London Calling: USA host Colombia in huge test, as close links with Fulham remain

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LONDON — On Friday night at Craven Cottage the chant “USA! USA!” will be loud and proud.

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Over the years, that chant has been synonymous with Fulham Football Club as the close links between the Cottagers and the U.S. national team will be intertwined once again. If there is any stadium in England to host a home game for the USA, the Cottage is a fitting location.

[ RELATED: Cameron on USA’s progress ]

US Soccer is expecting a sellout crowd down by the banks of the River Thames on Friday, as over 24,000 fans will turn up to watch the USA play No. 3 ranked Colombia in an international friendly. Jurgen Klinsmann has been putting his squad through their paces all week in London, as the U.S. have practiced at both Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground while they’ve also been taking in the sights of England’s capital.

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However as the 2014 season comes to a close for the USA, the players are aware that Friday’s match against Colombia, plus another friendly in Dublin next Tuesday against Ireland, will be tough going as they aim to end the World Cup year on a high.

“It’s a huge test for us. It is going to be a challenging match,” central defender Matt Besler told ProSoccerTalk. “Definitely looking forward to playing at Craven Cottage. We expect a good crowd, hopefully there are a lot of Americans. For us, we are looking to end the year off on the right note.”

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Klinsmann is excited to see his team tested on the road in what will be a hostile environment and a new experience for many of his young players.

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Klinsmann and his players are looking forward to the challenge of facing Colombia.

“We are looking forward to it, we have a good group of guys here who are eager to show what they have. We have a  mixture of experience and youth. It is huge to play these games out of comfort zone away from the United States in order to grow and to learn,” Klinsmann said. “We want to give them a very good game. No matter where we go or who we bring, we want to win. We are here to beat Colombia, we know it is going to very difficult, but we need to grow and have this experience.”

The USA’s head coach also touched on hosting a match in the quaint surroundings of Craven Cottage.

“Obviously it is a very traditional and a very special place,” Klinsmann said. “If you get the opportunity to play a friendly here, it means a lot to us. Having a full house, thanks to a large number of Colombian fans, makes it even more exciting.”

The close links between Fulham (who have been known as “Fulhamerica” among soccer circles in the U.S. for years) and the USA is not lost on the current U.S. squad, as Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron revealed his memories of watching American greats such as Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and others suit up for the Lilywhites in the past.

“The likes of Brian McBride, when I watched the Premier League growing up he was one of the big Americans over here… captain America!” Cameron smiled. “My first year in the Premier League it was special coming down to Fulham because of that close relationship it has with America. Lots of the Americans who have come to England and done well like Clint Dempsey, McBride and Carlos Bocanegra have done it here at Fulham.”

Another American plying his trade in the Premier League is Brad Guzan and the Aston Villa ‘keeper is looking forward to a “special” game at the Cottage.

“It’s not only because of the support we are going to have on Friday night but the ties the club has had with so many Americans playing over here at Fulham,” Guzan said. “It is going to be a special night not only for us, but everyone involved on the game.”

Despite the nostalgia and unique situation of hosting a game on foreign soil — the first time the U.S. has done so since 2006 when they played Poland in Kaiserslautern — and a place entrenched with U.S. soccer history, Guzan knows the team have a job to do.

“We want to continue to build upon what we have started as a group and we will use these two games as a benchmark to hopefully continue to test ourselves,” Guzan said. “We know it is going to be a challenge, but is a challenge we are looking forward to.”

Chelsea Ladies sign NWSL superstar Sam Kerr

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Sam Kerr is heading to London.

The Australian megastar is leaving the Chicago Red Stars for Chelsea after scoring two MVP awards in the National Women’s Soccer League (2017, 2019).

[ MORE: NYCFC teen off to Gladbach ]

Kerr, 26, has 38 goals in 83 caps for the Lady Matildas, scoring four times in one World Cup match against Jamaica last summer.

Her 69 goals are the most in an NWSL career, and she admits it was a challenge to leave her comfort zone and head to Europe.

“Probably the part that was most difficult was leaving friends and the US because I’ve created such a home there, but it was just time for me to make a change. And once I had my eyes set on Europe, it was kind of an easy decision to choose Chelsea as a club.”

