Happy Birthday Jurgen Klinsmann, what’s in store for the US next?

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Today is Jurgen Klinsmann’s 49th birthday. Many happy returns, Herr Klinsmann.

It has been two years and a day since Klinsmann took charge of the US national team on the eve of his 47th birthday.

So have the USA improved under Klinsmann’s 732 days of stewardship?

Let’s look at the journey so far.

After his first six months of charge, murmurings of discontent were beginning to reverberate throughout the US soccer community. Many weren’t happy with the job the much lauded German coach was doing.

In his first six games the USA lost four, drew one and beat Honduras 1-0 in Florida. Klinsi had picked tough opposition, with Belgium, France, Mexico and Ecuador the opponents. But the jury was still out on Klinsmann as 2012 arrived.

However things got better, as marquee friendly wins helped the German coach get a footing with the USA’s ambitious fans.

First the US beat Slovenia away to round off 2011, and then came the historic 1-0 win in Italy as Michael Bradley was the hero in Genoa. A 5-1 rout of Scotland in Jacksonville was followed by a heavy defeat to Brazil, and despite a defeat to Jamaica and a 1-1 tie in Guatemala City, Klinsmann’s men safely negotiated their passage through to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

(MORE: History repeating, Klinsmann and Eriksson’s time in Mexico)

A spirited 2-2 tie with Russia rounded off the year, with the European based Yanks showing their was plenty of depth in the squad.

But there was a storm brewing as 2013 arrived.

And up until March of this year, things weren’t going so well. Landon Donovan was left out of his plans after taking a self-imposed sabbatical and many didn’t agree with the way Klinsmann was treating the prodigal son of US soccer.

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Good times ahead as Klinsmann approaches his 50th birthday?

Then the US lost 2-1 in the Hexagonal to Honduras. Soon pandemonium broke out, as Klinsmann’s methods and man management were questioned by an anonymous player speaking to the national press. Rumors of discontent with the German’s reign began to spread like wildfire. And all of this came on the eve of perhaps the USA’s biggest World Cup qualifier, a home tie against Costa Rica in snowy Denver.

However that tumultuous period was the turning point.

A 1-0 win in the near white-out conditions vs. Costa Rica, followed by a historic 0-0 tie in the Azteca against Mexico, put the US firmly back in the hunt to make the World Cup.

And despite a heavy friendly defeat to the classy Belgians in Cleveland in May, 11 straight wins later, here we are.

(MORE: Klinsmann’s improvement bid on the line in crucial World Cup qualifier)

Klinsmann may be celebrating his birthday quietly today, or probably in is helicopter above California somewhere, but plenty of national team fans will be celebrating with him and wishing him many happy returns.

A year ago, that wouldn’t have been the case. But if you feel like it, go wish Jurgen a happy birthday on his Facebook page.

The USA have come a long way in such a short period of time. There have been ups and downs but now Klinsmann is producing results and an incredibly strong squad to go with it. Some still aren’t impressed, but I think the Nats have improved drastically since 2011.

July 29 2014 marks Klinsmann’s 50th birthday. That date also marks just over two weeks after the FIFA World Cup will have finished in Brazil.

What will we all think of Klinsmann then?

Barcelona v. Bayern Munich: How to watch, team news, start time, odds

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich is a massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Friday (start time, 3pm ET) and here is everything you need to know ahead of the clash in Lisbon, Portugal.

Many believe the 2019-20 Champions League winner will be one of these two teams, as they face the winner of Manchester City v. Lyon in the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Barcelona and Lionel Messi have the disappointment of losing their La Liga title in recent weeks to spur them on in the Champions League, while Bayern Munich swept all before them in Germany this season with Robert Lewandowski scoring 53 goals in 44 games in all competitions.

After just a few months in charge, Barca boss Quique Setien likely needs to win the Champions League to keep his job as Messi is firing in attack but Barca are still suspect at the back. As for Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who has masterminded a masterful turnaround since taking charge last November, he and the Bayern hierarchy will see this as the Bavarians’ best chance to win the Champions League since they last did so in 2013.

[ MORE: Key battles in UCL quarterfinals ]

Below you will find all of the details you need on Barcelona – Bayern Munich in what is set to be the game of the Champions League season so far as both teams love to attack.


How to watch, stream Champions League: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Dates: August 12, 3pm ET kick off
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Barcelona will likely be without the injured Ousmane Dembele who hasn’t featured since having surgery on his hamstring in February, but could be part of the squad.

Bayern are without Benjamin Pavard who has an ankle injury, but apart from that they have a fully fit squad to choose from as Alphonso Davies sat out of training with a slight adductor problem but is expected to be fit.


