Gerard Deulofeu’s background and how he fits in at Everton

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Yesterday Everton announced what may prove to be their most important signing of the season, penning Barcelona starlet Gerard Deulofeu (pronounced ‘dell-off-AY-oo’) to a single season loan deal.

Americans might recall the 19 year old from the two goals he scored during Spain’s 4-1 throttling of the U.S. during the U-20 World Cup this past June. But for those who missed it, or simply want to avoid recalling the experience, here’s a bit more background on Everton’s new toy.

Born in Girona, Catalonia, Deulofeu joined La Masia in 2003 at the age of nine. It was there that Deulofeu was developed to follow in the footsteps of Xavi and Iniesta with notable control, vision and discipline.

Deulofeu soon grew into La Masia’s most talented youth product and he’s since gone on to represent Spain at U16, U17, U19, and, most recently at the U21 level where he has netted three times in seven matches. Deulofeu was a key player in Spain’s U-19 European Football Championships, where he participated in 2011 as a 17 year old and in 2012 as an 18 year old, when he was named the tournament’s best player.

Last season Deulofeu was the star of Barcelona’s B team, which competes in La Segunda, Spain’s second division. It was there that Deulofeu bagged 18 goals, good for fourth highest total in the division. Based on this success, Barca penned the 19 year old to a new contract that runs through 2017.

While poised to one day star on the Barcelona’s first team, Tito Vilanova & Company decided that with the arrival of Neymar into an already stacked attack, Deulofeu’s time at Camp Nou has not yet arrived. Determined not to turn off a young player who won’t be seeing consistent first-team playing time (perhaps they’ve learned from the Thiago Alcantara mess), Barcelona chose to send Deulofeu to Merseyside for some reps (both mental and physical).

Despite his youth, there is little doubt that Deulofeu will make a major impact at Goodison Park. A forward who can lead the line or come in from the left side, Deulofeu possesses incredible skill and confidence on the ball.

He is a fearless dribbler, one who is willing to take on multiple opponents at any given time and who will use a combination of clever moves and blistering pace to leave defenders in the dust. Unflappable under pressure, Deulofeu is equally cool in front of net, typically opting for a low placement over power.

By signing Deulofeu and Arouna Kone, the Toffees now have multiple options up top.

Assuming Roberto Martinez opts for his favored 4-3-3 formation, only Kevin Mirallas has a guaranteed starting spot, which will likely be on the right wing. The striker spot is the most difficult to predict but Kone is the most likely to get the nod with Deulofeu, Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe all competing for time.

Steven Pienaar will have a starting role on the left side of the field but whether that’s as the left midfielder or the left winger, remains to be seen. If the South African is dropped back into midfield, Deulofeu could start on the wing, although Kone could also be used wide left if Martinez opts for Jelavic or Anichebe in the role of striker. Ross Barkley is yet another option who will factor in on either wing.

Regardless of how Martinez deploys his troops one thing is certain, the talent of Deulofeu makes Everton a side that could be a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Baroni fired by Serie A basement club Benevento

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) Benevento fired Marco Baroni and named Roberto De Zerbi its new coach after becoming the first squad in Serie A history to lose its first nine matches of the season.

The southern Italian club is the only team in Europe’s five major leagues without a point.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Benevento also announced it fired sporting director Salvatore Di Somma.

The moves on Monday came a day after a 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Benevento will have to pay Baroni 800,000 euros (nearly $1 million) as part of an anti-firing clause in his contract.

Baroni guided Benevento up from Serie B last season.

De Zerbi last coached Palermo nearly a year ago before being fired by the Sicilian club.

It’s the second coaching change in Serie A this season, after Diego Lopez replaced Massimo Rastelli at Cagliari last week.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Atlanta hosts Crew, Whitecaps take on Earthquakes

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34 rounds of MLS action are in the books, and now the real fun is set to begin this week.

The MLS Cup Playoffs have arrived, and 12 teams are firmly in the running to hoist a trophy in December.

