Dan-Axel Zagadou

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Dortmund defender Zagadou injures knee in training

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A return to play means a return to injuries.

Borussia Dortmund announced that defender Dan-Axel Zagadou has suffered a strain of the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee during training, meaning he could miss time should the Bundesliga return to action in the coming weeks as hoped.

Dortmund players have been training in small groups as clubs across the German top flight have returned to action with their clubs hoping to get players fit for a return to play soon. With social distancing rules still in effect, the players are training in pairs with the league en route to a possible return to play in May.

No timetable was given for the injury, but the club release did state that Zagadou will now rehab “in the coming weeks” to hopefully return with his team before the end of the season.

Just 20 years old, Zagadou has earned a place in the Dortmund starting lineup through the second half of the campaign, spending much of the first three months on the bench before earning a starting role in late November. A French youth international, Zagadou joined Dortmund in the summer of 2017 from Paris Saint-Germain’s youth setup.

Zagadou has helped Dortmund to a title challenge in the Bundesliga this season, although the defensive setup has been the club’s weakness all campaign, having conceded 33 goals this season, the most of any club in the league’s top five. Still, before the coronavirus shutdown, Zagadou and fellow center-backs Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek had found their stride, conceding just one goal in the final four league games ahead of the stoppage. Dortmund currently sits four points behind leaders Bayern Munich.

U.S. readies for loaded France at U-20 World Cup

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It’s the day any U-20 World Cup hopeful wanted to put off for as long as possible: the date with France.

Though Mali did its best to help the United States avoid that moment, the Baby Yanks will have to duel with the mighty French in the Round of 16 on Tuesday.

Well, okay then: Here is the chance to send a message to the world that your country’s prospects are just as bright as the reigning World Cup champions’ youngsters?

Somehow defying the favorites to win the tournament would be an incredible feather in the cap of Tab Ramos’ young men, themselves as well-regarded as any other tournament team despite a stumble in the opener against Ukraine and a nervy finale versus Qatar.

There have been several stars for the U.S., which has seen fine performances from Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96), and others, but there’s little doubt that the X-factor is Timothy Weah. The son of Liberian great George Weah, Timothy assisted in the opener against Ukraine and scored the lone goal against stingy Qatar.

Now the Paris Saint-Germain youth will be tested by a French team who boasts talents from the biggest names in Europe. There’s fellow PSG striker Moussa Diaby, Borussia Monchengladbach mainstay (at age 19!) Mikael Cuisance, and Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou amongst others.

Perhaps a better way to look at Tuesday’s challenge is to list some of the players France did not select for the team: Fiorentina starting goalkeeper Alban Lafont, Eintracht Frankfurt contributor Evan N’Dicka, Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi (Europa League duty), RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate, and PSG’s Stanley Nsoki.

Yikes.

The 2013 champions, France won a pair of 2-0 matches before their 3-2 thriller with Mali. Bernard Diomède’s men will not bat an eye at the United States, and his 4-3-3 has an attacking bend.

Ramos has used that formation at the tournament, too, but perhaps it’s telling that he opted for a more defensive 4-3-3 in a 2-2 draw with the French in March. Chris Durkin and Alex Mendez sat in holding roles, while Frankie Amaya pushed the creative buttons. That’s an even tougher midfield with Pomykal in for Amaya, so perhaps we will see Ramos go with the same tactics he chose in the group stage despite the step up in opposition.

Granted we’re talking months, but France’s average age of 19.8 is the oldest at the tournament, seven months senior to the Yanks’ 19.1 (only Mali and Senegal are younger).