Ukraine 2-0 USA: Disjointed U.S. display sees fired up Ukraine prevail

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The U.S. national team fell to Ukraine 2-0 in Cyprus on Wednesday, as goals in either half from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic inflicted defeat on Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.

Throughout the game the USA’s makeshift backline looked off the pace and Ukraine could have won by a more comfortable scoreline, with only Alejandro Bedoya and Jozy Altidore having half chances to score for the U.S. in a much brighter second half display.

In the first half Yarmaleko was found by Denys Garmash after a long ball over the top caught out U.S. central defenders John Brooks and Oguchi Onyewu as Ukraine took a 12th minute lead. Several other good chances fell the way of Ukraine, but it wasn’t until Devic’s strike in the 67th minute that the Eastern Europeans were out of sight. The U.S. did not look like dragging themselves back into the game, as Aron Johannsson’s volley was cleared off the line as the USMNT were easily shutout.

That said, it was only the USA’s third defeat in 19 games, as Klinsmann will have learned an awful lot from his squad as the build up to this summer’s World Cup continues.

(MORE: Three things we learned in USA’s defeat to Ukraine)

In an eerily silent Antonis Papadopoulos stadium in Cyprus, the U.S. started cautiously as Ukraine were fired up and ready to go.

And it took just 12 minutes for the “home” side to take the lead, as a defensive mix up saw Brooks play Ukraine midfielder Garmash onside and after his initial shot was saved, the ball fell to Yarmolenko to slot home easily and give Ukraine a 1-0 lead.

The U.S. backline looked shaky throughout a dominant first half from Ukraine, as time and time again dangerous balls saw the Eastern European side cause all kinds of problems for defenders Onyewu and Brooks.

In the 29th minute Yarmolenko got in behind Castillo at left back and surged towards the U.S. goal but took a little to long to settle himself before dragging his effort wide of Howard’s far post. Geoff Cameron was making some long runs from right back and delivered some inviting crosses in a timid first half from Klinsmann’s side. The only chance of real note for the U.S. came in the 40th minute as a corner was headed towards goal but Cameron couldn’t direct his effort on target.

(MORE: Emotional, poignant U.S. vs. Ukraine game reveals defiant Ukrainian spirit, as war looms)

After the interval the U.S. looked much better, as Kljestan clipped in a delightful ball that was knocked down to Bedoya at the back post and the Nantes midfielder rifled a volley towards goal which was heroically blocked by Ukraine. In the 50th minute Altidore then headed just over as a cross from the right saw the Sunderland man climb highest but failing to direct his effort on target.

That good start to the second half pepped up Klinsmann’s men as Bedoya fizzed an effort just wide and Clint Dempsey was thwarted by Ukraine ‘keeper Pyatov when clean through. Midway through the half Klinsmann made his first changes of the game, as Johannsson and Brek Shea came off the bench to try and add some extra attacking impetus as time was running out.

Just as the U.S. were beginning to dominate, another long ball over the top found substitute Devic who had his first effort brilliantly saved by Howard but the rebound was calmly tucked home to put Ukraine 2-0 ahead. Shea made some decent runs as he tried to get the U.S. back in the match after coming off the bench, but Yarmolenko almost scored his second and Ukraine’s third of the match with a cheeky lob from distance that Howard stumbled and then palmed clear. That chance came after another mishap from young U.S. defender Brooks as the German-American didn’t have a stellar outing.

The remainder of the game saw Klinsmann throw in some of his squad players, but the U.S. didn’t create any chances as they lost to Ukraine in a valuable learning experience before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

LINEUPS

United States: Howard; Cameron, Onyewu, Brooks, Castillo (Shea, 64); Jones (Williams, 81), Kljestan (Johannsson, 64); Bedoya (Boyd, 90), Dempsey, Johnson; Altidore (Agudelo, 86)

Ukraine: Pyatov; Khacheridi, Shevchuk, Kucher, Fedetskiy; Tymoshchuk, Yarmolenko (Morozyuk, 90), Rotan (Edmar, 78), Konoplyanka (Gusev, 66), Garmash (Bezus, 46); Zozulya (Devic, 64)

Goals: Yarmolenko (12′), Devic (67′)

Transfer Rumors: Seri to Arsenal; Vagnoman to Chelsea

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Nice’s Jean Seri is reportedly Unai Emery’s first target as Arsenal boss.

