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Americans Abroad: Pulisic assists, Yedlin starts in Newcastle win

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Christian Pulisic‘s struggles at Chelsea took a positive turn on Sunday, as the 21-year-old came off the bench and assisted Michy Batshuayi in the Blues’ 4-1 win over Southampton. The American’s 10-minute cameo were his first league minutes since August.

Elsewhere in England, DeAndre Yedlin returned to Newcastle’s starting lineup, following his lengthy injury. With Yedlin going all 90 minutes, the Magpies pulled off an upset victory over Manchester United. In Stoke, Cameron Carter-Vickers continues to be a fundamental piece for the struggling Potters. In similar fashion to Americans in England this week, however, there was a happy ending for Stoke City and Carter-Vickers, who earned their first victory of the season, edging Swansea City 2-1.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea – Pulisic started on the bench, but capitalized his brief cameo, recording his second assist of the season. Heading into the match Chelsea manager Frank Lampard warned the 21-year-old that hard, not his price tag, was going to turn his fortunes around. From what he showcased on Sunday, it seems like Pulisic listened paid close attention to his boss’ words.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle – It is safe to say Yedlin is finally up to speed, and Newcastle are reaping the benefits. On Sunday, Steve Bruce and company walked away from a passionate St. James’ Park with three points after getting past Manchester United. Yedlin started and played all 90 minutes in the Magpies 1-0 victory.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan –  Robinson has been a fixture for the Lactics, and that didn’t change this weekend. The 22-year-old played all 90 minutes in Wigan’s 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday. Still, a USMNT return doesn’t seem imminent.

Tim Ream, Fulham – The experienced defender started and played all 90 minutes in Fulham’s 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic. 11 matches in, the Cottagers are seventh in the league.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — Miazga is up and running again. The 24-year-old defender started and played 90 minutes in Reading’s 1-0 to Bristol City.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — On Saturday, the Tigers suffered a 3-0 loss to Huddersfield Town. Things aren’t looking up for Lichaj and company, who despite the woes, continues to register minutes under his belt as a through-and-through starter.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — With Cameron as a starter and playing all game, QPR picked up a 4-2 win over Blackburn Rovers after a two-game losing streak.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — There’s no way around it: Stoke City are struggling. And despite the struggles, the 21-year-old is putting together a formidable season. Over the weekend, he recorded seven clearances and three blocked shots in Stoke’s 2-1 win over Swansea City – their first victory of the season.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes’ weekend could have been better. The 24-year-old came off the bench and only played six minutes in Derby’s 2-0 win over Luton Town.

Bundesliga

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie’s season at Schalke’s has been quiet, to say the very least. The USMNT midfielder has yet to record a goal or an assist this season, which didn’t change on Saturday after 45 minutes of playing time in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Koln.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — On Friday, Fortuna Dusseldorf fell to Hertha Berlin 3-1. Steffan was between the two sticks, and didn’t record no saves, while Morales returned from injury and played 19 minutes off the bench.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  After recording an assist last time around, Sargent started and played 72 minutes in Werder Bremen’s 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig Adams is back and training with Leipzig, but his official return is yet to be determined.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Monchengladbach — Johnson missed his four straight match with back problems.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Chandler dressed but remained on the bench in Eintracht Frankfurt’s draw.

Khiry Shelton, Paderborn – It was done in an unconventional fashion, but Shelton is the latest American in the Bundesliga. On Saturday, he came off the bench and played 26 minutes in Paderborn’s 2-1 loss to Mainz.

2.Bundesliga

Julian Green, Greuther Furth – Expected or not,Green is putting together a positive season in Germany’s second-flight. The 24-year-old started and played 79 minutes in in Greuther Furth’s 2-0 loss to Hamburg on Saturday.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest has yet to make up his mind on who he wants to represent at the national level, but that didn’t impede his productivity at the club level. The full-back started and played all 90 minutes in in Ajax’s 2-0 win over ADO Den Haag on Sunday.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — VVV-Venlo fell to PSV 4-1, and Wright started and played 87 minutes, earning his fifth start of the year. The striker has yet to score a goal this season.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — Payne was left out of the squad for the tfourth straight week.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah remains sidelined with a hamstring tear. There is no timeline on his return.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Siebatcheu is on the outside looking in at Rennes. On Sunday, the 23-year-old was left out of the French side’s 18.

Honorable Mentions:

William Yarborough, Club Leon – Back as Leon’s first-choice ‘keeper, Yarborough started, made three saves, and played 90 minutes in Club Leon’s 1-1 draw with Veracruz on Saturday.

Ventura Alvarado, Necaxa – Necaxa are atop of Liga MX after 13 games, and Alvaro has led the side as the captain. On Friday, he started and played 90 minutes in Necaxa’s 3-2 win over Morelia.

MLS takes big step with All-Star Game update

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For the first time since 2004, the Major League Soccer All-Star team has a new opponent.

