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Off to a fine start, Julian Green hopes his play will do the talking

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Sometimes, when the post-match celebrations are still raging in Bavaria, you’ll find Greuther Furth midfielder Julian Green doing something he’s done since he was a kid in Florida.

Fishing.

Far from the lights of the 2.Bundesliga pitches, and surely less glamorous than orchestrating Furth’s attack from the center of the park, one of the most-fouled players in the league is worried about a different kind of tackle.

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“You have to be calm,” the USMNT midfielder told ProSoccerTalk. “I like it after games, it relaxes me. You have to have confidence but also if something doesn’t go the right way, you have to stay with it and suddenly you catch a fish. In some ways it’s a little bit like soccer. Because you always have to do the right things, or the right tackle, and then you score. Or you catch a fish.”

Green’s demeanor belies his energetic presence on the pitch. Through Furth’s 2W-2D-1L start to the season, he’s been one of their top players. The 24-year-old has a pair of goals, leads the team in shots-per-game (2.6), and is completing 83.3 percent of his passes at a high danger position.

Through five match days of the 2.Bundesliga season, he’s been fouled 2.8 times per match. It’s early, but he finished the previous two seasons as the 7th-most and 4th-most fouled players in the league. Targeted.

“Every team is watching our games like we watch their games and they know which player they have to control,” he said. “Sometimes there are 2-3 guys around me but that’s soccer. If they try to tackle me or foul me, it’s no problem. I have to be a little quicker so they can’t get me.”

More a fish than a fisherman, if we’re honest.

(Photo by Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Green has been with Furth for three seasons now, well settled after short stints at Hamburg and Stuttgart following six years as property of Bayern Munich.

He cemented his status amongst Furth supporters when he finished his first season there by scoring a goal against Heidenheim to keep the side in the 2.Bundesliga on the final day of the 2017-18 season.

His latest appearance was his 60th for the club — he has nine goals and four assists — but he’s never been a more critical part of the team than he’s been since the hiring of Stefan Leitl. The former Ingolstadt manager has started Green every time he’s eligible for selection.

“He doesn’t crack under pressure and doesn’t shy away from taking over responsibility,” Leitl said of Green. “In this season, he has already shown that he can reliably fulfill the role in the center without being restricted in his creativity or his way of playing soccer.”

Leitl credits Green for his hard work and low-key demeanor, saying the German-American’s “drive to constantly improve has a positive effect on the entire squad and team dynamic.”

He also credits the player for his adaptability and engine, capable as a No. 8 or a No. 10 in Leitl’s complex system.

“We want to keep a smart balance between higher and lower pressure phases in the game, therefore our players have to be able to quickly adapt to different tactical situations and formations,” he said. “With his skills et, Julian is able to do that. He is a very versatile player, has good technique and is eager to run a lot.”

Green has plenty of love for Leitl, who’s grown a side with a mix of youngsters and veterans. For every Green, Paul Seguin, or Marco Meyerhofer — all 24 of younger — there’s a veteran like Marco Caligiuri or Albanian national team captain Mergim Mavraj.

Leitl (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

“(Leitl) is a big part and he made our team better,” Green said. “Not only me. Since he’s here you see the whole game of the team changed a lot.”

There may be some more American life coming through the pipeline to Furth’s first team; Eighteen-year-old midfielder Blaine Ferri (Southlake, Texas) is a regular starter on Furth II, which has started 6W-2D-1L, and right wing/right back Malik McLemore (22) has two goals in his last four matches for the second team.

“Over here the structures, especially in the youth academies are being professionalized more and more,” Leitl said. “Talented and uprising players are really benefiting from these structures. Nevertheless, you have to recognize the great work that has been and is still being accomplished in the U.S. … Soccer is on the rise in the states and there has been a great increase in talented American players that make it to a professional level in Europe.”


It helps that Green is comfortable in his shoes, and his position. He’s 24 and in the final year of his contract. Furth wants to keep him around beyond the season. He wants to get to the highest level, and would be thrilled to do it with Furth.

Green’s track back to the USMNT picture is in a similar place. He’s just trying to control the controllable. Multiple times, he expresses a desire to let his play do the talking. His international tenure has been a roller coaster from its dawn, representing both Germany and the U.S. at youth international levels.

Eventually won over by Jurgen Klinsmann, Green earned his first cap at 18, turned 19 two months later, made the 2014 World Cup roster, and scored two minutes into his first and only match of the tournament. You remember the goal.

Green after scoring against France (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP) 

He’d earn just five caps in the next three-and-a-half years, scoring against Cuba and New Zealand in 2016, before becoming a regular contributor for interim boss Dave Sarachan. He scored against France in a run of six-straight caps, but Gregg Berhalter was hired and has yet to call up the midfielder.