A report from the Daily Mail states that Seri, 26, is available for $46 million and although both Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund are interested, the Ivorian midfielder is a long-time target of the new Arsenal boss.

[ MORE: Top takeaways from Emery’s unveiling

Seri almost signed for Barcelona in the past and Emery tried to sign him in January while he was in charge of PSG.

The defensive midfielder is in the N'Golo Kante mould, but slightly more attack-minded than Kante. He has an incredible engine, exceptional reading of the game and is able to protect the ball while also starting attacks with surging runs on the ball. Yep, that’s the type of player who would thrive at Arsenal.

Seri’s arrival would also be much-needed following Santi Cazorla leaving after a two-year injury nightmare, plus Jack Wilshere out of contract on July 1 and likely to leave the Gunners. With Granit Xhaka‘s big-money arrival never quite working out, especially defensively, Seri could be a key part of the jigsaw in Emery’s rebuild as he can keep the ball and also spark the new high-pressing style the Spaniard wants to say.


Teenage defender Josha Vagnoman is being linked with a move to Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton, according to multiple outlets.

A report from ESPN states that the 17-year-old Hamburg full back (the second youngest player in Bundesliga history) will move on this summer and clubs across Europe are lining up to sign the German youth international as his contract with recently relegated Hamburg ends in July.

Vagnoman is interesting Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig but the report claims Arsenal have the edge due to their new head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, keeping a close eye on his countryman over the years. Vagnoman is able to play left or right back.

Joining the likes of Arsenal, Bayern and Chelsea would likely mean a few years in the reserve squad for Vagnoman, while he could well play soon for either Dortmund or Leipzig given their penchant for giving youth a chance in their first team.

Argentina goalkeeper Romero out of World Cup with injury

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero will miss the World Cup because of a right knee injury.

The Argentine soccer federation says the Manchester United reserve may need surgery.

Romero was one of the three goalkeepers chosen by Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli for the 23-player squad he will take to the World Cup in Russia. Franco Armani and Wilfredo Caballero were also named in the squad.

Romero was a starter for Argentina at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

The federation says Sampaoli will announce a substitute for Romero in the coming days.

VIDEO: Brandi Chastain explains Hall of Fame plaque blunder

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Brandi Chastain had a strange day on Monday.

The U.S. women’s national team legend, who won two Olympic golds and two World Cups during her iconic playing career, was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.

But when she unveiled her plaque, well, it got weird. Really weird.

Instead of a bronze image of Chastain’s face on the plaque, there was an image of what looks like an elderly man grimacing. Several media outlets have speculated as to who the face on the plaque actually is, with Gary Busey, Louie Anderson, John Goodman, a hint of Bill Belichick, and Mickey Rooney frontrunners according to Deadspin.

Take a look at the video below as Chastain appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show to explain what happened.

Needless to say, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame are going to get Chastain’s plaque redone.


Key takeaways: Emery’s first Arsenal press conference

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Unai Emery was unveiled as the new head coach of Arsenal on Wednesday and the Spanish coach spoke to the media at the Emirates Stadium soon after the news was official.

[ MORE: Emery “first choice” ]

The former PSG, Sevilla and Valencia coach spoke in limited English and answered some questions in his native tongue as he explained his vision for the Gunners AW (after Wenger) while sat alongside Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis.

Below is a look at five key takeaways from Emery’s first presser as Arsenal officially have a new boss for the first time in almost 22 years.


