Why Saturday’s U.S. national team win matters

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A bit of a Sunday hangover developed yesterday regarding the U.S. national team, which had shellacked Scotland in a Saturday night Florida frolic, 5-1.

So Saturday brought euphoria over the accomplishment. The United States doesn’t beat European teams this way, after all. Yes, a team led previously by Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena might open a can of U.S. might on Cuba or some other economy car on the CONCACAF highway, but a four-goal win over Scotland? That’s one to Facebook about!

Then came Sunday. I got a few Twitter messages and blog comments that were all along the same theme: tap the brakes, ye media mavens, for Scotland is a poor, poor side at the moment. Saturday’s win doesn’t mean so much.

Only, I’m not buying it. The naysayers and buzz killers don’t get it.

It wasn’t the score; it was the manner in which it was achieved, stylistic, tenacious of pressure and perfectly representative of the plan manager Jurgen Klinsmann hatched nine months ago. (And Scotland, weakened no doubt, is a squad just the same of proud pros from quality European leagues.)

We all see contests where the score doesn’t accurately reflect the match’s true colors, where things just kind of get wackily out of hand at the end. This wasn’t one of them. The United States dominated front to back against a Scottish side that was never allowed to locate a groove in the steamy Florida night.

But again, it wasn’t just the margin. It was the U.S. flourish and the new way of playing that has everyone toasting Uncle Soccer Sam and rushing to laptops to order up another U.S. scarf or T-shirt.

This was a night where U.S. fans saw Klinsmann’s devilish plan come to beautiful fruition. He has preached of how best to get after opposition: he wants players stationed further up the field; greater tactical aggression from a less rigid arrangement, more pressure applied on offense and defense, a ploy that demands high confidence and higher degrees of fitness.

He’s been gradually building the elements, and Saturday it coalesced impressively.

By the way, the best two U.S. forwards of the moment, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, weren’t even on the field. So how ‘bout them apples?

Yes, this Scotland was a poor version of itself. But players and managers had promised a typically spirited effort, if nothing else. Only, that didn’t matter. Spirit only gets you so far against a confident bunch that’s committed to a high-pressure methodology.

It doesn’t mean that the United States can go do the same to Spain or Germany or Argentina. Or Brazil, for that matter, as we might see Wednesday. But it does say this: The new way gives Klinsmann’s side the ability to dominate regional sides the way fans have long wished they could. And they won’t need to sit back and take it, hoping to bang something in on the counter against the global bully boys.

The new way just “looks” more American, more assertive – and no one needs to apologize for feeling good about it.

UEL: Griezmann nabs crucial away goal vs. Arsenal, Marseille cruises

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A game of back-and-forth at the Emirates Stadium set up an enticing second leg in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, while a Ligue 1 side positioned itself well to move into the final.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Arsenal and Atletico Madrid settled for a 1-1 draw in London, as Antoine Griezmann’s late strike leveled the match for the Spanish side.

The Gunners looked on their way to a victory when Alexandre Lacazette‘s goal just beyond the hour mark put Arsene Wenger‘s men in front.

The result sets up a strong showdown for the two giants in a week’s time, although Arsenal will feel it left something on the table after racking up 26 shots (seven on target) on the day, particularly after Sime Vrsaljko was sent off after 10 minutes for the visitors when he picked up a second yellow card.

Meanwhile, Florian Thauvin and Clinton Njie gave Marseille a 2-0 win over Red Bull Leipzig, giving the French side the edge it sought out ahead of the competition finale.

The two clubs will meet again at Red Bull Arena Salzburg for the second leg.


Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Marseille 2-0 Red Bull Salzburg

Europa League, LIVE: Arsenal, Marseille host first legs

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Diego Costa brings a solid career record against Arsenal back to London in a bid to ruin Arsene Wenger‘s farewell season at the Emirates Stadium.

[ FOLLOW: Arsenal vs. Atleti ]

The now-Atletico Madrid forward returns to England on Thursday as his La Liga outfit aims to stop Arsenal from reaching next month’s Europa League Final in Lyon.

[ FOLLOW: Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg ]

That’s a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff, the same as Marseille’s date with Red Bull Salzburg in France.

ARSENAL-ATLETICO MADRID LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette. Subs: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Chambers, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Nketiah.

Atleti: Oblak, Lucas, Godin, Gimenez, Vrsaljko, Saul, Thomas, Koke, Correa, Griezmann, Gameiro. Subs: Werner, Savic, Gabi, Vitolo, Olabe, Torres, Costa.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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It is that time of the week again, folks. Prediction time!

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush” ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

West Ham 0-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 4-0 Watford – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM ]

Swansea City 0-2 Chelsea – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Man United 3-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 1-1 West Brom – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Huddersfield 1-2 Everton- (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-0 Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

 


Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Crystal Palace 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Chivas’ Almeyda exhales after CCL win: “I finished last season with five ulcers”

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Matias Almeyda’s body didn’t need the intensity of penalty kicks, though he’ll gladly accept the outcome after Chivas Guadalajara clinched a Club World Cup berth by beating Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

“I finished last season with five ulcers,” Almeyda told ESPN’s Tom Marshall, noting his grandmother is ill as well.

Chivas reached a pair of finals before this tournament, and had a number of other obstacles including protests of the club’s owners and disappointment in player recruitment.

[ MORE: TFC’s “heart has been ripped from chest” ]

Still, the long-haired Argentine put together a winning CCL team. The former River Plate and Banfield manager spent most of his playing career in Spain, Italy, and Argentina, and is happy to pick up a big win in a new(ish) country.

“It’s beautiful. When I gave my first press conference I was unknown in Mexico and it wasn’t easy,” Almeyda said. “I spoke that day about what I wanted to achieve here and God has helped me achieve what I promised.”

The 44-year-old won Serie A as a player with Lazio, and has two Copa MX and a Liga MX title to go with his CCL crown. He’s a name to watch moving forward, and — as the kids say, don’t at me — a sneaky interesting name for the USMNT given his ability to marshal an undermanned unit.