NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 16: Matt Besler of the United States challenges Jordan Ayew of Ghana during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Ghana and the United States at Estadio das Dunas on June 16, 2014 in Natal, Brazil.

US Soccer players likely to find themselves Premier League transfer targets

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With the United States time at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil having drawn to a close, a number of players will soon feel the chase of European clubs looking for transfer targets.

The Premier League has long been a place welcoming to Americans and with a crop of six Yanks already in England’s top tier – Tim Howard (Everton), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Brad Friedel (Tottenham), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City) and Brek Shea (Stoke City) – there’s a good chance more will join after some impressive performances down in Brazil.

Below are five guys who could get Premier League looks as well as a few clubs where, based on need and prestige, the player could fit in.

MATT BESLER – SPORTING KANSAS CITY (DEFENDER) 

Leading up to the World Cup, Besler had attracted looks from Premier League and Bundesliga clubs impressed with his work in qualification. Now, with his performance in the World Cup in the books, those looks will undoubtedly translate into offers to move abroad.

Positionally intelligent, cool under pressure, fearless and fierce in the tackle, Besler would be a fantastic addition to a Premier League side looking to bolster their center-backs.

Decent Fits: Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Hull City, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham
Likelihood of Transfer: 7 of 10

DEANDRE YEDLIN – SEATTLE SOUNDERS (DEFENDER) 

Prior to the 1-2 loss to Belgium, Yedlin’s influential role as a bit-part substitute against Portugal and Germany had pundits and fans alike buzzing. Yes, people were well-aware of Yedlin’s sky-rocketing status at the Seattle Sounders but at the tender age of 20, could Yedlin truly handle significant role on the international stage?

That question was emphatically answered Tuesday night when the University of Akron product stepped on the pitch for the injured Fabian Johnson and promptly drove holes into Belgium’s left side. Did he power his way forward too much? Probably. But when the rest of the USMNT was tentative in attack, Yedlin was fearless, downright brash in his attacks. Defensively, he recovered as well, notably shutting down Premier League Young Player of the Year, Eden Hazard.

No doubt, Yedlin is raw. But his physicality is special and his swashbuckling style is reminiscent of current Premier League full-backs Kyle Walker and Seamus Coleman. The latter was purchased by Everton in 2009 for a cool $750,000 from Sligo Rovers and has since gone on to become the most feared attacking full-back in the league. No reason Yedlin can’t achieve the same status by 2018.

Possible Fits: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Southampton
Likelihood of Transfer: 6 of 10

 

FABIAN JOHNSON – BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH (DEFENDER) 

Hard to say there was a more dynamic player than Fabian Johnson for the US in Brazil. The versatile German-American fit right in at right-back, a position some US pundits feared before the tournament the Yanks were vulnerable. But Johnson, who can play anywhere on the left or right side of the pitch, proved an ace on defense and a nightmare going forward.

Explosive pace, skill on the ball and an eye for dangerous runs that create goals, Johnson could be an attacking full-back of the highest caliber in the Premier League. The issue with the 26-year-old, however, is that he just completed his transfer from Hoffenheim to Borussia Monchengladbach, who will be unlikely to want to part with the player after such a strong showing in Brazil. Then again, Johnson arrived at ‘gladbach on a free transfer meaning the lure of straight profit exists.

Decent Fits: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Swansea City
Likelihood of Transfer: 5 of 10

KYLE BECKERMAN – REAL SALT LAKE (MIDFIELDER) 

Along with Yedlin, Beckerman enjoyed his international coming out party in this World Cup. A lock-down holding midfielder for the Americans throughout the group-stage, Beckerman displayed brilliant positioning, accurate passing and a range of tackles making him a nuisance for opposing squads looking to attack through the middle.

Controversially left out of the team that lost 1-2 to Belgium in the Round of 16, Beckerman would be a surefire transfer to the Premier League if he was south of 30 years old. Unfortunately, he’s 32. If English sides can see past that and factor in the late development of the typical American player, a two or three year deal isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Decent Fits: Southampton, Crystal Palace, Sunderland
Likelihood of Transfer: 4 of 10

GRAHAM ZUSI – SPORTING KANSAS CITY (MIDFIELDER) 

Zusi enjoyed a decent World Cup, highlighted by his performance in the 2-1 win over Ghana and, specficially, the perfect swerving corner-kick that John Anthony Brooks thundered home to defeat the Yank’s nemesis. The rest of Zusi’s tournament was marked by inconsistent play, at times displaying smooth technique and clever link-up play but too often going lost on the pitch.

The winger went on trial with West Ham United in January 2013 but was not offered a deal. But since then Zusi has grown in talent and experience making him a possible target of a club with reasonable financial resources and a need of wingers.

Decent Fits: Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Burnley
Likelihood of Transfer: 2 of 10

Wayne Shaw under investigation for pie-eating stunt

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280-pound goalkeeper Wayne Shaw has become an internet sensation. It may come at a cost though.

