Copa America Group B preview: Holders Uruguay to face Argentina, Paraguay, Jamaica

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With just a few days to go until the 2015 Copa America kicks off in Chile, we will be looking at all three groups as 12 teams do battle on the west coast of South America to be crowned Champions of CONMEBOL.

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Will defending champs Uruguay defend their trophy, or can Argentina, Brazil or Colombia wrestle the crown away from Luis Suarez and Co.?

Next up, here’s a look at Group B as the defending champions are set to face Argentina, Paraguay and Jamaica for a place in the knockout stages.

Argentina

Anytime you’ve got the best player in the world, you’ve got a chance. Anytime you supplement said best player in the world with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta, you might just be favorites to win the whole thing. 11 months removed from their appearance in the 2014 World Cup final, Argentina are still in search of their first major trophy in 22 years (1993 Copa America). It’s been a mixed bag of results for La Albiceleste since last summer’s disappointment in Brazil, as the 14-time South American champions have gone 6-0-2 since their loss to Germany last summer.

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1991, 1993
Manager: Gerardo Martino
Star man: Lionel Messi — Perhaps you’ve heard of the man who will one day go down as the best of all time, and member of the recently-crowned champions of Europe (again) and treble-winning (again) Barcelona side.

Uruguay

The big story surrounding Uruguay isn’t so much about who’s on the roster, as it is who’s not on the roster — Barcelona’s Luis Suarez. As for who will represent La Celeste in Chile, the experience can almost exclusively be found at the back for the reigning Copa America champions. Captain Diego Godin (88 caps), Maxi Pereira (101) and Alvaro Pereira (67) lead what is perhaps the most experienced, major competition-tested defenses in the tournament. Should the only side to lift the Copa more times than Argentina add to their total of 15 continental triumphs, it’s likely to come on the back of lots of 1-0 victories, with the majority of the goals coming from a certain Paris Saint-Germain striker (more on him in a moment)

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011
Manager: Oscar Tabarez
Star man: Edinson Cavani — Without Suarez, who was voted Most Valuable Player at the 2011 Copa America, the pressure to deliver the goals falls squarely onto the shoulders of PSG’s second-highest goalscorer this season (18, one behind Ibrahimovic). Without Suarez, Cavani is “the man,” a title he’s long desired and never been granted.

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Darren Mattocks, Jamaica — One of MLS’s brightest, most enigmatic young stars

Jamaica

Five Major League Soccer players —  Jermaine Taylor, Je-Vaugh Watson, Darren Mattocks, Kemar Lawrence and Giles Barnes — enter the 2015 Copa America as regular contributors for Jamaica. Elsewhere on the 23-man roster, dual nationals — most of the English-Jamaican variety — litter the roster with plenty of veteran talent from England’s top two divisions. Along with Taylor,  Wes Morgan (Leicester City) and Adrian Mariappa (Crystal Palace) gives the Reggae Boyz ample strength and depth at the back for what should be a slobber-knocker of a group stage.

Best Copa America finish: First appearance
Manager: Winfried Schafer
Star man: Darren Mattocks — The Vancouver Whitecaps forward has a pretty good goalscoring record for a youngster (8 goals in 22 caps for the 24-year-old) and should be the one leading the line in game No. 1. If Mattocks wants a move to Europe — and he might just, given his somewhat stalled MLS career — a strong performance this month would be a great way to start some phones ringing.

Paraguay

33-year-old striker Roque Santa Cruz (32 goals in 105 caps) and 35-year-old center back Paulo da Silva (121 caps) are set for one last major tournament and quest for their nation’s first semifinals appearance since 1983. With two of the three third-place finishers in the group stage advancing to the knockout stage, Paraguay stand a good chance of getting out of the group for the fourth Copa America tournament in a row (runners-up in 2011).

Best Copa America finish: Champions – 1953, 1979
Manager: Ramon Diaz
Star man: Paulo da Silva — With little to no international experience around him (Miguel Samudio’s 23 caps are next highest among defenders), Da Silva will have his hands full defending against the likes of Aguero and Cavani. The task is tall.

