Will Aron Johannsson start in the United States’ World Cup opener in Brazil?

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At first glance, you wonder if someone suggesting that Aron Johannsson is the top United States forward might also be someone enjoying some of those so-called “space cakes” sold in the Amsterdam coffee shops nearby Johannsson’s current home.

But it’s really not that far-fetched a notion once you grind the mental gears on this one just a bit. Especially since this particular piece is penned by respected colleague John Godfrey.

Johannsson, a man in a second shelf European league (the Dutch Eredivisie) has barely played in World Cup qualifiers, much less shown that he can handle the seasoned defenders of Portugal, Ghana and (egad!) Germany. How can it be that we are even talking about him being ahead of Jozy Altidore, currently earning his living in the world top league, or Clint Dempsey, about to suit up in his third World Cup?

Heck, even ol’ Eddie Johnson has a case for being ahead of the Johnny-come-lately Icelandic-American.

But can Godfrey be correct that “Johannsson is the most clinical striker in the U.S. player pool, and by a wide margin”?

He may indeed be the most “clinical,” but can he keep his wits about him in world soccer’s densest den of pressure? And has he learned all the little tactical tricks that life in the world’s top league taught Dempsey and is now teaching Altidore?

In the end, we’d have to believe that Jurgen Klinsmann won’t trust Johannsson to a starting spot right away as Godfrey suggests – not unless someone gets hurt or things go askance right away against Ghana, leaving the U.S. manager to “reach” for potential solutions.

But it does seem like a topic worth discussing. Altidore can hardly be confident; and when we talk about what striker’s need most, “confidence” is always going to arrive early and often in that conversation.

Dempsey will probably play in behind a striker, so it’s possible both are in the starting lineup as the World Cup opens against Ghana. But either way, can any of us be real sure where Dempsey is at this point, mentally and physically?

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.