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Ream helps USA win Nations League

Fulham defender Tim Ream helped the United States win the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League as the Americans won a dramatic final 3-2 after extra time.

The 33 year-old played 83 minutes of the final, having been recalled by coach Gregg Berhalter after missing the narrow semi-final success over Honduras. Fulham left back Antonee Robinson was an unused substitute last night.

Mexico took an early lead when Jesus Corona scored after just 63 seconds and they were denied a second when Hector Moreno’s header was ruled out following a VAR check for offside, with Ream stepping up to catch the Al-Gharafa centre half out. Giovanni Reyna levelled for the States just before the break before winger Diego Lainez restored Mexico’s lead after breezing past Ream with ten minutes to go. Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie headed in an equaliser from a Reyna corner to take the final in extra time.

There was plenty of drama still to come as Pulisic converted a penalty that he wasn’t initially awarded, with VAR confirming he had been tripped in the box. Substitute goalkeeper Ethan Horvath then saved a spot-kick from Andres Guardado as the Americans held on to lift the trophy.

QPR continuing Johansen negotiations

QPR are ‘working around the clock’ to try and finalise a deal with Fulham for midfielder Stefan Johansen, according to talkSPORT.

The two west London clubs remain locked in talks after the terms of a permanent deal for the former Norwegian international, who enjoyed a successful loan spell in Shepherd’s Bush during the second half of last season. Johansen is Rangers’ top transfer target after they brought back striker Charlie Austin, who also starred on loan last year.

The near neighbours are understood to be some way apart in their valuation of Johansen, who has a year to run on his current Craven Cottage contract. The 30 year-old made 21 appearances for the R’s last season, scoring twice and providing three assists, as Mark Warburton’s men finished the campaign strongly. Rangers want to get a deal done as quickly as possible with Johansen also attracting interest from across Europe.

The experienced midfielder has spoken about his need to play regular football having been left out of Scott Parker’s 25-man squad following Fulham’s promotion to the Premier League. The Cottagers are not prepared to compromise on their valuation of the energetic midfielder, who has been part of two promotion-winning campaigns with Fulham, and remains a proven performer at Championship level.

Johansen has made 136 appearances, scoring 21 times for Fulham since signing from Celtic for a fee of around £2.5m in August 2016. His departure would leave the Whites light on central midfield options ahead of the new season.

Making sense of Fulham’s release and retained lists

Fulham confirmed their released and retained lists on Friday night – with plenty of question marks over several of the decisions and the club’s plans for a return to the Championship in the 201/22 campaign.

Only Kevin McDonald features on the released list from the senior squad and his departure is understandable following his kidney transplant. There are several exits from the youth team set-up. Fulham have decided to release Julian Schwarzer, son of former Fulham goalkeeper Mark, whose second spell with the club has come to an end after he was brought back to Motspur Park as keeping cover. Jordan Aina, brother of Ola, has been let go after just a season with the club, whilst Martell Taylor-Crossdale, brought in from Chelsea in 2019, has formerly left the club having struggled to make an impression with the under 23s. The striker’s departure is not a surprise after he was sent back from Colchester on loan and Taylor-Crossdale spent time on trial with QPR earlier in the season.

Ryan De Havilland, a midfielder who occasionally featured at under 23 level, has also left the club after four years, whilst Luca Murphy – whose acrimonious move from Hartlepool two years ago hit the headlines – was also released. Two full backs, Lesley Duru and Jaydn Mundle-Smith are also searching for new employers and Jayden Harris also moves on after more than decade with the club.

Fulham formally confirmed that all seven loanees players have headed back to their parent clubs as expected. Lemina, Aina, Andersen and Areola made their mark whilst at the club, as regular first-team players who put in some outstanding performances, they were not enough to rescue the Whites from the drop. Lookman showed early promise, but it felt as though he wilted as the season went on. Maja returns to cash-strapped Bordeaux after an uneventful loan spell, although his debut brace at Everton did hint at real promise and that penalty at Arsenal briefly sparked hope of another great escape. Ruben Loftus-Cheek goes back to the Stamford Bridge bench, where he will still move more than he did at Craven Cottage pitch as he models for BooHooMan.

Seven players have been seen their one-year extension options activated. Tyrese Francois, the talented Australian midfielder who made his first-team debut against Southampton in 2019 and came off the bench on the final day of the season against Newcastle, is among these. Cyrus Christie will be at the Cottage for another year after spending this season on loan with Nottingham Forest and Maxime Le Marchand, who made sixteen appearances and scored three goals at Royal Antwerp in the second half of the season, is also contracted for another year.

