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Arena aims for quick start to save USMNT World Cup hopes

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CARSON, Calif. (AP) Bruce Arena realizes he has very little time to get back into his groove with the U.S. national team. After all, two vital World Cup qualifiers are looming just two months away.

Luckily for Arena, he has done this job before. He’s also returning to work in extremely familiar surroundings.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me personally, but it’s an important time for this team,” Arena said Wednesday. “Our goal is pretty clear: We need to qualify for Russia in 2018.”

Arena convened the first training camp of his second stint in charge of the U.S. team under sunny skies at its training base south of downtown Los Angeles. The complex also is the home of the LA Galaxy, where Arena served as the coach and general manager of the MLS club for the past 8 1/2 seasons.

Arena took over for Jurgen Klinsmann in late November, accepting the task of salvaging the Americans’ World Cup qualification hopes. Two losses last year dropped the U.S. into last place in its qualifying hexagonal, albeit with eight games to go.

The transition isn’t easy, and the stakes are high. But Arena seems to be better equipped for the task than just about anybody.

“I’m having the time of my life,” Arena said with his usual sardonic tone. “I haven’t had to move. The hotel is about a five-minute drive from my house. I’ve been coming here for the last eight years. I had to move about 30 yards from my past office. So life could be worse.”

Although the U.S. players on European club teams can’t attend this camp, Arena held his first practice with 28 players, including several MLS stalwarts who couldn’t crack the Eurocentric Klinsmann’s talent pool.

Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber, FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges, the Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget and the Red Bulls’ Dax McCarty will get a look from Arena’s fresh eyes during the monthlong camp. Arena also has changed Klinsmann’s strict rules for diet and fitness, hoping to restore a team spirit that appeared to fade late in the German’s tenure.

“You can expect honesty from Bruce,” said the LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes, who broke through on the U.S. team under Klinsmann. “He’s easing us into camp, but he’s already made a terrific speech about knowing each and every player, so you don’t have to impress him. I love playing under him.”

Arena has personal history with several camp invitees. Along with Galaxy stars Zardes and Lletget, Arena previously coached DaMarcus Beasley, Nick Rimando, Chad Marshall, Jozy Altidore and captain Michael Bradley, who had a thick, lustrous head of hair when he got his U.S. break in 2006.

“I’m very excited to be back playing for Bruce,” Bradley said. “He was the one who gave me my first opportunity with the national team, and that’s something you never forget. … He’s going to create an environment where guys are going to compete, guys are going to enjoy themselves, and there’s going to be a real team and a real spirit and a real feeling that we’re all in something together. But when it’s time to work and time to compete, we’re going to do that, and I think he’s going to be very clear and tell it exactly like it is, which is very important, which is exactly what we need.”

Bradley’s father, Bob, replaced Arena as the U.S. coach after the 2006 World Cup. Bob Bradley was Arena’s assistant at the University of Virginia and with D.C. United.

“I knew Michael Bradley as a little baby, which is interesting,” Arena said with a bemused smile.

Arena is counting on Michael Bradley and fellow veteran Jermaine Jones to be leaders for the U.S. over the next few months. He also complimented Beasley, the 34-year-old veteran hoping to continue with the American team two years after announcing his international retirement.

“Obviously he’s not the same player as he was (when) playing in the 2002 World Cup,” Arena said. “But good players, guys that can think on the field, know how to compete, use their experience well, are always good to have around.”

The camp will end with friendly matches against Serbia on Jan. 29 and Jamaica on Feb. 3. The Americans face Honduras on March 24 and Panama on March 28 in World Cup qualifiers.

Copa America roundup: Uruguay tops Chile; Full knockout bracket

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Ecuador and Japan drew to allow Paraguay to sew up the final knockout round spot, sending Miguel Almiron and Co. into a match-up with Brazil.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

And Uruguay rode Edinson Cavani’s goal into the other side of the bracket, moving ahead of Chile in a tight match.

Ecuador 1-1 Japan

There was a lot to like in a match with 30-plus shots and the ultimate prize of a match-up with Brazil on Thursday in Porto Alegre.

