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Life without Jermaine Jones: This central midfield doesn’t look so deep anymore

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SEATTLE, Wash. — When he first inherited the U.S. Men’s National Team, Jurgen Klinsmann had the luxury of giving Michael Bradley, the team’s best central midfielder, some time off. Not only was Klinsmann committed to giving players like Kyle Beckerman a chance to work his way into the national team picture, the new U.S. boss also had players like Maurice Edu, José Torres, Danny Williams to evaluate. By the time Bradley and Jermaine Jones settling into the starting roles, central midfield seemed the U.S.’s deepest position.

Fast forward to today, and the U.S.’s squad suddenly looks thin in the middle, especially with the news that Jones will miss Tuesday’s match. The first choice midfielder revealed Sunday that the concussion he suffered in Jamaica will keep him out of the Panama match. With right midfielder Graham Zusi suspended for the match, Klinsmann has to find two new starters from his limited options.

“These moments happen,” was Klinsmann’s sanguine response when asked about some of his absences. In trademark Klinsmann fashion, he was more apt to talk about the new chances than the misfortunes.

“With every player getting an opportunity, for whatever circumstances — some players injured, some missing, whatever it is — this is the opportunity they get,” Klinsmann explained, espousing his general philosophy while speaking of Brad Evans’ opportunism. “You always break into a team by the fact something happens or you convince the coach that you’re good.”

As it concerns replacing Jones, Klinsmann’s squad has three players who could get the change to show the coach they’re good.

Sacha Kljestan, never fully embraced as a middle-of-the-park option under Bob Bradley, saw time centrally during pre-qualifying friendlies. Often playing in the middle for Anderlecht, Kljestan would be a proactive choice, enhancing the U.S’s ability to hold the ball and dictate play going forward.

Geoff Cameron, however, may be the most Jones-like player of the group. While it would be risky to ask him to replicate the ranging destruction that’s characterized Jones’ play, Cameron is capable of providing a physical (if deeper) complement to Michael Bradley.

Klinsmann was also impressed with what Cameron offered in Jamaica.

“The way Geoff Cameron jumped in and he played a number six was outstanding,” the coach said. “He helped us a lot there.”

If Klinsmann is looking at people who “convince the coach that you’re good,” do Cameron’s Kingston contributions give him a leg up?

Stu Holden is the only other central midfielder on the roster, but it would be a stretch to see him get the start. Perhaps the Bolton midfielder has impressed in training, but playing only nine minutes for the U.S. in the Klinsmann-era, getting a World Cup Qualifying start would be a huge step up.

The trio are a collection of imperfect alternatives, which isn’t surprising. There’s a reason some players start while others are understudies. Still, with the likes of Eddie Johnson having shown the ability to have an impact from wide, you wonder if switching to a 4-3-3 formation could prove helpful.

If central midfield is hurting, Klinsmann may elect to throw numbers at the problem.

Youthful Tottenham Hotspur lose to Juventus in ICC opener

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26:  Cameron Carter-Vickers of Tottenham Hotspur and Paulo Dybala of Juventus FC compete for the ball during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Juventus FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 26, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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Italian champs Juventus beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia on Tuesday as Paulo Dybala and Medhi Benatia both scored in the first half and Erik Lamela pulled one back for Spurs in the second half.

[ MORE: United to let four go ]

The International Champions Cup clash saw both teams field plenty of youngsters but Juve put the result to bed inside the opening 15 minutes with two well-taken goals.

New Spurs signings Vincent Janseen and Victor Wanyama started the game, while U.S. youth international Cameron Carter-Vickers started at center back and DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench but came on at half time and played left back.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s young side defended poorly early on but he will have been pleased to come through the game without any injuries — plus youngster Marcus Edwards impressing off the bench — and Spurs’ attention will now switch to playing Atletico Madrid in Melbourne on Friday.

Dybala scored after just six minutes with the first effort of the game as young Spurs defender Dominic Ball gave the ball away and Carter-Vickers couldn’t clear the ball which led to Dybala smashing home with his left foot. 1-0 to Juve.