What they’re saying

Antoine Griezmann on Barcelona’s mindset: “We are looking forward to it, we have worked well tactically and we are ready to play the game. We know it will be difficult, but we know what we have to do to qualify for the semifinals. It will be a very good match. We hope to take advantage of the quality we have. We are in a good moment and we can play a good game. We have to be together, up front and at the back, and try to have the ball as much as possible.”

Hansi Flick on the style of play he wants from Bayern: “Defensively to win the ball – and offensively, purposefully and consistently to score goals. The intensity of our actions is crucial. We also want to play attractive possession football. The most important thing is that we see ourselves as a team and that everyone knows what their task is. Every player has to get involved and be able to rely on his neighbor on the pitch. This is extremely important to us.”


Odds – Full matchweek odds

It is not often that Barcelona (+235) are the underdogs but they are here, and that shows you how good Bayern Munich (+115) have been in recent months. Bayern will be wary of Messi but with Lewandowski banging in goals for fun and a stable midfield and defensive unit behind him, the Bavarian giants are the favorites for a reason. The tie at +255 provides value and this should be a goal-fest.


Prediction

If this turns into a straight shootout, you would probably fancy Barcelona to advance with Luis Suarez, Messi and Antoine Griezmann in attack. But Bayern will keep it tight, look to slow play down and then launch counters which Lewandowski can finish. I think this game will be stretched and become the attacking feast all neutrals are hoping for, but the Germans are just a more ruthless and solid team right now. Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich.

Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Promes to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Ousmane Dembele has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Quincy Promes to Arsenal is an intriguing report.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, let’s start in Manchester as it appears that Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United could be the back-up option if Borussia Dortmund continue to dig their heels in on Jadon Sancho.

Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc has said that Sancho, 20, will be staying with the Bundesliga giants this season as they didn’t receive a bid for the England international before the Aug. 10 deadline they set clubs. Zorc also revealed that Dortmund have extended Sancho’s contract to 2023, so Dortmund aren’t in a rush to sell him.

Man United are still said to be keen on Sancho, who would cost over $140 million, but a back-up option is in the works as the Red Devils baulk at paying a huge fee up front for Sancho.

Ousmane Dembele, 23, has struggled for form and fitness since arriving at Barcelona from Dortmund and it appears the French forward is available.

Per the report from ESPN, ‘informal talks’ have been held about a season-long loan deal for Dembele with an option to buy. This would make a lot of sense for Man United and Barcelona. United get a hungry, and talented winger, who is eager to play for a permanent move and if it works out it will be a lot cheaper than signing Sancho.

Barcelona get to save some face and move Dembele on, as Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are their undisputed front three. Dembele has the talent and he ripped it up at Dortmund before arriving as Neymar’s replacement. He hasn’t played since November and has since had surgery on a hamstring injury, so if the French forward can stay fit then he would be a great short-term option for Man United until Dortmund soften their stance on Sancho.

Imagine Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood up top, with Dembele coming off the bench to give one of them a rest.

Switching to north London, Quincy Promes has been linked with a move to Arsenal from Ajax.

Promes, 28, has long been linked with a move to the Premier League and the Dutch winger has added end product to his skill in recent seasons for club and country.

According to The Sun, Arsenal are willing to pay $32.5 million for Promes as the former Feyenoord, Spartak Moscow and Sevilla winger will give them extra cutting edge in attack. He joined Ajax last summer from Sevilla and was a big hit in his first season in Amsterdam.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang yet to sign a new contract, plus the future of Alexandre Lacazette uncertain, Arsenal may only have Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe to rely on for goals next season.

Promes has always been a tricky, direct winger but he scored 16 goals and added seven assists in 28 games before the Dutch top-flight was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arteta is said to want to add extra experience to his Arsenal side which is stacked with talented youngsters such as Nketiah, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli the future of the club.

Update on Declan Rice to Chelsea for $65 million

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Declan Rice to Chelsea is a transfer report which keeps rumbling on.

The latest Declan Rice to Chelsea rumors state that the Blues have bid $65 million for the West Ham and England midfielder.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Rice, 21, dazzled for the Hammers this season as David Moyes arrived in December to take charge and steered them away from relegation trouble with Rice scoring goals, creating and dominating midfield.

The holding midfielder, who can also play at center back, was a big part of that success and West Ham aren’t keen to sell their prized asset to their London rivals.

Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have the following update on the current situation.


West Ham have dismissed reports they have received a £50m bid from Chelsea for Declan Rice.

Rice is not for sale according to West Ham, and any £50m bid would be laughed off with the club hopeful the midfielder will stay for many years.

Rice will return to the club on Monday for pre-season training with the rest of his team-mates.