It’s a huge signing for Chelsea, who is leading the table through five matches with an unbeaten 4W-1D record. She’ll join the team in January.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says goodbye to the LA Galaxy

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has bid adieu to Major League Soccer, thanking the LA Galaxy for “making me feel alive again.”

The Swedish superstar averaged nearly a goal per game with the Galaxy, and was rumored to be in line for another two years at the club.

[ MORE: Columbus acquires Nagbe ]

Perhaps those reports, and maybe AC Milan’s struggles to score goals, have made more suitors come forward. Time will tell.

The Galaxy said the decision was a “mutual parting of ways” and thanked the player for his work both on and off the pitch.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“We would like to thank Zlatan for his contributions to the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “Since his arrival in 2018, Zlatan has positively influenced the sport of soccer in Los Angeles. We are grateful for his work ethic and passion. We thank Zlatan for his professionalism and immeasurable impact on the Los Angeles community and the soccer community in North America as a whole.”

Zlatan’s full thoughts, below, were a bit more Zlatanny.

Klein will have his hands full in replacing Ibrahimovic, who scored 52 times in 53 matches, but the Galaxy have always managed to bring in big names.

Getting a star playmaker is even more important as El Trafico rivals LAFC have rewritten the MLS record book and snared plenty of attention in California and across the league.

Columbus acquires Nagbe from Atlanta for $1M in allocation

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Darlington Nagbe is headed for a reunion with old boss Caleb Porter.

Columbus has sent over $1 million in allocation money to Atlanta United in order to claim the influential midfielder.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

Porter coached Nagbe at the University of Akron and the Portland Timbers, and has 25 USMNT caps but has turned down Gregg Berhalter’s requests for service.

Nagbe made 46 appearances across all competitions for the Five Stripes this season, scoring twice with five assists. He has 313 matches played between Portland and Atlanta.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Darlington Nagbe is a proven winner and the type of player who can be a difference-maker in our team,” Crew SC president and GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “In addition to his skill set, we believe that Darlington is someone whose character and values fit well within our organization. As we stated heading into this offseason, we continue to look both domestically and internationally for players that will make our team better, and we believe Darlington is an important part of those efforts.”

It’s a bold statement from Columbus, who had a reputation for getting the most of its talent under Berhalter but faded under Porter after a hot start. The Crew began 2019 with a 4-1-1 record but lost 13 of its next 15 matches.

Of course, being MLS, the Crew then only lost 2 of their final 13 matches. Shoulder shrug emoji.

NYCFC teen agrees move to Borussia Monchengladbach

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New York City FC’s impressive academy has earned one of the bigger transfer market payoffs in MLS Homegrown history, and will join the current Bundesliga leaders after next season.

Joe Scally, 16, is headed to Borussia Monchengladbach on a $2 million transfer with a sell-on clause, and will spend the 2020 MLS season with his boyhood club. Scally has played in the Open Cup, but has not debuted in an MLS match.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

The $2 million figure is on the edge of Top 30 for departing MLS players, according to Transfermarkt, just behind Cyle Larin’s move from Orlando City to Besiktas.

Scally appeared 11 times for the U.S. U-17 national team, going 90 minutes in all three matches and assisting on the lone American goal at the World Cup in Brazil.

From Borussia.de:

“Joe Scally is a top American talent who we have been following for a long time. We see a lot of potential in Joe and we are looking forward to him joining up with us in January 2021. Until then, we will work together with New York City FC to prepare him for his move to Germany,” said Borussia’s sporting director, Max Eberl.

Not sure just how long they could’ve been following a 16-year-old, but we digress.

Scally will join U-17 teammates Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Maximilian Dietz (Freiburg) on the books at a Bundesliga club. Recent U-17 call-ups Pablo Soares (Gladbach) and Noah Jones (RB Leipzig) are also with clubs in Germany’s top flight.

Last month, NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna told me that Scally was the perfect example of a young player trusting a club’s preference of changing his position.

“The perfect example is Joe Scally on the U-17 World Cup team. He came to us from a club in Long Island as an athletic box-to-box midfielder. He was very strong, but we saw him as an outside back. The lesson that we now we share that with our players, don’t get upset if you move to a position, but Joe Scally understood, never complained, he played wherever he was told to do, and now he’s a right back now, 16 years old going to the World Cup after being in our academy for two and a half years.”

Looks like it’s worked out.