Fernando Torres

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Report of Arsenal interest in Pulisic signals topic of USMNT concern

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There are myriad reports of transfer interest in Christian Pulisic — Borussia Dortmund could do us all a massive favor and accept a bid for a summer sale in January — but one except from an ESPN post highlights why the camp for the USMNT star will be exceptionally careful in agreeing to his next stop.

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With Chelsea reportedly leading the way and Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and others linked with the 20-year-old winger, ESPN links Arsenal’s interest with something other than soccer (which happens all the time with every team, but we’ll get to that later):

ESPN FC has been told that Dortmund believe a rival bid might yet arrive from Arsenal, due to Pulisic’s commercial value in the United States. The Gunners are controlled by Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams.

Kroenke gets plenty of villain plot lines, but this isn’t news and is certainly part of the others’ interest as well. And it’s especially true when it comes to the major money market that is the United States.

While it’s true that Cardiff City has received a boon in its brand in the Philippines by the success of goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s hiring has further boosted Manchester United stock in Norway, this is a different animal as evidenced by clubs from the Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A taking a big interest in U.S.

The American market has dual status as: A) holding massive unrealized potential as the last huge market to embrace soccer, and B) having really, truly rich brands and advertisers.

That isn’t the primary reason that big clubs want Pulisic — A 20-year-old with 15 goals and 24 assists for a Bundesliga power including two and three in the UEFA Champions League is pretty clear-cut — but it should be the biggest reason USMNT fans are concerned about where Pulisic lands for next season.

Fortunately, his camp are also concerned about that.

There have been plenty of arguments against Pulisic moving to specific Premier League clubs, some of them absurd.

For instance: Chelsea, for all its loans, has never immediately loaned any of the players for which its paid more than 50 million euros ($57m). That list is Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Alvaro Morata, Fernando Torres.

Maurizio Sarri was hired in August. He’s doing fine. And he would be approving the transfer. These are good signs for Pulisic, who would carry the same American appeal and BVB resume if he failed at Chelsea. This same idea has not stopped Michy Batshuayi and Tiemoue Bakayoko, amongst others, from starting at BVB, AC Milan, and Villarreal. And Alvaro Morata is still wanted pretty much everywhere.

Also, stop worrying about Pulisic being buried on the bench unless you do not believe he is good or he signs behind a clear megastar at right wing. Yes, this means Liverpool would be a poor landing spot unless Pulisic secretly likes the left wing or the Reds prefer Mohamed Salah centrally (as he’s been in recent months).

The Nos. 1 and 2 questions for your favored landing spot for Pulisic, from a USMNT perspective, is, “Will he immediately be a fixture in the 18 at age 21?” and “Will he be expected to start by Season 2?”

Do I believe Pulisic would be better served signing a richer deal at Dortmund with the understanding that the club will not stop him from moving onward after the 2019-20 season? For the most part, yeah, but not if BVB coach Lucien Favre has no plans to deploy Pulisic over or at the same time as Jadon Sancho.

Think about how many exceptional players have dropped down the depth chart at monster clubs, and whether that would’ve stopped you from wanting them as the best player on the USMNT: Willian, Juan Mata, Batshuayi, and — to a lesser extent — Javier Hernandez and . If you believe at all in Pulisic as a player, he’s going to be good regardless when he pops on the USMNT shirt.

Also remember that the previous two best attackers to take a big leap into Europe were older and either didn’t grow into success with said clubs (Landon Donovan, Bayer Leverkusen) or needed a season to find their footing (Clint Dempsey).

What I’m saying is: It’s going to be fine, and it might be great.

Manchester United breaks out versus Fulham

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  • Young scores beauty [ VIDEO ]
  • Mata, Lukaku make it 3-0 at half
  • Pogba an unused sub
  • United moves sixth

Manchester United, and Old Trafford specifically, needed this.

Four different Red Devils hit the score sheet as Manchester United beat Fulham 4-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young all scored for United, who moves sixth with 26 points.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was sent off for Fulham, while Aboubakar Kamara won and scored a penalty for the Cottagers.

Fulham remains 20th with nine points and now has a league-worst minus-24 goal differential.

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The goal scoring started with a beauty, as left back Ashley Young nutmegged a defender and cut into the 18 to belt a shot into the far post (See top of post for video).

It was 2-0 through Mata, the Spaniard running to the top of the 18 to meet a Marcus Rashford cutback before Lukaku got into the act off a Mata assist. 3-0 at the break.

Fulham got on the board in the second half, when Ander Herrera fouled Aboubakar Kamara in the box.

Kamara converted his chance to make it 3-1, but Anguissa saw red within minutes to dent any new hopes for the Cottagers.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

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Paco Alcacer making most of 2nd chance with Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Close to seeing his career stagnate, Paco Alcacer is making the most of a second chance to become Spain’s top striker.

