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USMNT, Columbus keeper Steffen stays ready amid transfer rumors

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Zack Steffen wasn’t going to tip his hand, but the 2018 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year knows you’re reading all the reports of him transferring from the Columbus Crew to Manchester City and he’s just getting used to it, too.

“It’s definitely been a process I’m not really used to, but a flattering feeling,” Steffen told ProSoccerTalk on behalf of Allstate’s awarding of $20,000 in scholarships to college-bound players.

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“Whatever happens I have my family, friends and close people pushing me and will always be there. It’s great to get attention and the feeling of being wanted, but you’ve gotta keep a level head and keep working hard to be the best you can be each day.”

That’s something he’s learned the right way, from being a rising youth national team prospect to a star at the University of Maryland, and then a goalkeeper coming home to reclaim his star in MLS following a tough stint at Freiburg in Germany.

So, yeah, he feels ready for whatever is next.

“Germany definitely gave me a little teaser of what Europe is like and how the whole process goes and what soccer is like over there,” said Steffen, who is reported to have passed his Manchester City medical and signed a contract with the Premier League champions.

“I definitely use it to prepare for different situations when they are thrown at me and I’ll continue to do that.”

Steffen saves a Philippe Coutinho chance (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

For everything new that may be coming his way, Steffen is going to have plenty of the familiar when he’s called into USMNT camp in January. The new U.S. boss is his longtime Crew coach Gregg Berhalter, and Steffen could hardly be happier with U.S. Soccer’s decision.

“He’s the guy in charge,” Steffen said. “He knows Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, Plan E. He’s ready for whatever comes his way. He’s demanding and the right man for the job.”

If anything, there may be more stability in Steffen’s professional life despite a probable move abroad. He knows his national team coach, and there’s neither a chance the USMNT is moving nor a likelihood that any European club owner will threaten to move his team 1200 miles.

“It’s impossible not to think about and not to see the Tweets and the comments on Instagram, and hear about it when you’re out just talking to locals,” Steffen said. “It’s been a crazy year and a half in Columbus but we were lucky enough to have Gregg and a great coaching staff that kept us focused on the big picture and that was football, soccer. The fans were great and we wanted to play for them and not just ourselves. We had extra motivation to bring him wins and bring home playoff games.”

Steffen kept 10 clean sheets in 29 appearances for Columbus this season, then helping the Crew beat DC United in penalties before falling to the Red Bulls over two legs.

The season allowed him to take home the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award over several other outstanding players — Steffen names Alex Bono and Bill Hamid as his top backstops in MLS — and help some aspiring pros pay for college via Allstate’s $20,000 in scholarships.

“That goes such a long a way,” Steffen said. “I wasn’t aware of this community award that I could give out, and it’s a very humbling feeling because I was once in their shoes.”

Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup

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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.

Man arrested after English soccer player reports homophobia

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TRANMERE, England — A footballer in England’s third tier reported being subjected to homophobic abuse from the stands, leading to police making one arrest.

Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop told the referee of the abuse at halftime of the League One soccer game at Tranmere as his team won 2-0.

Tranmere says it is very disappointed to learn of a homophobic comment made.

In a statement, Merseyside Police condemned abhorrent incidents.

Police Chief Inspector Jason Crellin added that “hate crime has no place in our communities, and not least at a showcase sporting event attended and watched by many people.”

Brazil beat Mexico to win U-17 World Cup (video)

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Brazil became Under-17 world champions for a fourth time in dramatic fashion as Lazaro Vinicius Marques’ scored a 93rd-minute winner to edge Mexico 2-1 at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

Brazil’s comeback started in the 84th minute when Kaio Jorge converted from the penalty spot, following VAR’s decision which ruled contact on the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, Gabriel Veron, inside the 18-yard box.

With Brazilian legends Ronaldo and Cafu in attendance, the host’s had the better of chances throughout the first 45 minutes. Without any luck, however, Brazil were unable to get the ball past Eduardo Garcia, instead hitting the bar on several occasions.

Then in the 66th minute, Mexico – winners of the tournament in 2005 and in 2011 – stunned the home crowd when Bronze Ball winner Eugenio Pizzoto’s cross into the box was headed into the back of the net by Bryan Alonso Gonzalez Olivan, breaking the deadlock between two sides that had met in the same game back in 2005.

What was going to be a stunning, underdog victory for El Tri, turned into a heartbreaking night for Marco “Chima” Ruiz and company.

Brazil, on the other hand, are now only one championship away from tying Nigeria’s record of five championships.