[ MORE: PST talks to Justin Meram ahead of the Crew’s playoff run ]

While Toronto FC, New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will each have the opportunity to watch the first round from their homes, the action all starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s a look at what to expect when the knockout round begins.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls — Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Fire were one of the most intriguing stories for much of the regular season, but Veljko Paunovic’s side enters the postseason limping. Lucky for them, the Red Bulls have been just as inconsistent throughout the course of 2017 — which already saw Jesse Marsch’s club lose in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Paunovic and Co. have lost eight of their last 15 matches, which doesn’t bode well entering the home stretch of the schedule. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have won just two of their last 10 matches. The Harrison side should be well-rested though for Wednesday’s encounter after starting a mostly second-tier squad in Sunday’s season finale against D.C. United.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET

The Whitecaps looked to be a sure-fire club destined for a bye in the first round, but things didn’t fall their way on Decision Day. Now, Carl Robinson’s side faces an Earthquakes side that is simply unpredictable.

The Quakes have the second-worst road record in the Western Conference when it comes to acquiring points — holding eight in points 17 matches. However, Chris Leitch has instilled a new-found belief amongst the squad that gives the California side a puncher’s chance.

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew — Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

These two sides haven’t met since July 1, so all bets are off about these teams knowing one another. Since that point, Atlanta and Columbus have been two of the hottest sides in MLS and the former moved into a new stadium — which has given opposing sides quite the difficult time.

In their last 10 matches combined, the clubs boast just one loss, which Atlanta suffered at home against Minnesota United. There’s no reason not to expect a great one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting KC — Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Peter Vermes’ Sporting KC side enters the playoffs winless in their last five, while their counterparts are unbeaten in six. The MLS postseason is often about which team is in the best form at the right particular moment, and right now, it doesn’t look like Sporting KC has luck on their side.

It’s also hard to not pay attention to the fact that the Dynamo have lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2017, which came on September 9 against the Colorado Rapids.

Carabao Cup preview: Man City hosts Wolves, Chelsea meets Everton

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All eyes will remain on the 11 Premier League sides left in this season’s Carabao Cup, but could a potential upset(s) shake the balance of power in the competition?

Norwich City and Leeds United will be among the teams seeking an upset in the tournament as they take on Arsenal and Leicester City, respectively, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards ]

Meanwhile, fresh off of Ronald Koeman‘s sacking, Everton must regroup quickly when they head to Stamford Bridge to take on Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea. The Toffees have taken just eight points in their first nine PL matches, leaving the Merseyside club in the relegation zone.

The Blues are aiming for their sixth League Cup title this season, while Manchester United could also achieve the same feat with the crown.

Here’s the slate of matches for the Carabao Cup Round of 16.

Tuesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough
Bristol City vs. Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Leeds United
Arsenal vs. Norwich City
Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wednesday (All fixtures kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET)

Chelsea vs. Everton
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Report: RBNY midfielder Felipe, NYCFC’s Harrison could play for USMNT

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The U.S. Men’s National Team has seen a rise in dual nationals representing the Stars and Stripes in recent years, and that trend could continue with two of MLS’ most promising midfielders interested in enhancing their international careers.

[ MORE: PST names Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

According to MSG Network’s Kristian Dyer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins is in the midst of a finalizing his American citizenship, while New York City FC attacker Jack Harrison has spoken with U.S. Soccer about potentially representing the U.S..

Martins already has his green card — which opened up an international slot for the Red Bulls this season –but obtaining citizenship in the near future would make him eligible for selection for the USMNT ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 27-year-old had also previously applied for permanent residency in Canada back in 2013 while Martins was with the Montreal Impact, however, his aspirations to represent the nation never transpired.

Meanwhile, Harrison recently represented the England Under-21s in October, but he too could be on track for U.S. citizenship over the next few years if he remains in MLS.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

In Dyer’s report, he notes the rising interest in Harrison from English clubs, though, and a potential move back to the United Kingdom would hurt the former Manchester United academy member’s chances of joining the USMNT.

Harrison is only in his sophomore season with NYCFC, but the young Englishman has garnered plenty of attention after scoring 14 goals and adding 13 assists thus far for the Bronx side.