Alcacer scored twice in his first appearance for Spain in two-and-a-half years to lead a 4-1 away win at Wales in a friendly last week.

[ MORE: Salah injury update ]

On Monday, the former Barcelona player will likely feature again when Spain hosts England in Seville seeking a second win over Gareth Southgate‘s team in the incipient Nations League.

“I’m happy that I was able to help the team by doing what we strikers are supposed to, which is provide goals,” Alcacer said after Thursday’s match in Cardiff. “I just have to keep this good dynamic going.”

The 25-year-old Alcacer has been rejuvenated since leaving Barcelona on loan for Borussia Dortmund in August, a turnaround that has ended a hiatus from Spain’s national team that was in danger of becoming a permanent adios.

Previous to his two goals for Spain against Wales, Alcacer had scored seven times in a four-match scoring run for Dortmund. That streak included netting a spectacular hat trick that he completed on the last kick of the game for a 4-3 win over Augsburg.

Ironically, Alcacer’s slide toward oblivion at Barcelona began under current Spain coach Luis Enrique when he was condemned to a reserve role behind the superstar trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in 2016-17.

Not even Neymar’s departure at the start of last season changed the situation at Camp Nou for Alcacer. Favoring other players, new coach Ernesto Valverde gave him fewer appearances than Luis Enrique.

So Alcacer decided that his best option was to leave Spain and try his luck in Germany.

And it turned out that Alcacer just needed a chance to play.

With his brace against Wales, Alcacer showed his leading quality as a striker. He is not the fastest, the strongest, nor the slickest passer; he is a pure goal scorer who excels at putting one-touch shots in-between the posts.

Against Wales, Alcacer fired a rising right-footed shot into the near corner for the lead- and his first goal with Spain since Oct. 2015. He then put the win beyond doubt by poaching a clearance in the area to make it 3-0.

“Alcacer is playing superbly because he is on a scoring streak, but overall his attitude has been marvelous,” said Luis Enrique, who called Alcacer up to fill the void left by the injured Diego Costa.

Alcacer was not supposed to need a comeback story.

Four years ago, former Spain manager Vicente del Bosque considered Alcacer, along with Alvaro Morata, as his strikers of the future. The then Valencia player led Spain in qualifying for the 2016 European championship with five goals, but when he struggled to score for his club in the run-up to the tournament Del Bosque dropped him from his squad.

Banished to the bench following his move to Barcelona from Valencia, Alcacer was also ignored by Julen Lopetegui in his two-year tenure that took Spain to last summer’s World Cup.

Circumstances, however, have put Alcacer in good position to now succeed for “La Roja.”

While competition remains fierce in the positions of midfielder and playmaker for Spain, the striker job is up for grabs.

Long gone are the days when David Villa and Fernando Torres flourished up front for the 2010 world champions, as both Costa and Morata have failed to show they can be counted on for goals.

Alcacer said that he had been preparing for this return to his best form.

“It’s about several things,” he said, “about getting on a hot streak, about self-confidence, about having playing time, and, above all, about working each day when you are not playing so you can be ready.”

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

Fernando Torres spurns MLS, signs to play in J1 League

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TOSU, Japan (AP) Former Liverpool, Chelsea and Spain striker Fernando Torres signed to play for Sagan Tosu in the J1 League on Tuesday, dashing the hopes of Australian football that he might become a marquee attraction for its struggling A-League.

The 34-year-old Torres held discussions with Football Federation Australia and officials of A-League glamor club Sydney FC, raising hopes he might add some star power to the A-League which has seen flagging attendances and TV ratings. Torres was also rumored to be joining the Chicago Fire, coached by former Atletico Madrid player Veljko Paunovic.

But the former Liverpool, Chelsea, and Atletico Madrid forward announced he will be joining former Spain teammate Andres Iniesta in Japan.

Torres was one of six players on a shortlist of possible marquee stars drawn up by the FFA two months ago, which also included Iniesta and Japan’s Keisuke Honda.

The A-League has a centralized $3 million fund to attract marquee players but hasn’t had a truly big name since Italy’s Alessandro Del Piero played for Sydney FC from 2012-14.

Liverpool owner Henry reflects on history, takes shots at Suarez, Coutinho

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Terrific AP reporter Rob Harris sat down for a chat with Liverpool owner John Henry, and the American businessman didn’t hesitate to unleash some prime quotes.

Liverpool, of course, is preparing for the weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and feeling its oats a bit.

[ MORE: Ronaldinho marrying 2 women ]

Henry is no exception, saying of departed Reds stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, “They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing.”

And his shots didn’t stop with the Barcelona stars. He extended it to all of La Liga. From the AP:

“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona,” Henry said. “It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.”

Henry also talks about his takeover, selling Fernando Torres, and how Anfield pushes Liverpool past the competition. Read the whole interview here.