World Cup winner Höwedes retires from soccer at 32

Howedes retires

BERLIN (AP) Benedikt Howedes, a defender who helped Germany win the World Cup title in 2014, retired from soccer on Friday citing family reasons.

The 32-year-old Howedes left Lokomotiv Moscow by mutual consent last month while the Russian league was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Howedes told German magazine Der Spiegel that soccer felt “suddenly so unimportant” for him after spending time with his young son on vacation, and that he had struggled to be away from his family.

[ MORE: FA Cup Final preview ]

Howedes played 44 times for the German national team from 2011-17 and played every minute for his team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He came through the youth system at Schalke and played professionally for the club from 2007-18, including an injury-troubled loan spell at Juventus in 2017-18. Howedes moved to Russia with Lokomotiv in 2018.

His announcement comes two weeks after another member of the 2014 World Cup-winning squad, Andre Schurrle, retired at the age of 29 after Borussia Dortmund agreed to release him.

Schurrle also had most recently played in the Russian league on a loan at Spartak Moscow.

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

Big, big news for Chelsea, who will get two experienced and electric talents back for Saturday’s FA Cup Final.

N’Golo Kante and Willian are fit and available to be selected for the match against Arsenal, though Frank Lampard says he’ll wait to see if they are able to start.

[ MORE: FA Cup Final preview ]

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been added to the injury list and will miss out alongside long-term absentee Billy Gilmour.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was very complimentary of Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta, as both sides look to pick up signature wins for their early tenures as managers in London.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“I think he’s done a really good job since he’s been there,” he added. “I know that feeling of trying to lay down messages, keep trying to drill things home, make relationships and see where you want the club to be taken forward. From the outside, I’ve got big respect for the way he’s done his job.”

Kickoff is at 12:30 pm ET Saturday.

Arsenal has won the FA Cup a record 13 times, one more than Manchester United and five more times than its Saturday opponents. Chelsea last won in 2018 while Arsenal won the previous season.

It’s going to be aw West London Derby playoff promotion final after Cardiff City and Fulham staged a thrilling second leg at Craven Cottage on Thursday.

Brentford beat Swansea City in the other semifinal to set up

The Cottagers entered the match with a 2-0 advantage earned in Wales but Cardiff put the tie on its ear just two minutes after halftime of the second leg.

[ MORE: FA Cup Final preview ]

The match was 1-1 on goals from Fulham’s Neeskens Kebano and Cardiff’s Curtis Nielson when halftime sub Lee Tomlin cleaned up a back post mess to give the Bluebirds a second away goal to match Thursday’s hosts.

Fulham is bidding to make its absence from the Premier League a one-year problem, while Brentford has not played first-tier football since the 1946-47 season.

Arsenal-Chelsea: Frank Lampard wants Chelsea to bring silverware into the new season, having already clinched a place in the Champions League.

Mikel Arteta needs that silverware just to keep his project in the Europa League.

Yeah, the stakes are high for Saturday’s FA Cup Final, where the tournament’s winningest side meets its blue London rivals at 12:30 pm ET.

FA Cup history

Arsenal has won the FA Cup a record 13 times, one more than Manchester United and five more times than its Saturday opponents. Chelsea last won in 2018 while Arsenal won the previous season.

Last chance for silverware

While Chelsea is still technically alive in Europe, down 3-0 to Bayern Munich and the home leg of a Champions League Round of 16 tie, the FA Cup Final is far and away both clubs’ best chance at silverware in their new managers’ first seasons in charge.

Team news

Arsenal is without Bernd Leno, Calum Chambers, Shkrodan Mustafi, and Gabriel Martinelli. It looks like Hector Bellerin will be a game time decision.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Billy Gilmour are out for Chelsea, who got a boost Friday with the news that N’Golo Kante and Willian recovered from injuries.

Pulisic news

American star Christian Pulisic is not facing any injury problems and said he “never had a real issue” over the last few weeks of the season despite coming off the bench against Liverpool.

Pulisic also spoke about the final and challenging old pal and mentor Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for hardware. From ESPN:

“The final comes down to us against them, who is more ready to play on the day. Obviously, it gives us confidence that we’ve been in good form, we’ve been playing well, and we’re going to try and bring that into the game. In the end, it is one game, and in a final, anything can happen.”

Odds and ends

Arsenal is +235 to win while Chelsea comes in at +114 according to DraftKings with a +250 chance of it going to penalty kicks.

The Blues took four of six points off Arsenal in Premier League play this season, winning 2-1 at the Emirates on Dec. 29 and drawing 2-2 at Stamford Bridge three-and-a-half weeks later.

Prediction

It could go in any direction, as Chelsea’s shown itself to be a chance producer but also a chance waster and capable of defensive errors. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Bukayo Saka are electric talents who can punish the Blues. Pulisic has a huge chance to make another great moment in his young career. Let’s call this one as a going to kicks.

How to watch Arsenal – Chelsea in the FA Cup Final

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
Online: ESPN+

Eric Wynalda is headed to the National Independent Soccer Association.

The former USMNT scorer and Las Vegas Lights manager has been named the inaugural coach of New Amsterdam FC, the Bronx-based third-tier club.

Wynalda, 51, and the Lights cut ties during the coronavirus pandemic in a move the coach described as money-related.

He also ran for president of U.S. Soccer in 2018.

Wynalda first made waves in management when he led independent Cal FC deep into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2012. He’s since managed Atlanta Silverbacks and Vegas.

His playing days saw him in Germany, the U.S., and Mexico, scoring 34 goals as a centurion for the USMNT.

NISA has nine teams preparing to start the fall season in August: New Amsterdam, Cal United, Chattnooga FC, Detroit City FC, LA Force, Michigan Stars, New York Cosmos, Oakland Roots, and Stumptown Athletic. San Diego 1904 FC is on hiatus and the league has announced the New Jersey Teamsters as well as clubs for Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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