For United States, World Cup goals are clear-cut

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(Photo Copyright Jeff Kassouf for NBC Sports)

HARRISON, N.J. – There were two very clear messages put forth on Saturday, one before the United States women’s national team’s lackluster, 0-0 draw against Korea Republic at Red Bull Arena, and one after the match.

United States supporters raised a banner from rooftop to field level behind the south goal of the stadium prior to the match that read, “BRING IT HOME,” with a drawing of the Women’s World Cup trophy emblazoned over the red stripes of an American flag. The United States’ goals in Canada in June – and they hope July – are as black and white as their new home jerseys: Win or fail. The Americans haven’t won the World Cup in 16 years.

But the match that ensued hardly looked like a world-beating United States team up against an inferior opponent. Korea Republic found space around the United States’ midfield and the Americans created only a few good chances on net.

“To be honest, it was a boring game,” U.S. forward Abby Wambach succinctly summarized. That was message No. 2.

Direct play dominated the Americans’ tactics throughout the match, leaving their midfield both passed over by their own teammates and Korea Republic. This was a match a match the United States was expected to dominate. Two years ago the U.S. ran circles around Korea Republic, beating them 5-0 in the same stadium on a night that Wambach scored four times to break Mia Hamm’s all-time scoring mark. To fail to score against Korea Republic – and to lose the midfield battle in stretches – is concerning for a U.S. team facing the Group of Death against Australia, Sweden and Nigeria.

[KASSOUF: Morgan’s absence felt; midfield lacks rhythm in Korea Republic draw]

U.S. coach Jill Ellis said she is happy that nobody was injured in the match and she looks forward to getting to Canada and away from the media “circus” the United States women have been juggling. She cited possibly tired legs and a mentally draining week, which were more explanations than they were excuses. Ellis and players

source: Getty Images
Carli Lloyd (Getty Images)

But the 48-year-old coach also conceded that Korea Republic’s midfield did well, specifically in the first half.

“The space behind our midfield was too big,” Ellis said. “It was more about having [our midfielders] not be so square. We needed to balance each other out, to kill that space. They had that centrally and they were finding the pockets behind.”

Saturday’s match against Korea Republic was really never about the opponent or the game, however. Ellis said as much in Friday’s pre-match press conference. Saturday’s match, just like the other two in the send-off series against inferior opponents Ireland (3-0) and Mexico (5-1) was always about the U.S. and its final preparations. The Americans are already in World Cup mode, midfielder Carli Lloyd said earlier this week.

U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn noted that the team barely beat Mexico in the 2011 sendoff match and lost to Norway in a closed-door match. The savvy central defender isn’t panicking over a scoreless draw.

“This has happened before, so we’re not too stressed about it,” Sauerbrunn said. “We’ve played a bunch of great games this year already. We did some great things out here; as a defender I’m just proud that we got a clean sheet.”

The tune blaring through Red Bull Arena as the team entered the pitch was serendipitous. Decked out in their new black, white and bright green warm-up gear, the moment was still fittingly American, even if the jersey colors was not.

Pop star Katy Perry’s “Firework” song rang through the rafters of the sold-out 25,000-plus seat stadium, and as the United States 23-player roster began its semi-synchronized stretching, Perry’s “Just own the night like the 4th of July” verse ushered in the afternoon.

Independence Day is of particular importance to this U.S. women this year, who will go into the day either be heartbroken or on the verge of their country’s first World Cup title in 16 years. The World Cup final is July 5.

That is the game that matters. Not a scoreless draw against Korea Republic or a 2-0 loss to a France or an ugly but efficient win over England in February. What matters is getting to the final and winning it this time, unlike four years ago. The catch is that the U.S. needs to be enough in form to get through the six matches that would come before that holy day in Vancouver.

“There’s a sense that when nerves rise, when you get on the biggest stage and nerves rise, people play a little bit different,” Wambach said. “They don’t take as many risks because they don’t want to be the one that messes up. So I think if we all can own the night, own the games that we play in and own the responsibilities with roles that we are given by our coaches – not worrying about making mistakes, not worrying about failing – if we can fly at other teams; that’s a team, with the players that we have, that’s unbeatable.

“Now if we play a little bit conservative, if we play to not fail, then that’s a team that I don’t know if [it] gets out of our group.”

It’s black and white. Just like the ultimate objective in Canada.

Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

UEFA Champions League qualifying
Photo by Raddad Jebarah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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The 12 clubs remaining in the race for the final UEFA Champions League group stage slots will be pared down to six in the next eight days.

