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2017 Gold Cup: Group B Preview

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With the 2017 Gold Cup just two days away, it’s time to take a closer look at this year’s participants.

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Group B includes one of the tournament favorites, the U.S. Men’s National Team, along with Panama, Martinique and Nicaragua.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the start of the tournament:


Group B

United States

How it qualified: Automatic qualification as tournament hosts.

FIFA ranking: 23

Star player: Omar Gonzalez – While Bruce Arena is resting the European-based players and some of the veteran starters for the USMNT, Omar Gonzalez comes off a terrific season with Pachuca as well as strong performances with the USMNT in World Cup qualifying to help lead the U.S. at the 2017 Gold Cup.

One to watch: Kellyn Acosta – This may be obvious, especially after his goal against Ghana and his performance alongside Michael Bradley at Mexico in the Estadio Azteca, but Acosta has a chance to have a breakout summer with the national team and solidify his place in the starting lineup for the 2018 World Cup. Another to keep an eye on is 21-year-old centerback Matt Miazga.

Manager: Bruce Arena – Back for his second time in charge, Arena is set to test the U.S. depth in the first tournament of his second spell with U.S. Soccer.

Chance of winning group: 75% – The U.S. should easily finish in the top two of the group and if it defeats Panama in the USMNT’s opening match on June 8, the schedule sets up well for the U.S. to cruise to win the group.

Panama

How it qualified: Runners-up at the 2017 Copa Centroamericana.

FIFA ranking: 59

Star player: Anibal Godoy – The holding midfielder has been a real boost to the San Jose Earthquakes since signing in MLS in 2015. He’s scored five goals in 48 games and is difficult to play through in the center of the park.

One to watch: Ismael Diaz – The 20-year-old forward impressed European scouts enough at the 2015 Under-20 World Cup (as an 18-year-old) to earn a move to FC Porto, where he’s spent the last two seasons playing for the reserve squad. While he could be changing clubs this summer, the Gold Cup is a great opportunity for him to prove himself against top regional competition.

Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez – El Bolillo has been in charge of Panama since 2014, shortly after the nation missed out on qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Gomez has only lost two games in the past 8 months, including a pair of draws against Mexico and the U.S.

Chance of winning group: 15% – It all depends on the opener against the USMNT. If Panama can pull out an unexpected win as well as take care of business against Martinique and Nicaragua, it will win the group.

Martinique

How it qualified: Fourth place at the 2017 Caribbean Cup

FIFA ranking: Not a member of FIFA

Star player: Kévin Parsemain – The veteran striker has scored boatloads of goals for the French overseas territory, and even spent a season with the Seattle Sounders, though he missed nearly the entire campaign with a torn ACL.

One to watch: Jordy Delem – The current Seattle Sounder has looked strong and pacey down the right side of the field for the club. He spent the 2016 season with Sounders 2 before making the jump to MLS this season.

Manager: Louis Marianne. The veteran Frenchman is back in charge of Les Matinino. Fun fact. Former USMNT defender David Regis, a native of Martinique, is the general manager of the national team.

Chance of winning group: 5% – Martinique’s inexperienced squad at this level should keep them from advancing, but we’ve seen surprises before and perhaps they can stun the U.S. or Panama.

Nicaragua

How it qualified: won a two-game playoff, 4-3 on aggregate over Haiti in a battle between the fifth-place teams from the 2017 Caribbean Cup and the 2017 Copa Centroamericana.

FIFA ranking: 100

Star player:  Juan Barrera – The 28-year-old winger, who in 2015 became the first Nicaraguan-born player to sign for a European club, has had a long and illustrious career with the national team and is leading La Azul y Blanco to the Gold Cup for the first time since 2009.

One to watch: Daniel Cadena – Cadena is a Spanish-born midfielder who currently plays in Iceland and played for a time as a youngster for Real Betis.

Manager: Henry Duarte – The veteran Costa Rican has been Nicaragua manager since December 2014 and by qualifying for the 2017 Gold Cup, he’s led the nation to just its second regional tournament.

Chances of winning group: 5% – Like Martinique, Nicaragua’s overall inexperience at the international level should make for easy wins for the U.S. and Panama, but perhaps Juan Barrera and co. and produce a national moment folks will talk about for years to come.

Sports court overturns AC Milan’s ban from Europa League

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — In a legal victory over UEFA, AC Milan is back in the Europa League after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a ban imposed for overspending.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The court said Friday the punishment was “not proportionate” following a takeover completed last week, even though UEFA was right to judge Milan had broken financial monitoring rules.

The seven-time European champion had failed to approach breaking even on player transfers and wages over several seasons in which it failed to qualify for the top-tier Champions League.

UEFA was ordered to review the case and apply a “proportionate disciplinary measure,” the court said in an urgent ruling.

Milan’s reprieve was largely due to the takeover by a United States-based hedge fund which last year provided key finance to a Chinese-led purchase of the storied club.

In a statement Friday, European soccer body UEFA noted without comment that the case returns to the judging section of its club finance panel.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

The verdict was given Friday without detailed reasons from a three-judge panel, one day after a hearing at the highest court in world sports.

An urgent ruling was needed because the case affected Italy’s entry in the Europa League second qualifying round next week.

