Tim Howard hails “special moment”, lauds team spirit, as US advance

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One of the USA’s World Cup heroes joined NBC’s Today Show on Friday, watch the video here, as veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard was interviewed live from the team hotel in Sao Paulo following their qualification to the knockout stages.

Howard, 35, put in yet another stunning display for the Star and Stripes as they lost to Germany 1-0 on Thursday, but advanced to the Round of 16 thanks to Portugal’s 2-1 defeat of Ghana.

[ RELATED: US reach last 16 of the WC despite defeat ]

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Speaking about the monumental achievement of making it out of the “Group of Death” and on to play Belgium in the last 16 on Tuesday, Howard tried to sum up the emotions in the U.S. locker room directly after the match.

“[The feeling] was just excitement,” Howard said. “I think we are all pretty drained. It has been intense, as you can imagine, so there was excitement and we are really proud of each other. It is a special moment when teams advance in the World Cup because that is your first step.”

Howard was then asked about the awful weather conditions in Recife and how that impacted the USA’s approach vs. Germany.

“I live in Manchester… so to be impressed by rain it must have been heavy!” Howard laughed. “It makes you concentrate more, when the elements are against you. You focus in and I think that helps, really.”

Asked if the U.S. players on the pitch knew what the score was in the Ghana vs. Portugal game that was going on simultaneously, Howard revealed how it all went down.

“I knew, some of the other players know,” Howard said. “It varies. Some of our guys didn’t want to know, the coach didn’t really want to tell us but we needed to find out because the result was so important and made a difference in our match.”

Howard made five stops in the 1-0 defeat to Germany, as the U.S. defended for their lives knowing that a heavy defeat for them could spell disaster if Ghana or Portugal went goal-crazy in the other match. Howard was called into action time and time again in the box as Germany’s relentless attacking machine clicked through the gears, especially early on.

“I just tried to be ultra-focused,” Howard said. “Often, it comes down to a teams goalkeeper. Germany is a top team and probably the best team in the world. If not, they are first or second, so we knew we would be tested as a defense and I come into that role and try to play my part. It was a good feeling when the game was over!”

Asked about the incredible TV audiences and support shown across the country for the U.S. national team and their heroics in Brazil, Howard admitted the team has been taken back by the levels of interest in their World Cup exploits.

“We have been blown away by the response down here,” Howard said. “We have seen everything through our families, social media, the things we get on TV down here. It is a true testament to how far soccer has come in this country. People are so excited, leaving work early, and the country is stopping to watch us and that is what they do all around the world.”

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

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That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.