Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams still in Bundesliga after Hoffenheim’s playoff win

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Hoffenheim cut it close in the regular season, needing an unlikely win at Borussia Dortmund and a Fortuna Dusseldorf loss at Hannover to avoid an automatic relegation to the 2. Bundesliga, but after today’s 2-1 win at Kaiserslautern, the club of U.S. internationals Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams finally secured their spot in next year’s Bundesliga. Winning their two-leg playoff by an aggregate 5-2, Hoffenheim stays up at the expense of the four-time German Champions, `Slautern seeking to bounce straight back up after last season’s relegation.

Survival means Johnson and Williams don’t have to worry about relegation’s effect on their international careers. As Carlos Bocanegra has found, life for a second division club doesn’t help hold down a place ui Jurgen Klinsmann’s set up (though Bocanegra was also having trouble earning playtime at Racing Santander). While there was a time when Benny Feilhaber could get called in after Aarhus’s relegation or Frank Simek would get a look while paying for Sheffield Wednesday, now it takes circumstances like Bocanegra’s or Stu Holden’s (at Bolton) to be considered as exceptions.

Johnson may have been alright. The U.S. is so thin at left back, it would have taken a sharp downturn in form to see him left out. By and large, Hoffenheim’s struggles have been in spite of Johnson’s contributions, not because of them. If he didn’t want to stick it out in Germany’s second division, Johnson would have found another club.

Williams, however, would have been in a more precarious position. The defensive midfielder has failed to hold down a consistent place in the team, injuries teaming with on-field struggles to limit him to 21 league appearances and 17 starts. His last game with Hoffenheim’s senior team was on March 30.

Those are the type of circumstances you see surrounding players who drift out of Klinsmann’s squad, and while Hoffenheim’s spot in the first division will help Williams maintain his, that only solves half the problem. Williams will have to show improvement in 2013-14 to regain some of the playing time he’s lost. If he doesn’t, Williams may eventually see his name descend the pecking order in a crowded U.S. central midfield.

Most of these questions, however, will remain thought experiments. Thanks to today’s result, Johnson, Williams, and Hoffenheim will stay up. That doesn’t necessarily mean the U.S. internationals be with their club when next season starts (this is soccer, after all), but if they are, they’ll be playing first division soccer.

 

Watch Live: West Ham United v. Liverpool

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After weeks of having a game in hand on Premier League title chasers Manchester City and Leicester City, the full extent of Liverpool’s lead will be revealed when the Reds visit West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Once the full-time whistle blows at the London Stadium, all 20 PL sides will have played 24 games. Ahead of kickoff, Jurgen Klopp‘s side leads second-place Man City by a whopping 16 points.

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West Ham, meanwhile, sit 17th in the table and are only clear of the relegation zone by way of goal differential. That’s something that could very easily change between now and 5 p.m. ET.

LIVE, League Cup semifinal: Man City v. Man United

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It’s time for leg two of the Manchester derby in the semifinals of the EFL Cup (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET) at the Etihad Stadium.

[ LIVE: Man City v. Man United ]

Manchester City lead 3-1 following their first-leg dismantling of Manchester United at Old Trafford. In theory, it’s a mere formality to reach the final at Wembley, where they would take on Aston Villa following their late dramatics on Tuesday.

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we will have you covered here at Pro Soccer Talk with all of the reaction and analysis.

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Transfer rumor roundup: Richarlison to Barca for $110m? Spurs’ striker search

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Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


A roundup of all of the major transfer rumors, most notably those involving Premier League clubs, on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

Barcelona have reportedly had a $110-million bid for Richarlison rejected by Everton. That’s a mind-blowing number for a club like Everton to receive, but the Toffees apparently didn’t have to think long before saying “thanks, but no thanks.” Luis Suarez is expected to miss four months due to a knee injury, leaving the Blaugrana somewhat for a replacement. Everton, however, have no desire to lose a key member of their squad with little to no time to sign a replacement.


After adding winger Steven Bergwijn on Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur are heavily linked with a number of strikers as options to replace the injured Harry Kane. AC Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek is the most frequently linked (and most expensive) player coming out of the rumor mill, while Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud has come up as an emergency option (he is reportedly open to the idea). However, Jose Mourinho has reportedly been told he has just $13 million to acquire a new forward after spending a combined $108 million on Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes.


Elsewhere in Tottenham rumors, full back Kyle Walker-Peters is expected to complete a loan move (without an option to buy) to Southampton in the very near future. The 22-year-old has been on the fringe of the first-team squad for what feels like five years now, but has never quite broken through. This could be Spurs putting into the shop window a player who they don’t believe is in their long-term plans in order to drive up his price tag come this summer.


Sheffield United look set to make a big push for a top-six finish, as the Blades are linked with moves for a pair of highly rated young players: Richairo Zivkovic, from Chinese side Changchun Yatai, and Sander Berge, from Genk. Zivkovic was one of the most highly touted youngsters in Europe before moving to China on a big-money deal; Berge has been linked with some of the biggest clubs across Europe in recent years, all the while the 21-year-old has become a fixture for the Belgian side.

Man United confirm agreement for Bruno Fernandes

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Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


Bruno Fernandes is on the brink of becoming a Manchester United player after the club announced on Wednesday that an agreement has been reached with Portuguese side Sporting CP.

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

From the club’s website, which is currently unreachable at the time of posting:

“Manchester United are delighted to announce it has reached agreement with Sporting Clube de Portugal for the transfer of Bruno Fernandes.

“The deal is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

The dollar figure most commonly reported is $61 million (potentially reaching $88 million after add-ons). Fernandes, 25, is reportedly in the process of visiting the Sporting offices to terminate his current contract and record a goodbye video for fans before boarding a flight to Manchester.

Fernandes came close to joining Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, but an agreement could never be reached between the involved parties and they ended up signing Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis instead.