Klinsmann, USMNT remain confident best is still to come in Gold Cup knockout rounds

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The US national team labored to another uninspiring result here at Sporting Park on Tuesday night in their final group stage game of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a 1-1 draw with eventual Group A third-place finishers Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

On the night, the Yanks were out-shot by their Central American foes, 13 to 8 — the third straight game in which underdog opposition managed to out-create and out-shoot this tournament’s co-favorited side — and once again looked worryingly unstable at the back, as they very nearly found themselves two goals down inside the opening 35 minutes.

And yet, despite all the above evidence pointing toward the contrary, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann believes his team is slowly but surely rounding into form and will — with a bit of luck — deliver their best performances at the most critical of times this summer.

“I think we’re just getting our feet into the tournament, and the tournament pretty much starts now at the knockout stage,” said Klinsmann upon completion of group play. “To go through this group and have seven points at the end of the day is a lot of work. … Now it’s really getting to the serious stuff. The knockout stage — this is what a tournament is all about. … We can improve still a lot, absolutely, and that’s what we’re working for.”

[ MORE: Three things we learned from USA 1-1 PAN | Player ratings | Full recap ]

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Ventura Alvarado were slightly less confident that the necessary improvements had been made over the group stage’s three games, with both players citing a “need to be better” and Alvarado in particular lamenting his first-half performance against Panama.

Clint Dempsey & Michael Bradley, USMNT — 2015 Gold Cup

“Mentally, [after] the first half, I felt real bad,” said Alvarado after the game. “I was real bad and I mentally got mad with [myself]. I was like, ‘I’m going to give it my all, I don’t have anything to

lose.’ It wasn’t a great game for me, but I have to keep my head up.”

“We know that the first half wasn’t nearly good enough — again,” said Guzan. “It’s not always easy when [players] come in and come out and come in and come out, so for them it was always going to be a difficult game. … We know that we need to put together a 90-minute performance. We know that now, going forward it’s about results, it’s about finding a way to win, grinding out the games, pretty or not. … We were turning the ball over, we were causing our own difficulties at times.”

[ MORE GOLD CUP: HAI 1-0 HON | MEX 0-0 GUA | T&T 2-0 CUB | CRC 1-1 SLV ]

It was that depth that Klinsmann pointed to, though, as a main source of confidence that his side’s best is still yet to come in this Gold Cup. Having heavily rotated the starting lineup in games two and three, Klinsmann now feels he can lean on any number of players up and down the roster once things shift into do-or-die mode in the quarterfinals, where they’ll face a third-place team from either Group B or C.

“The good thing about rotating the [team] throughout those three games was that we wanted to get everybody in this tournament,” said Klinsmann. “Like Alejandro [Bedoya] today, like Alfredo [Morales] today, we need to see where they are so we can count on them moving forward. … This was definitely the advantage of our group phase, that we could already have pretty much everybody in the tournament and we don’t have a drop between the starters and the guys on the bench.”

Klinsmann has 24 hours to make up to six changes to the current squad before his 23-man roster is locked in throughout the entirety of the group stage — something about which he has “some ideas.” An official announcement is expected Tuesday.

Transfer rumor roundup: Mari to Arsenal; Defoe makes permanent Rangers move

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

Arsenal are reportedly hours from adding a defender to Mikel Arteta‘s squad.

Flamengo’s Pablo Mari has reportedly arrived in London and set for a medical at Arsenal, Sky Sports reports. The 26-year-old Spaniard will join the North London side for the remainder of the season with an option to buy.

It won’t be Mari’s first time signing for a Premier League side, however.

In 2016, the center-back signed with Manchester City, but never featured for the defending champions, instead making appearances for Girona, NAC and Deportivo La Coruna on loan.

Jermaine Defoe is not returning to Bournemouth.

On Saturday, Rangers announced that Defoe signed a pre-contract to join Rangers on permanent basis in the summer.

The storied 37-year-old English striker has 20 goals in 57 appearances since joining the Scottish giants last January on a 18-month loan. Defoe’s new contract runs through the 2020-21 season, a one-year deal.

“It’s fantastic news,” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told the club’s website. “It’s something we have been working on over the weeks and it is great to finally get that done and dusted.”

“He is an incredible professional with the way he goes about his work on and off the pitch – he is a credit to himself and his family. And also on the pitch, which is the main thing. He is still contributing heavily – he is a major part of this group, this team and this squad and hopefully together we can go and share some success as I think he deserves that.”

This season, Defoe has scored 16 goals in 28 games.

Crystal Palace are in talks to sign Belgium international Yannick Carrasco, according to Sky Sports.

Carrasco, 26, wants to leave Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang and is currently training in Belgium, ahead of a return to European play.

Carrasco has scored 24 goals in 52 appearances since making a move to China from Atletico Madrid in February 2018.