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Both the English FA and the Gambling Commission in the UK have opened investigations into whether Shaw (dubbed “The Roly Poly Goalie”) was paid by a bookmaker, believed to be Sun Bets, to eat a pie in the second half of their defeat to Arsenal and if that impacted betting patterns.

Yep. You read that correctly…

The Sutton United reserve goalkeeper, 46, was a meme machine ahead of, and during, the fifth-tier side losing 2-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday. Shaw was seen in the bar at Sutton’s Gander Green Lane home at half time of the narrow defeat to the Gunners, while he was also spotted vacuuming up the dugout area prior to the arrival of Arsene Wenger‘s men.

Yet Shaw’s actions towards the end of the clash which are in question as the goalkeeper starting eating a pie (he claims it was a pasty, a delicacy from Southern England) after Sutton’s third sub came on, meaning he would not come on. So, Shaw started chomping on a pie and the TV cameras zoomed in on him.

What’s the big deal?

Sun Bets (who also sponsored Sutton for the biggest game in their history) promoted had offered odds of 8-1 for Shaw to eat a pie while on the bench. He duly obliged and despite stating he did not have a bet on the novelty wager, Shaw’s actions are now being investigated by the Gambling Commission in the UK.

“Integrity in sport is not a joke and we have opened an investigation to establish exactly what happened,” Richard Watson from the Gambling Commission said. “We’ll be looking into any irregularity in the betting market and establishing whether the operator has met its licence requirement to conduct its business with integrity.”

The FA are also looking into whether or not Shaw broke any of its gambling rules with his actions.

What does this mean?

Most likely the betting company concerned could be fined or have its licence revoked if any wrongdoing is found, while Shaw can be called as a witness in the investigation. As for the FA, Shaw could be in plenty more trouble for his actions if he is found to have done something wrong by chewing on the pie in the 83rd minute.

Speaking after the game Sutton’s manager Paul Doswell wasn’t too happy with Shaw’s antics and neither was chairman Bruce Elliott. “I don’t think it shows us in the best light,” Doswell said.

While Shaw had his own say on the incident which has somewhat overshadowed Sutton’s FA Cup fairytale coming to an end.

“A few of the lads said to me earlier on, ‘What is going on with the 8-1 about eating a pie?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I’ve eaten nothing all day, so I might give it a go later on’,” Shaw said, via The Independent. “As I say what is that? Sun Bets had us at 8-1 to eat a pie? I thought I would give them a bit of banter and let’s do it. All the subs were on and we were 2-0 down.”

He also confirmed that a few mates and fans may have put bets on him eating a pie.

Now, I grew up in Southern England and actually played in a game with Shaw just under 10 years ago. He was on the goalkeeping coaching staff at Eastleigh, a current fifth-tier side who were also managed by current Sutton boss Doswell at the time, and due to a serious injury to our goalkeeper Shaw stepped in for a few games.

He is a lively character and is at the heart of everything mischievous. However, things may have gone a little too far this time though…

Wayne Rooney set for Manchester United return

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Wayne Rooney is back in business.

Well, almost.

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With rumors continuing to swirl that Rooney, 31, will leave Manchester United at the end of February and join the Chinese Super League, United’s captain is back in training ahead of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg tie at St. Etienne on Wednesday.

Rooney hasn’t played for United since Feb. 1 in the 0-0 draw against Hull City in the Premier League as he first picked up a muscle injury and then needed dental treatment to fix a root canal issue. United haven’t struggled recently in their last four games without Rooney as Jose Mourinho’s men remain 16 games unbeaten in the Premier League.

United’s all-time leading scorer was seen training in Manchester on Tuesday but, alongside Chris Smalling and Michael Carrick, Rooney trained in a separate group from the rest of the squad.

That suggests Rooney may not feature against St. Etienne in France on Wednesday with United 3-0 up from the first leg and all but through to the last 16 of the Europa League.

Rooney’s potential return will boost Mourinho’s attacking options ahead of the EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley on Sunday.

But does he really need him?

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic in fine form, plus Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford all chipping in with goals and assists in Rooney’s absence the England and United legend may find it tough to just make the bench for the EFL Cup final.

If he’s fit enough, Mourinho will surely give Rooney at least a place on the bench. Who knows, it could be his final chance to lift a trophy as United’s captain before he departs.

Rooney’s time at United appears to be coming towards an end, be it now or in the summer, but surely he’d like to lead them out at Wembley at least one more time and lift his 11th major title as a Red Devil.