He wants back in, but is willing to keep working and hope for the call.

“For a soccer player it’s one of the best feelings to wear your nation’s jersey and it’s a big goal for me to get back there,” Green said. “Right now I’m focusing on Furth and I want to make good games here and then we’ll see what will happen in the future.”

Given his background as a highly recruited dual national, Bayern Munich academy product, and World Cup goal scorer, it’s easy to forget that Green carries a lot of Florida in his back pocket. Not just the fishing, but his Twitter feed is equal parts U.S. Soccer and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I played hockey ’til I was 10 years old,” he said. “I still love watching hockey, especially the playoffs, maybe not last season because I love Tampa Bay Lightning. I don’t want to give them too much pressure this season but I think this time there’s no way any other team can win the Cup but them.”

That’s a pressure he’s not placing on Furth, who is off to another fine start in a bid for promotion and the club’s first Bundesliga season since 2012-13.

“We can’t say what will be in May but we have to be calm and play our game. This season it’s the best 2.Bundesliga ever. There are many big names like Stuttgart, Hamburg, Hannover or Nuremberg. So for us right now it’s hard to say we have to get to the Bundesliga but we all want to win and at the end we are all playing to win.”

Furth’s next match comes against winless Labor Wiesbaden on Sept. 13. Two of the next three come against big boys Stuttgart and Hamburg, and will provide a real glimpse at Furth’s chances to mount a successful season-long campaign.

Real Madrid on brink of La Liga title; record ninth-straight win

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid is on the verge of reclaiming the Spanish league title, after its ninth straight win following the pandemic break.

Madrid defeated Granada 2-1 on Monday to move within two points of winning the La Liga title.

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Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema scored first-half goals to keep Madrid four points ahead of second-placed Barcelona with two rounds to go.

Madrid can clinch its first title since 2017 on Thursday with a win at Villarreal, or if Barcelona loses points when it hosts Osasuna. Two draws in the final two rounds will also be enough to secure Madrid a record 34th league trophy.

“We are a step closer but we can’t relax, we haven’t won anything yet,” Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said. “There are still points to be won. We depend on ourselves and we have a game at home coming up, hopefully we can win it and celebrate the league title.”

Madrid was in control early in Granada and Mendy’s first goal since joining the Spanish club this season came from a beautiful angled shot into the top corner after getting past a defender inside the area in the 10th minute.

Benzema added to the lead six minutes later by scoring his 19th league goal with a right-footed strike into the far corner.

Granada, which was 10th in the standings, got on the board with a goal by Darwin Machis in the 50th and pressured to the end.

The hosts came closest to the equalizer with about five minutes left, when Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had to make a difficult save and Ramos cleared a shot at the goal line.

Madrid had not conceded a goal in its last five league matches.

Sevilla secured the final Champions League spot after Villarreal lost to Real Sociedad 2-1.

The loss left Villarreal nine points behind fourth-placed Sevilla with two rounds to go. Sevilla beat Mallorca 2-0 on Sunday for its fourth straight win.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have the other berths in the Champions League.

Sevilla last featured in the Champions League in 2018 when it was eliminated by Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. It played in the Europa League in 2018-19 and this season, where it will face Roma in the round of 16.

Villarreal needed a win to keep alive its hopes of making it to the Champions League. It has won six of its nine matches following the pandemic break, but the home setback against Sociedad ended its chances of qualifying. It remains in good position to grab a Europa League spot, though, as it kept fifth place.

Sociedad also stayed in contention for the Europa League with its third win since the break, moving to seventh place. Willian Jose scored in the 61st minute and Diego Llorente in the 75th, while the hosts pulled closer through Santi Cazorla in the 85th.

Getafe stayed in sixth place after drawing at relegation-threatened Alaves 0-0.

A late goal disallowed by video review kept Getafe from earning its second win since the league resumed after the pandemic stoppage.

Alaves has also won only once since the break and is winless in seven straight league matches. It is four points above the relegation zone.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Man United: ‘We will put it right’ and not feeling pressure in top 4 race

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Manchester United insist they will put their draw against Southampton right and the reaction from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players was clear that they aren’t feeling the pressure of the top four race.

Leading 2-1 in the 96th minute at home against Southampton, they conceded a late equalizer from a corner and Solskjaer looked understandably frustrated with two points dropped.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Within a few seconds they went from moving up to third with three games to now sitting in fifth, behind both Leicester City and Chelsea in the top four race.

Speaking to reporters via Zoom after the game, Solskjaer was asked if he believes in the mentality of his players to put things right.

