Turkey v United States

Pre-game focus: Three areas to watch when U.S. faces Portugal

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Ghana’s draw against Germany has given the United States a chance to move first in Group G, but with Cristiano Ronaldo and a desperate Portugal next in line, qualifying for the next round is far from certain. The U.S. needs two points over its next two games to clinch a spot in the final 16, though in the eyes of some, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team will be underdogs against both the Seleccao and the attack-heavy Germans.

But to the extent there is a talent gap between the U.S. and Portugal, a slew of absences that will help. Goalkeeper Rui Patricio, left back Fabio Coentrão, and forward Hugo Almeida are all injured, while central defender Pepe will be suspended after drawing a red card in game one. As questions about Ronaldo’s left knee persist, it’s unclear how strong FIFA’s fourth-ranked team will be at kickoff.

That leaves the U.S. with a chance to make history. The team’s never won two group stage games, let alone their first two, but if the team can summon the spirit of 2002 to help send another Portuguese team home, they’ll make history 180 minutes into their 2014 World Cup.

[ POSNANSKI: Confidence and the unconventional Klinsmann ]

Here are three areas of focus ahead of tomorrow’s 6:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff:

source: Getty Images1. Where moving Fabian Johnson could pay off – Johnson’s switch from the left side to right back late in club season is paying off for the U.S., though given Klinsmann’s liberal view of positions, the Germany-born wide man could have ended up at the position, regardless. Drawn into a group where the likes of Ronaldo and German Marco Reus posed game-deciding threats, Klinsmann may have prioritized his previously ailing right back position, and while Reus’s injury means Johnson will face a slightly less dynamic foe on Thursday, the move should still pay off against Ronaldo.

Scour the U.S.’s player pool, and there’s no better player to lineup opposite the Real Madrid star than the 26-year-old Johnson. To the extent that anybody can challenge a player like Ronaldo, the Germany-born Johnson has the profile to do so, combining speed, strength, size, athleticism and experience. While that hasn’t produced perfect performances in his last four starts, it does provide the U.S. a surprisingly viable option against the Portuguese star. Not many squads have a player like Johnson.

Team defense will be more important. Denying Ronaldo the ball in dangerous spots and preventing him from having chances cutting in on his right foot will be key. And when Portugal build down their right, Ronaldo’s often going to be isolated one-on-one at the far post against Johnson. Denying good service will be crucial.

Still, the U.S. will be lucky to have a player like Fabian Johnson at right back, and while that doesn’t mean Ronaldo will be kept off the scoresheet, it does increase the chance that one of the team’s best athletes will lineup against Portugal’s biggest star. Five weeks after installing him at the position, Klinsmann may see his move pay off.

[ MORE: Germany’s formation sheds light on Klinsmann’s roots ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

source: Getty Images2. Prioritizing what to prevent in the middle – It’s not that Portugal’s midfield’s particularly dangerous. In fact, if you go player-for-player, there are some encouraging similarities, from the U.S.’s point of view. Michael Bradley is the U.S.’s João Moutinho, Jermaine Jones (right) provides the same versatile, volatile presence that Raul Meireles brings to his side, while Kyle Beckerman and Miguel Veloso each provide protection for their defenses.

The obvious difference: The U.S. has one, sometimes two extra men in the middle, and while that means they’re sacrificing something up top, it also means Alejandro Bedoya (should his hip pointer allow him to start over Graham Zusi) and Clint Dempsey will help clog things up for Portugal. To the extent this game becomes a battle in the middle, the U.S. should control it.

Portugal, however, will likely play around that battle. With Ronaldo on one flank, Manchester United’s Nani on the other, the Seleccao won’t need to control the middle of the park to get the ball to its biggest threats. If the U.S. plays the narrow midfield we saw against Ghana, the space that allowed the Black Stars to attempt 35 crosses could translate into chances for Ronaldo and Nani to decide Sunday’s match.

That not necessarily the worst thing. Often you have to decide before the match how you’re willing to let your opponent beat you. Perhaps Jurgen Klinsmann will see Portugal’s wide play as the lesser of evils, knowing players like Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya will be able to provide help when Portugal’s danger men cut to the middle of the park.

If, however, the U.S. wants to provide more resistance on the flanks, its approach will have to change.

[ MORE: Conditions in Manaus won’t be new for the U.S. ]

source: Getty Images3. How will ‘not-Jozy’ do? – Jozy Altidore is the most scrutinized player in the U.S. squad, but if Klinsmann can’t figure out how to replace him, he may prove one of the team’s most indispensable, too. Ruled out with a left hamstring injury, the Sunderland striker will watch as Aron Johannsson, Chris Wondolowski (right) or Dempsey try to replace him.

Unfortunately, none of those understudies will provide the same outlet at the top of the team’s formation. Even though he plays in the middle of an attacking three in the Netherlands, Johannsson’s lack of physicality leaves him ill-equipped to consistently win battles against defenders at this level. Physically, Wondolowski is a better option, but rarely utilized in that matter at club (or, to this point, international) level, it’s unclear how he’ll perform. Put Dempsey up top and you make your best attacker your focal point, but the team’s captain could also end up disappearing when an attacking midfield lacking his skills can’t connect with its forward.

