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Christian Pulisic suffers torn calf muscle, Dortmund announces

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While USMNT fans were celebrating 20-year-old Weston McKennie’s 88th minute winner for Schalke, there was some bad news that came across the wire as well.

Borussia Dortmund announced that fellow 20-year-old American Christian Pulisic would miss Wednesday’s Champions League match against AS Monaco due to “torn calf fibers,” which is almost surely as bad as it sounds.

There’s no word (medical specifics, timetable for return, etc) other than that brief and relatively vague diagnosis, but it can be safely assumed that Pulisic will probably miss one or two weeks at the very least, and potentially more. That would almost certainly mean Pulisic will be sidelined for USMNT matches this upcoming international window against Colombia and Peru, and depending on the severity, it could also leave him in jeopardy for the matches in mid-November against England and Italy. Pulisic was a part of Dave Sarachan’s squad announced on Monday.

It was not announced where or when the injury was sustained, meaning it was more than likely suffered during training. Pulisic was withdrawn in the 68th minute of Dortmund’s 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, but by all accounts that switch appeared to be tactical and not injury related.

It’s been a tough last few months for Pulisic health-wise. It was clear to the casual observer that Pulisic had run out of steam in the second half of last season with Dortmund, falling in production and creativity. He used the summer to rest with the United States missing out on the World Cup, but has had a number of injuries to deal with so far this young season. He missed a pair of Bundesliga matches in early September due to “muscular problems” which were not specified, which left him sidelined for the September international break as well.

He did manage to come back on September 18th and score the game’s only goal in a 1-0 Champions League win over Club Brugge, and then bagged Dortmund’s score in a 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hoffenheim four days later.

Follow Live: Africa Cup of Nations – Group play reaches round 2

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The first round of group stage matches is complete and now the slate reracks for teams to truly take control of their Africa Cup of Nations destiny.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

Host nation Egypt takes the field for a second time as they meet Democratic Republic of Congo in the late match in Cairo, while Nigeria has the chance to secure advancement as they play Guinea, and Uganda can push Zimbabwe to the brink of elimination.

Egypt and Uganda can each secure passage to the knockout stage through Group A if both should win, while a loss for either side would complicate matters.The host nation will be looking for a better attacking display after Mohamed Salah was isolated in the narrow opening round win over Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Congo DR likely did not expect to be facing elimination this early, with a team that sports West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku, former Premier League midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, and Porto’s Chancel Mbemba.

In Group B, Nigeria can secure passage to the knockout phase with a win. The clear dominant side in a collection of countries that includes Guinea, Madagascar, and Burundi, Nigeria looked sluggish in its opener and will require a more complete attacking display to convince supporters they can challenge for the Cup.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Wednesday, June 26

Group A
Uganda v. Zimbabwe – 1 p.m. ET
Egypt v. Congo DR – 4 p.m. ET

Group B
Nigeria v. Guinea – 10:30 a.m. ET

FIFA defends refereeing, VAR criticism in press conference

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FIFA held its usual mid-tournament press conference a the 2019 Women’s World Cup to address the current state of refereeing at the event, and was on the defensive for much of the time due to recent criticism of decisions, laws, and technology.

Chairman of FIFA’s Refereeing Committee Pierluigi Collina was the main speaker, coming out with multiple defenses for incidents that have occurred in the tournament so far. The biggest topics of discussion were VAR use, goalkeeper actions on penalties, and new laws of the game. Instead of highlighting any mistakes that may have been made, Collina spent much of the time – complete with prepared visuals – defending decisions made that have drawn heavy fire.

First, Collina spent time saying how pleased he has been with the implementation of new laws that went into effect at the start of June. He said that in preparation for the changes in the laws of the game, teams were notified as early as December of last year about potential upcoming changes, and were given the ability to play with the new laws in friendlies starting in March to prepare for official changes starting in June. He then told reporters that FIFA sent officials to each team’s delegation upon arrival in France to get feedback and work through any questions the federations may have about new laws, which were apparently well received.

“I have to say that on none of these occasions we received any complaints, any questions…these changes were very well accepted as well as very well accepted in the competitions,” Collina said.

He then addressed the concerns of many, starting with goalkeeper encroachment on penalties, which has been a huge talking point in the Women’s World Cup. Collina’s general point was that the law has actually been relaxed, but technology allows referees to enforce the rule to a far greater extent than in the past, which makes for some jarring moments at first.

“The only issue has concerned penalty kicks, and honestly we have been a bit surprised,” Collina admitted of the criticism.

Collina then went on to verbalize about how fans must get used to the black and white nature of VAR which will give referees the ability to enforce rules such as offside or encroachment to a T, much like goal line technology helps decide whether a goal is in or not.

“If we have a tool that can show clearly without any doubt that there is an offside position and a goal is scored by the player who was in an offside position, it doesn’t matter if it was two centimeters or 20 meters. There is not a small or a big offside, there is an offside. We have a technology which was well received by the entire world which is goal line technology which allows us to see if the ball crossed the line by 0.5 centimeters, so if the ball is over the line by 0.5 centimeters, it is a goal. There is not a big goal or a small goal, it is a goal, it is a fact. If a foul is committed five centimeters outside the penalty area, it is a free kick. If it is five centimeters inside the penalty area, it is a penalty kick, there is no room for any discussion, we have to enforce what is written in the laws of the game. If a goalkeeper moves both feet off the goal line before the penalty kick is taken, we have no choice but to order the penalty kick to be retaken. I repeat, it is not a matter of a small encroachment or big encroachment, it is a matter of encroachment, and this is what we can do by using technology.”

