Beyond the goals chase: Five players to watch for USWNT tonight

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All the talk heading into Thursday’s United States women’s national team’s game vs. South Korea is about Abby Wambach, and that’s exactly what she doesn’t want.

Wambach’s chase for the international goal scoring record is well-documented. Her 156 goals for the United States are two short of the mark held by Mia Hamm, arguably the best ever and a former teammate of Wambach with both the U.S. and the Washington Freedom.

But Wambach isn’t all that fond of the attention on the record. She wants to win a World Cup, something she’s twice been denied, the latest agonizingly so in 2011.

“I’ll be glad when it’s over so we can all stop talking about it and move on to 2015,” Wambach said.

[MORE: Wambach aims for history on Thursday]

So let’s pause for a moment and take a look at some of the other stories that could emerge from Thursday’s game (live on NBC Sports Network and streamed online on Live Extra).

Thursday’s match is the last for the United States until September. It’s the last chance for some to make an impression, and for others just to get back into the mix.

Here are five players to keep an eye on tonight:

Hope Solo: Still not at 100 percent, Solo is still likely to start tonight. It would be her first start since Feb. 13 vs. Scotland after having left wrist surgery in early March. She came on at halftime for the U.S. on Saturday and made an immediate save but then had very little to do, which is similar to how her first two games back with Seattle Reign FC have gone. Solo has not been greatly tested to date and she probably won’t be on Thursday either. All said, that’s probably a good way to gradually get back into the mix for the world’s top goalkeeper, who admits she still has a lot of progress to make.

Megan Rapinoe: Thursday is Rapinoe’s homecoming of sorts, having played all spring in France with Lyon and missed out on the first half of the National Women’s Soccer League season, as well as Saturday’s game and the June 2 win over Canada in Toronto. How has Rapinoe’s game changed since spending six months in France? And how will that fit with the United States? We’ll find out Thursday night.

Sydney Leroux: She was been “on fire,” according to U.S. coach Tom Sermanni and she finished just about every ball that came her way in an intense Tuesday training session. Leroux was effective on Saturday from a wider right position, which is how she created the 3rd minute goal for Kristie Mewis. Of note: that ability on the wing is what Boston Breakers coach Lisa Cole has tried to instill in Leroux, something the 23-year-old has reluctantly accepted.

Christen Press: How Press fits into this U.S. team is a question not only for Thursday, but moving forward toward the 2015 World Cup. Sermmanni has an abundance of forwards at his disposal and that includes Press, but she also has the ability to play as an attacking midfielder or in a wide role. Press scored twice as a wide player in her U.S. debut on Feb. 9. She leads the Swedish Damallsvenskan with 12 goals this season.

Morgan Brian: Fresh off a U-20 World Cup victory, the 20-year-0ld out of the University of Virginia has impressed in camp and earned her first cap in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Korea Republic, entering the game in the 77th minute. Brian has been sharp in training and that hasn’t gone unnoticed on Wambach:

“I’m very impressed with Morgan Brian,” Wambach said. “She’s come into her first camp and she’s not only come in and done sub-average, she’s actually doing really well. She’s been great. Being a young player, it’s one of those things – sometimes you just have to grind through the training sessions; you don’t know what to expect, or your legs are heavy, or you’re tired – you’re not as up to speed as the rest of us. That’s normal. But it’s those players that don’t skip a beat that you kind of, ‘wow, Morgan Brian, she’s actually doing really well.’ Confident, comfortable on the ball. And for me, that just says our youth programs are really working.”

Atlanta’s Almiron will miss at least three weeks with hamstring injury

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This isn’t what Atlanta United wanted to see right before the playoffs, but the club will be praying that it gets one of its biggest stars back in time for the MLS postseason.

[ MORE: Trio of USWNT players stay in locker room for national anthem ]

Miguel Almiron has been ruled out at least three weeks after suffering a hamstring injury during Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact.

Given the projected three-week timetable, Almiron could return for the team’s final two matches of the regular season against the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC.

Meanwhile, Almiron will also likely miss out on Paraguay’s two final CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers, which is a devastating blow for the country’s qualification chances. Paraguay currently sits three points behind fifth-place Argentina in South American qualifying.

In his first season in MLS, Almiron has taken the league by storm after scoring nine goals and adding 13 assists. Additionally, the 23-year-old has three game-winning goals for the expansion side, who currently sits third in the Eastern Conference.

Tackling the MLS MVP debate: Which players are for real?

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We have a former MVP, a league newcomer and everything in between this season as MLS’ most prestigious individual award nears its end.

[ MORE: Atlanta continues home-field dominance with win vs. Impact ]

New York City FC’s David Villa is strongly in position to win his second MVP award in a row, while Diego Valeri, Josef Martinez and others chase the former Barcelona man.

PST takes a look at five serious candidates for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award this season.

