Egypt international Omar Gaber excited at prospect of MLS adventure

Omar Gaber is heading to MLS outfit Los Angeles FC to be reunited with former coach Bob Bradley. (REUTERS)
Updated 31 January 2018
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Egypt international Omar Gaber excited at prospect of MLS adventure

LOS ANGELES: It is five years since Omar Gaber last appeared on a teamsheet picked by Bob Bradley, yet the bond of mutual respect between player and manager is undimmed.
“I’m so excited to work with him again, he’s a great coach and a great person as well,” Egyptian international Gaber told Arab News in a Los Angeles hotel, just days after landing in California for his new footballing venture.
Gaber was a fringe figure at FC Basel when Bradley came calling in November. He had made just 17 appearances for the Swiss outfit in the previous 18 months after moving from boyhood club Zamalek.
Former Egyptian national team manager Bradley sensed an opportunity, as he began constructing a team from scratch for new Major League Soccer club Los Angeles FC — a franchise co-owned by a host of Hollywood and sporting glitterati including Will Ferrell and ‘Magic’ Johnson.
Bradley wanted familiar faces to etch onto his blank sheet of paper and a deal was struck for Gaber to join on a season-long loan, with the 25-year-old arriving in southern California last week to begin pre-season training.
But it is not just the opportunity of a fresh start in MLS which prompts Gaber to refer to Bradley in such reverential terms. Neither is it the memory of the international caps earned under the American during Egypt’s 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, when so much hope and promise culminated in the heartbreaking play-off defeat to Ghana.
It is Bradley’s contribution toward Egypt ending their 28-year wait for successful World Cup qualification, which leads Gaber to regard his manager in such glowing terms.
Bradley’s spell in charge of Egypt coincided with the bloody violence of the revolution, the Port Said stadium disaster and the suspension of the Egyptian Premier League.
But despite such harrowing off-the-field strife, Gaber believes Bradley was instrumental in laying the foundations for the Pharaohs’ current success under African Coach of the Year Hector Cuper.
He was able to put a more successful structure in place for the national side and actively incorporated those playing European football, such as Mohamed Salah, Ahmed Elmohamady and Mohamed Elneny.
Five years on, Egypt are reaping the rewards of those foundations.
Gaber said: “It was a very bad situation in Egypt at that time and the league was not playing regularly.
“It was so difficult to qualify at that time (in 2014). We didn’t make it, but Bob built a new team for the national side. We were only one step away from qualifying too.
“He also helped players to go and play in Europe. That’s why the people in Egypt still remember him and love him so much.
“Of course, when Bob Bradley spoke with me, I had to come here.”
Head coach Bob Bradley talks with reporters during the introduction of players and coaches at the first training camp of the Los Angeles Football Club MLS soccer team. (AP)

AMERICAN ADVENTURE
Bradley was evidently the key factor in Gaber moving to MLS, as he bids to secure a spot in Cuper’s squad for next summer’s World Cup.
But the midfielder almost made the switch to the US three years ago, when Columbus Crew held talks with Zamalek, before negotiations ground to a halt.
“We couldn’t agree anything,” Gaber explains succinctly.
Politically, of course, the US is now a very different place, with President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries due be ruled upon by the Supreme Court later this year, although Egypt remains exempt from the possible legislation.
But the growing social, religious and racial tensions in the country did not dissuade Gaber from joining LAFC.
“No, I had no doubts,” said Gaber.
“As a footballer, you only have to focus on the field. It’s my job. I have to work hard on the field. That’s it.
“All I can say is I’m looking forward to mixing with the big Egyptian community in Los Angeles.”
Neither was there any fear of the unknown in joining a club with no history, no recent results and a threadbare squad that in November would have struggled to fulfill the duties of a five-a-side team.
“It’s a risk, but because we have quality players now and the people working for the club want success, I’m sure we’ll achieve good things together,” he said.
“When they started to speak with me, I felt they were so professional and had big ambitions.
“The MLS is improving so much. It’s a new experience, a new adventure for me.
“At FC Basel, many of the players spoke about how they’d like to go to the MLS. The league is strong now and the life here is so beautiful.”
Ahead of the new MLS season starting in March, LAFC now have far more recruits on their books, with former Arsenal and Real Sociedad forward Carlos Vela their biggest name so far.
With a new $350 million stadium due to open in the heart of Los Angeles in April, the club have big ambitions to elbow aside David Beckham’s former employers LA Galaxy as the city’s dominant side.
Traditionally, new MLS clubs have struggled in their first seasons, albeit Seattle Sounders and last year Atlanta United, broke that trend. Yet Gaber boasts the undimmed confidence that new signings invariably enjoy when they speak of the season ahead.
“We have to achieve big things in the first year and make history,” he said.


Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

Updated 16 December 2018
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Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

  • Shaqiri braces gives Reds deserved win over United at Anfield.
  • Mourinho's men well beaten as Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City ti return to top of the table.

LIVERPOOL: Two deflected Xherdan Shaqiri strikes handed Liverpool victory over Manchester United in the Premier League for the first time in nine attempts as Jurgen Klopp’s men moved back to the top of the table with a 3-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.
United manager Jose Mourinho claimed ahead of the game that the league leaders have had luck on their side this season, but while there was fortune in substitute Shaqiri’s two goals in the final 17 minutes, the visitors did not deserve anything more than a fifth defeat of the season.
Liverpool leapfrogged Manchester City to finish the weekend where they started, a point clear at the top, and move a mammoth 19 clear of United, who remain in sixth and are now 11 points off the top four.
The contrasting form showed by both sides this season continued as United strained to keep a rampant Liverpool at bay and were only level for so long thanks to a huge error by home goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead before Jesse Lingard levelled when Alisson dropped a routine cross at the feet of the England international.
United had the ball in the net first on a rare foray forward but Romelu Lukaku was flagged offside despite not getting a touch to Ashley Young’s free-kick.
But Liverpool then laid siege to the visitors’ goal with David de Gea stretching to keep out a low drive from Roberto Firmino, Young clearing off the line and Fabinho firing wide from the edge of the box.
Only Manchester City have kept Klopp’s side from scoring in the Premier League this season and a United defense that has kept just one clean sheet in the league since September never looked capable of holding out like they had in their two previous visits to Anfield.
Mourinho’s men were finally breached when Mane controlled Fabinho’s chipped ball into the box on his chest and volleyed past the onrushing De Gea.
However, Liverpool’s momentum was punctured by an Alisson gift 12 minutes before the break.
The Brazilian was Liverpool’s hero with an injury-time save to secure the Reds’ place in the last 16 of the Champions League against Napoli on Tuesday.
But he spilled Lukaku’s simple cross into the path of the grateful Lingard to bundle the ball into an unguarded net.
The second half followed a similar pattern with one-way traffic toward the Kop as Liverpool sought the goal to take them back to the top of the table.
De Gea scrambled low to his left to palm Firmino’s prodded effort to safety, while Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk saw efforts deflected behind.
Jurgen Klopp turned to Shaqiri to unlock the United defense 20 minutes from time and the Swiss international needed just three to put Liverpool back in front.
De Gea did well to prevent Ander Herrera turning Mane’s cross into his own net, but the ball fell for Shaqiri and his effort cannoned off Young and in off the underside of the bar.
Seven minutes later, Shaqiri got lucky again when, this time on his favored left foot, his shot flicked off the diving Eric Bailly to leave De Gea helpless.