We can assess our team and also correct whatever problems we face tomorrow for the game against Iran.”

Playing a strong pre-tournament schedule, Keshi and Nigeria have come from London where they took on Scotland at Craven Cottage at the end of May, then made their way to Philadelphia as they finished 0-0 against Greece.

One thing is for certain, there’s no hiding why the US scheduled this friendly just before their opening round game against Ghana on June 16.

“I think Nigeria plays similar football [to Ghana], and it will be a good thing for the United States, they should be able to capitalize on that.”

For both sides, the Brazilian heat has been a concern leading up to the match, but with temperatures in Jacksonville hitting 90 today and expected to come close again tomorrow, it’s providing good preparation for the teams as they look ahead to Brazil.

“It’s been very tough,” Keshi said of the heat. “Yesterday was very hot and we had two training sessions yesterday, and [today] we are experiencing the same thing, but sometimes in Brazil we might get the same weather so we have to live with it, we have no choice.”

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.