Arsenal hold out for win at Sunderland

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When Santi Cazorla put Arsenal up in the 36th minute at Sunderland, it looked like the beginning for an easy day for the Gunners. Their normally prolific passing game was accompanied by a precision the Gunners often lack, movement toward goal that hinted this many be a rare easy Arsenal road victory. The team went into halftime up one at the Stadium of Light, but it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors doubled their lead. There was little reason to think the match would end 1-0.

Yet that’s precisely what happened. Shortly after the hour mark, Arsenal were left to rue their near-misses and plunked uprights when they lost one of their defenders. Booked for the second time, right back Carl Jenkinson left his team to play with 10 for the last half hour, a disadvantage that caused the match to flip. In a game where Arsenal outshot their opponent 19-14, Sunderland posted eight shots to Arsenal’s four after the sending off. Unfortunately for the Black Cats, none of their shots had to be collected from Arsenal’s net.

(MORE: Bale, Spurs sink Newcastle)

Saving his team, goalkeeper Wojiech Szczesny gave Arsenal a man of the match-caliber performance, even if his numbers failed to capture his impact. His five saves where fewer than the seven recorded by Simon Mignolet, but late stops on chances that would have otherwise been goals (specifically, a late heard by Steven Fletcher) backboned a superficially strong defensive performance. Arsenal was able to keep a clean sheet, but even for a team reduced to 10 men, their defense was often too easily breeched by the Black Cats.

(MORE: Chelsea back in win column.)

After their leery 30 minutes, Arsenal was left with more than just a fortunate victory, in so far as any prolonged survival with 10 men requires some fortunate. The win was an impressive one for a team that’s often criticized for lacking perseverance. On the road, down a man, and having lost one of their better players to injury (Jack Wilshire, whose injury seemed minor), Arsenal got a valuable result, one which keeps them within four points of a coveted Champions League spot.

Report: Crew valued at $150 million ahead of potential sale

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The Columbus Crew’s new ownership group will reportedly have to pay a large fee to purchase the club, effectively paying outgoing owner Anthony Precourt’s expansion fee to create a team in Austin, Texas.

According to a report in Forbes, it will take a fee of $150 million to buy the Columbus Crew. A potential ownership group featuring investors from the Columbus Partnership, local investor Pete Edward’s Jr. and the Haslam family are reportedly in discussions to purchase the team from Precourt and pour money into building a new soccer-specific stadium. The Crew currently play in the nation’s first soccer-specific stadium, MAPFRE Stadium, located at the Ohio state fairgrounds, about 3.5 miles from the arena district in Columbus.

[READ: Paunovic is close to returning to the Fire]

While MAPFRE Stadium is still in good condition, it doesn’t contain any of the bells and whistles that many owners want from stadiums in 2018 and beyond.

The Forbes report, which added that Forbes recently valued the Crew at $160 million, second to last in the league, said that Precourt wouldn’t have to pay an expansion fee to move to Austin.

If this report is true along with the potential purchase, it’s a positive ending to a horrible situation, even if it leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. $150 million is about the going rate for MLS expansion clubs in 2018, and while it’s frustrating that Precourt won’t have to pay that fee himself to start his Austin franchise, it will be worth it just to get him out of Columbus.

Regardless, a big offseason is approaching in Columbus. Head coach Gregg Berhalter is expected to leave, whether to coach the U.S. men’s national team or even move to his former club, LA Galaxy. Federico Higuain is edging towards the end of his career, while Wil Trapp and Zack Steffen are coming off solid seasons and could test the waters in Europe or elsewhere in MLS. And the longer the protracted negotiations go, the more that potential Crew signings will avoid the club, not knowing whether they’ll be moved to Austin or not.

Report: Regardless of Brexit, FA still pushing to cut down on foreign players

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The Premier League could look very different in the years ahead if the FA gets its way.

The Guardian reports that the FA is pushing ahead with its plan to cut the number of non-homegrown players in Premier League squads (effectively, players born or raised outside the United Kingdom) from 17 to 13, regardless of whether England leaves the European Union. As it stands, D-Day for the United Kingdom is March 29, 2019, when either there will be a deal to leave or there will be a “hard” exit, with the UK leaving the European body with no trade or customs deals in place.