Jerome Opoku has been rewarded for another encouraging loan spell – this time with League One Plymouth – with an extension, which may allow him to make an impression on the first team set up. Given the surfeit of centre backs now at Parker’s disposal another loan might be more likely, with a Championship destination a possibility this time. Terry Ablade has been earned an extension of his own after lively displays for the under-23 side and has been joined by the Ghanaian-American central defender Eric Ameyaw and defensive midfielder, Jonathan Page.

There was also confirmation of Tim Ream’s new deal, which the American spoke about in the run-up to his current international duty. Fulham have also agreed new terms with Marlon Fossey, the attacking right back, who has been so unlucky with serious knee injuries over the past two seasons. Luca Ashby-Hammond, the highly-rated England youth international goalkeeper, has put pen to paper on a new contract after another strong season with the under 23s, whilst older brother Taye has been offered a new deal.

Several of the club’s academy starlets have been offered new contracts. These include exciting English forward Mika Biereth, who scored 21 goals in 22 games as the under 18s retained their Premier League south title. Jean-Pierre Tiéhi, who registered ten goals in 23 games at under-23 level, is also considering a new contract. Scottish centre back pairing Connor McAvoy and Ibane Bowat, pivotal to the under 18s success this year, have been offered new deals whilst Luciano D’Auria-Henry, who stepped up to the under 23s at right back, and Idris Odutayo are also in the process of securing their futures at Motspur Park.

Finally, Fulham revealed they remain in dialogue with long-serving goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, whose contract expires at the end of the month. You would imagine that Marek Rodak remains ahead of Bettinelli, whose loan spell with Middlesbrough ended in disappointment as he was dropped by Neil Warnock towards the end of the season, but he will always retain a place in the hearts of the Fulham faithful, especially following his exploits after coming back in the team that Slavisa Jokanovic guided to promotion.

Manchester City line up move for Robinson

Manchester City are preparing a shock move for Fulham full back Antonee Robinson, according to the Sun.

Pep Guardiola is planning to overhaul his squad after City’s Champions’ League final disappointment and aims to sign younger players for the future. The 23 year-old’s athleticism and attacking instincts appeal to Guardiola and the English champions believe that a £10m bid would be enough to persuade Fulham to part with a player they only signed last summer from Wigan.

Robinson made 35 appearances in his debut season for Fulham, quickly displacing the club’s Wembley hero Joe Bryan at left back, and impressed despite the blow of relegation. The former Everton trainee has won eleven caps for the United States and helped the Americans qualify for the CONCACAF Nations League final in his first start for his country earlier this week.

Bournemouth plan to replace Woodgate with Parker

Bournemouth are planning to replace Jonathan Woodgate with Fulham manager Scott Parker, according to the Sun.

The Cherries are ready to move on from Woodgate, who took over from Jason Tindall on an interim basis, after they were beaten in the Championship play off semi-finals by Brentford. The south coast club are confident of being able to lure the 40 year-old away from Fulham after the club’s relegation from the top flight.

They believe that Parker is open to moving on after disputes with Fulham hierarchy and that he would be open to exploring a new challenge. Parker has previously figured heavily on Bournemouth’s managerial shortlist but their plans to appoint him as a successor to Eddie Howe failed when Fulham won promotion via the Championship play-offs last summer.

Parker’s stature within the game remains strong despite Fulham’s collapse in the final ten games of the season that cost them their top flight status. Fulham are still planning to start the new season with Parker in charge at Craven Cottage and would resist any attempts by suitors to lure him elsewhere.

Thanks for the memories, Kevin McDonald

Friday’s announcement that Kevin McDonald would be leaving Fulham at the end of the month felt inevitable but it still tugged at the heart strings a little bit. McDonald, the heartbeat of this side for so long, has far bigger things to worry about than his contractual situation at present as he recovers from his kidney transplant – but the outpouring of emotion as Fulham fans reacted to the news showed just how important he has been in SW6 over recent years. The word legend is horribly overused in sports punditry these days, but McDonald is a bona fide Fulham one as much for his contributions in and around the dressing room as on the field.

The Scottish midfielder became a cult hero during his time at Craven Cottage, slotting in successfully to a problem position at the base of Slavisa Jokanovic’s midfield after Fulham finally concluded their lengthy pursuit of his signature with Wolves in the summer of 2016. McDonald has spoken about how the Serbian head coach changed his game by playing him in a deeper role than he had ever played before and it worked to perfection. The triumvirate of McDonald, Stefan Johansen and Tom Cairney were in many ways the critical part of Jokanovic’s success – becoming a delight to watch as their pretty passing ripped through Championship opposition, especially when the Whites went half a season undefeated.

