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Ligue 1: Pressure increasing on PSG’s Emery after 4th league loss

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Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain slipped to its fourth defeat in the French league, losing at Guingamp 2-1 on Saturday in another setback that cranks up the pressure on coach Unai Emery.

With one game left before the winter break, PSG has already lost twice as many league games as it did last season, when it was unbeaten in the league until Feb. 28, won Ligue 1 by a record 31 points, and scored 102 goals for whopping goal difference of +83.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea go 9 points clear; Man Utd streaking ]

PSG lost only four games last season in all competitions, winning a second straight domestic treble under former coach Laurent Blanc. The other two defeats were in the Champions League against Real Madrid in the group stage, and Manchester City in the quarterfinal return leg.

“Something’s not right,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “For us, it’s a crisis.”

With the exception of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left for Manchester United, PSG has the same side.

“It’s a problem in our minds, with concentration,” Verratti said. “We’re starting games as if we’ve won them. Football is not like that. Last season, we won because we were at 100 percent when we came out onto the pitch. We have to get that back.”

[ MORE: La Liga — Atleti end poor run of results; Sevilla go 2nd (for now) ]

Still, Verratti backed Emery.

“We’re working harder than previous years. It’s not a problem with the coach,” the Italy international said. “It’s our fault, the players.”

PSG’s defensive frailties were exposed again as Guingamp scored twice in quick succession midway through the second half.

After forward Yannis Salibur opened the scoring in the 66th minute, midfielder Nill De Pauw added the second four minutes later.

Last weekend, PSG trailed 2-0 at home to league leader Nice and salvaged a 2-2 draw thanks to two second-half goals from league top scorer Edinson Cavani.

But despite Cavani’s 80th-minute goal – his 17th of the season – against Guingamp, PSG lost for the fourth time away from home this season.

The others were at Monaco, Toulouse, and Montpellier two weeks ago.

“I spoke to the president (Nasser Al-Khelaifi) after the game and he’s behind us,” Emery said. “It’s difficult for everyone.”

PSG has taken only one point from its last three league games and won only one of its past five overall – a midweek League Cup win over Lille – and Emery is struggling to impose his methods after replacing Blanc.

[ MORE: Serie A — Juventus beat 2nd-place Roma, go 7 points clear ]

Blanc was fired in the summer because of PSG’s failure to get past the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Just months before, Blanc was given a new contract and it reportedly cost PSG around 20 million euros ($21 million) to remove him and his coaching staff.

PSG replaced him with Emery, whose reputation was high having just led Sevilla to its third straight Europa League title.

Guingamp’s win must have been particularly satisfying for coach Antoine Kombouare.

He was sacked by PSG at roughly the same stage of the season five years ago, despite his side being three points clear at the top heading into the winter break.

Kombouare explained his strategy for beating PSG.

“The idea was to stop them passing out from the back,” he said. “We closed them down high up, and when we won the ball we pushed forward quickly.”

The win moved Guingamp up to fourth place behind PSG, which trails Monaco by three points and Nice by four.

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.