Rimando saves the day as USMNT holds off Czech Republic in 1-0 win

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The United States kicked off its 2018 World Cup cycle with a shorthanded 1-0 victory against the Czech Republic in a Wednesday friendly on NBCSN.

They can thank second-half goalkeeper Nick Rimando for not allowing an equalizer, as the Real Salt Lake netminder made a trio of outstanding saves in a hard-earned victory.

[ VIDEO: Watch full replay of the game ]

Ale Bedoya put home a rebound after Petr Cech saved a shot from Mix Diskerud in the 38th minute for the goal. Diskerud created the chance with a big interception that lead a 3v2 break.

It was a tale of two halves, as substitutions from both sides had the Czechs on the front foot for most of the second half.

The States were without Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and a bevy of MLS stars in the first game of Tim Howard’s break from playing for the national team. They started youngsters Joe Gyau, Julian Green and John Anthony Brooks before handing debuts to Greg Garza and 18-year-old Emerson Hyndman.

[ VIDEO: Klinsmann says US aim is at least the semis of World Cup 2018 ]

Both teams had chances over the course of the first half. The States had more consistent pressure and possession, but the Czechs showed plenty of danger on the counterattack.

Joe Gyau of Borussia Dortmund recorded the first shot of the match when he picked up an almost-picked off pass from Altidore and hit a low-powered shot that Cech collected. Overall, he was perhaps the most impressive player of the opening stanza.

The States snagged their goal when Diskerud darted in to pick off a sloppy pass in Czech territory. His shot was pushed aside by Cech, but Bedoya followed the play and coolly slotted a left-footed pass inside the post. It was 1-0 in the 29th minute.

Here’s what we were saying at half, with the Yanks up 1-0.

The States subbed on Nick Rimando and Tim Ream at halftime, and opened up the second half with a lot of possession, but spent a solid

The Czechs seized momentum around the 55th minute, and that’s when Rimando made the play of the half, posting a strong left-footed save on Krejci, who was sprung 1v1 on goal after a free kick.

Greg Garza, Brek Shea and Alfredo Morales entered the fray in the 63rd minute, with the days of Corona, Diskerud and Chandler coming to a close.

The changes again forced Rimando into action. After Ream had to clear a mistake by Gyau, the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper had to leap to punch away a hopeful equalizer.

Hyndman is now cap-tied to the United States after entering the game for a hobbled Bedoya in the 68th minute.

The Czechs continued to push for an equalizer, asking questions that their finishers just couldn’t answer. The States were off-balance on the road against a team getting ready to begin Euro 2016 qualification next week, and were fortunate to emerge with the win.

Hyndman made a horrible giveaway in the 84th minute, but to his credit raced back to recover the ball.

Rimando was called on one more time to parry a hard-hit shot in the 87th minute, as the RSL man shone in his 45 minutes of work. He was again called upon in the 90th minute, somehow stopping a 2v1 inside of the goal mouth. Stunning.

Three minutes of stoppage time led to nothing for the Czech Republic, as the States pulled off the win.

The US is off until Oct. 10 and 14, when they’ll host friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras.

USMNT Lineup

United States: Guzan (Rimando, 46′), F. Johnson, Orozco (Ream, 46′), Brooks, Chandler (Garza, 63′); Bedoya (Hyndman, 68′), Corona (Shea, 63′), Diskerud (Morales, 63′); Green, Altidore, Gyau

Goal: Bedoya (39)

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

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TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfielder unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.