Egypt high court upholds death sentences of 10 soccer rioters

CAIRO, EGYPT - JANUARY 26:  Egyptian 'Ahly Ultra' soccer fans gather at the Al Ahly home stadium during celebrations after the announcement that 21 fans of the Al Masry football club involved in a football stadium massacre last year were sentence to death on January 26, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. A verdict was announced Saturday in a case over the deaths of more than seventy fans of Egypt's Al-Ahly football club in a stadium massacre on February 1, 2012, in the northern city of Port Said, during a riot that began minutes after the final whistle of a match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry. 21 fans of the Al Masry football club were given the death penalty in the court case, a verdict that must now be approved by Egypt's Grand Mufti. The verdict was handed down during a period of high tension across Egypt, one day after the second anniversary of the beginning of Egypt's 2011 revolution that overthrew the regime of former President, Hosni Mubarak.  (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images)
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CAIRO (AP) Egypt’s highest appeals court on Monday upheld the death sentences against 10 people convicted over a soccer riot that killed over 70 fans in 2012, becoming one of the world’s deadliest soccer disasters.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

The verdict by the Court of Cassation is final. The defendants were charged with murder, along with other charges. The court also upheld convictions of 22 suspects who received up to 10 years imprisonment over the rioting. A total of 11 defendants were sentenced to death but one remains at large and was tried in absentia.

The rioting erupted on February 2012, at the end of a league match in the Mediterranean city of Port Said between Cairo’s Al-Ahly, Egypt’s most successful club, and home side Al-Masry.

In a socking and unexpected turn, Al-Masry fans rushed to attack Al-Ahly supporters with knives, clubs and rocks. Witnesses and survivors described victims falling from the bleachers as they tried to escape. Hundreds of others fled into an exit passage, only to be crushed against a locked gate with their rivals attacking from behind.

[ MORE: Brazilian player in tears after 90 mins. of racist chants in Serbia ]

The riot led to the suspension of Egypt’s top soccer league for over a year. The league later resumed, but with matches played in empty stadiums.

The first Egyptian Premier League game in which fans were allowed back into the stadiums was played in February 2015, but that occasion was also marred by the death of 22 fans in a stampede outside the grounds. The stampede followed the use of tear gas by police to stop what authorities at the time said was an attempt by fans to storm the military-owned stadium in a suburb east of Cairo.

In the Port Said disaster, most of the victims belonged to Al-Ahly’s “Ultras Ahlawy,” an association of hard-core fans now banned by authorities. In 2015, an Egyptian court ruled that the “Ultras” were a terrorist organization.

[ MORE: Wenger “didn’t really enjoy” Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Sutton ]

Members of the “Ultras” have long been at odds with the nation’s highly militarized police, taunting them with offensive slogans during matches and fighting them in street battles. Hard-core fans of other clubs also identify themselves by going under variations of the Ultras’ name. During the 2011 uprising that toppled autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, the Ultras often provided muscle at street rallies, directing protesters, leading chants and standing first in the line of fire as riot police unleashed tear gas.

Earlier this month, Egyptian police detained more than 100 Al-Ahly fans over a period of two days on suspicion they had planned to stage a protest on the anniversary of the Port Said rioting. The Ultras subsequently cancelled a planned commemoration. Five of those detained were charged with inciting protests and belonging to an outlawed group.

Public gatherings without a permit are banned under Egypt’s draconian anti-terrorism laws.

Kane: Wembley needs to be “our home” long before next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the UEFA Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and AS Monaco FC at Wembley Stadium on September 14, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Tottenham Hotspur have been — how should I say this? — less than stellar at Wembley Stadium this season.

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In their three UEFA Champions League group-stage games played inside England’s national stadium, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side was thrashed by a vibrant Monaco side; blunted into apathy by Bayer Leverkusen; and victorious against last-place CSKA Moscow, but only after having already been knocked out of the competition.

Ahead of Thursday’s Europa League round-of-32 second leg against Belgian side Gent — which will be played at Wembley, as they will do for every European fixture this season — Spurs’ captain of the future, Harry Kane, has called upon the north London side to make themselves at home inside the 90,000-seat arena on the following counts: 1) they’ll be playing the entirety of the 2017-18 season there; 2) they’re a victory over League One side Millwall away from an FA Cup semifinal, at Wembley, this season — quotes from the Independent:

“If we get through the next round of the FA Cup it’s to Wembley, and we play at Wembley on Thursday. Hopefully we get through. We’ve got to try to make Wembley our home. We could be there next season, so we want to make it as good for us as possible, try to win as many games there as we can and get that confidence going. We could be playing there a few times yet this season.”

[ FA CUP QF: Chelsea-Man United; Spurs-Millwall; Arsenal-Lincoln ]

As for Spurs’ recent form, perhaps best described as indifference, Kane says that’s an issue which was raised during a series of meetings in which Pochettino and a handful of the young side’s more senior figures called for more “hunger” and “sharpness” from the opening kickoff — quotes from the Independent:

“We’ve been starting quite slow in games and it was just about bringing the desire and hunger back to the team, chasing balls down, running in behind. We did that great on Sunday. Sometimes we need that — we need a reminder of who we are and what we’re about. We had a couple of meetings between us and we were glad to go out and put that right.”