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The stages of Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal

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Initially there was intrigue. Then there was admiration. Next came pity, followed by anger and protest.

It has been a roller-coaster of emotions during the 21-year tenure of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, which will continue after the Frenchman signed a contract extension for two more years on Wednesday.

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A look at the various stages of Wenger’s reign:

“Arsene Who?” read the headline across a London newspaper when Wenger, a wiry, bespectacled and relatively unknown French coach was hired by Arsenal in September 1996.

Within two years, it was clear the club had pulled off a coup.

That’s all it took for Wenger to turn Arsenal around – its players’ drinking culture, their dietary habits and the team’s style of play – and lead the club to a Premier League-FA Cup double in 1998 at the end of his first full season in charge. He was the first foreign-born manager to achieve the double.

Helped by his knowledge of the French league, Wenger quickly began constructing a formidable side: Patrick Vieira had already joined in the months before Wenger’s arrival; Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka joined ahead of the 1998-99 season; Thierry Henry replaced Anelka in 1999. By 2001, he was building the team that would become known as the “Invincibles” – one that went through the 2003-04 league season unbeaten.

Arsenal recovered from losing the UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray in 2000 and the FA Cup final to Liverpool in 2001 by winning another league-cup double in 2002.

The “Invincibles” season would define his reign, with Arsenal winning 26 games and drawing the other 12 as the likes of Henry, Vieira, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Sol Campbell excelled. Wenger’s swashbuckling, slick side was awarded a special gold version of the league trophy in recognition.

[ MORE: Two more years — Wenger signs new contract ]

Arsenal then won the FA Cup in 2005 after a penalty shootout against Manchester United. Few could have imagined that would be the club’s last major trophy for nine years.

Although Arsenal reached the Champions League final the following season, losing to Barcelona after taking an early lead in Paris, a fourth-place finish in the league – the first time Wenger had finished outside the top two in a full season – was a sign of things to come.

Arsenal left its Highbury home of 93 years and relocated to nearby Emirates Stadium in 2006. Suddenly the priority was financing the new 60,000-seat stadium over strengthening the playing squad.

Vieira had already left in 2005, Henry and David Dein – who was both the vice chairman and a trusted ally of Wenger in the boardroom – departed in 2007, and Arsenal veered toward bringing through youth players and cheaper signings.

There was a gradual loss of leadership at the club, on and off the field, and it began to show in results.

Between 2007-13, Arsenal finished either third or fourth in the Premier League and rarely had a shot at the title. The team blew a five-point lead in February in the 2007-08 season and imploded in the last months of the 2010-11 season when in contention for four trophies, including losing to Birmingham in the English League Cup final.

Wenger couldn’t afford to keep hold of his star players. In 2011, Cesc Fabregas was sold to Barcelona, and Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy joined Manchester City. Top scorer Robin Van Persie moved to Manchester United in 2012, leading his new team to the league title the following season.

[ MORE: Huddersfield win promotion, complete 2017-18 PL field ]

Aspirations lowered at the Emirates. By 2012 and with Arsenal struggling to win titles, Wenger was saying that finishing in the top four – and therefore qualifying for the Champions League – was comparable to winning a trophy.

By 2013, Arsenal’s title drought extended to eight years and Wenger would soon be labeled a “specialist in failure” by managerial rival Jose Mourinho. Fueled by cash from their Russian and Abu Dhabi owners, Chelsea and Manchester City had sprinted past Arsenal and changed the financial landscape of the Premier League – much to the chagrin of the more conservative Wenger.

“I accept one basic principle for every company,” Wenger said, “that you can spend the money you make.”

No longer hamstrung by stadium debts, Wenger could finally start spending again. Off came the financial straitjacket and in came two stars of the Spanish league, playmaker Mesut Ozil for a club-record 42.4 million pounds (then $66 million) in 2013 and forward Alexis Sanchez for 35 million pounds (then $60 million) in 2014.

Arsenal continued to secure Champions League qualification each season and the team ended its wait for a trophy by winning the FA Cup in 2014 – but only after a penalty-shootout win over second-tier club Wigan in the semifinals and the need for extra time to beat Hull 3-2 in the final. There were reports that Wenger might have quit if Arsenal had lost the final; instead he signed a new three-year deal.

[ MORE: Slaven Bilic confirms he’ll return to West Ham next season ]

By now, though, there was a small but loud contingent of fans that was growing tired with Wenger. The embarrassing losses started to build up, including in the 2013-14 season a 5-1 loss at Liverpool and 6-0 loss at Chelsea in his 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal.

Arsenal retained the FA Cup in 2015, taking Wenger’s haul of titles in that competition to six, but it couldn’t hide the team’s failure to challenge for the Premier League or Champions League. Arsenal’s limitations in the Champions League were particularly galling, with Wenger unable to lead his side beyond the last 16 from 2011-17.

