Americans Abroad weekend preview: Agudelo to debut in Europe, Howard ready for Merseyside derby

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Juan Agudelo is set to make his debut for FC Utrecht, on loan from Stoke City following his move to Europe.

The 21-year-old isn’t able to play in England just yet, so he’s been sent out to the Netherlands to get playing time while his new parent club sit quietly until they can reapply for a work permit on his behalf.

Utrecht’s head of scouting Edwin de Kruijff called Agudelo “technically proficient” and “an all-round attacker with enormous quality.”  The Dutch club will take on 15th-place Roda JC Kerkrade tomorrow at 1:45 ET.

Across the Eredivisie, Aron Johannsson has two goals in his last two matches and got AZ Alkmaar back on their winning ways last week after a 4-match losing streak. They take on PSV Eindhoven at 2:45 ET tomorrow in a pretty crucial mid-table battle.  The winner will jump into 6th place in the table.

In the Premier League, Everton will play two matches in four days.  Therefore, you may very well not see goalkeeper Tim Howard until their all-important Merseyside derby with Liverpool on Tuesday at 3:00 ET (watch on NBCSN or live on NBC Sports Live Extra). Joel Robles could deputize for the American on Saturday in the FA Cup against Stevenage.

Jozy Altidore could see a good amount of time this weekend as Sunderland also get two matches in a four-day span.  With Altidore mostly relegated to substitute duties in recent weeks, he could see the starting lineup as the Black Cats take on fifth-division minnows Kidderminster on Saturday at 10:00 ET.  Sunderland continue on Tuesday in Premier League action as they host Geoff Cameron‘s Stoke City.

Cameron has surely impressed Stoke boss Mark Hughes, and he’s been rewarded handsomely.  The 28-year-old Massachusetts product has played every minute of the Potters’ season since October 26, adding up to 1,890 of their 1,980 Premier League minutes (and 2,160 of their 2,340 minutes across all competitions).  They look to get out of a rut, having dropped four of their last five, scoring just six times over that span and conceding 16.

Cameron’s Stoke teammate Brek Shea is resting until Tuesday when his current home Barndlsey will continue in the Championship against Blackburn at 2:45 ET. He has yet to go the full 90 for his loan club.

source: AP
Fulham will need Clint Dempsey to put aside his poor form if they wish to pick up points at Swansea on Tuesday.

Fulham’s Clint Dempsey could also be watching their FA Cup tie on Sunday from the bench, with the Cottagers playing twice in just three days, although with Rene Meulensteen looking for Dempsey to get as many minutes as possible, he could also see time in both. However, the Dutch manager has firmly stated their relegation battle is much more important than the FA Cup battle with Sheffield United at 8:00am ET, so Dempsey could be saved for their extremely important match with Swansea in the league on Tuesday at 2:45 ET.

Clint’s had a rough go in his first few matches back with Fulham, but he’s seen little service in the attack in a 4-1 loss to Sunderland and a 2-0 defeat to league-leading Arsenal.

Aston Villa fell in the FA Cup last round to Sheffield United, so Brad Guzan gets the weekend off, with Villa scheduled to host West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday at 2:45 ET. The 29-year-0ld has been a bright spot for his club this season, and will look to take advantage of West Brom’s struggles of late.

Alejandro Bedoya has a very important bounce-back match to look forward to against Ligue 1’s seventh-place Stade Reims.  Bedoya’s Nantes were destroyed 5-0 by league-leaders PSG last week.  The American was a 30th minute substitute for an injured Jordan Veretout with his team down 1-0, and it got way worse from there. This week though, if Nantes can put the performance behind them, a win could see them lead Marseille for sixth, although a loss would mean Stade Reims would jump ahead of them.

With the Bundesliga back in action this weekend, Jermaine Jones will try to cement his place in the Schalke lineup as rumors of his exit have quieted in recent weeks.  New Schalke signing Jan Kirchhoff, on loan from Bayern Munich, was supposed to pip Jones as he looked to leave, but Kirchhoff suffered a relatively serious ankle injury soon after arriving.  Schalke travel to Hamburg on Sunday at 11:30 ET.

Anderlecht are in the midst of a very heated 2nd place battle in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, and Sacha Kljestan figures to be a big part of it. Stade Rennais have run away with the league title, but with two fixtures to go in the season, three teams including Kljestan’s Anderlecht are all square on 44 points.  They host Club Brugge – one of the other teams on 44 points – on Sunday at noon.

