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U.S. players with most to gain in Portugal

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Attaching significant weight to the first friendly after a generation-punching defeat is a bit tricky, but the United States men’s national team Tuesday friendly against Portugal is an opportunity to bring some light to a dour fan base.

Not to mention the federation could use a fine “all’s not lost” 90 minutes or so following the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

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For some players, it’s a last chance to make an improved impression on not Big Sam, not Big Sam, not Big Sam whoever might be thinking of leading this team in the future. For others, it’s an opportunity to state their claims to spot in the future while also getting some rare run in Europe, where scouts will certainly be checking out the brightest young Portuguese prospects as well.

Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town) — The 28-year-old center mid is getting regular run in the Premier League, and was criminally overlooked by Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann. While we can debate the merits of each staff’s wedding to Michael Bradley in the center of the park, there won’t be too much room for veterans in the young and promising center midfield pack moving forward.

And, in case you forgot, he’s not just a nasty tackling man:

The goalkeeper(s) — Bill Hamid (27 later this month) is the oldest of the bunch, but whoever earns the start for Dave Sarachan’s men has a chance and the opponent to demand a place in the team moving forward. While this could be the trio for some time aside from a Tim Howard testimonial or Brad Guzan renaissance, here’s a first chance to lay claim to the top spot.

Kelyn Rowe — Rowe had an outstanding Gold Cup, and Arena rewarded him by keeping him nowhere near the squad for the rest of his second tenure as USMNT bench boss. It’s not apple to apple, Rowe gets a look over Nagbe here, and has proven over time to be better at crossing and is dispossessed less. The diminutive 25-year-old is also one of the good guys off the field, and worthy of the chance.

Juan Agudelo — Rowe’s New England teammate is still just 24, but has wasted so many chances to become a big part of the USMNT. Sixteen of his 26 caps came before he turned 20. Here’s his timeline with the USMNT:

Nov. 2010 – Oct. 2011 — 16 caps, 2 goals, assist
Nov. 2011 – Oct. 2012 — No caps
Nov. 2012 – Jan. 2013 – 2 caps, 53 minutes, assist
Feb. 2013 – March 2015 – 1 cap, five minutes
April 2015 – June 2015 – 2 caps, assist
July 2015 – Oct. 2016 – No caps
Oct. 2016 – Feb. 2017 – 3 caps
March 2017 – June 2017 – No caps
July 2017 – Sept. 2017 – 3 caps
Sept. 2017 – present – No caps

At some point, the caps stop coming.

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.”

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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 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.

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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.