“I have to say the mentality of the boys has been absolutely brilliant. We’ve had a few setbacks and this is another challenge for us. I’m very confident in the mentality of them,” Solskjaer said. “Very disappointed, of course, but you have to take the disappointments as well as the positives when you win games. Disappointment because one of the last kicks of the ball you concede a goal and you lose two points, that’s just part of football. We’ve learned a hard lesson today, hopefully. We will make it right and put it right. The boys, I trust them in that respect.”

[ MORE: Maguire reacts to draw ]

Solskjaer was then asked if the pressure of the situation, watching Chelsea and Leicester both get hammered at the weekend and giving them the chance to jump up to third, played on the mind of his players.

“Absolutely not,” was Solskjaer’s reaction. “I don’t think any of our players have been thinking what have Chelsea done this weekend. Not at all. It is just the way the games go. We all play against the same teams and we all have 38 games to go through. It will even itself out during a long season and you will deserve the position you get in the end.”

That position for Manchester United will still probably be in the top four but they have made it harder for themselves now.

From the start they looked sluggish against Saints, with Paul Pogba giving the ball away on the first goal, then they sat back and looked tired in the second half.

Although Solskjaer said tiredness wasn’t an issue, it looked like midtable Southampton were chasing third place and not Manchester United. Maybe a busy few weeks caught up with United but they now have an FA Cup semifinal and huge games against Crystal Palace, West Ham and Leicester City to finish the season.

Going forward they looked slick and they should have just about enough in the tank to finish in the top four. However, this will be tight and could go to the final game of the season at Leicester.

WATCH: Akinfewa’s inspires after verbal abuse, Wycombe promotion

Adebayo Akinfenwa speech
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Adebayo Akinfenwa is living the life right now.

The 38-year-old striker has helped Wycombe Wanderers into the Football League Championship for the first time in their existence after the club beat Oxford United 2-1 in the League One playoff final on Monday.

If Akinfenwa’s name sounds familiar, it should. The muscular 38-year-old “Beast” shot into the spotlight when he used Wimbledon’s promotion to broadcast that managers should “hit him up on Whatsapp” because he wasn’t done playing the game.

[ MORE: Maguire, Solskjaer rue late Man Utd draw ]

The striker mentioned Whatsapp again on Monday, saying “The only person who can WhatsApp me tonight is Klopp so we can celebrate together. ”

He was recently in the news for vile reasons, reporting that he had been called a “fat water buffalo” in Wycombe’s semifinal win over Fleetwood Town. Akinfenwa says that if the barb wasn’t intended as racial abuse, then his opponents need to be educated on racism.

He didn’t want to speak about that on Monday.

“Today is about, listen, for me, life in football is all about opinions. Four years ago someone gave an opinion about me and that was their opinion. I hope my story shows that the only opinion that matters is the opinion you have about yourself. I was lucky and blessed to find a manager and players who believed in me. I’ll say it for the people in the back: Wycombe is in the Championship. Wait, wait, I’ll say it one more time. Wycombe’s in the Championsh- WAIT! The people in the back didn’t hear me: Wycombe is in the Championship.”

Akinfewa played the final 28 minutes of Monday’s win and his next league appearance will be the first above League One in his long career that started with Watford’s academy in 2000.

He scored 10 goals and added six assists this season, giving him 200 professional goals in more than 650 appearances.

Solskjaer, Maguire react to disappointing Manchester United draw

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The 18th game of Manchester United’s unbeaten streak isn’t going to leave a good taste in the Red Devils’ mouths.

United threw away a late lead and third place on Monday, drawing Southampton 2-2 on a stoppage time goal from Michael Obafemi that came after Red Devils defender Brandon Williams left United with 10 men thanks to a head injury.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

“Well it’s the worst time to concede a goal but that happens in football,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

“You’ve gotta be strong and take it because we’ve won so many games that way. It’s part of learning for this team to be sat there really disappointed after you thought you’ve got the three points in the bag. We probably didn’t deserve the three points today. … They’re a physical, very very fit side. We never got the rhythm in our passing today especially after we got 2-1.”

Solksjaer was baffled that United didn’t play half the match up a man after Oriol Romeu clattered into Mason Greenwood.

“I know my ankle wouldn’t take that challenge. It’s a nasty one, but we’ve said enough about VAR.”

United failed to claim a top four place for the first time since September and remains behind fourth-place Leicester City on goal differential. Both sides trail Chelsea by one point with three to play.

Red Devils center back Harry Maguire was upset at the failed opportunity to pass his former side.

“Playing at Old Trafford you want to win every game you play for Manchester United. We go for three points. We didn’t get three. We’re disappointed at the moment but we know we’ve gotta dust ourselves down tomorrow. We’ve got some big games coming up and we’ve gotta go get three points.”

United has Crystal Palace, West Ham, and Leicester City on the schedule in its bid for a top four spot.