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At halftime: Suárez header has Uruguay up on England, 1-0 — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: Thirty-eight minutes of even play loses its balance after the game’s first shot on target. Playing his first match since knee surgery last month, Luis Suárez heads his team in front, converting a Uruguayan moment of transition into a 1-0 lead over England.

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Goals:

39′ – In his night’s first moment of freedom, Suárez gives his team the lead. On a counterattack orchestrated by Nicolas Lodeiro, Edinson Cavani moves wide left, giving his teammate an outlet as the defense reacts at the edge of England’s defensive third. Cavani takes the ball and cuts onto his right foot before chipping to the middle of the box. There, Suárez has pulled away from Phil Jagielka, giving himself enough room to head the opening goal inside Joe Hart’s right post.

Other key moments:

9′ – Moving quickly into their attacking third, England finds Danny Welbeck at the top of the arc, with Wayne Rooney coming from deep for a pass that looks like it will make its way through the defense. Diego Godín, however, brings his right hand down on the chip, drawing a yellow card while killing the movement. Rooney’s ensuing free kick goes wide of the left post.

15′ – Uruguay’s first moment of danger comes when Phil Jagielka’s failed clearance sits up for Cristian Rodríguez in the left of the penalty area. The Atlético Madrid midfielder has all the time he wants to line-up a left-footed shot, but when his blast goes into the stands, Joe Hart’s left untested.

26′ – La Celeste’s best spell of sustained pressure sees a ball chipped into the box brought down by Nicolas Lodeiro, who turns and plays through ball for the cutting Edinson Cavani. Gary Cahill tracks the run and eventually sends the ball out for a corner, though on the ensuring restart, Cavani gets a step on the Chelsea defender and is able to get off a shot. The ball goes into the seats, leaving Uruguay without a shot on target.

31′ – A restart deep on England’s left sees Steven Gerrard hit a perfect ball high and just inside Fernando Mulera’s far post. Wayne Rooney’s beat his mark but, continuing his World Cup goal-scoring drought, plays the ball off the side of his head and onto the corner of goal. The best chance of the match ends with Rooney tangled in the back of the net as the ball rebounds back into the box.

41′ – England nearly responds to Suárez’s opener when Rooney finds Sturridge making a diagonal run behind the right of Uruguay’s defense. Left with a sharp angle, the Liverpool attacker turns to shoot before he’s closed down by Godín. Muslera is there to block England’s first shot on target out for a corner.

Lineups:

Uruguay: Muslera; Pereira, Godín, Jimenez, Cáceres; Rodríguez, Gargano, Ríos, Lodeiro; Suárez, Cavani.

England: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson; Welbeck, Sterling, Rooney; Sturridge.

Key Players:

  • Steve Gerrard, England – After the Three Lions’ opening game loss to Italy, fans were left asking “what happened to Gerrard?” He had no impact on the match. Today the England captain got off to a more influential start but failed to sustain that influence. Particularly against a Urugayan midfield apt to sit deep, can England’s key distributor get more involved?
  • Diego Godín, Uruguay – Just before the half-hour mark, Godín teased a second yellow card when he brought down Daniel Sturridge on England’s right. With a 19-year-old World Cup debutant to his right in Uruguay’s central defense, Godín is one of Óscar Tabárez’s most important players, but against a quick England attack, the veteran defenders in danger of going off.

Numbers to know:

40 – Suárez, already his country’s leading scorer, hits a benchmark, scoring his 40th international goal (in 78 appearances).

2 – Total shots on target. Suárez’s goal should open things up.

60% – England’s possession, though the team’s best chances have come off a dead ball and a quick movement through the middle of the field.

Question for the second half:

  • Does England leave Raheem Sterling wide? – Wayne Rooney has come in from the wide position he occupied against Italy to take up a place in the middle of the park, a deployment that pushed Sterling to the flank. Whereas the Liverpool teenager was one of England most influential players against the Italians, his influence has been more sporadic against Uruguay. With England generating fewer chances today than they did against the Azzurri, does Roy Hodgson need to bring Sterling back to the middle?

Brazilian midfielder Fred has doping ban extended to club, out until June

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 19:  Fred of Donetsk goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between SK Rapid Vienna and FC Shakhtar Donetsk on August 19, 2015 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
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Shakhtar Donetsk striker Fred, a regular for the Brazilian national team, has seen his CONMEBOL doping ban extended worldwide to all competitions.

A FIFA disciplinary committee announced that Fred’s suspension now covers “all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures.”

The 22-year-old tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide during last summer’s Copa America, and has not played for the Brazilian national team since, having been banned for a year by CONMEBOL. He had been playing for his Ukranian club while FIFA was reviewing the case, making 12 appearances in league play and scoring two goals. He also played six times in the Champions League without scoring a goal.

The one-year ban is back-dated to Fred’s last international squad appearance, when he was on the bench for the Copa America quarterfinals on June 27 of last summer. That date will allow Fred to be eligible for the Rio Olympics, which start August 5.