There are American connections to two of the six ties.

Former USMNT midfielder Jesse Marsch manages Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg toward the next round, while Molde right back Henry Wingo came up with the Seattle Sounders.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Salzburg are significant favorites to advance over two legs, odds accentuated by Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s seven players absent due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Marsch had previously said he did not want to go to Israel due to COVID-19 concerns, calling it “dangerous,” but has accepted the task at hand.

From Austrian publication Kronen Zeitung:

“The moment UEFA said we were going to play in Tel Aviv, it wasn’t a problem for me. Maccabi has a great team. We are not naive. We understand that we have to fight tomorrow.”

At 3:10 in some sportsbooks, Marsch’s men are the only club favored to win the first leg away. Salzburg is led by Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka, who’ve helped the team thrive despite the sales of several stars including Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino.

Molde has a much tougher test with Hungarian side Ferencvaros, who knocked off Celtic. That tie could go either way, while Slavia Prague and Olympiakos are respectively noticeable favorites to beat Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia.

Dynamo Kiev will be expected to outlast Gent over two legs, while it would be a minor upset if PAOK takes down Krasnodar.

How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)

UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.


Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK


Gent v Dynamo Kiev
Molde v Ferencvaros
Olympiakos v Omonia

Sept. 29

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.

League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom 2-2 Brentford – (Brentford win on penalty kicks)
Newport County 3-1 Watford 
West Ham United 5-1 Hull City
Luton Town 0-3 Manchester United 

Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm

League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United

How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are here!

Our second player Power Rankings of the 2020-21 season have arrived, as all 20 teams have played and we are coming off the highest scoring matchweek in Premier League history with 44 goals scored across the 10 games.

Simply put: it was incredibly tough to put 20 players in this list based on the crazy results across the Premier League.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Stars from Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton dominate our second player Power Rankings and there are plenty of new signings who have impressed early in the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t going to be in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.

1. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
2. James Rodriguez (Everton)
3. Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
4. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
5. Heung-min Son (Tottenham)
6. Fabinho (Liverpool)
7. Tariq Lamptey (Brighton)
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
9. Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
10. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
11. Gabriel (Arsenal)
12. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal)
13. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
14. Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace)
15. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton)
16. Patrick Bamford (Leeds)
17. Timothy Castagne (Leicester)
18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
19. Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
20. Kalvin Phillips (Leeds)

Semedo completes $47 million move to Wolves

Semedo to Wolves
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“Nelson Semedo to Wolves for $47 million” is a statement most Wolverhampton Wanderers fans will be scratching their heads at.

But it has happened.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Semedo, 26, has joined Wolves from Barcelona in a deal which could rise to $47 million if certain add ons are met (top four, being successful in Europe etc.).

The Portuguese international right back had a tough few seasons at Barcelona which culminated in Alphonso Davies ripping him to shreds in Bayern Munich’s 8-2 demolition of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals in August.

Semedo is happy to have a fresh start and adds to the extremely strong Portuguese contingent at Wolves. If he can replicate his form at Benfica, then Wolves have got themselves one of the best right backs in Europe.

“I chose Wolves because it’s a very good team that plays very good football,” Semedo said. “Last year they did a very good season and it’s a very important team in England, in also Europe. I hope this year we can do very good things.”

This summer Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo has brought in new Portuguese Vitinha (on loan), Semedo and Fabio Silva to strengthen his central midfield, right back and forward options.

Add that trio to Rui Patricio, Ruben Vinagre, Roderick, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves and Daniel Podence and Wolves could have 10 of their 11 starters from Portugal. If they hadn’t just sold Diogo Jota to Liverpool they could have had all 11. No wonder Wolves’ new third kit is in the same color and design as the Portugal home kit. (Look at the photo above!)

Semedo will be better suited to being a right wing-back in Wolves’ 3-5-2 system and he is the replacement for Matt Doherty who joined Tottenham this summer. Semedo is very good going forward but isn’t a right back in the sense that he doesn’t excel defensively.

At Wolves he will have the cover of the three center backs next to him, so this should work out well.

We also can’t overlook the fact that super agent Jorge Mendes is Semedo’s agent and is also a senior adviser at Wolves as their Chinese ownership group has close links with Mendes. Hence a huge number of his best clients arriving to play for his first-ever client, Nuno.

This influence is having a huge impact on the players that Wolves can attract and despite Semedo’s shaky displays in a Barcelona side in disarray, overall this should be a very good signing for them.