Schedule

June 13: Uruguay vs. Jamaica – Estadio Regional de Antofagasta, Antofagasta
June 13: Argentina vs. Paraguay – Estadio La Portada, La Serena
June 16: Paraguay vs. Jamaica – Estadio Regional de Antofagasta, Antofagasta
June 16: Argentina vs. Uruguay – Estadio La Portada, La Serena
June 20: Uruguay vs. Paraguay – Estadio La Portada, La Serena
June 20: Argentina vs. Jamaica – Estadio Sausalito, Viña del Mar

Prediction

1st – Argentina
2nd – Uruguay
3rd – Paraguay
4th – Jamaica

Watch Live: Wolves v. Liverpool

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Liverpool has the opportunity to go 16 points ahead of the pack still with a game in hand as they visit Wolverhampton Wanderers at 3:00 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ STREAM LIVE: Wolves v. Liverpool ]

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has decided to keep Joe Gomez in the starting lineup alongside Virgil Van Dijk at center-back, with Joel Matip on the bench. Matip has not featured since returning from a knee injury. Van Dijk, meanwhile, continues to power along as Liverpool’s rock, making his 23rd start of the season having played every single minute of the Premier League campaign thus far.

Liverpool has Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield alongside captain Jordan Henderson and creative force Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Fabinho sits on the bench.

For Wolves, the hosts make no changes from the wild 3-2 win over Southampton last time out. Portuguese boss Nuno sees Raul Jimenez lead the line yet again, looking to follow up his game-saving brace against the Saints that leveled the scoreline in the 65th minute before giving Wolves the lead for good 10 minutes later. The pair marked the first two goals of the new year for the Mexican, who hadn’t scored since the December 27th win over Manchester City.

Adama Traore also looks to continue his good form, having assisted two of the goals against Southampton and generally terrorizing Premier League clubs since the turn of the calendar year.

Wolves has scored just one goal in its last six league games against Liverpool, all losses. They do, however, have moxie this season, having gained gained 18 points from losing positions this season, seven more than any other club.

NCAA D1 soccer to vote on expanded season

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A report by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald has revealed that NCAA Division 1 men’s soccer is close to heading towards a full-season schedule, expanding the current fall schedule that sees the College Cup finish up around mid-December.

Tannenwald’s report, which cites Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski who has led the charge for a full calendar season, states that the new proposal would drop the regular season schedule from 25 to 23 total games, but would expand the campaign across the entire school year. The first half would consist of 13 games and end around Thanksgiving, before picking back up in the spring with nine official games. Three exhibitions would be spread around the season, as opposed to the current setup of five meaningless exhibition games all set in the spring offseason.

The main goal of the plan, which is years in the making, is to eliminate midweek games, helping to cut down on missed class time for players. At least, that’s what Cirovski is selling to the NCAA. His true goal is to help players get used to a full professional schedule, knowing that currently, collegiate players tend to hit a wall in their first few professional seasons, holding their careers back.

Tannenwald reports that the eventual vote, which will be held in April, will consist of 64 total submissions. Each Power 5 conference will have four votes each, while the Group of 5 conferences get two votes each and the remaining conferences get one vote each. To pass, the proposal needs a full majority, meaning 33 yes votes are required out of the 64. The report states that the Atlantic 10 confirmed to the Inquirer that they will vote yes to the proposal, while the Ivy League said it will vote no.

“The college coaches on the men’s side are going to be working hand in hand for the next three months to try to get us to the finish line, to do something that is transformational, an evolutionary and positive change, and a game-changer in this country for not only college soccer, but we feel for soccer in general,” Cirovski said.

The report states that Cirovski has solid support from inside the college soccer space, and also in the pro soccer community where there is excitement that the new proposal will help development and transition from college soccer to professional life. It says that while this would only cover the Division 1 men’s schedule for now, it’s likely that the women’s ranks would follow soon after should this initial proposal pass through, and D2 and D3 could also tag along.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Chelsea searching for striker

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Chelsea is still determining how long the club will be without talismanic striker Tammy Abraham after an ankle injury saw him limp his way through the final few minutes of the 2-2 draw with Arsenal. Chelsea had run out of substitutes so Abraham was forced to stay on, but he was clearly struggling at the end and now the club waits on further testing.

While the Blues were already linked with strikers before Abraham’s ankle trouble, they have now reportedly stepped up the chase for a short-term injury replacement. Widely reported as the club’s first choice, it appears that Edinson Cavani – who handed in a transfer request at PSG, the French club confirmed – will likely move to Atletico Madrid.

That has seen Chelsea look to other options, and according to multiple tabloids across England as well as some fringe reports in France, the Blues have reopened talks with Lyon over the availability of Moussa Dembele. The 23-year-old former Fulham youth product has been prolific this season for the French club, scoring 11 goals in 19 Ligue 1 games plus another four in four domestic cup matches. Still, Lyon reportedly rebuffed a $44 million bid earlier this month which at the time ended the conversation.