[READ: What’s next for USMNT?]

In response, the Premier League released a lengthy statement, stating their opposition to the FA’s plan. The Premier League stated, “…Brexit should not be used to weaken playing squads in British football, nor to harm clubs’ ability to sign international players.”

The FA previously stated its intention to lower the amount of non-homegrown players to 12, per the Times of London, and now appears to be pushing through its mandate regardless of cooperation from Premier League clubs. The Guardian report states that Premier League club executives rejected the proposal from FA CEO Martin Glenn at a recent owners meeting.

It’s important to remember that the FA and the Premier League have different goals. The FA, which has a bumper crop of talented English youngsters from their World Cup winning Under-17 and Under-20 teams, wants to create more high-level opportunities for their players domestically. The Premier League meanwhile wants to make money, whether that’s using domestic or foreign players.

If the FA’s plan went through, it would force massive changes across the Premier League, especially at the Big 6 clubs who primarily rely on foreign-born players. Currently, five clubs including Manchester United and Tottenham have the maximum 17 registered foreign players, while a further four clubs have 16 registered non-homegrown players. A player is considered a homegrown player if they’ve been registered at a Premier League club for three years before their 21st birthday. This has enabled some players, such as Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin and former Arsenal (current Chelsea) midfielder Cesc Fabregas to be considered homegrown players even though they were born abroad.

In addition to massive changes in the Premier League, this plan could also have a negative reaction on the U.S. Men’s National Team. If it wasn’t already hard enough for American players to get work permits in England, it could become even more difficult, as the player will have to be good enough to be one of the 12 or 13 non-homegrown players.

Report: Paunovic close to returning to Fire, Casillas on team’s radar

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The Chicago Fire brass appear to be sticking with embattled manager Veljko Paunovic for the foreseeable future.

Despite being out of contract, the Athletic reports that the Fire and Paunovic have been negotiating for weeks and are close to bringing the Serbian back on a multi-year contract. Keeping Paunovic could be a way for the Fire to keep one of its marquee players, Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is also out of contract this summer.

[READ: O’Neill, Keane out as Republic of Ireland coaches]

The Fire are coming off a disastrous season, in which the side finished second-last in the MLS Eastern Conference and fourth-worst overall. It was a huge change from 2017, when Paunovic, Schweinsteiger and co. led the Fire to third place in the Eastern Conference regular season standings. The season ended on a sour note though as the New York Red Bulls came to Chicago and romped past the Fire, 4-0.

It was all downhill from there, as the Fire struggled to build momentum and keep clean sheets in 2018. The 61 goals allowed was third-worst in the Eastern Conference.

While Paunovic will be looking to upgrade his defense, his side could be adding another huge name from European soccer. According to a report in Spain, former Real Madrid great Iker Casillas is on the Fire’s radar, and should he announce his intention to leave FC Porto, the Fire would be ready to make an offer.

Considering that Paunovic started Richard Sanchez, Stefan Cleveland and Patrick McClain at various times last season, the team could use an experienced goalkeeper who can give the backline come confidence.

It’s a big leap of faith for the Fire ownership group to stay with Paunovic after a horrendous 2018, but they must see something that they like in him to bring him back. Hopefully for the club’s sake, they have more performances like they did in 2017 to bring fans back to Toyota Park.

Former Arsenal striker Bendtner drops appeal, will serve time

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) Former Denmark forward Niklas Bendtner will have to serve a 50-day jail sentence after dropping his appeal against an assault conviction.

Early this month, Bendtner was found guilty of beating and kicking a cab driver in the Danish capital on Sept. 9. The 30-year-old Dane admitted to hitting the man but said he had acted in self-defense after a quarrel over the fare.

[READ: What’s next for the USMNT?]

Bendtner was sentenced to 50 days in prison and fined 1,500 kroner ($230).

The State Prosecutor of Copenhagen wrote on Twitter that it also abandoned its appeal after Bendtner’s move, adding “the verdict is therefore final.”

It was not immediately clear when Bendtner would serve his time.

Bendtner, a former Arsenal and Juventus forward who now plays for Norwegian club Rosenborg, has not been selected for his national team in recent months because of his poor shape.