Milan’s legal win restores the club’s place in the group stage which kicks off in September. Atalanta, which placed seventh in Serie A, goes back into the qualifying rounds and plays Sarajevo in a first-leg game in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday. Fiorentina, which placed eighth last season, is now withdrawn from the Europa League.

Milan broke UEFA’s financial fair rules which monitor finances over a three-year assessment period of all clubs qualifying to enter the Champions League or Europa League.

When it was banned last month, Milan said it failed to break even on soccer-related business in the period from July 2014 to June 2017 — before its spending spree one year ago.

[ MORE: Goalkeeper Alisson completes record transfer to Liverpool ]

Milan spent nearly $250 million on new players. This was despite questions over the financial stability of the Chinese-led consortium that purchased the club from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April 2017.

The team finished sixth in Serie A, missed out on the four Italian places in the Champions League, and qualified for the Europa League.

However, the court said UEFA had not “properly assessed” some relevant points in Milan’s case, and the club’s finances improved after the takeover.

Elliott Management has promised to inject $66 million in capital.

Former owner Li Yonghong missed a deadline to repay part of a loan worth more than $350 million from the hedge fund. Elliott repossessed the holding company in Luxembourg that Li used to buy Milan.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton make $65.6 million bid for Richarlison, Mbappe, and more

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For the second-consecutive season, Everton is set to bring in another big-money signing.

On the heels of last year’s nearly $60 million deal to sign Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton looks set to sign Watford winger Richarlison for a $65.6 million transfer fee. Everton manager Marco Silva coached Richarlison when Silva was Watford manager and has been looking to reunite with the 21-year-old Brazilian.

[READ: Argentine World Cup drama]

Richarlison began his time at Watford in fine form, scoring give goals by the end of November and looking dangerous along the wings. But the goals dried up and defenders began to figure out how to mark him out of the game, neutralizing his danger.

At Everton, Richarlison is going to be expected to lift this side back into a strong position in the table, following a rough year for the club.

Here’s more transfer rumors from across the Premier League, Europe and North America:

(more…)

Roma’s American owner Palotta banned for three months by UEFA

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AS Roma owner James Pallotta has been punished by UEFA for calling the officiating “an absolute joke” after Roma were bounced by Liverpool in last year’s UEFA Champions League.

UEFA announced on Friday that Pallotta had been given a three-month ban for “improper conduct.” UEFA stated that Pallotta is banned “from carrying out his function during UEFA competition matches in which he would otherwise participate, starting from AS Roma’s first UEFA competition match of the 2018/2019 season. In particular, the official may not be in the technical area or communicate directly or indirectly with the team’s players and/or technical staff during the match and may not enter the dressing room or tunnel before or during the match.”

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pallotta made headlines around the world for his reactions in Rome, including jumping into one of the city’s many famous fountains after Roma knocked out Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals.

However, against Liverpool, Roma’s dream run came to an end, with the Reds winning 7-6 on aggregate in a wild 180 minutes of action. Pallotta, speaking after Roma was knocked out, stated it was “an absolute joke” that UEFA didn’t have video assistant refereeing, which may have helped give Roma a penalty kick on two occasions.

While Pallotta may appeal, this suspension isn’t too serious. It appears that Pallotta can still sit in the owners box and attend UEFA matches, just not be in the technical area or in the tunnel before and during the game.

Messi, Mascherano confronted Argentine coaching staff at World Cup

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After two games at the 2018 World Cup, Argentina was in serious trouble.

With an aging team that lacked world class defenders, the Albiceleste managed just a draw with Iceland while eventual World Cup finalists Croatia reminded Argentina what it used to have in midfield with a dominating 3-0 win.

The defeat put Argentina in a precarious position, needing a win on the final group stage day and some luck to go through into the knockout stage past Nigeria and Iceland. Now, a new book by Argentine journalist Ariel Senosiain could shed some light on what happened between the match against Croatia and Nigeria.

According to Senosian’s digital book, called El Mundial es Historias, Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano ordered a meeting with manager Jorge Sampaoli and his coaching staff, and it did not go down well.

“We don’t get what you say, we don’t trust you anymore and we want to have an opinion,” Messi and Mascherano are reported to have said to Sampaoli, which surprised the veteran manager. When Sampaoli asked the players what they wanted an opinion on, they responded, “everything.”

Messi was reportedly also upset with Sampaoli for the manager asking Messi who he thought should come on as a substitute during the match.

“You asked me 10 times which players you wanted me to see on and which ones I didn’t and I never gave you a name,” Messi reportedly said.

In the days following the defeat to Croatia, many reports emerged out of the Argentina camp that Messi had essentially organized a mutiny, and he was going to select the squad and tactical instructions. The team made the switch from a three-man backline to a more standard 4-4-2, and it delivered some better performances, even though Argentina’s defense was still shambolic, especially in the 4-3 defeat to France.

With 15 members of the 23-man roster over the age of 30 and no head coach, the Argentina National Team is set for a huge upheavel, and there’s not much in terms of youth players who could replace the likes of Mascherano, Banega, Otamendi and of course Messi and Sergio Aguero in the lineup.

These alleged quotes are just the beginning of what should be a messy year for Argentina, as it tries to get itself back on track, renewing its youth development and forming the next generation of Albiceleste stars.

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