United States-Scotland friendly a dour affair, eh? We should have seen that coming

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Tuesday’s U.S. match with Austria will probably be a little better than Friday’s sleepy contest in Glasgow, a scoreless draw bereft of many chances on either side.

Then again, it may not be a whole lot better; there are plenty of reasons to wonder if it will be just as listless and uneventful as Friday’s scoreless draw in Glasgow. Which is why I am so curious about how everyone seems so shocked that Friday’s match was a dog.

It’s Scotland!  And that team will never be confused with Spain or Argentina or Brazil or even Germany’s current bunch of brazen attacking barons.  Plus, it’s the United States on the road … minus its top pair of attackers, no less.

Who every expected that one to be some 4-3 sizzler?

Let’s examine:

First, as I said, it’s Scotland, a team that scored eight goals in 10 Word Cup qualifiers. As dynamic attacking goes, there’s not a lot there.

From the United States side, most lists of the team’s difference makers on attack would begin with Clint Dempsey. He wasn’t there. Neither was Landon Donovan, who is probably second on many lists.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s U.S. – Austria preview)

The top playmakers in terms of creativity? That’s Donovan, Graham Zusi and Michael Bradley. Two of the three weren’t there, and one plays irregularly (Bradley at Roma), so he’s not premium-level sharp.

Now add in the fact that this was a friendly. All that hooey over Scotland seeking revenge … as I said earlier, that was a just narrative for narrative’s sake. Scotland is a team rebuilding, concerned more with individual evaluation rather than results. (And by the way, in Scotland, a scoreless draw against a World Cup-bound opposition was generally reviewed as a positive result.)

Most of all, however, is this: The United States has two types of players right now. The first group is guys who understand they need to make an impression. They have to force Jurgen Klinsmann to consider adding their names to the World Cup roster. Those are guys like Sacha Kljestan, Mix Diskerud and Brek Shea.

But a lot of the U.S. men at Hampden Park are in a good spot. For them, the prevailing mindset is closer to, “Do not make a mistake.”

Guys like Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, DaMarcus Beasley (pictured above) and others are on the roster … so long as they don’t start making a bunch of silly mistakes. So it’s understandable if their choices on the field lean to the cautious side. It is what it is.

None of us will want to hit the DVR to watch Friday’s game again and again – but let’s not act surprised by that. The surprise would have been a real crackerjack of a contest, with teams zipping up and down the field exchanging chances liberally.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get that Tuesday. With one reasonable result out of the way in this two-game set (yes … a draw on the road is OK), perhaps the United States might take a few more chances.

Or, we might just get another match played in the slow lane. Let’s not all act surprised this time.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.