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Arena thinks US immigration debate fires up opposing players

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SAN Pedro SULA, Honduras (AP) American coach Bruce Arena thinks the divisive debate over immigration policy in the United States is firing up opposing players and fans.

[ MORE: Three key storylines for USMNT heading into Honduras match ]

“Our immigration policies are impacting people in Central America, right, and there’s probably a little bit of anger over that,” Arena said ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier at Honduras. “And then your national sport gets a chance to play the U.S. I’m sure it becomes very meaningful.”

Arena also criticized the U.S. Soccer Federation’s decision to play last week’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. While ticket priority was given to season-ticket holders of the New York Red Bulls and people affiliated with the USSF, supporters of the visitors were a sizeable portion of the sellout crowd of 26,500.

Costa Rica won 2-0, giving the U.S. two home qualifying losses in a World Cup cycle for the first time since 1957.

“It was already decided, but I don’t think we should play in a venue that’s comfortable for the visiting team,” said Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann in November. “I don’t think it made a difference in the game.”

The U.S. had lost just one home qualifier in 50 matches since 1985 before a 2-1 defeat against Mexico in November at Columbus, Ohio. Last week’s game was the first World Cup qualifier in the New York metropolitan area.

“We don’t get any luxuries of going on the road and everything is nice and comfortable and we’ve got a good fan base coming out to the game and all of that,” he said Monday. “Obviously our country is unique to other countries. We’re a melting pot and all the countries in CONCACAF, many of their countrymen make it to the United States in one capacity or other and they’ll come out and support their team. So we have to be shrewd in the venues that we select to play different countries.”

[ MORE: U.S. faces must-win trip to Honduras in World Cup qualifying ]

The last U.S. home qualifier in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region is Oct. 6 against Panama in Orlando, Florida.

“I haven’t looked into that. Am I going to find out that there’s a big Panamanian population in Orlando?” Arena said. “I would sense that Orlando is going to be very much pro-American.”

Mesut Ozil discusses critique of Turkish background

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Germany’s dismissal from the World Cup came as a shock to many, but one of its players received heavier scrutiny for off-the-field actions.

[ MORE: Whitecaps teen Alphonso Davies nearing move to Bayern ]

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil appeared in two of the three group stage matches for the Germans in Russia, however, his play was overshadowed by his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan prior to the start of the tournament.

The meeting between the two caused several German media outlets to criticize Ozil due to the heated relations between the two European nations.

Additionally, Ozil says his brand was affected as well, with various sponsors pulling their support due to the meeting with Erdogan.

The 29-year-old is of Turkish and German descent, which would have made him eligible to represent either country.

Ozil took to Twitter on Sunday to discuss how the ordeal has affected how the media and sponsorship has affected him over the last month.

Barcelona, Sevilla to play Spanish Super Cup in Morocco

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La Liga champions Barcelona will meet Sevilla in the 2018 Spanish Super Cup in Tangier, Morocco on August 12.

[ MORE: Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool spending ]

The Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) announced the decision on Sunday, as Barca looks to kick off the 2018 season against last year’s Copa Del Rey runners’ up.

Lionel Messi and Co. defeated Sevilla, 5-0, in the 2017/18 Copa Del Rey final, giving the Blaugrana a domestic double for the first time since the 2015/16 campaign.

La Liga play opens up in Spain on August 19, however, the full fixture list will be revealed on Tuesday.

Ibrahimovic: MLS is “lucky I didn’t come 10 years ago”

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a major bright spot, as expected, in his debut season in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Whitecaps teen Alphonso Davies nearing Bayern Munich transfer ]

The LA Galaxy striker recorded a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union, raising his goal tally to 12 on the year — which ranks fourth-best in the league.

At the age of 36, Ibrahimovic has shown he’s more than capable of producing as a veteran, but it raises the question: how amazing would he have been in MLS had he joined sooner?

Following the Galaxy’s win over the Union, Ibrahimovic joked with media, suggesting he could have had the entire country in his hand if he had arrived in the United States sooner.

“They’re lucky I didn’t come 10 years ago,” Ibrahimovic said, “because I would be the president today.”

Puel insists Chelsea hasn’t inquired about goalkeeper Schmeichel

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Chelsea could very be in the market for a goalkeeper over the summer, but Leicester City’s manager insists that their number one isn’t being targeted by the Blues; or at least not yet.

[ MORE: Klopp discusses Christian Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending ]

With the Blues likely set to lose Belgium international Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid, new manager Maurizio Sarri would have to look elsewhere to solidify the team’s goalkeeping situation.

One player that has drawn significant interest after a strong World Cup performance for Denmark is Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, who played a big role in the Foxes’ 2015/16 Premier League title.

Although Schmeichel would be a viable replacement for Courtois at Stamford Bridge, Leicester boss Claude Puel says Chelsea hasn’t expressed its interest to this point.

“No, there is no problem with this,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports. “There is a lot of speculation at this moment, it is normal.

“I think he [Ward] can bring more competition to the squad and more possibilities. It is a good thing to have competition between players in the squad to develop desire.

“It gives good focus and concentration.”

The Foxes recently brought in young Liverpool keeper Danny Ward, which raised further questions about the future of Schmeichel at Leicester.