Flashes and questions define Josh Gatt’s U.S. debut

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It was long awaited, but on Wednesday, we finally saw Josh Gatt’s U.S. Men’s National Team debut. The 21-year-old winger, much-discussed among USMNT fans since making his mark in Norway, started on the right in Russia, slotting in on the attack’s right in Jurgen Klinsmann’s 4-3-3.

Making his debut – on the road, against tough opposition – you’d expect Gatt to struggle. At times he did, but the bigger picture was an encouraging if mixed bag. Against a team that’s in the middle of an impressive qualifying run, Gatt was able to show a number of qualities that could position him as an alternative to Brek Shea. With the effort and awareness he showed over his 63 minutes, Gatt already looks like a good late-match (defensive) option for CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying.

MORE: What we learned from the U.S.’s trip to Russia

Here’s the good, the bad of Josh Gatt’s senior national team debut:

PLUS COLUMN

Speed, width, movement – Oh my, an actual wide player. Where did this come from?

Since the start of World Cup qualifying – when we began seeing less of Brek Shea on the left – we haven’t seen true wide players for the U.S.  Gatt, however, provided a legitimate wide (if imperfect) presence on the right, showing flashes against a opposing player (Dmitri Kombarov) who, as a converted midfielder, was more than capable of following him up-and-down the flank.

Gatt also added some much-needed speed to a team which lacks attackers who can blow by a defense. Twice Gatt was able to get on balls lofted behind the defense, and while Russia’s back line isn’t known for its light feet, the Molde winger would be one of the U.S.’s better options against similarly vulnerable defenses.

Ability to move across the pitch – Thirty minutes in, Gatt left his right wing and moved to the left, with Klinsmann’s front three of Gatt, Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore showing more fluidity than we’re used to seeing from U.S. attackers. Early in the second half, Gatt was even seen dropping back for a ball from a central position, hinting he may be able to challenge the slower players that tend to occupy a team’s central defense.

Defending –  We saw it in the third minute. As the U.S. defense pushed after a corner, a ball was swung in from Russia’s right targeting a man that seemed open wide of the far post. Gatt, however, made up the ground and helped kill an opportunity before it came off, effort that was saw replicated throughout his hour of play.

MORE: USMNT Man of the Match – Michael Bradley

MINUS COLUMN

First touch – Like his teammates, Gatt was having trouble managing the passes played to him. At one point early in the first half, a pass up to him went right off his foot and out of bounds for a Russian throw in. It could have been the ball, the field, or the conditions – who knows? For whatever reason, the U.S. had trouble with their first touch. Gatt was no exception.

No aggression in attack – His runs off the ball? Some where very good. With the ball, Gatt showed no aggression. There were multiple times where he had his many isolated and should have taken him on. It never happened. Once, it seemed Gatt was setting up to attack Kombarov, but got the ball caught in his feet. That happens to everybody, but on Wednesday, it was exemplified Gatt’s attacking contributions.

No crossing – Near half time, Gatt got a ball wide of Kombarov and had a perfect chance to take a touch toward the goal line before putting in a cross. Instead, he cut the ball back to the middle. It was the most egregious but not only time Gatt avoided playing a ball into the box.

Newcastle, West Ham raided as HMRC make arrests

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Both Newcastle United and West Ham United are at the center of a huge fraud investigation by tax authorities in the UK.

HMRC released a statement on Wednesday saying that 180 officers had been deployed across the UK and France and that it had arrested “several men working within the professional football industry.”

Financial and business records, cell phones and computers were seized in the raids which is in relation to income tax and national insurance fraud.

In a statement HMRC had the following to say about the ongoing investigation.

“180 HMRC officers have been deployed across the UK and France today. Investigators have searched a number of premises in the North East and South East of England and arrested the men and also seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones.

“The French authorities are assisting the UK investigation, have made arrests and several locations have been searched in France. This criminal investigation sends a clear message that, whoever you are, if you commit tax fraud you can expect to face the consequences. As this is an ongoing investigation HMRC is unable to provide any further detail at this time.”

Unconfirmed reports state that Lee Charnley, the managing director of Newcastle United, was arrested during raids on the training ground and St James’ Park.

West Ham released the following statement following the raid on their London Stadium home early on Wednesday.

“The clubs is cooperating fully with HMRC to assist their inquiries. No further comment will be made at this time.”

HMRC has recently stepped up its investigations into the tax paid by soccer clubs on lucrative transfer fees and image rights.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.