David Villa

The debate starts with the NYCFC captain for a second consecutive season. “El Guaje” has come out and lit it up once more for the Bronx side and propelled his side into a prime spot to grab a first-round bye in the Eastern Conference, despite Atlanta’s hot pursuit. The biggest thing working against Villa right now is a combination of injuries and lacking finishing. The Spanish international hasn’t scored an MLS goal since August 20, making his stock fall a bit.

Diego Valeri

Is there a player hotter than Diego Valeri right now? Well, there might be one other, but we’ll talk about him in a minute. The Argentine is simply scorching MLS defenses right now, scoring in nine straight matches and lifting the Portland Timbers to within a point of the Western Conference lead. Not only has Valeri exhibited incredible finishing technique in 2017, but the 31-year-old has also recorded nine assists for Caleb Porter’s group. Valeri’s most important trait could very well be his clutch factor. The attacker has six (yes, six) game-winning finishes this season for the Timbers.

Josef Martinez

Cut the whole “he missed half the season” argument out of the equation because that argument actually helps his case. The Designated Player has scored 17 goals in 16 matches this season for newcomers Atlanta, and while the expansion side has plenty of attacking firepower, such as Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba and Yamil Asad, it’s Martinez that has proven to be the vital piece for Tata Martino and Co. down the stretch. By the way, Atlanta is 9-2-2 this season when Martinez starts for them. That’s not a coincidence.

Ignacio Piatti

These last two players won’t be sexy picks given the possibility that neither of their teams will make the postseason, but just listen to why they should be in consideration. Piatti has recorded a 25.3 percent conversion rate this season, which ranks second-highest in MLS when accounting for players that have scored 10 goals or more. The Impact have given up the second-most goals in the East this year, making it more difficult for Piatti and Co. to work

Lee Nguyen

To many, this pick will be a bit out of left field, but bear with me for a second. The 30-year-old has recorded 10 goals and 15 assists this season, making him the New England Revolution’s most dangerous attacking player because of his duel-threat abilities. Nguyen is the only player in Revolution history to record double-digit goals and assists in the same season, which further makes the case for what a historic season he is having. The Revs will need some help in order to qualify for the playoffs, but if they do, Nguyen’s stock will have to increase even more.

Report: UEFA forces PSG to sell players or risk exclusion from UCL

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Paris Saint-Germain is currently undergoing some issues within its squad, but the French giants may have bigger problems if the club fails to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play laws.

[ MORE: Arsenal knocks off West Brom behind Lacazette brace ]

The club went out and spent well over $400 million this summer when PSG acquired Neymar and Kylian Mbappe from Barcelona and Monaco, respectively, and now other major clubs throughout Europe are reportedly fed up with the team’s spending spree.

Spanish outlet El Pais has reported that PSG could face expulsion from the 2018/19 Champions League competition if the club doesn’t sell up to eight of its players.

PSG has reportedly transfer listed several big names within its roster, including Angel di Maria, Javier Pastore and Julian Draxler, while veteran Thiago Silva is also among those on the chopping block.

Given his recent spat with Neymar and others in the squad, Edinson Cavani could also be on his way out if PSG receives a bid for the Uruguayan.

There are still a few things that are unclear though about UEFA’s reported sanctions. There’s been no timetable given as to when PSG needs to comply, and more importantly, it’s hard to tell whether or not the club will actually be disciplined if they don’t sell more players in January or next summer.

Arsenal 2-0 West Brom: Lacazette brace keeps Gunners rolling

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Arsenal’s early-season struggles appear to be behind them as Arsene Wenger and Co. kept up its fine form on Monday at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger’s side took down West Bromwich Albion, 2-0, in London behind a pair of goals from Alexandre Lacazette.

[ MORE: Hemed denies intent in Yedlin stamp ]

Lacazette continued his fine scoring form on Monday, scoring his third and fourth goals at the Emirates for the Gunners.

The Frenchman found the back of the net in the 18th minute following Alexis Sanchez’s free kick, which was originally saved by West Brom keeper Ben Foster.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The Gunners then doubled their lead in the 67th minute in controversial fashion when Lacazette converted from the penalty spot.

The club’s big-money summer signing stepped up for the spot kick after Aaron Ramsey went down in the West Brom penalty area moments earlier. Baggies defender Allan Nyom was called for the foul as he shouldered Ramsey off the ball near the end line.

The Frenchman found the back of the net in the 18th minute following Alexis Sanchez’s free kick, which was originally saved by West Brom keeper Ben Foster.

Lacazette came so close to a second for the home side in the 51st minute after a brilliant build up down the left wing by Sead Kolasinac.

West Brom was furious not to have a penalty after nine minutes when it appeared that Shkodran Mustafi took down a surging Jay Rodriguez inside the Arsenal area. Rodriguez did himself no favors though after getting back up and carrying on with his run following the challenge from the Arsenal defender.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, his attempt went off the post after Petr Cech got a small touch to his shot.

[ LIVE: Stream Premier League live ]

Rodriguez was the biggest threat for West Brom on the day, with the Baggies attacker coming close to a breakthrough on several occasions.

The win for Arsenal brings the club up to seventh place in the PL, while West Brom drops one spot to 11th.