Norwich City are actively pursuing Danel Sinani, according to the Daily Mail.

The 22-year-old Luxembourg winger is out of contract with Luxembourg side FC Dudelange this summer. If the parties involved can’t reach a deal this week,  the Canaries are reportedly ready to propose a pre-contract agreement.

Mourinho hints Spurs to sign Lo Celso permanently: ‘I think the boy is earning the decision’

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Tottenham Hotspur loanee Giovani Lo Celso is closer to permanently stay in North London than he is to return back to Sevilla.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints draw and force 4-th round FA Cup replay ]

The 23-year-old Argentine, who arrived at Spurs from Real Betis last summer on a season-long loan, experienced a rocky start in the Premier League. Lo Celso – with only 44 minutes of English top-flight playing time under his belt – suffered a hip injury with Argentina, ruling him out two months in the fall.

Since, the attacking midfielder has worked his way up Jose Mourinho’s pecking order, featuring heavily in the Portuguese’s scheme over the past few months. Most recently, on Saturday, Lo Celso displayed his well-balanced virtues in Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Following the match, Mourinho addressed questions on whether or not his club is going to sign the midfielder on a permanent contract. Praiseworthy of Lo Celso’s learning abilities, Mourinho hopes the midfielder will be a part of the club’s long-term plans.

“It’s not an obligation, it’s an option,” Mourinho said of Lo Celso, who is reportedly available at reduced price of $35 million. “I think the boy is earning the decision. He’s making an easy decision for the club to execute the option.”

“Incredible evolution since I arrived,” he added. “Barely played a game, I think he played against Red Star Belgrade, with me a little bit difficult to come in the first few weeks. But he understood what we wanted. Good learner, good kid and I think by himself he made the decision that the club is going to execute the option. That’s normal, he earned it.”

With Christian Eriksen on the verge of departing the London side, Mourinho and company will have additional funds to land Lo Celso this winter before his price spikes in the summer.

Everything points to the creative midfielder having a future in London, but will Spurs brass follow suit and make it official soon?

Netherlands forward Rob Rensenbrink dies at age 72

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Rob Rensenbrink, the forward who was centimeters away from delivering the Netherlands a World Cup title in 1978, has died at age 72, the Dutch football association said Saturday.

“We have heard with sadness of the death of football legend Rob Rensenbrink,” the association said in a tweet.

Rensenbrink played most of his club football in Belgium with Club Brugge and Anderlecht, where his weaving runs earned him the nickname “Snake Man.” He also played briefly for the Portland Timbers in the United States in 1980.

He was a regular for the Netherlands national team in its period of dominance in the 1970s.

He played 46 times and scored 14 goals for the Dutch team known for its slick, position-swapping “total football.”

But he will always be best remembered for the goal he didn’t quite score in the 1978 World Cup final.

With the scores tied at 1-1 between the Netherlands and host Argentina and the seconds ticking away in injury time of the final in Buenos Aires, Rensenbrink’s shot hit the post. The match went to extra time and Argentina scored twice to win 3-1.

It was the second straight World Cup final defeat for the Netherlands, which has appeared in three finals and lost them all.

Rensenbrink was diagnosed with a muscle disease in 2012 and died as a result of the illness, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Anderlecht said he died Friday night.

“Thanks for everything Robbie!” the Belgian club wrote on its website. “We will never forget you.”

Serie A roundup: Ilicic powers Atalanta in historic win over Torino (video)

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Atalanta’s historic and overpowering win over Torino highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Torino 0-7 Atalanta

Josip Ilicic scored a hat-trick, including a center-line strike, as Atalanta humiliated Torino 7-0 on Saturday, handing the hosts their worst home loss ever in Serie A play.

With only nine men on the field towards the end of the match for Turin-based side, Atalanta were able to capitalize, elevating their goal count to 57 goals in 21 games this season. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, who are back in Champions League contention, lead the league in goals.

Robin Gosens and Duvan Zapata, who scored a minute before the break, added to Ilicic’s first of three. A three-goal advantage after the first 45 minutes foreshadowed what Torino was going to encounter in the second half: more goals.

Eight minutes into the final 45 minutes of Saturday’s bout at the Olimpico di Torino, Ilicic quick-fired two more past an exposed Salvatore Sirigu.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Luis Muriel took the field for the visitors. And just six minutes after his first foot on the natural surface, the Colombian striker had a brace to his name.

“All we can do is apologize,” Torino coach Walter Mazzarri said. “In so many years of my career I had never had such a game.”

In fourth place with 38 points, Atalanta look to increase their seven-goal performances this season to three as they host struggling Genoa in a weeks time. Torino, on the other hand, meet AC Milan on Tuesday in the quarterfinal’s of the Coppa Italia.


SPAL 1-3 Bologna

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa