Guzan will need to have another superb season to help Villa climb up the standings.

US ‘keeper Brad Guzan hails Aston Villa’s new-look defense after solid start

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In the week where he seemingly jumped into the role of U.S. national team’s number one goalkeeper for the next year, following Tim Howard’s sabbatical, Brad Guzan put in another top display to record his second shutout in as many games to kick off Aston Villa’s season.

Villa held Newcastle to a 0-0 draw at home on Saturday and coming off their opening day 1-0 win at Stoke City, the Midlands club have tallied four points from their opening two matches of the campaign. Not bad at all, especially compared to the last few seasons.

[HIGHLIGHTS: Villa 0-0 Newcastle]

Guzan, 29, played a huge part in thwarting Newcastle as late on Siem de Jong smashed an effort on goal but Guzan beat the ball away superbly as he helped Villa on the way to another point.

Following the match Guzan spoke to reporters about Villa’s new experienced core at the back and how they have helped the sleeping giants of English soccer to get off to a solid start to the new campaign.

 “I was just happy to play my part really,” Guzan said. “Up to that point the guys in front of me had made my job quite easy. I hadn’t had much to do in terms of saves. When you have a defense in front of you that are prepared to put it on the line and make blocks and tackles it makes it easier for a keeper. I thought we were a little bit unlucky not to get three points. Yes, they might have had a bit more of the ball, but up until that save I didn’t really have anything to do.”

With Swiss international center back Philppe Senderos arriving on a free from Fulham, Aly Cissokho signing from Valencia and Scottish right back Alan Hutton back in from the cold after various stints away on loan, Villa’s defense all of a sudden looks much tougher to beat. Plus with the shaved heads of Guzan, Hutton, Vlaar and Senderos back there, Villa’s defense merged into a mass of brilliant bold defenders who threw their body on the line time and time again for the cause. Bravo.

A back four of Hutton, captain and World Cup star Ron Vlaar, Senderos and Cissokho is much different than the core of youngsters who manned it last season. The likes of Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton and Nathan Baker have all been replaced after two seasons of struggle for Paul Lambert’s men who gave youth a big chance to succeed. With new assistant coach Roy Keane on board, his mantra has always been to set up a solid defense and have a few attackers who can win you games.

USMNT ‘keeper Guzanis  behind a new sturdy defense and although Villa may not be the most attractive team to watch this season, they will certainly get plenty more points as their defensive unit looks in fine fettle early on in the 2014-15 season.

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).