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San Jose Earthquakes youngster Niko Tsakiris the ‘future of MLS & Europe’, says Covelo

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San Jose Earthquakes interim head coach Alex Covelo has labeled youngster Niko Tsakiris ‘the future of MLS and Europe’ following his impressive showing against the LA Galaxy.

Though the Quakes were on the wrong end of a 3-2 defeat to their California rivals, Tsakiris caught the eye with an excellent pass that allowed Cristian Espinoza to win a penalty – a big contribution in his first-ever MLS start.

Tsakiris – who has three goals in five caps for the United States U-20s – also completed 30 of his 34 attempted passes, made five passes into the opposition final third, and made four recoveries. Another fine performance from a youngster quickly growing in stature in Major League Soccer.

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“Fantastic, that’s why he played,” Covelo said of the teenager’s performance against LA. “He is a player that is going to be the future of San Jose, MLS, and maybe Europe. That’s why we put him in. We didn’t put him in because I just woke up this morning and said let’s put in Niko. I think it was a good opportunity for him and he deserves it. He did well.”

Explaining his pass to Espinoza, Tsakiris said he was trying to ‘keep it simple’, but spotted the chance to open up the Galaxy defense that he couldn’t pass up.

“As a No.10, and it being my first start, you want to try and create as much as you can but also keep it simple,” he said. “The opportunity came and it just felt right. We ended up improving and scoring from it, which was helpful for the group and our momentum. The opportunity was there so I took it.”

Having already been eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs contention, the Quakes close out their regular season with a home clash against Minnesota United and a trip to the Seattle Sounders.

Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.

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Bayern Munich confident over deal to sign midfield target

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Bayern Munich believe they have finalised an agreement to take Konrad Laimer to the Allianz Arena, sources have told 90min.

Bayern made a summer bid for RB Leipzig’s star midfielder, who is in the final year of his contract, but could not agree terms and they instead landed Ajax’s Ryan Gravenberch.

Laimer has since emerged as a target for Liverpool who were considering a move for him in the New Year, but the Premier League side have now learned from representatives around the deal that the player does indeed want to move to Munich.

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The 25-year-old Austrian, who has just recovered from a knee injury, was annoyed at the summer move to Bayern collapsing, but he knew the issue was on both sides and did not hold that against the Bundesliga champions.

90min has been told that the interest from England over the past 12 months, firstly from Manchester United and then Liverpool, had turned his head but his heart was always set on a move to Bayern.

Now Bayern believe terms are agreed and they will seal his signature on a pre-contract, which would in theory see him moving to Munich on a five-year deal in the summer.

However, Bayern do have an interest in taking Laimer in January, but that would need Leipzig’s agreement.

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Gareth Southgate’s justification for Phil Foden decision is an insult to England supporters

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The Phil Foden discourse has rumbled on through the weekend. Now here we are, still talking about it. still scratching our heads and wondering what exactly Gareth Southgate’s thought process is as he picks his team (which is wrong) and makes his substitutions (which are also wrong), as we have done for every England manager since the dawn of time.

England managers always get a raw deal. Supporters always find a stick with which to beat them, even the fictional ones. Who didn’t feel the rage when Mike Bassett selected Tony Hedges (York City) and Ron Benson (Plymouth Argyle), for example? It isn’t often justified. But, then again, sometimes it is.

As England laboured towards a dreary 0-0 draw with the USA, fans understandably clamoured for Foden’s involvement. Southgate decided not to oblige them, afterwards citing the player’s lack of game time in the number ten position for Manchester City.

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This, more than anything else, should be cause for concern. Here we have the England manager essentially admitting that he saw no way through the mind-bending puzzle that is ‘fitting one of England’s most talented and versatile players into an already fluid 4-2-3-1 system.’

Let’s break this down. Foden can play as a 10, an attack-minded 8 and on either wing. Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham all had fairly ineffectual games against the USA and could have been replaced. Foden could have come on for each and every one of them with minimal reshuffling, depending on who else Southgate wanted off the bench.

Southgate’s reasoning – that Foden doesn’t play as a 10 for City – is complete nonsense. Players can operate in different roles for club and country, something he should know given how often he has fielded Kyle Walker at centre-back. When they’ve been training under Pep Guardiola for six seasons, they are not just comfortable doing it, but accustomed to it.

The justification also fails to hold up given that Marcus Rashford came on to replace Saka down England’s right-hand side, a position he very rarely plays for Manchester United.

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Double standards and logical inconsistencies have been a recurring theme during Southgate’s reign whenever he has attempted to defend his decisions – as though his quotes to the media were cynically engineered to enrage fans.

If they were, he hits the bullseye every time.

There were plenty of valid reasons for not bringing Foden into the game against the US. Given the situation in the group, it made sense to ensure England didn’t lose rather than going all out for the win and being caught out on the counter.

Foden’s defensive contribution and off-the-ball work isn’t as strong as other players, and we are yet to see him produce his level at Man City in an England shirt. Jack Grealish and Rashford both scored against Iran and therefore deserved their chance to impact the game off the bench too.

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Each argument has a fair rebuttal, though. England could have sealed qualification there and then with a win. Ostensibly attacking changes can prove to be defensive. Would Foden’s ability to receive the ball in tight spaces not have helped England get hold of a game they were struggling to control in midfield?

Does he need to be defensively robust when he has a solid back four and Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson behind him? What exactly is Foden on the pitch to do in the first place? It’s not to defend.

We haven’t seen his best for England because he’s so often been playing in Southgate’s favoured 3-4-3, as restrictive as it is depressing. Given Foden’s form this season, he should be lightyears ahead of Saka, Mount and Sterling, never mind Rashford and Grealish.

That debate can rage on and on. The point is that Southgate had a number of reasonable explanations to choose from. As a manager, we are by now well-accustomed to the overt pragmatism he wears as tightly as a Marks and Spencer waistcoat. Fans wouldn’t have been happy, but they might, at least, have understood.

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Instead, Southgate’s comment hinted at cowardice, disdain for supporters or, even worse, ineptitude. When a player with the ability of Foden isn’t coming off the bench at 0-0 there needs to be a damn good reason.

Southgate couldn’t come up with one. No wonder a national inquest is being held. His game-changing substitutions, or lack thereof, have cost England dearly in both the World Cup semi-final and Euro final. For all the talk of England fans picking anything to moan about, they absolutely have a right to be in up in arms over this.

These decisions can decide matches in knockout football. If you’re not making them in the group stage you’re certainly not going to be brave enough later in the tournament. Southgate still doesn’t seem to be able get them right, or even know why he makes them at all.

Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click to download or listen to the episode in full!

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How Karim Benzema could return for France at World Cup

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Karim Benzema may be available to France for their World Cup defence after all after reports emerged of rapid progress in his recovery from injury.

Benzema was feared to be unavailable for the entire tournament after picking up an injury but did not withdraw from the squad, and France manager Didier Deschamps did not call up a replacement, instead opting to take 25 players to Qatar.

Initially feared to be out for around three weeks, Benzema had been the subject of multiple reports in Spain which claim that the Ballon d’Or winner is ahead of that schedule, and he could return to training as early as this week.

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Given he remains a part of the France squad, Benzema is technically still eligible to play at the World Cup and could return to Qatar if all goes well.

Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click to download or listen to the episode in full!

France have made a strong start to their World Cup defence with victories over Australia and Denmark securing their spot in the last 16 with one group game to spare.

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Les Bleus play Tunisia on Wednesday to round out the group stages, before looking ahead to the knockout stages.



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