In Mexico, Hercules Gomez, Edgar Castillo, and Joe Corona take the field for Tijuana in the fourth match of the Clausura at 10:00 ET tonight against Morelia.  DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco will play for Puebla against Chiapas at 1:00 ET on Sunday, although Orozco has struggled to find the pitch of late.

Tune back in on Monday for a full recap of the weekend’s action and a closer look at the midweek Premier League fixtures.

Kompany one of Premier League’s greatest leaders

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When you think of a club, usually one player pops into your mind straight away.

Vincent Kompany will be that player for Manchester City.

After his departure following 11 seasons which yielded 12 major trophies, Kompany’s legacy at Man City will be legendary and talk of a statue of him being built outside of the Etihad Stadium is serious and just. He is adored by Man City fans in Manchester and beyond, as he embraced every aspect of Man City and seemed to totally understand what the club means to the fans and the city.

But that appreciation spreads even further.

Kompany’s achievements on and off the pitch at City mean he is one of the all-time great leaders in the Premier League era.

I’m talking Tony Adams, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, John Terry, Alan Shearer and Steven Gerrard. He is right there in the same bracket.

Did he arrive at Man City at the right time? Sure. He was the skipper of the greatest, and most expensive, team ever assembled in English soccer.

But every great team has a great leader, and that is something money can’t buy.

Kompany’s determination and focus to set high standards day in, day out both on the training pitch and around the locker room is clear for all to see. As star names came and went, he was the one constant and he made sure every newbie put the club and fans first.

He arrived just before Sheikh Mansour took over in 2008 and 11 years later he has helped City become a behemoth in world soccer on and off the pitch while always staying humble despite as he delivered some brilliant individual moments along the way.

Kompany is an impressive man off the pitch, one who talks about politics, problems in his homeland of Belgium, and has worked hard to try and help tackle problems with homelessness in Manchester.

While he was at Man City he also completed his Masters Degree in Business Administration, all of that in his spare time while he led City to four PL titles in eight seasons and pushed them on as much as he could.

Injuries threatened to derail his great career over the past couple of campaigns, but the way he bounced back this season to drive City to the title in the final months of the campaign underlined his importance as a truly inspirational leader.

His stunning goal against Leicester City in the penultimate game of the season was pivotal in their title win and Kompany got the perfect send off by leading City to something no other men’s team in English soccer has ever achieved, winning all three domestic trophies available in one season.

The only success which evaded him was in Europe, as City reached the semifinal and quarterfinal stage of the UEFA Champions League but just couldn’t get over the line in that competition.

Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Joe Hart, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho will all have a special place in Man City’s history books, but it is the man who led them who will be lauded most for decades to come.

There’s no doubt aside from his new role as player-manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht, Kompany will go on to achieve great things in the business world and he seems destined to be involved in politics at some point as he will follow in the footsteps of his father who is a mayor of one of the 19 districts of Brussels.

Kompany’s status as one of the greatest leaders in Premier League will always be safe and as the song goes, “here’s to you Vincent Kompany, City loves you more than you will know, ohhhhh!”

You can tweak those lyrics to “City will always love you more than you will know” because he will go down as their greatest-ever captain.

Toni Kroos signs new contract at Real Madrid

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German midfielder Toni Kroos has extended his stay at Real Madrid.

Kroos, 29, has signed a new contract at the Santiago Bernabeu which means he will be there until at least 2023, as the former Bayern Munich midfielder will close in on almost 10 years as a Real player.

The silky central midfielder who delivers stunning set pieces for club and country spoke on Monday in a press conference arranged by Real Madrid.

He has won three Champions League trophies and a La Liga title at Real, and although this season was easily their worst since he arrived at the club, locking the German down to a long-term deal makes sense.

Luka Modric’s future has been uncertain despite the Croatian midfielder, now 33, picking up the Ballon d’Or this year and the likes of Casemiro and Isco have had campaigns to forget.

With Zinedine Zidane back in charge of Real and their horror 2018-19 campaign over (it ended, typically, with a 2-0 home defeat to midtable Real Betis) it is all about moving on as quickly as possible at Real.

Kroos will be a key part of their future.

10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

[READ: Pep: Domestic Treble harder than UCL]

Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

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Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

[READ: Kompany to join Anderlecht as player-manager]

“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.