He also then explained that while VAR can be used to enforce goalkeeper encroachment, the only time players will be called for encroachment into the penalty area on the opposite end is when an encroaching player is directly involved in a subsequent play should the goalkeeper keep the ball out. Otherwise, they are at the referee’s discretion and replay review does not come into play.

Finally, Collina made sure to explain that the Women’s World Cup was not considered an “experiment” for new laws, although he did not address the concept that the tournament has been made out to be an experiment for VAR.

“We didn’t consider the Women’s World Cup – which is our flagship tournament in 2019 as a World Cup – we cannot consider this competition as an experiment. I want only to remind you that the new version of the laws of the game have been implemented in Poland U-20 World Cup for the men, has been implemented in the Copa America, has been implemented in AFCON, and also here. So simply, they are implemented in all the competitions.”

Probably the most awkward moment of the press conference was as Collina gave statistics on the tournament so far, a graphic showed how the current tournament has produced 23 penalties to this point in the competition, already one more than the entire 2015 tournament. Collina seemed surprised to see this statistic and offered no explanation for the drastic increase, instead moving on quickly to his next slide.

Still, it must be noted that in a broad sense, Collina is right in his idea that at the end of the day, officials must enforce rules as black & white and, unless exceptions are officially logged in the future, hold players to the rules that are written. Referees are only able to enforce what is written, and for the most part the problems in the World Cup have not been with the use of technology, but rather the rules they enforce that need editing to accommodate the new availability of replay review.

You can watch the full press conference by clicking here.

Winger expelled from Egypt national team for sexual harassment

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According to an official release from the Egyptian national team, 25-year-old winger Amr Warda was booted from the Africa Cup of Nations national team squad for disciplinary reasons. The national team is unable to replace him and will continue with a partial 22-player squad.

Egypt is hosting the tournament and is set to take on the Democratic Republic of Congo this evening in their second match, having topped Zimbabwe 1-0 in their opener. Warda earned his 29th cap in that match, coming off the bench to play for 19 minutes.

While the release did not specify the disciplinary reasons for Warda’s dismissal from the squad, officially deeming his removal from the squad for “unsporting behavior,” he was exposed after a host of women came forward with screenshots and other evidence of harassment after they rejected his advances via social media and text message. Warda eventually deactivated his Instagram account after the claims gained steam.

“Amr Warda is banned from the national squad after discussions with the team’s technical and administrative bodies,” the official statement wrote. “This is to maintain the discipline and focus of the team.”

The first to come forward was Egyptian-British model Merhan Keller who also named Egyptian internationals Ahmed Hassan Mahgoub and Mahmoud Hamdi in her accusations.

This is not the first time Warda has seen his football career affected by sexual harassment discipline. He saw a loan to Portuguese club Feirense in 2017 terminated after he was accused of sexually harassing the wives of his teammates.

Reports: Man United nears Wan-Bissaka deal as fee agreed with Palace

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According to widespread reports, including the BBC, Sky Sports, and ESPNFC, Manchester United and Crystal Palace have neared completion of a deal for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and the player is set to complete a medical and finalize a move worth $57 million with another $6.3 million of add-ons.

The 21-year-old Wan-Bissaka will reportedly sign a five-year contract with an option for a sixth year, leaving him under Manchester United control until he is in his prime at 27 years old. He will reportedly undergo a medical within the next 24 hours and become the second Manchester United signing of the summer after Daniel James of Swansea put pen to paper two weeks ago.

According to reports, Wan-Bissaka’s wages will explode at Manchester United, set to earn $5.3 million a year. The increase is significant after coming from Crystal Palace where he was the lowest earning first-team player making under $700,000 a year.

The deal took significant time to complete, with Crystal Palace rejecting a pair of Manchester United bids worth $44 million and $51 million. Palace was most concerned with the amount of deferred and add-on payments, wanting more up front which Manchester United executive Ed Woodward eventually conceded to.

Wan-Bissaka, a Crystal Palace youth product, was a workhorse for the club last season, starting all but three Premier League matches and completing the full 90 minutes in all but one of those starts. The youngster joins a Manchester United squad thin at full-back, with just Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot, Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah at the position.

The 21-year-old was on duty with the England youth squad at the U-21 Euros, but made a mistake in the opening match, scoring an own-goal that led to a late 2-1 defeat to France. He was then sat for the next two matches by head coach Andy Boothroyd, who admitted his decision to bench the youngster partially had to do with the transfer. “For a young player who all he knows is Crystal Palace academy and Crystal Palace it would be daft not to say that in some way he must think about it,” Boothroyd said after England’s early exit from the tournament in the group stage. “When that speculation is flying around it is bound to turn your head. But having said all of that had he not scored the own goal we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.”