Manchester United’s public chase of Sporting CP midfielder Bruno Fernandes has taken yet another twist.

According to a report by Portuguese publication Record, an unnamed agent of Fernandes has a signed agreement with the club for a $5.5 million fee should he arrive with a $55 million transfer bid that the club rejects. This could potentially put pressure on Sporting to sell the 25-year-old whereas the club had been playing hardball on his valuation.

The report does not specify which agent the clause is connected to, which is notable because it could either be Fernandes’s personal agent or superagent Jorge Mendes who reportedly struck a deal with the club to help broker this transfer. Mendes is on record saying that Fernandes will leave Sporting, but they may wait until the summer to pull the trigger.

Even former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had jokes about the drawn out transfer saga regarding Bruno Fernandes. After Tottenham’s win over Norwich on Wednesday, Mourinho jabbed with a reporter, approaching him about his assignment in Portugal covering the transfer rumor. “How was Lisbon?” Mourinho asked in jest. “Lisbon was good? So Bruno Fernandes come to United or no?” Mourinho said. “So you go to Lisbon and he’s not coming? But coming or no?”


According to Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio, Newcastle is nearing a loan deal for 23-year-old Inter wide player Valentino Lazaro. The report states that Newcastle has entered a loan bid involving a $1.7 million fee that includes a $26 million option to buy at the end of the season.

Lazaro joined Inter this past summer from German club Hertha Berlin for about $25 million, but has failed to make an impact at his new home, with just six Serie A appearances to date and just three of those starts. He has not collected a goal and has just one assist, resulting in significant time on the bench. With the arrival of Victor Moses and Ashley Young this winter, Inter is hoping to offset the additions to the squad with the sale of Lazaro.

The Austrian international scored three goals and assisted seven others last season with Hertha, earning his move to Inter. As a right-sided player, he would be direct competition for USMNT international DeAndre Yedlin who is currently on the shelf after suffering a hand injury.


Multiple Italian tabloids have picked up on the rumor that Carlo Ancelotti has plugged back into his Napoli roots in the hopes of convincing Brazilian midfielder Allan to join Everton this winter.

According to both Gianluca di Marzio and Tuttomercadoweb, Ancelotti has made contact with Napoli regarding the striker, although he has heavy competition from Inter. The 29-year-old has been with Napoli since joining in 2015 from Udinese, and he has logged significant time this season, making 14 Serie A appearances and five more in Champions League play.

Known as a tough tackler, Allan would take a significant investment by Everton to pry him loose mid-season, given his importance in the Napoli squad and his current contract that runs through the summer of 2023.


Italian publication Tuttosport thought it prudent to report that Manchester United is considering bringing Carlos Tevez back to the Premier League on loan. He’s started one game for Boca Juniors since late August. Yea, that ain’t happening.

Aston Villa signs 16-year-old Barry from Barcelona youth squad

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On Thursday morning, Aston Villa announced the signing of 16-year-old Barcelona youth player Louie Barry, who will move straight into the academy squad at Villa Park.

Barry, an England youth international who moved from West Brom’s youth program to Barcelona last summer, has reportedly struggled to integrate in Spain and eventually opted to move back to his home country. According to the Barcelona release on Barry’s departure, Villa paid the Spanish club around $1.16 million for Barry’s signature, and reports suggest that could increase significantly with bumpers in the deal.

“It sends a powerful message about the ambition of this football club,” Academy manager Mark Harrison told VillaTV upon the initial club release of the news. “We’re delighted – Louie is a local person and his family are all Villa fans, as is Louie. He is still a very young man but as he’s developed, he’s always been one player that you always recognize as having outstanding attributes. He’s got a fantastic mentality, he’s desperate to do well for this football club.”

Barry’s departure from West Brom is still being resolved, with Barcelona still yet to pay the English club the standard $308,000 fee for international youth players that turn down professional contracts.

Aston Villa has dipped significantly into its academy products this season, with Indiana Vassilev, Cameron Archer and Jacob Ramsey all making first-team debuts at certain points. Vassilev, a USMNT youth international, has made two Premier League appearances at just 18 years old, coming off the bench for decent spells against Brighton and Watford this month. Archer played a substitute role in an EFL Cup game against Crewe Alexandria, while Ramsey played in an EFL Cup game against Brighton and saw action in the FA Cup loss to Fulham.