Men In Blazers podcast: Irvine Welsh Pod Special

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog talks with “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh about his new novel “A Decent Ride,” unconventional career arc, and love for West Ham United/Hibernian.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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LA Galaxy newcomer Ashley Cole takes responsibility for previous MLS quote

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Ashley Cole #3 of the Los Angeles Galaxy speaks after he was introduced during a news conference at StubHub Center February 5, 2016, in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Wireimage)
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During Ashley Cole‘s introductory press conference today, where the former Chelsea legend was officially unveiled by the LA Galaxy to the media alongside Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, a predictable question came his way.

Cole was asked about comments he made a year and a half ago when he joined AS Roma, where he said he turned down offers from Major League Soccer because he didn’t want to go “relax on the beach.”

The 35-year-old took responsibility for the quote, saying, “Of course, I hold my hands up, it was said.” However, he defended himself saying he was baited into the comments by the Italian reporter.

“I’m not going to come here and try to defend myself,” Cole said. “It was said, but it was for sure taken out of content. I was talking to the reporter, and he kind of said it to me, ‘We’re glad to have you at Roma. We didn’t expect you to be here, we thought you would go and relax on the beach.'”

“Of course you have to understand, I was at a new team, I have to tell the fans at Roma I was here to fight, I was there to win things and play in the Champions League.”

Cole said he spoke to Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Robbie Keane about the league before deciding to join Major League Soccer. “I know it’s going to be hard for me for sure, but I’m happy to be here, I’m going to work as hard as I can, change a few views on me being here, and we’ll see. I’m a winner, I always want to win, I didn’t come here to sit on the beach – to rest – I’m here to play football and work hard. I’m not a diva, I’m not this egotistical guy that comes and thinks he’s bigger than anyone.”

3 key battles for USMNT against Canada

CARSON, CA - JANUARY 31:  Jozy Altidore #17 of the United States chases down a pass against Iceland during the first half at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Canada in the second of two matches throughout January camp to test those brought in and see who stands out.

They took out Iceland in the first match, and now the Canadians stand in the way at the Stubhub Center in Carson, CA at 10:30 on Friday night.

[ PREVIEW: Get the full look at US vs Canada ]

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann no doubt has already run through is list of positives and negatives in the win over Iceland. While the win is nice, the overriding purpose here is to both evaluate certain players and determine the best formula for success moving forward into World Cup qualifying, the Copa America, and the Olympics.

So, with that in mind, here are three key matchups to keep an eye on as the USMNT players battle both Canada and each other for spots on the roster in future meaningful games.

1) United States attack vs Canada’s organization

The US was solid in possession against Iceland, but it came against an opponent that showed a more attacking intent and also appeared to have limited motivation. Canada would not be what you call a “defensive” team, but they are very organized under Benito Floro, and it shows. They’ve conceded 1 or 0 goals in each of their last 13 matches, losing just once across that time. Their goalscoring numbers have suffered, but it’s translated into marginal success.

To hold the ball against Iceland, the US used a slow build-up process beginning with Jermaine Jones (who stayed surprisingly composed and centralized during his time on the field) who fed Michael Bradley and Lee Nguyen further up the pitch. That tactic may not be as effective against a less erratic opponent, but it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann decides to break down the Canadian defensive unit. The wide areas may be vital.

The 0-0 scoreline has been a fixture in this matchup, finishing goalless the last two times and in four of the last eight, so the US will no doubt be looking to break that deadlock early lest they get frustrated as time progresses.

2) USMNT full-backs vs wide play

Michael Orozco and Brad Evans were sent back to their clubs, leaving the United States incredibly thin at a position the nation has already been weak at for years. Jurgen Klinsmann has been searching far and wide for an answer to this question, and with young Kellyn Acosta slightly out of his depth or potentially star-struck in his debut against Iceland, there are a few other question marks.

The options are limited. Acosta could get another shot if Klinsmann likes what he sees in training, or he could move to the likes of Brandon Vincent or Matt Polster. The latter logged 30 matches for Chicago last year as a rookie, while Vincent was just drafted by FC Dallas and has yet to even make a professional appearance. Either way, it’s likely Canada targets the wide areas as a point of weakness for the US, so whoever plays will be in the spotlight.

[ VIDEO: Bobby Wood scores skillful goal for club ]

3) Central defenders vs Akindele and Larin

Whether Floro decides to play Larin centrally by himself, or partner him with Akindele, the striker(s) will be the main target for Canada’s attack. Larin and Akindele both have not seen the scoresheet since a 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic in World Cup qualifying last June, so they will be itching to get back on board. Should one be deployed centrally, look for the lone wolf to split the central defenders and receive service from wide areas where Canada may exploit the aforementioned weaknesses along the outside of the US back line.

How do you see the US matching up against Canada, and visa-versa?