United States lineup prediction vs. Panama

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SEATTLE, Wash. – Before Monday afternoon’s practice, U.S. men’s national players fulfilled their last public commitment ahead of Tuesday’s game, appearing in front the media before their final training session at CenturyLink Field. Among the day’s favorite topics – aside from the suspect turf, Seattle’s crowd, Panama – were subtle attempts to get players to reveal parts of Tuesday’s starting lineup.

On Friday in Jamaica, the U.S. carried over the XI who started five days earlier against Germany, the first time in Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure the same lineup was used in consecutive games. But with midfielders Jermaine Jones (concussion recovery) and Graham Zusi (suspension) set to miss Tuesday’s match, that streak stops at two, and after nobody gave away any secrets at Monday’s practice, we’re left to our usual educated guesses as to who will take the field against Panama:

source:  Goalkeeper: Tim Howard’s firmly entrenched in the No. 1’s role, and while there was some constructive conversation this winter about the virtues of Brad Guzan, there’s been little desire to revisit that debate. The Everton-man will start on Tuesday.

Defense: With central midfield looking thin, Brad Evans would normally be considered as a potential partner for Michael Bradley. Not surprisingly, there’s been no discussion of that possibility, conventional wisdom holding the back line that started in Kingston will be kept in tact. That means central midfielder Brad Evans at right back, left midfielder DaMarcus Beasley at left back, with Omar Gonzalez partnering Matt Besler in the middle.

Midfield: Michael Bradley will start in the middle, with Geoff Cameron likely to get the call as Jones’s replacement. Klinsmann has been very complimentary of Cameron’s performance in Jamaica, with teammates echoing the coach’s praise. Sacha Kljestan may also be an option, but having started in the middle in the team’s disappointing performance against Belgium, the Anderlecht midfielder may miss out to the more stalwart option.

Fabian Johnson will start wide, but it’s unclear if he’ll be on his customary left side or on the right. Johnson acknowledged a switch is possible.

If that happens, the left side opens up for Eddie Johnson or Brad Davis. Johnson, who started on wide in the previous qualifying round, seems the more likely option, though if Fabian Johnson stays on the left, Tijuana’s Joe Corona could get the call on the right.

Forwards: With Jozy Altidore scoring in consecutive games, there’s little doubt the formerly drought-ridden striker will start up top. Clint Dempsey, a selection as guaranteed as Howard’s or Bradley’s, will wear the armband in support of Altidore.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.