Perhaps wondering how the U.S. can replace Altidore is too presumptuous. Maybe Klinsmann will have to embrace his squad’s new limitations. Instead of deploying a system that relies on a ball-winning striker, the U.S. may need offer support to whomever they start up top.

Former Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky moves to Sparta

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PRAGUE (AP) After 15 years at Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky is returning to his former club Sparta Prague.

Sparta announced the move on Tuesday. Details were to be announced at a news conference later in the day.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

The 35-year-old Rosicky, whose career with Arsenal was marred by frequent injuries, finished his 10 years with the English Premier League club when his final contract expired after the season.

Considered one of the most talented Czech players in decades, he spent three seasons with Sparta before moving to Dortmund in 2001 for what was then a record transfer fee in the Bundesliga.

Rosicky played 105 internationals, and has yet to decide if he wants to continue with the national team.

Transfer Deadline Day: How to follow all the deals as they happen

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A record-breaking summer transfer window is slamming shut on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET.

Premier League clubs have spent over $1.3 billion on new players this summer and a late flourish should considerably add to that amount in the next 24 hours or so.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]

With deals being done all the time right up until the window, Aug. 31 promises to be a lively day for all 20 Premier League teams.

Across our platforms we will have every base covered for you with a special three-hour Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN, transfer news as it happens on ProSoccerTalk and a Facebook live chat with PST’s Lead Writer and Editor Joe Prince-Wright in the final hours of the window.

Below you will find details on how to stay on top of all of the deals as another frantic Transfer Deadline Day is almost upon us.


Here is your lineup for Transfer Deadline Day:

  • You can stay up to date all day long and find out about the latest deals as they happen – Transfer news, live updates
  • Joe Prince-Wright will have a Facebook live to wrap up the deals on Deadline Day and discuss who needs what in the final hours – 3 p.m. ET, Watch live
  • Stream and watch a live Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN with the Premier League crew – 5-8 p.m. ET, Watch live

Sergio Aguero charged by FA, could miss Manchester derby

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 02:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Manchester City at Vitality Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Sergio Aguero did not get away with it.

In the second half of Manchester City’s 3-1 win against West Ham United on Sunday Aguero appeared to elbow Winston Reid in the face in an off the ball incident.

As soon as that happened, perhaps Jose Mourinho made a call to his friends at the English Football Association…

The English FA believe it was intentional and Man City’s top scorer from last season has been handed a violent conduct charge which could lead to a retrospective ban.

That is likely to see Aguero, City’s main man up front, miss the Manchester derby against Manchester United on Sept. 10.

Ouch. Coupled with a calf injury, not a good few days for Aguero.

Here is the statement in full from the FA as Pep Guardiola has been dealt a huge problem ahead of his first Premier League showdown against arch rival Mourinho.

Sergio Aguero has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.

The Manchester City forward was involved in an incident with West Ham United’s Winston Reid in the 76th minute of the game on Sunday [28 August 2016].

He has until 6pm on Wednesday 31 August to reply.

Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite match officials.

Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

10 deals to look out for on Transfer Deadline Day

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Wilfried Bony of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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As the seconds tick away, Premier League teams will become more desperate.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

The summer transfer window for PL clubs closes at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday and there seems to be plenty of business still to be done by all 20 teams.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Below is a look at the top 10 players to keep an eye on in the next 24 hours or so, as deals for them to move elsewhere already seem to be in motion.


  1. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal): English midfielder wants to head out on loan. Juventus, Roma are interested, plus several PL clubs. A mercurial talent who just needs to play regularly.
  2. Wilfried Bony (Manchester City): Out of the picture completely at City, Bony could head to West Ham, Stoke or Everton. Powerful striker who needs to regain confidence.
  3. Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon): Leicester have apparently had a huge bid rejected for the bustling Algerian striker, but should up their offer to bag him.
  4. Saido Berahino (West Brom): This guy is always around on Deadline Day and that’s the case again. Stoke City are now the main contenders with Palace signing Remy and Benteke.
  5. Adrien Silva (Sporting Lisbon): Portuguese national team midfielder has said he wants to join Leicester but Sporting aren’t keen on losing him. Has a $50 million release clause.
  6. Marcos Alonso (Fiorentina): Chelsea could be set to seal the signing of the left back. The versatile Spaniard is good on the ball and had previous PL spells with Bolton and Sunderland.
  7. Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool): Told to go out on loan by Jurgen Klopp, it is believed he turned down a move to Stoke. Could the French international arrive at West Brom?
  8. Samir Nasri (Manchester City): Pep Guardiola lambasted Nasri for being overweight during preseason and although he appeared as a sub last weekend, he could be off to Sevilla.
  9. Lamine Kone (Sunderland): Everton and Chelsea are said to be battling it out for center back who had an impressive finish to last season. Powerful center back, worth over $25 million.
  10. James McCarthy (Everton): Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Leicester are interested in McCarthy with Ronald Koeman not seeing the Republic of Ireland midfielder in his plans.