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Hasenhuttl: Saints’ philosophy ‘perfect fit’

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SOUTHAMPTON — Ralph Hasenhuttl has a way with words and he is determined to turn Southampton’s fortunes around.

But he knows it will not be easy.

“If you want guarantees you have to buy a washing machine! In football there are no guarantees…” Hasenhuttl said, smiling.

He faced the media for the first time in England on Thursday and dazzled fans with his quick wit and amiable nature. The Austrian will need plenty of that in the weeks and months to come, but the mood at Southampton’s Staplewood training center seemed upbeat just 24 hours after his arrival was confirmed.

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Hasenhuttl, 51, has a huge task on his hands to drag Southampton up the Premier League table, out of the relegation zone and to give the entire club a new vision for the future.

The Premier League’s first-ever Austrian head coach said he is aligned with Saints’ overall plan to develop young talent and to punch above their weight against the PL’s big boys, and Hasenhuttl knows his first task is to drag them out of the drop zone.

“The history and the philosophy of this team fits nearly perfect to my philosophy of how to work in football,” Hasenhuttl explained. “So it was a good decision for me and I’m sure it is a good one.”

Known as a proactive coach who prefers a 4-2-2-2 formation, Hasenhuttl was nicknamed ‘The Klopp of the Alps’ in Germany during his time at Ingolstadt and RB Leipzig.

He brushed off those comparisons but there are many similarities in terms of their demeanor and intense nature. Hasenhuttl also revealed he and Klopp learned together when getting their coaching badges in Germany, and he made fun of Liverpool’s German coach for saying his name translated to nothing.

“His German is not very good because his English is maybe better than his German now!” Hasenhuttl smiled. “I was laughing about his explaining of my name and it’s hard to pronounce for you.”

In case you were wondering, Hasenhuttl loosely translates to “small rabbit house” in English.

Like Klopp, Hasenhuttl demands high levels of fitness and high-pressing from his team and when asked if he would be bringing in plenty of new players in January, he preferred to challenge his current squad to stick around.

If they are up to it.

“We just had a look at the players we have now. I want to bring them to their limits,” Hasenhuttl said. “I don’t know where there limits are and if they like to go this way with us they are invited to and when they follow us it will be an intensive, hard working way. When everyone is pushing his limits to a higher level, then we can see how far it will get us. When someone says ‘it is it too much running for or too much work for me’ they will fall very quickly beside us. That’s how I want to work until January and then we have a look.”

The group of players he has at Southampton have just one win from their first 15 games of the season.

Ahead of his first game in charge against Cardiff City on Saturday (Watch live 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), Hasenhuttl admitted with a lack of training days ahead it will be tough for him to turn things around quickly.

Saints have six games in just over three weeks, with matches against Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea among them during the busy festive period.

Despite those fixtures, Hasenhuttl expects his name to be known across the globe very quickly indeed.

Fed up of walking around the Alps in his native Austria after leaving Leipzig at the end of last season, he’s now back to business.

“It is a big challenge for me but it is the next step in my career. It is my goal to get my name known here in the Premier League,” Hasenhuttl said. “I had a few successful years in Germany and when I left Leipzig in the summer I was thinking about my next step and I wanted to stand in front of a new team, with a new language to get developed personally and also in my view of football. That’s the reason I made this decision to come here, to come to Southampton. I had very good meetings with Ralph Krueger [Saints chairman], so for me it was relatively clear that I can help him in the situation the club is in at the moment.”

Drifting along over the past two years under four different managers, Saints have gone from being one of the best-run clubs in Europe to one that barely survived relegation last season and no longer has a clear playing identity or direction.

Hasenhuttl has been tasked with changing all of that as quickly as he can and he is not afraid about the daunting task ahead.

“It is tough with our schedule over Christmas. I am not frightened about it but the problem is we have a lot of games in the coming days,” Hasenhuttl said. “If you know me, I work on training sessions and habits and if you don’t have the chance to train it is not easy to change things in the team. We have just one training sessions tomorrow evening before the game. We will pay attention not to overload. My goal is to develop them [the players] as quick as possible but we have to pay attention.”

The Austrian has already held meetings with several different departments of the club ahead of meeting the players with his first training session on Thursday, as he got across his plan on how the club can succeed in the short and long-term.

Among soccer purists, Hasenhuttl back in the game is big news.

Austrian TV crews traveled to the suburbs of Southampton for the press conference and news outlets from across the UK were present as the hype around his appointment was clear. Promotions with upstart clubs, upsetting the odds and saving teams from relegation is the thing he seems to succeed at most.

“I want to put my footsteps in the snow here,” Hasenhuttl said, obviously not realizing he’s more likely to step in puddles in England. “I did it in the other clubs before and often had similar situations as we have at the moment and it’s back to the roots for me. Last year was maybe easier because I had a Champions League team and we were on a very high level with physical and tactical things. This step is not the easiest one but I never want easy in my life. I am always challenging myself. I am looking forward and I am not afraid of anything.”