A strong Juventus side continued to pin Spurs back as Miralem Pjanic becoming more influential and Dybala hammered a shot towards the to corner after Carter-Vickers was caught out but Michel Vorm tipped it over.

From the resulting corner Benatia headed home across the goal and despite protests of a push by Benatia from Spurs’ players, the goal stood. 2-0 to the Italian champs.

Spurs began to grow into the game after their initial struggles and looked dangerous from wide areas but Janseen was a frustrated figure up front, while William Miller went down in the box under a heavy challenge but no penalty kick was awarded.

At half time Pochettino made four changes with Josh Onoma, Harry Winks, Erik Lamela and Yedlin coming on, with the USMNT man slotting in at left back before playing the final 12 minutes at right back as he showed plenty of promise going forward.

Pjanic was set clean through in the second half but skewed his effort over the bar when he should’ve hit the target and at the other end Lamela struck a low left-footed effort just wide of the far post via a deflection.

After a flurry of subs for both teams Lamela pulled one back for Spurs. Wanyama won the ball back 40-yards out in a central area and Lamela drilled a low shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.

Lamela had a great chance to equalize late on but hit his shot straight at the goalkeeper, while Shayon Harrison was also kept out as Spurs couldn’t find an equalizer with the first game of their tour of Australia ending in defeat.

Ronaldo shows no sign of injury while hanging with Conor McGregor

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Cristiano Ronaldo may not be ready for the UEFA Super Cup, but he’s no longer limping around.

To explore the Real Madrid superstar’s Instagram is to see Ronaldo, sometimes clothed, hanging out with celebrities.

In the last couple weeks we’ve seen him with Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, and now his “bro” Conor McGregor.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Wait, what?

Yeah, Ronaldo is friends with the MMA star, and showed no ill form (and no brace of any kind) in several posed photos with McGregor.

Although admittedly, McGregor’s IG game is a bit better: The Irish fighter posted a photo of himself sunning in his briefs with the caption, “I’m gonna get him on the Forbes list by next year. But I’m gonna get him on the tan by next week.”

Good luck with both, bro.

Great to see you bro!!💪🏽🔝

A photo posted by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on Jul 24, 2016 at 3:48pm PD

Bruce pens letter to Hull fans: “Desperately wanted to make it work”

YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Steve Bruce manager of  Hull City ahead of the pre-season friendly match between York City and Hull City at Bootham Cresent on July 23, 2014  in York, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
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Many Hull City fans didn’t want Steve Bruce to leave the club, and this open letter shows why.

After leaving the club by “mutual consent” on Friday — it was first widely reported that he quit — fans protested at Hull’s game on Monday.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Bruce may’ve had his problems with Hull’s ownership, but he certainly got his supporters’ feelings right down to the core.

From the Hull Daily Mail:

My biggest regret is having to walk away but it was a decision I had to make for the sake of the club. The last 12 months have been very tough and it felt like the right step for the club to move forward in a different direction and with someone else in charge.

I desperately wanted to make it work this summer and be a Premier League manager again but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, I’ve left Hull City with some fantastic memories that I’ll always cherish, including just eight weeks ago in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Class from the longtime boss, and we imagine he’ll have a job very soon if he wants it.

Report: Everton to activate release clause of Stoke’s Arnautovic

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Marko Arnautovic (1st L) of Stoke City competes for the ball against Seamus Coleman (2nd L) and Gareth Barry (1st Rof Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Stoke City at Goodison Park on December 28, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
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Everton is going to activate Marko Arnautovic‘s $16 million release clause to bring the Stoke City striker to Goodison Park, according to a report out of Austria.

Stoke had been trying to sign Arnautovic to a contract extension, but the player was reportedly prepared to play out the final year of his deal.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

The huge 27-year-old Austrian has been with Stoke since 2013, and broke through with 11 Premier League goals last season.

Arnautovic would give Everton support behind Romelu Lukaku, and insurance in case the Toffees do wind up selling their Belgian striker. Everton also has Arouna Kone as a potential target forward, but Oumar Niasse is expecting to leave after less than a year at Goodison Park.