In a press conference in Los Angeles, MLS commissioner Don Garber and Liga MX executive president Enrique Bonilla jointly made the announcement that the 2020 MLS All-Star Game would test the best players from MLS against the top stars in Liga MX, with the match set to take place on July 29 at Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium.

The news of MLS taking on the Liga MX all-stars is the realization of an idea that has been floated by fans and media members for the last few years. The annual MLS All-Stars vs. club giant had grown stale in recent years, especially since those clubs weren’t ever incentivized to take the game seriously. Big stars might have only played one half, if at all, as they built match fitness for the start of their seasons in Europe, and it ultimately is a bad marker for MLS.

If MLS really wants to compare itself with other top leagues in the world, then there’s no better an opponent than Liga MX. The Mexican first division has continued to basically wipe the floor with MLS clubs in the CONCACAF Champions League, though this season Atlanta United did triumph over Club America in the Campeones Cup.

In addition, MLS may have a decent chance to beat Liga MX in an all-star game. The talent at the very top of MLS is arguably higher than in Mexico, though the Liga MX clubs are stacked with talent in the middle of the rosters, which is where MLS clubs are exploited year after year. However, if it’s Josef Martinez, Carlos Vela, and Nicolas Lodeiro up front for the MLS All-Star squad, they could have a very good shot to succeed.

“We are so pleased to bring the 2020 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target to Los Angeles, one of the great soccer markets in North America,” Garber said in the press conference. “As we celebrate our 25th season, we wanted to deliver an unique and unprecedented format for our annual All-Star Game. Our first ever game between the best of MLS and LIGA MX’s top players is the perfect way to build on the growing relationship between the two top soccer leagues in the region.”

It’s unclear whether this will be a recurring match in the future. However, moving away from the prior all-star game model will help MLS grow as a league and catch up to Liga MX in the long wrong.

How the USMNT found and kept Dest

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With the stroke of a pen on Gregg Berhalter’s lineup card and the referee’s whistle to finish the game, a 4-1 U.S. Men’s National Team victory over Canada, Sergino Dest officially tied his future to the USMNT. It was arguably the final step in a recruitment that began more than three years ago thanks to a message from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Dave van der Bergh.

Since retiring as a player, the former New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas winger has spent his time coaching youth teams within U.S. Soccer, and in this instance, he was working with then U.S. Under-17 head coach John Hackworth. Hackworth was unavailable for comment on this story.

Dest first came on van der Bergh’s radar from a contact at Ajax, where van der Bergh came through the youth academy, and it led to Dest’s first call-ups to the U.S. U-17s in 2016.

“I was tipped off by people at Ajax that there was a player with a dual nationality, and considering that we had been looking at dual nationalities, that I should take a look at him,” van der Bergh said in an e-mail. “I found out about him through the club itself, actually.

“The first time I saw him, I asked for video footage from Ajax, which they gave to me and that was great. Then I asked a really good friend of mine to take a look at him for us. He is somebody I really trust as far as scouting goes, and he said the same things that I thought I had seen. That’s when I decided to tell John Hackworth about him.”

Hackworth and co. brought Dest along slowly, getting him incorporated in the group. He was a reserve in the 2016 Nike International Friendlies as a 15-year-old, with Sporting KC defender Jaylin Lindsey starting ahead of him at the time.

But while the U.S. Soccer Federation was at turmoil at the top – this was just months after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena after his season with the LA Galaxy wrapped up – Dest was making a very good first impression to the coaches.

“I thought that it was unusual,” former U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team coach Tab Ramos recalled in a phone interview. “Normally, our defenders on youth national teams, 1-on-1 they usually have a lot to learn. I felt that Sergino was one of those defenders that never got beat 1-on-1, and that caught my attention.”

Dest wasn’t part of the U.S. U-17s run to the CONCACAF Under-17 final in 2017, but he earned a spot on the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup roster, and it’s where he became a breakout star for American soccer fans. His impact  play from left back or right back added a new element to the U.S. attack and he held his own defensively.

Since then, Dest has continued to progress for club and country at a rapid rate. He helped lead the U.S. U-20s to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and a run to the quarterfinals at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and for Ajax he went from the U-19s in 2017 to Jong Ajax a year later and now a sure-fire starter at right back for the first team in 2019.

“He just became more and more mature,” Ramos said of Dest’s progression as a player in a short span. “He became more of an impact player on the attacking side of the field, and in general I give the players the freedom to express themselves within the context of the way we want to play. I think he was happy with the way we played and it allowed him to express himself, so it worked really well.”

His success in the Ajax first team of course got the attention of the Dutch National Team, who suddenly had an interest in Dest. In the youth stages, it made more sense for Dest to play with the U.S. because he’d have a better opportunity to play at a youth World Cup. The Netherlands hasn’t made the World Cup at U-20 or U-17 level since they hosted the U-20 World Cup in 2005, a shocking statistic considering all the stars they’ve produced over the years.