Emery was Arsenal’s “first-choice” replacement for Wenger

Gazidis revealed that there was an eight-man shortlist for the job and all eight were interviewed and kept their hats into the ring until the end. Emery was also the unanimous “first choice” selection and was interviewed on May 10 before being recommended to the board on May 18, then flying to Atlanta, Georgia, on May 22 to meet with Stan and Josh Kroenke before meeting the media. The fact that Mikel Arteta had seemed such a strong contender until Monday was perhaps a smokescreen before Emery was selected. The Spaniard has an impressive resume and no coach in Europe has won more than his eight major trophies in the last five years, which included three successive Europa League titles at Sevilla. At the age of 48 he has worked at huge clubs with big expectations and has delivered at each, apart from PSG being chucked out of the Champions League last 16 to Barcelona and Real Madrid in the last two seasons.


The style of play will remain similar but “intensive pressing” will arrive

And this is maybe the main reason why Emery was first choice. Tactically Emery is quite different to the style Wenger created at Arsenal and there can be some clear, and healthy, progression while still sticking with the possession-based style.

Asked about Arsenal’s possession-based game and some of the counter-attacking tactics he has used during his career, Emery seems keen to not tweak too much with the way the team plays currently but he is further aligned to the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino with the way he sets his teams up.

“In my career I am very demanding of myself as well as the people at the club and the players. The history here is one thing, they love to play with possession of the ball,” Emery said. “I like this personality and when we don’t have the ball I want a squad to play with intensive pressure. Two important things are position of the ball and pressing when you haven’t got it.”

High-pressing with plenty of possession? Sign me up to watch that.


There will be funds to spend

In the media there’s been a figure of around $75 million being available for Emery to spend this summer on building a new squad. Although Gazidis wouldn’t confirm if that was true, he did state the following when it comes to money being spent on new players.

“We don’t discuss our finances publicly but we run ourselves on a very clear and transparent model. Anyone who wants to look at our accounts can do so. All of the money has always been available to our manager and that will carry on,” Gazidis said.

Okay, that was a little tetchy but it does mean there should be some significant funds available to spend if the past two years are anything to go by with Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all arriving. Emery’s main area of concern will be in central midfield and in central defense, so, not much changes in terms of their main needs, recruitment wise.


Small changes to the squad are coming up

When asked if the likes of Jack Wilshere will stick around despite being out of contract on July 1, Emery was quite eager to focus on the bigger picture.

That said, the Spanish coach said that there will be changes but didn’t seem to think plenty of ins and outs were needed.

“We think we need change, little things, a little players but I don’t want to talk individually about the players. This is a big team and today I want to work and speak globally for the squad,” Emery said. “This is a big project and I am proud to be here and to work after Arsene Wenger. We want to work on this club together. I know my ambition and my passion and to know how I want to grow up with Arsenal. All the conversations I have had with the club shows we share the same vision for the club.”

Emery hailed Mesut Ozil as “one of the biggest talents at Arsenal” but you have to wonder if Ozil and others will align with Emery’s tactics as he enjoys setting up solid defensively and hitting opponents on the counter.


His English isn’t great, which may be a good thing

Props to Emery for having a go at speaking in English and taking questions but it is clear that it will take quite some time for the Spaniard to express himself fully in the English language. And that may actually work in his advantage. Remember Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton, then Tottenham? The Argentine didn’t have a single press conference in English for his first 18 months in the Premier League and that allowed him to absorb the culture and feel his way into the PL. Emery is already way ahead of Pochettino in that respect and even if Arsenal’s fans are looking for instant answers in every single press conference, it’s unlikely Emery will deliver them simply because he has yet to master the English language. That could well lead to more patience from fans (these are Arsenal fans though) and Emery will be able to give simpler answers due to the fact that he won’t be able to understand what a lot of journalists are asking. Or at least that’s the way he can play it when tough questions come around early on…