Wenger acknowledged that he missed a great chance to win a first Premier League title since 2004 when Arsenal finished second behind surprise champion Leicester in the 2015-16 season.

Fan unrest was at its worst the following season as the Gunners slipped from league contention by February and were routed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Arsenal ended up finishing fifth in the Premier League and missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in a full season under Wenger, although a strong finish to the campaign saw the team beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final. It was a record seventh FA Cup triumph for Wenger, and – following a board meeting three days later – he signed up for two more years.

U.S. Open Cup: Goals a-plenty as Atlanta, Minnesota advance

Frank de Boer justin Meram Atlanta United
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The first two quarterfinal berths in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup were earned Tuesday with 3-2 away wins.

Columbus Crew 2-3 Atlanta United

A pair of goals from Brandon Vazquez helped Atlanta United overcome both the Columbus Crew and a 48-minute weather delay.

Miles Robinson also scored for Atlanta, while David Accam bagged a goal for the hosts.

A 71st minute Brad Guzan own goal set up a nervy final 20 minutes for the Five Stripes, but they navigated the obstacles and emerged into the quarterfinals

Atlanta will play the winner of FC Cincinnati and Saint Louis FC.

Houston Dynamo 2-3 Minnesota United

The Houston Dynamo thought they were cruising to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, and instead just waltzed right out of the tournament.

Up 2-0 at home and at halftime, the Dynamo conceded three times in the final 24 minutes to bow out of the USOC.

The victor, who deserves full marks, is Minnesota United. Darwin Quintero struck twice and Mason Toye scored in the 89th minute as the Loons advanced to play the winner of New Mexico United and FC Dallas. No Texas Derby in the cup this year.

Berhalter names first USMNT Starting XI for Gold Cup

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Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Michael Bradley all start as the United States men’s national team will look a bit more like its best for Tuesday’s Gold Cup opener against Guyana.

The 10 p.m. ET kickoff in Minnesota will see the Yanks without injured Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, and Sebastian Lletget, but Jozy Altidore has been relegated to the bench — perhaps not fully fit — behind Gyasi Zardes.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores, stats, lineups ]

The back line will see Nick Lima, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, and Tim Ream, while Bradley, McKennie work atop them.

Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd will be out wide, with Christian Pulisic central underneath Zardes.

The substitutes are Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller, Omar Gonzalez, Wil Trapp, Jordan Morris, Reggie Cannon, Cristian Roldan, Daniel Lovitz, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Lewis, Matt Miazga, Djordje Mihailovic.

[ MORE: Mata staying with Man Utd ]

Chinese club reportedly offers $15M contract to Newcastle’s Benitez

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It would be peak Newcastle United of recent seasons to lose their coach to a squabble over the sort of players the manager wants to sign.

Rafa Benitez‘s contract expires at the end of this month, and he makes decent money at St. James’ Park, but his $6 million pales in comparison the money being offered by a Chinese Super League club.

[ MORE: Mata staying with Man Utd ]

Benitez wants to stay at Newcastle, but his concerns aren’t about his wages as much as being allowed to build a contender under stingy owner Mike Ashley. With the team possibly getting a takeover, Benitez is not guaranteed the chance to improve his roster. Not to mention Newcastle operates under club-wide restrictions.

Sky Sports says, “the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Valencia boss wants to be given the green light to sign players over the age of 26, which has been against club policy in previous years.”

Sky Sports reports that Benitez is mulling a $15 million offer from Dalian Yifang, the CSL team currently sitting in 11th place under former South Korea national team manager Kang-hee Choi.

Dalian Yifang currently employs transfer rumor mainstay Yannick Carrasco, as well as Marek Hamsik and young Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Boateng.

If Newcastle allows Benitez to leave and the takeover is not completed, it would be the most embarrassing thing for the club since Joe Kinnear couldn’t pronounce half of his players’ names. That’s saying something.

Gold Cup LIVE – USMNT meets Guyana after Panama, T&T tangle

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Gregg Berhalter’s shaky USMNT welcomes several of its star players into the fold when it kicks off its 2019 Gold Cup campaign against Guyana on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

The match comes 2.5 hours after one between the two sides which conspired to keep the Yanks out of the 2018 World Cup.

While the USMNT played the biggest role in that monumental failure, Trinidad and Tobago is the team that beat the Yanks in Couva on the same night that Panama scored a ghost goal to push the U.S. into fifth in the Hex.

Guyana has lost to Haiti, Bermuda, and French Guiana in the last eight months, and it would be stunning if the U.S. didn’t post a generous amount of goals on the scoreboard even after miserable efforts against Jamaica’s B team and Venezuela.

Panama and T&T, on the other hand, should be a beauty, with Los Canaleros getting a bit older in the tooth and the Soca Warriors maturing a bit as a side.

Panama and T&T kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the USMNT expected to kickoff with Guyana a little after 10 p.m.