So, that is that then. Right?

Rice is a Chelsea fan and came through their academy with the likes of current first team stars Mason Mount before being released at the age of 14. He is close with plenty of the young players at Chelsea and has never hidden his love for the Blues.

Reports all summer have suggested that Chelsea boss Frank Lampard wants Rice to be his main man in central defense and even though his best position is in central midfield, you could see him developing into a fine ball-playing center back in the future.

If West Ham don’t want to sell Rice, who has a contract until 2024 and the club have the option to extend it by another year, they don’t have to.

Moyes is keen to build his entire team around Rice. However, Chelsea will clearly pull on the emotional heartstrings of Rice being a boyhood Blues fan and if he wants to take his career to the next level, leaving West Ham for Chelsea (just like Frank Lampard did all of those years ago) would clearly do that.

Chelsea badly need defensive reinforcement and stability and if they can offload plenty of their current defenders, bringing in Rice would be a smart move.

Portland beats Orlando to win MLS is Back championship

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Soaked in sweat and doused in water, the Portland Timbers hoisted the MLS is Back trophy at midfield and then headed toward a giant TV screen filled with fans cheering from afar.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

It was a huge Zoom party. It might just be the way to celebrate championships in 2020.

Dario Zuparic’s first goal of the season gave Portland a 2-1 victory against Orlando in Major League Soccer’s return tournament finale Tuesday night, capping a month-long event that showed sports can be played safely inside a bubble.

“I always think the more difficult the fight is the more beautiful the victory is at the end,” said Portland’s Larrys Mabiala, who scored the game’s first goal.

Orlando was slow to react to Diego Valeri’s corner kick in the 66th minute, allowing Eryk Williamson to collect the ball, change direction and take a shot that Jeremy Ebobisse deflected to Zuparic’s feet. Zuparic didn’t have to do much to get it by Pedro “The Octopus” Gallese, who had made two fantastic saves in the lead-up to the corner kick.

The goal started the celebration on Portland’s sideline and sent Orlando into panic mode. The Lions had a chance in the closing minutes, but failed to get the equalizer.

“It’s a group of players in a lot of pain right now,” Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said. “Things didn’t bounce our way. We made a couple of mistakes.”

The Timbers, who spent 39 days in the MLS bubble and remained on West Coast time, hugged and danced after the final whistle. They raised the silver trophy while hooting and hollering. But the lasting image will be players and coaches waving at a camera and reaching hundreds back home.

It ended a wild month for the MLS, which managed to play 51 matches in 45 days at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.

No family. No friends. No fans.

But it was by most accounts a rousing success, especially considering how it started. FC Dallas and Nashville were forced to withdraw days before the start because of positive coronavirus tests.

Players, coaches and support personnel were tested regularly inside the MLS bubble. The league reported just two positives out of nearly 35,000 tests following the initial setbacks that threatened to derail a tournament that came with a $1.1 million purse.

“We just told ourselves we need to make it worth it,” Mabiala said, adding that his son has been calling, crying and clamoring for him to come home in recent days.

Portland will get $328,000 in prize money to split. The Timbers also earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, their first since 2016.

Orlando settled for $150,000 to share.

Orlando’s appearance in the finale was a surprise considering the team finished 11th out of 12 in the East last season and fired coach James O’Connor. Pareja took over in 2020 and made an immediate impact.

Pareja convinced his players, including star Nani, to settle into the bubble several days early. They won the tournament opener, a group-stage victory against Miami, and ended up spending nearly seven weeks quarantined in the bubble.

Portland’s experience – the Timbers won the MLS title in 2015 and were runners-up two years ago – showed in the finale.

Portland’s first shot on goal found the back of the net. Valeri delivered a perfectly placed free kick into the box that Mabiala headed past Gallese in the 27th minute. It was Valeri’s 93rd assist with the Timbers.

But considering Portland has managed just three clean sheets in its last 23 matches, it was no surprise to see a defensive breakdown just a few minutes later.

Nani worked the ball down the left side following a turnover and created enough room to get a crosser into the box. Mauricio Pereyra got a foot on the ball and then took advantage of a fallen defender to tie the match.

The equalizer came shortly after Portland’s Sebastian Blanco exchanged words with Pareja during a hydration break. Referees stepped between them, and they later apologized and hugged it out.

The league resumes its regular season Wednesday night with Dallas playing at Nashville. The league’s 26 teams will play 18 games apiece. A majority of the games will be played without fans because of local regulations. Teams will be subject to a rigorous testing protocol and will use charter flights or buses to limit outside contact.

“We have to see if it works,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “If it does, we go through with it. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to adjust.”