Hasenhuttl delivered another witty line which suggests Southampton aren’t out of rocky waters just yet.

Asked what his first thought was after being approached by Southampton, Hasenhuttl referred to England’s South Coast city being where the Titanic set off on her ill-fated maiden voyage.  

“I was thinking about the Titanic leaving here, and I hope I don’t hit the first iceberg waiting for me,” Hasenhuttl said. 

Reyna, Busio headline U.S. U-17 squad for CONCACAF Championships

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Two of the top teen-aged talents the U.S. has ever produced will be wearing the red, white, and blue next month at the 2019 CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s Championship.

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Raphael Wicky announced his 20-man squad for the upcoming tournament, set to take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It’s a small irony, as this is the first year without the residency program that was housed on the IMG Academy property.

The U.S. squad is led by Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio and the son of USMNT legend, Claudio Reyna, Giovanni, who is reportedly set to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy officially in the coming months. Also included in this squad is FC Dallas youngster Ricardo Pepi, who already has four goals in USL League One this season. Another forward, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is coming into the camp in red-hot form, having scored a hat-trick and helped lead his Seattle Sounders to the GA Cup title.

Griffin Yow just made his full D.C. United debut, and Las, just 17, has already reportedly attracted attention from Europe.

Here’s a look at the U.S. roster.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.; 13/0), 12-Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alta.; 4/0)
DEFENDERS (7): 4-Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 14/0), 3-Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 11/0), 13-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), 14-Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 10/0), 5-Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 14/1), 2-Joseph Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 14/1), 15-John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 7-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greensboro, N.C.; 7/2), 20-Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.; 13/0), 8-Bryang Kayo (D.C. United; Poolesville, Md.; 0/0), 6-Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.; 0/0), 16-Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 17/1)
FORWARDS (6): 18-Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.; 0/0), 17-Tyler Freeman (Sporting Kansas City; Shawnee, Kan.; 3/1), 19-Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance; Kent, Wash.; 14/5), 9-Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC; McKinney, Texas; 6/1), 10-Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 8/1), 11-Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 6/3)

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man City preparing $79 million bid this summer; Bale to leave Real Madrid

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Pep Guardiola has identified the successor to Fernandinho, and he’s convinced Manchester City to break the bank to acquire him.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Per a report in The Telegraph, Manchester City is preparing a transfer bid of nearly $79 million to sign Atletico Madrid central midfielder Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, better known as Rodri. In his first season in Madrid, the 22-year-old has made 28 La Liga starts along with six in the UEFA Champions League, anchoring the second-place Atletico Madrid midfield.

In addition to his defensive duties, he’s also scored a pair of goals this season.

If true, Rodri’s transfer will break Man City’s previous record when it signed Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for almost $78 million.

Fernandinho continues to be a world class holding midfielder, but coming up on 34-years old, he’s surely coming up on time when he won’t be able to cover as much ground as he used to. With Rodri in tow, Fernandinho can slowly take a reserve role in the team, or move to another club for one last big contract.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe:

(more…)

USMNT’s Brooks scores equalizer for Wolfsburg

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John Brooks is enjoying a career year for Wolfsburg, and he just added another highlight to his strong season.

Brooks, running up in the attack in a rare foray forward, tapped home into an empty net to save Wolfsburg a point at home in its 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. It was Brooks’ third goal of the season and second in the last two months.

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The U.S. Men’s National Team centerback has played and started 29 times this season for Wolfsburg, the most games he’s ever played in a single season in Germany’s top tier. Brooks started alongside Aaron Long in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador in Orlando in late March, and could play a key role for the USMNT this summer at the Gold Cup, unless coach Gregg Berhalter decides to let him rest this summer.

Season over: Hudson-Odoi suffers suspected Achilles tear

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One incident on Monday showed why some players are so desperate to change clubs when given the chance. They may never get it again.

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Callum Hudson-Odoi said on his Instagram post Monday evening that he had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. If confirmed by the club, it’s usually a nine-month recovery process, with some players needing a full year to return to full fitness. Considering the timing of this, towards the end of the season, it means that Hudson-Odoi may miss an entire season of top-flight soccer, as well as possibly miss out on a chance to move to Bayern Munich this summer.

The injury is a huge blow to the 18-year-old, who had forced his way into the Chelsea side after strong performances in the UEFA Europa League, and now he’s making regular Premier League starts at the tender age of 18. Hudson-Odoi had started four-straight Premier League games including Monday, but now he faces a long layoff.

In Hudson-Odoi’s favor is his youth. While it can be a career-ending injury, hopefully Hudson-Odoi could retain his electric pace once he recovers and can return to the starting lineup for Chelsea.

But it’s a big disappointment to the young Englishman, who surely would have played for England youth national teams this summer and could have potentially made a big-money move abroad.