Kinda-ry renewed: U.S. Women will open 2014 in Texas against Canada

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The kinda-ry that exploded in London 2012’s semifinals will be rekindled Jan. 31 in Frisco, Texas when upcoming World Cup hosts Canada visit Toyota Park to open 2014 against the United States Women’s National Team.

Coming off a 10-0-2 year that included a 3-0 win in Toronto over the Canadians (June 2), the U.S. will look to increase their unbeaten run to 36 games – a 20-month run that began March 5, 2012 with a loss to Japan.

Since, the U.S. has won a gold medal, claimed an Algarve Cup, and have defeated Canada three times, including a 4-3, extra time win at Old Trafford in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The controversial semifinal, which featured a hat trick from Christine Sinclair and a 123rd minute winner from Alex Morgan, marks the high point of a regional rivalry that has been decidedly one-sided. Where the U.S. has historically had competitive tensions with China, Norway, Brazil, and Germany, Canada’s all-time record against the U.S. is 3-46-5.

“It’s great to start the year with a game that is going to be a real test for us and a game that is always highly competitive,” said head coach Tom Sermanni said via a U.S. Soccer release announcing the game.  “It’s a friendly game, but one that’s meaningful for both teams, and it’s an excellent first match in a year that will end with World Cup qualifying. In 2014, it will be important to play as many quality opponents as possible.”

Despite their historical record with the U.S., Canada really should provide the quality for which Sermanni hopes. Sinclair, captain for both club and country, is coming off a title-winning season with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. Attacker Diana Matheson, midfielder Sophie Schmidt, destroyer Desiree Scott, and defender Lauren Sesselman also had standout NWSL seasons. Each player has a key role in a national team that’s ranked seventh in the world.

Making their third appearance at Toyota Park, the U.S. will be expected to extend their dominance over Canada, but if the U.S. replicates last winter’s form, Canada stands a good shot at collecting their fourth-ever victory over their nemeses. Though they defeated Scotland 4-1 and 3-1 in two pre-Algarve Cup friendlies this February, the team was noticeably rusty after a nine-week layoff. Superior to the 20th ranked Scots, Canada should be less forgiving of any U.S. rust

With the States having a two-and-a-half month layoff before kickoff in Frisco, Canada may be able to spring a surprise, provided they can overcome their own hibernation sickness.

Chelsea’s Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury

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N'Golo Kante is set to miss Chelsea’s Europa League final showdown with Arsenal on Wednesday after suffering a knee injury during a training session this weekend.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Real Madrid remain $38 million apart on Eden Hazard deal ]

Kante missed Chelsea’s two most recent fixtures — their Premier League finale and the second leg of the UEL semifinals — due to a hamstring injury suffered on May 5, but was on course to be fit and available from the start when the London giants meet in Baku, Azerbaijan. Now, though, the Frenchman’s latest injury has all but ruled him out with one final piece of silverware on the line.

According to a report from the Guardian, the injury occurred when the 2018 World Cup winner made a challenge to win the ball during Saturday’s training session. He left the field in “clear discomfort” and will undergo the requisite examinations to determine the severity of the injury.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

In the unfortunate event that Kante’s injury turns out to be serious and keeps him out of action into the start of next season, the Blues would find themselves in a world of trouble. The club’s season-long transfer ban would prevent them from signing even a single replacement for one of the Premier League’s most influential figures.

Antonio Rudiger (knee), Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles) will also miss out on Wednesday’s final due to long-term injuries.

Transfer rumor roundup: Chukwuese to Liverpool, Gomes to West Ham

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As fallout begins from Barcelona’s losses in the UEFA Champions League semifinals and Copa del Rey Final, players are being linked with moves away from the Camp Nou.

Andre Gomes, 25, already spent a year away from Barca, playing around 2000 minutes on loan to Everton this season.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final World Cup tune-up ]

The Times says that Everton would like to keep the player, but West Ham has made a $22 million bid for the EURO 2016 winner.

Meanwhile, Metro says that Xherdan Shaqiri could be one-and-done at Liverpool, making room for another Reds’ buy.

Samuel Chukwuese is the name, and the 20-year-old Nigerian plies his trade at Villarreal.

The Yellow Submarine flirted with relegation this season, taxed by the Europa League, and Chukwuese was a bright spot. He scored seven goals and added three assists in 38 matches across all competitions.

USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video)

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Tobin Heath, Mallory Pugh, and Christen Press all scored and then United States women’s national team was rarely threatened in a 3-0 win that stands as the final tune-up for the World Cup in France.

The U.S. will meet Thailand, Nigeria, and Chile in Group F play beginning on June 11.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The match was barely 10 minutes old when Heath took advantage of terrible miscommunication between Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago and Rebeca Bernal.

There was still work to do when Heath got the ball, finding the angle to make it 1-0.

Carli Lloyd nearly slid a ball home after dribbling Santiago in the 48th minute, but was defied by a goal line clearance.

The second goal came when Lloyd dribbled toward the near post from a tight angle, sliding a pass to Pugh for a 2-0 lead.

Press completed the scoring with a classy finish in the final minutes.

Wambach, Gulati elected to National Soccer Hall of Fame

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Two of the biggest names in United States soccer history have been voted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Legendary scorer Abby Wambach and former federation president Sunil Gulati have their place in the hall, and will be inducted in September (via NationalSoccerHoF.com).

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Wambach scored 184 times for the USWNT, winning two Olympic gold medals and the 2015 World Cup. She added 75 club goals between Washington Freedom, Ajax America Women, magicjack, and The Western New York Flash.

Along the way, the 38-year-old Wambach has been an outspoken voice in the fight for equality, and admitted to struggles with addiction. She has a three-goal lead over Canada’s Christine Sinclair for most international goals.

Gulati’s legacy is in American infrastructure. The 59-year-old helped organize the 1994 World Cup and was the deputy commissioner of Major League Soccer before his time as a three-term U.S. Soccer Federation president from 2006-18.