Suddenly, Dest was being faced with the prospect of competing for playing time on a team that made the final four less than a decade ago and looks to be surging back to prominence, or staying with the only national team program he’d known. The U.S. stepped up its recruitment in September when Gregg Berhalter called Dest in for a pair of matches, first against Mexico and then against Uruguay, where the teenager started both matches. At the same time, his former coach Ramos was keeping in touch with Dest once he decided in October to take more time to make his decision between the U.S. and the Netherlands.

“I continue to be in contact with Serg like I do with many of the players,” Ramos said. “Basically, my recommendation to him was to go with his heart. I feel like, of course you can listen to your agent and you can listen to people in the press, and you can always choose what’s more convenient to you, for your career. But I think the most important thing when playing for a country is to choose where your heart is. That’s basically what I told him.”

Dest made his decision to stay with the U.S. on October 28, and it was a big win for a USMNT program that had lost promising midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez in a similar situation to Mexico. Even bigger, Ramos noted, was that Dest wasn’t born and raised in the U.S., and his main connection with his nation was through the national team itself.

“I’m very proud of that, because it means he has a trust in our program and he’s confident that he’s going to get the most out of his opportunities that he gets here with our program,” Ramos said. “I think it goes to show the great job Hackworth did with him and how happy he was to be with us in the U-20s that he feels like this is his home.

“You have to remember this a kid who never lived in the U.S., he grew up in Holland, and that the closest thing for being home for him has been our youth national teams. I think he felt comfortable. He’s been comfortable and he felt like we took care of him, and he’s been happy. That’s just my feeling.”

Report: Salah, Robertson out for Liverpool trip to Crystal Palace

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Liverpool has some significant injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s trip to Crystal Palace, with the international break not serving to give its top players the required rest.

Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson both sat out key international games hoping to be healthy enough for Liverpool’s return to Premier League play, but that has not come to pass. Sky Sports has confirmed that both will miss the game against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Salah re-aggrivated his persistent ankle injury near the end of Liverpool’s big win over Manchester City just before the break, and while he reported for international duty with the Egypt squad, he did not appear in either of the country’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Kenya or Comoros, both of which ended in draws. He has dealt with this ankle problem for over a month now, since it was injured against Leicester City in early October.

Robertson, meanwhile, has played every minute of the Premier League season to date, but withdrew from international duty with Scotland thanks to an ankle problem of his own. That leaves a gaping hole at left-back for Jurgen Klopp to fill, with backup full-back Nathaniel Clyne also out long-term thanks to an ACL tear. Candidates could include James Milner or even Xherdan Shaqiri, while he could also potentially move one of the center-backs in Joe Gomez or Dejan Lovren out wide. Joel Matip is not expected back until the end of the month.

Liverpool kicks off against Crystal Palace at 10:00 a.m. ET live online at NBCSports.com.

Jose Mourinho speaks: ‘I couldn’t be happier’ at Spurs

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Jose Mourinho, speaking to Tottenham Hotspur’s official club channel Spurs TV, gave his first interview as Tottenham manager and speaking for the first time on camera after taking the job earlier Wednesday morning.

The Portuguese boss, who shockingly took over for Mauricio Pochettino, said he “couldn’t be happier” to take charge of the club currently floundering in 14th place in the Premier League table.

“I couldn’t be happier, and if I was not as happy as I am, I wouldn’t be here,” Mourinho said, referring to Spurs emphatically as “my club.”

“In relation to the Premier League, I think we know where we are, and we know that we don’t belong there,” Mourinho said, promising improvement. “We should just play match after match, the next match we want to win, and that’s the same about the next and the next and the next until the last. [At the] end of [the] season, we will see where we are, but I know that we are going to be in a different position than we are now.”

“These are not words of the moment, these are not words of me being the Tottenham head coach,” Mourinho said. “These are words I’ve told and I’ve repeated in the last four or five years, even as an opponent: to play Tottenham at White Hart Lane was always hard but beautiful. It is a place I used to go with passion but also it was also with respect.”

“I really like this squad, and looking to the young players, there is not one manager in the world that doesn’t like to play young players and to help young players develop. There is not one. The problem is sometimes you get into clubs where the work that is below you is not good enough to produce these players, so I look to our history and you see that the academy’s always giving talents that the first team needs.”

Referring to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the new ground which Spurs have played in since April, Mourinho did not mince words. “When you say ‘beautiful stadium’ you are too humble. You have to say ‘the best stadium in the world.’ I think that is the reality.”

Mourinho continued to gush, talking about the amenities he has available to work with between matches. “The training ground is second to none. It probably can only be compared with some American football training grounds, you cannot compare with European football at any level, and I’ve been at the majority of the best places.”

He finished by saying, “I look forward for the challenge, for the responsibility to bring happiness to everyone that loves the club.”