Shoya Nakajima put the Asian side ahead a quarter-hour into the match, but Angel Mena provided an equalizer before halftime to put both sides in danger of failure to reach the knockout rounds.

Chile 0-1 Uruguay

Cavani scored for the second time this tournament as Uruguay claimed first place in Group A and a knockout round meeting with Peru.

Cavani’s deftly flicked header of a Jonathan Rodriguez pass pushed Uruguay above Chile, which had won both of its group matches and now meets Colombia on Friday.

Knockout round schedule

June 27
Brazil v. Paraguay

June 28
Venezuela v. Argentina
Colombia v. Chile

June 29
Uruguay v. Peru

July 2
Brazil/Paraguay v. Venezuela/Argentina
Colombia/Chile v. Uruguay/Peru

July 6
Third place playoff

July 7
Final

Norwich City adds Switzerland international Drmic on free transfer

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Norwich City has added a new star striker to a unit which produced 93 goals in the Championship last season.

Josip Drmic will join Swiss national teammate Timm Klose with the Canaries for the next three seasons, hoping to bring his Bundesliga and international experience to a Premier League safety campaign.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

Drmic turns 27 next month, and scored two goals in five appearances for Borussia Monchengladbach last season. He has 31 goals and seven assists in 107 Bundesliga appearances between Gladbach, Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen, and Nurnberg.

Coach Daniel Farke got 30 goals from target forward Teemu Pukki, who plays a similar role to Drmic and has plenty of top flight experience with Celtic and Schalke amongst others.

Drmic can also operate on the wing, usually left over right, and has featured in both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup. From Canaries.co.uk:

“I’m going to do everything and give 100% on the pitch. I will be ready to give everything for the club. My job is scoring but I also want to help my team and help us be successful.

“When I first came to Norwich, the first thing I noticed was how kind everybody was. It’s given me a lot of positive energy and I’m excited to see what happens.”

Between Pukki and Drmic, Norwich can have faith that its well-prepared to have an answer up top.

Canada’s Beckie: Sinclair asked if I wanted to take penalty v. Sweden

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Prolific forward Janine Beckie didn’t dodge cameras after her missed penalty helped seal Canada’s fate at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and she also explained why legendary striker Christine Sinclair wasn’t at the spot.

Beckie, 24, scored two goals in Canada’s run to the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and the Houston Dash forward and Texas Tech product has 25 goals in 57 caps.

[ MORE: Sweden tops Canada ]

The American-born Beckie was called upon to try to level the score against Sweden on Monday in the Round of 16, and took a solid effort which was parried by Hedvig Lindahl in an outstanding bit of goalkeeping.

“I’m confident in my penalty,” Beckie said. “I thought I hit it really well. I thought she made a really good save. It’s the big moments. It’s the moments that you live for. You get all the glory if it goes in, and you take the blame it feels like if you miss. That’ll stay with me for a long time.”

So why was she at the spot? Here’s Beckie on TSN, and Sinclair’s confirmation of the tale. As we expected, Lindahl’s success against Sinclair at the Algarve Cup played a role.

“Christine actually asked me if I wanted to take it. That’s a big moment for me and it’s gonna be hard for a while.”

Full marks for stepping up to both places: The penalty spot and the post-match interview.

Watch Live: Copa America — Group C finales

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We’ll know the full knockout round bracket following the conclusion of Group C play at the 2019 Copa America on Monday.

[ WATCH LIVE: Copa America play on Telemundo ]

If Chile draws or defeats Uruguay, it will meet Peru in the quarterfinals, sending Uruguay into a date with perfect Colombia.

Meanwhile Japan and Ecuador meet knowing a win is necessary to hope for any further dates in Brazil.

As it stands, Peru is one of the third-place teams to qualify for the next stage, while Paraguay needs Japan and Ecuador to draw in order to hold onto its spot.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

2019 Copa America schedule

Group C: Chile v. Uruguay – 7 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group C: Japan v. Ecuador – 7 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

Check back later for recaps and highlights.