McDonald often controlled games, even when not on the ball, a metronome who sat just ahead of the centre backs and ensured that the Whites were ticking over correctly. He was always one to be trusted, providing a sense of solidity when Fulham’s defence was notoriously leaky. However, the 6’4″ Scottish international also proved to be more than capable with the ball at his feet, with his elegant passing providing the foundations for more conventional flair players, like Cairney, to influence proceedings higher up the pitch.

McDonald, of course, was not short of his own moments of magic. In different ways, his goals against Barnsley, Leeds and Millwall will live long in the memory. His magnificent strike at the Den will be etched in Fulham fans’ minds for ever – topping off a brilliant awayday with some raucous celebrations. It finished off a superb team display on a high-pressure occasion for the Whites and the technical excellence of his astonishing 25-yard screamer should never be discounted either. .

But perhaps McDonald’s most important influence was one which the fans never truly saw. He was clearly a leader on the field, but his ferocious will-to-win and reassuring words around the dressing room, which we glimpsed with the snippets of footage and photographs of the celebrations following the Wembley victory over Aston Villa, definitely resonated with his team-mates. You can be certain McDonald was critical to the camaraderie that carried Jokanovic’s side through the magnificent run in the second half of the 2017/2018 season.

We have seen tantalising glimpses of his character. He’s been engaging with the fans, but never sought the limelight. Many of his acts of kindness – sending messages to supporters who have been seriously ill or videos of support to those struggling with coronavirus – arrived privately, a mark of the man. There have been hilarious interludes in public, such as attesting to the accuracy of the Fulham fans cheeky ditty in his honour to Ivan Berry, or the revealing stories that featured in his engaging chat with former team-mate Si Ferry.

If we didn’t already know about McDonald’s bravery, we were convinced of it by the way he faced up to his kidney surgery – going public in order to educate others about the disease and what help was available. It may have brought his playing career to a premature end, but frankly it is remarkable that he scaled such heights whilst battling his body for fourteen years in professional football. His two promotions with Fulham are made all the more remarkable. We wish both Kevin and his brother, who donated his own kidney, well in their ongoing recovery.

There are still questions marks about where McDonald’s career goes from here. He has already passed on some of his insights to Fulham’s academy stars as he studies for his coaching badges. A move into coaching would allow McDonald to continue to influence the game that he loves and there’s no doubt that he would carry the respects of his peers into a new role. That, of course, is for the future. I’m certain we haven’t heard the last of Kevin McDonald. Alongside all Fulham fans, we wish him all the best for his recovery – and it isn’t just sentiment that has me hoping that we’ll see him in the dugout at Craven Cottage at some point in the future.

Anguissa scores winner as Cameroon beat Nigeria

Fulham midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa scored the winner as Cameroon beat Nigeria for the first time in 21 years in Vienna this evening.

Anguissa, who had earlier bravely blocked a goalbound shot from Moses Simon, fired home a fantastic low shot from outside the box after capitalising on a poor clearance from William Troost-Ekong nine minutes before half-time. The 25 year-old’s first international goal was enough to claim a morale-boosting win for Cameroon, who held firm despite prolonged pressure from the Super Eagles in the second half.

The two sides will meet again in another friendly on Tuesday.

Fulham freeze season ticket prices

Fulham have written to their season ticket holders today confirming that the club will be freezing the price of season tickets following their relegation from the Premier League.

A letter from the club advises supporters that ‘2021/22 season ticket prices will be frozen at the amount existing supporters paid for the 2019/20 campaign’. Fans have also been told that the renewal process will be conducted entirely digitally this year as the club prepares to ‘welcome the safe and regular return of supporters to Craven Cottage for the 2021/22 season’.

Robinson makes first competitive start for USA

Fulham full back Antonee Robinson made his first competitive start for the United States as Gregg Berhalter’s side scraped past Honduras in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Nations League in Denver last night.

A young American side were below par for much of the game and had to wait until the very last minute for substitute Jordan Siebatcheu to clinch their spot in the final with a diving header. The USA will now face the winner of the second semi-final between Mexico and Costa Rica on Sunday.

Robinson won his eleventh senior cap for the United States and played 78 minutes at left back before being replaced by Reggie Canoon.

Antonsson scores for Iceland U19s

Fulham defender Thorsteinn Aron Antonsson scored his first international goal this afternoon as Iceland under 19 side drew 2-2 with the Faroe Islands’ under 21s in a friendly in Toftar today.

Antonsson opened the scoring with a header in the first half. The 17 year-old defender, who joined Fulham from Selfloss last October, made four league appearances for Steve Wigley’s under 18 side last night as the young Whites successfully defended their U18 Premier League south title. The 6ft 6in centre half is highly rated at Motspur Park and should add to his international experience at the weekend when the Icelandic youngsters play their second match of their brief tour on Sunday.