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Chapecoense set for emotional “re-cup” final vs. Atletico Nacional

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CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) It will be anything but a typical soccer cup final when Chapecoense faces Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana on Tuesday.

Instead, the focus will be on remembering those who died four months ago when the plane carrying Brazilian team Chapecoense crashed in the Andes on the way to the Copa Sudamericana final against Colombia’s Atletico Nacional.

Out of 77 passengers, 71 died, including 19 players, journalists, and club officials.

This time, when Chapecoense faces Atletico Nacional, gratitude will replace rivalry and solemn prayers for closure will matter more than who wins.

The South America’s Recopa annually pits the winner of the Copa Libertadores – that was Atletico Nacional – against the Copa Sudamericana champion.

After the Nov. 28 crash outside Medellin, the Copa Sudamericana title was awarded to Chapecoense at Atletico Nacional’s request.

In effect, the Recopa is a replay of the two-game final that should have happened four months ago until the disaster wiped out the Brazilian team.

A southern city of about 200,000 residents near the Argentine border, Chapeco is preparing motorcades, fireworks and videos for before, during, and after the match. Edson Erdman, an artistic director who was involved with the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, was hired and a municipal holiday was declared so every citizen can take part.

There will be celebrations in downtown Chapeco and a fan march to the Arena Conda. Special videos will also be shown on the big screen during halftime. Afterward, fireworks will go off, and in downtown Chapeco a time capsule will be set aside to be opened in 43 years. That is the present age of the Brazilian club.

As the club prepares for some closure, others in Chapeco still have a long road ahead.

Goalkeeper Jackson Follmann has yet to discover his next job after losing part of a leg in the crash. Two other surviving players – winger Alan Ruschel and defender Neto – want to get back on the field, but doctors avoid making predictions about their futures.

In a social media post last week, Neto published his last group photo taken with victims of the crash.

“I wish I had taken a picture with each one of those that left us. I wish none of this were true,” the defender said.

Players’ wives and others with ties to the victims have threatened to sue the club for financial compensation. The club says the issue will be solved in the near future.

Last week members of the Japan Football Association met with officials of the Brazilian club to offer support. Brazil great Zico offered his help.

“There is a collection of money from several J-League games, from fans and clubs,” Zico told reporters. He said Chapecoense would collect the money when it plays in Japan in August.

So far, the rebuilt team has been holding its own.

It leads the Santa Catarina state championship with 13 points after five matches. In the Copa Libertadores, it has three points from two games, just like the three other teams in Group G.

The return leg of the Recopa Sudamericana is in Medellin on May 10.

AC Milan completes signing of forward Kalinic

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MILAN (AP) Big-spending AC Milan has signed another player, completing the transfer of Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic from Fiorentina.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Milan said it signed Kalinic “on a loan deal with obligation to buy.”

Kalinic has signed a four-year contract through to June 30, 2021.

Milan has been in negotiations with Fiorentina for the 29-year-old Kalinic for a while, and he missed training last week as he attempted to push through the move.

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, has spent more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason, signing Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Biglia and Mateo Musacchio.

Alan Shearer has a message for Wayne Rooney

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Alan Shearer finally has a friend.

On Monday Wayne Rooney scored in Everton’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City (see in the video above) and he became just the second-player in history to reach 200 goals in the Premier League.

Rooney, 31, still has some way to go to catch Shearer’s all-time record of 260 goals in the PL but the former Manchester United striker has a few more years left in the tank to try and get as close as he can.

Take a look at the video below as Shearer (or, Mary Poppins to Newcastle fans) delivers a message to Rooney.

What’s next for Julian Green, and what’s gone wrong?

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Julian Green will have a new team again soon, in all likelihood.

A Stuttgart publication says Green is on the transfer market this month, just eight months after moving from Bayern Munich to the then-2.Bundesliga side for less than $500,000.

Now 22, Green is three and a half years removed from Jurgen Klinsmann’s long campaign to get him into a USMNT shirt. It’s been a little less time since he scored in extra time against Belgium in the World Cup, but also less than a year since he scored goals in consecutive USMNT matches. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Green scored one goal in 10 appearances for Stuttgart, who was promoted to the Bundesliga at the end of last season. He fell out of favor there, but was far from poor. Green completed 87 percent of his passes and averaged 1.3 dribbles per game (only four teammates had more, though 10 matches is a smaller sample size).

Before that, he spent parts of three seasons with Bayern Munich and made just four appearances, taking a loan to Hamburg in 2014-15 that saw him banished to Hamburg II after just five appearances.

What gives? Whether attitude or skill, Green has a lot of work to do to get back to a level where he’s a reasonable USMNT call-up (Green has a respectable three goals in eight call-ups, netting against Cuba and New Zealand in Oct. 2016). Still, it’s far from over for Green at 22.

There are legit questions here, as the list of not high-profile players Bayern Munich has used in its senior team at a young age and blossomed elsewhere isn’t necessarily impressive (at least relatively speaking). Nils Petersen, Thomas Kraft, and Sandro Wagner are exceptions to the rule. Better put: Bayern has a really good idea what it’s doing when it lets young players walk, and it begs discussion on the best path for Green.

It seems likely he could get a move to another 2.Bundesliga club, and there’s an outside shot he could get a look in the top flight. It would be interesting to know where the interest lies abroad. Would it be hard to acquire a work permit for France or Spain (England seems a hard sell)? Could a move to a free-flowing Eredivisie club work?

Obviously Major League Soccer clubs would welcome his talent and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be a useful piece in the United States’ top tier, even if on a short-term move as he looks to regain confidence. Would Green see it as below him?

Arsenal’s Wilshere sent-off after brawling in U-23 match vs. Man City

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Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere isn’t standing around waiting for his next team, he’s fighting.

Period.

Wilshere got into with several members of Manchester City’s U-23 side in a match on Monday, with the English midfielder taking exception to a hockey-style hip check from City’s Matthew Smith.

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Shoving the 17-year-old Smith, Wilshere saw the City man take a tumble and stay prone. Still riled up, Wilshere tangled with City’s Tyreke Wilson.

Wilshere and Wilson were sent off.

Given his injury history, we’re not surprised Wilshere took exception to a hard and needless foul in a U-23 match.

The Arsenal man has been linked with moves to Newcastle, West Ham, AC Milan, and Sampdoria, but Arsene Wenger wants to keep Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium.