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Matic explains why he will not wear poppy

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Nemanja Matic has revealed why he will not wear a poppy on his shirt in the next few weeks.

The Manchester United and Serbia midfielder was the only player not to wear an embroidered poppy on his shirt in the 2-1 win at Bournemouth on Saturday, with many puzzled as to why this was the case.

Premier League clubs wear a poppy on their shirt to honor all of those who have served the British military and their allies over the years. Many citizens of the UK wear the poppy around Remembrance Day in November each year.

However Matic revealed that due to his hometown of Vrelo being bombed by Nato forces when he was growing up, he doesn’t feel comfortable wearing the poppy.

“I recognize fully why people wear poppies, I totally respect everyone’s right to do so and I have total sympathy for anyone who has lost loved ones due to conflict. However, for me it is only a reminder of an attack that I felt personally as a young, frightened 12-year old boy living in Vrelo, as my country was devastated by the bombing of Serbia in 1999. Whilst I have done so previously, on reflection I now don’t feel it is right for me to wear the poppy on my shirt,” Matic said. “I do not want to undermine the poppy as a symbol of pride within Britain or offend anyone, however, we are all a product of our own upbringing and this is a personal choice for the reasons outlined.”

Matic was criticized by many for not wearing a poppy and although you have to respect his reasons, the Serbian midfielder has worn a poppy on his shirt every season he has been playing in England with either Chelsea or United.

James McClean has not worn a poppy due to his Irish heritage and has been lambasted by fans across the UK for that decision since 2011 when he arrived at Sunderland. The former Premier League winger now plays with second-tier Stoke City and he is currently under investigation by the FA for his recent comments regarding his decision to not wear a poppy after Stoke’s game against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Stoke City imploding after 3-0 loss to Wigan

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Manager Gary Rowett laid out to the media details of a club that is eating itself alive from the inside out.

Having been relegated from the Premier League last season, Stoke City is winless in its first four matches of Championship play. Their most recent loss came in devastating fashion, conceding a pair of penalties and losing 3-0 to newly promoted Wigan.

[ MORE: Premier League power rankings ]

“It was weak and pathetic and if you do that you’re going to lose games of football,” Rowett said after the match. “When you’re not winning games everybody gets a bit edgy and frustrated. We’ve got to take collective responsibility, it’s no good fighting between ourselves.”

Rowett’s final phrase referred to an incident at halftime that took place in the Stoke City locker room, with goalkeeper Jack Butland, captain Ryan Shawcross and winger James McClean all shouted at each other during the break. “Reputations now mean nothing,” Rowett said after the match. “I’ve got to start picking the team on which players deserve to be in, not which players have played in the Premier League for 10 years.”

New Stoke signing Tom Ince blasted two shots both over the bar in the opening 15 minutes, before Wigan took the lead on the first of two Will Grigg penalties. Ince had some brutal words for the team after the match. “We must man up, grow some balls, put ourselves on the line and actually show some hunger to put things right. We have to make this a horrible place to come.”

For Wigan, American international Antonee Robinson would have picked up an assist had Nick Massey not been fouled, leading to Grigg’s his second penalty.

Analyzing Benitez’s risk in reported Mitrovic out, Rondon in moves

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As Newcastle cut ties with Aleksandar Mitrovic ahead of the Serbian striker Fulham move and Salomon Rondon seemingly moves into his old squad spot, it’s worth asking, at least in theory, whether the Magpies can defy the age math of the move.

There’s a load of well-earned respect amongst the Geordies for manager Rafa Benitez, who has rarely had time or patience for the productive but combustible Mitrovic.

[ MORE: Pochettino hopeful for signings as injuries pile up, deadline looms ]

Still just 23, the powerful forward had an amazing half-season on loan at Fulham and was a handful for defenses at the World Cup.

But Benitez has kept a short leash on Mitrovic since he took the reigns at St. James Park. Mitrovic scored 12 goals in 17 Championship matches for Fulham after scoring just five times in 31 appearances between the Championship and Premier League for Newcastle from 2015-17 (His first year at Newcastle was a nine-goal, four-assist, two red card campaign under Steve McClaren and then Benitez).

Given Mitrovic’s young age and success rate at Craven Cottage, there’s no reason for Fulham not to spend the reported $28 million.

The Magpies are expected to use a lot of that money to sign big West Bromwich Albion forward Rondon, who has scored 24 goals in three seasons as the focal point of one of the Premier League’s most conservative attacks.

Newcastle’s bet has to be that Benitez believes that feeding pieces around Rondon — Ayoze Perez, Yoshimori Muti, Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, DeAndre Yedlin and Kenedy — are going to produce more feast-able material for the big man than the Baggies’ recent pieces (Chris Brunt, Matty Phillips, Kieran Gibbs, Jay Rodriguez, Jake Livermore, and James McClean).

Mitrovic played with such fury that cards were never too far away. Rondon is no shrinking violet, but has only taken one red in his career (going head-first into Bournemouth opposition, who was doing the same).

This is a pretty big risk for Benitez, who is one even marginally-big Mitrovic season away from having a $40-plus million striker on his hands. But Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s stingy nature has forced Benitez to find creative solutions to his squad needs.

Rondon is a short-term fix and the striker market is never going to be low cost, but the Magpies do have plenty of crossers and playmakers should they stay healthy. Might Rondon be the tonic for an attack dreadfully shy of finishers last season? He’s no doubt an upgrade on Joselu and Dwight Gayle, but that’s not saying a ton.

It’s not a big gamble, but admittedly it’s a gamble. Rondon can be a 10-goal man with terrific hold-up play for teammates, but a behaved Mitrovic has 15-20 in his locker. That’s asking a lot though.

Three things we learned from USMNT’s defeat in Dublin

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The U.S. men’s national team fell to defeat at the hands of Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, and it was a mostly abysmal performances on all levels of the field. Three thoughts and/or lessons to take away…

[ MORE: USMNT throws away HT lead, loses 2-1 in Dublin ]

Miazga, CCV struggle

Cameron Carter-Vickers has all the physical tools needed — size, strength, quickness, aerial presence — to develop into one of the best defenders the U.S. has ever seen, but his inability to read the game quickly and make the right decisions on instincts which plagued him not only last year when he made his USMNT debut (at 19) and a handful of appearances for Tottenham Hotspur in early-round cup games, but continued to do so on Saturday against Ireland.

Being overly aggressive is something that can be tempered and controlled as a player’s career unfolds — teaching players to be more aggressive when it doesn’t come naturally for them; not so much — but following a pair of half-season loan spells to the Championship, one would have hoped to have seen a bit of progression in that department. Alas, Saturday saw more of the same mistakes: over-committing into midfield without making the challenge or tackle; not recognizing runners in the channels.

Matt Miazga, who by all accounts had a brilliant season on loan to Vitesse — it’s the Dutch league, after all — struggled as well, but in fairness to him, much of his difficulties on the day stemmed from CCV’s shortcomings alongside him. Miazga getting torched by James McClean, however, was all on the former New York Red Bulls and current Chelsea man.

Directionless midfield

With Christian Pulisic, the USMNT’s de facto no. 10 these days, departing camp and heading for (a much-needed) summer vacation after the win over Bolivia, interim head coach Dave Sarachan opted for a three-man midfield of Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.

Some thoughts: that’s a whole lot of industry and work rate; that’s a ton of energy; that’s a ton of ball-hawking instincts.

A question: who’s supposed to harness all of that unbridled energy and youth?

Answer: there wasn’t anyone, and the first half looked like a trio of chickens running 60 yards up and down the field with their heads cut off.

Adams and McKennie have blindingly bright futures ahead of them, which they’ll come much closer to realizing during a run of games playing directly behind the focal point that is Pulisic.

Yedlin a continuous bright spot

DeAndre Yedlin is perhaps the best sterling example of what moving to Europe at a young-ish age can do for American players developed in MLS. When he moved from Seattle Sounders to Tottenham at the age of 21, he did exactly two things well: run fast and overlap to stretch the field.

Now, following years of tutelage under a defensive brute like Sam Allardyce, and a tactical mastermind of Rafa Benitez‘s caliber, Yedlin is only just entering the prime of his career (he’ll turn 25 next month) after undergoing a three-year transformation which has seen him come out the other side a genuinely passable right-sided defender on top of the threat he brings going forward.

After nearly a decade where right back was pretty clearly the USMNT’s greatest weakness along the backline, Yedlin now has the spot locked down for another World Cup cycle… if not two.

USMNT throw away HT lead, lose 2-1 to Ireland

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Following a 3-0 victory over Bolivia on Monday, the U.S. men’s national team experienced a massive step up in opposition Saturday at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, and suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Ireland.

[ MORE: England top Nigeria on goals scored by Kane, Cahill ]

Bobby Wood put the USMNT ahead just before halftime, John O'Shea said goodbye after making his 118th and final appearance for his country, Graham Burke equalized just before the hour mark, and Alan Judge scored the deserved winner in the 90th minute.

Interim head coach Dave Sarachin’s side was fortunate to lead at the intermission, as the Irish were in full control from the opening whistle. From the attacking trio of Bobby Wood, Timothy Weah and Rubio Rubin, to the disorganized state of young center backs Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers, positives were few and far between.

The Yanks’ miserable first half ended on the highest possible note, as Wood ended his own miserable 2017-18 campaign (two goals in 24 Bundesliga appearances for Hamburg, who were relegated) with a stoppage-time goal completely against the run of play. Wil Trapp floated a free kick into the box, Matt Miazga headed the ball back across the face of goal and Wood tapped it home with goalkeeper Colin Doyle rooted to his goal line.

The lead lasted less than 15 minutes into the second half, though, as Bill Hamid ran himself into a wall of bodies with a cross coming into the box from the left flank. When the 27-year-old Midtjylland ‘keeper got nowhere near claiming the ball, it fell to the top of the six-yard box, where it was hammered home for 1-1, credited to Burke for his deflection on the goal line.

Just 10 minutes later, the Boys in Green had the ball in the back of Hamid’s net once again, but Darragh Lenihan, who fired the ball goal-bound for Ireland’s equalizer, saw his headed goal wiped away when the assistant referee flagged the Blackburn Rovers center back offside.

From bad to worse in the game’s final moments, Miazga was roasted by James McClean and Judge fired past Hamid, off the underside of the crossbar, to complete the comeback.