Belgium v United States

So, how much of an upset would it be if the USMNT beat Belgium?

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The No.1 question asked this week in PST radio appearances seems to be, “So how much of an upset would it be if the US beat Belgium?”

My standby, gut, “Blink” answer is that if the two teams played 10 times, I’d expect the US to pick up around three wins, Belgium six and the 10th to go to kicks. Essentially, given Belgium’s high-end offensive talent I think the Red Devils would take 2 of 3.

But really, let’s dig a little deeper. First, what do the bookies say? After all, they pretty much print their own money and have a good handle on how these things go.

Here are three major betting sites and the odds for a US win:

Skybet — 14:5

Ladbrokes — 16:5

Coral — 3:1

So pretty much across the board you’re earning three dollars for every one you bet on the United States. Clear underdog status here, and there’s no comparable on the board right now.

Put in perspective, here are the other underdogs in scheduled matches:

Switzerland is 6:1 to beat Argentina

Algeria is 10:1 to beat Germany

Costa Rica is 6:1 to beat the Netherlands

Colombia is 18:5 to beat Brazil.

So a United States defeat of Belgium would be far less surprising to bookies than most of these match-ups, and at least a bit less surprising than all. Also, those Colombia odds seems a little unreasonable to be, but I’m not going to be betting anytime soon. Los Cafeteros are one of my favorites to challenge for the title.

source: Getty ImagesHistory: Sure, Belgium has bested the Yanks twice since 2011 and the U.S. only win in three game series came in the 1930 World Cup. So, no, Belgium has never beaten the U.S. at a World Cup. Game over.

Seriously, though, Belgium skunked the Yanks in a 4-2 decision in May of 2013. That one stings for projections.

However, Belgium hasn’t been to the knockout rounds since 2002, while the States do have the 2010 experience

Finally, form and comparables: Belgium by no means waltzed through Group H despite its 3-0 record, all one-goal wins and not a powerhouse victim among Russia, Algeria and South Korea (though the latter saw Belgium find its winner down to 10-men).

The U.S. had a much tougher group, but escaped with only four points.

Belgium’s best wins since the start of 2013 are: the US, Serbia, Croatia and Sweden.

The Yanks’ best wins since the start of 2013 are: Nigeria, Ghana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Costa Rica (twice).

Also don’t forget that the Western hemisphere teams have almost all performed reasonably well, if not over expectations, in this tournament.

Verdict: Being upfront about it, it would definitely be an upset for the U.S. to move forward in the tournament but it certainly wouldn’t be a major surprise. One of my favorite podcasts, England’s The Football Ramble (language not safe for kids), spoke of the match as a bit of a toss-up.

After doing the research, I’m not backing down from my initial thoughts: Belgium wins this game 67% of the time. And they’ve won the last two. So…

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.

Galaxy adds center mid from Portuguese top flight

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LA Galaxy’s roster reformation continues with the addition of Joao Pedro, a day after formalizing a deal with USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones.

The 23-year-old center midfielder was with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal’s top flight, and comes to the club as a “Special Discovery Player” with Targeted Allocation Money.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Pedro has a goal in 17 appearances this season, as Vitoria Guimaraes sits fifth in the Primeira Liga.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“Joao is an extremely talented midfielder who has experience playing at a high level in Portugal,” said Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas in a written statement released by the club.

“He is only 23 years old and has the best years of his career front of him. We identified him as a top target this offseason and we think he can immediately help strengthen our midfield. We look forward to welcoming Joao to Los Angeles as we continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pedro was a regular for Vitoria Guimaraes but is far from a certainty to star for the Galaxy. We do know that Vagenas has probably done his research as to whether Pedro fits with Jermaine Jones.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

Senegal's, Sadio Mane, right, is challenged by Zimbabwe's, Willard Katsande, left, during the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at, Stade de Franceville Stadium, in Franceville, Gabon Thursday Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 15:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match against Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 15, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China.

Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.

“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”

Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.

“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.

Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.

Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.