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Final four! USA knocks off Ecuador, 2-1, to reach Copa America semis

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The U.S. national team has achieved Jurgen Klinsmann’s pre-stated goal of reaching the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | Copa America 2016 ]

Klsinamnn’s USMNT knocked off an extremely game Ecuador side in a thrilling, end-to-end, 10-man-versus-10-man thriller in front of 47,322 spectators at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., courtesy of goals scored by Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes.

It took the Stars and Stripes a bit of time to find their footing, as disaster nearly struck for the USMNT after a quarter-hour. Geoff Cameron, in a moment that stirred up memories of his costly mistake against Portugal at the 2014 World Cup. A terrible giveaway just outside the USMNT penalty area resulted in a quick and easy Ecuadorian counter-attack that should have resulted in a shot on goal.

The Yanks then went ahead on a bit of silky build-up courtesy of Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones in the 22nd minute. Wood ran at two defenders down the left side of the penalty area, held the ball up at the end line and cut it back to the top of the 18-yard box, where Jones hit a curling, first-time cross toward the penalty spot. Clint Dempsey rose above the crowd and thumped a thunderous header back across the face of goal in front of a whole bunch of Seattle Sounders supporters.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from USA 2-1 Ecuador | Player ratings ]

The USMNT’s best chance to go up 2-0 in the first half came and went in the 42nd minute, when Alejandro Bedoya latched onto a through ball from Dempsey and hit a first-time, left-footed strike toward the back post. The contact wasn’t great, though, and Alexander Dominguez made the save rather easily.

The second half began with Ecuador ringing USMNT alarm bells in the 48th minute. Enner Valencia found himself in acres of space inside the penalty area for the first time all night, but the West Ham United ace’s glancing header went wide of Brad Guzan‘s left-hand post, mercifully so.

Both teams were reduced to 10 men four minutes later, when Antonio Valencia kicked out at Bedoya, earning himself a second yellow card. Jones followed up with a hand to the face of the Manchester United wide man, and saw straight red. Bobby Wood picked up his second yellow card of the tournament a minute later, meaning he’ll be suspended for the semifinals. Bedoya did the same in the 73rd minute, meaning he’ll also be suspended.

[ MORE: Morris leads USMNT fan march to stadium before game ]

With 65 minutes gone, it was Wood and Dempsey who once again played their parts in the build-up to an USMNT goal. Wood latched onto a ball down the left flank which resulted in a cross from Matt Besler to Gyasi Zardes at the far post. Zardes headed the ball back across the penalty area to Dempsey, who went on a driving run toward the end line and hit a shot/cross to the far post for Zardes to slam home into an empty net.

Ecuador pulled a goal back in the 74th minute, taking advantage of the USMNT’s lack of an extra man defending on set pieces. Walter Ayovi played a simple free kick from the end line to Michael Arroyo at the top of the 18-yard-box, and Arroyo hit a low blazer that made its way through traffic and snuck inside Guzan’s right-hand post.

The USMNT will face the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Argentina and Venezuela (7 p.m. ET), Tuesday night (9 p.m. ET) in Houston, Tex.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: “We know what we want to do”

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.