Strongest U.S. national team in history? Look at these three starting XI’s

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As the U.S. national team racked up their record-breaking ninth consecutive win against El Salvador on Sunday, people continue to debate just how good these Yanks are.

Skeptics say heavy wins against minnows in friendlies and Gold Cup games shouldn’t be looked upon favorably, while others argue that the incredible depth at Jurgen Klinsmann’s disposal now makes this the best pool of players ever to pull on a U.S. jersey.

Of course it’s hard to judge this team against the U.S. side in Italia ’90 or the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists, as every era is unique and arguments constantly rumble on about which side is the best in history, how they rank against each other, so on and so forth.

But I think this may be the best group of players that U.S. soccer has ever seen.

That’s a huge statement. But I’m throwing it out there.

(MORE: USA set new record after eighth straight win, but what does it really mean?)

This isn’t based on huge wins against CONCACAF cannon fodder. To be frank, it was incredibly difficult to name a U.S. First, Second and Third XI without leaving plenty of big name players out of the picture.

There is a solid core of 35-40 players who could all perform extremely well for the USMNT when the World Cup arrives in Brazil next summer. Has the USA ever had that before? Three completely different lineups who could all do an extremely good job.

We all know what Klinsmann’s starting XI is right now.

There is maybe some debate about the left hand side, but every other position is pretty much locked down, as it stands. But there’s so much to play for, not only for the rest of this Gold Cup campaign, but during the next 11 months leading up to World Cup 2014.

Sadly, there are always a few players who play themselves out of the squad with poor performances. However, right now, so many are playing well and at their peak that Klinsmann has an incredibly hard task to pick a ‘B’ side… let alone his full-strength team.

But that’s a great headache to have, and one that almost every national team manager in the world would be envious of.

So I decided to break it down and constructed what I think would be the national teams three strongest staring lineups. And there’s a bunch of top quality reserves left over too.

Let me know what you think. I had such a tough time with this. Rather you than me, Jurgen.

First XI: (4-2-3-1) Howard, Cameron, Besler, Gonzalez, Beasley; Bradley, Jones; Zusi, Dempsey, Fabian Johnson; Altidore

Second XI: (4-2-3-1) Guzan, Parkhurst, Goodson, Bocanegra, Castillo; Beckerman, Kljestan; Davis, Donovan, Corona; Eddie Johnson

Third XI: (4-1-3-2) Rimando, Chandler, Orozco Fiscal, Onyewu, Evans; Edu; Shea, Diskerud, Torres, Wondolowski, Gomez

Reserves: Agudelo, Gatt, Boyd, Diskerud, Holden, Cherundolo, Morrow, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, Bedoya, Beltran, Bruin, Gordon and many many more…

Premier League stats of the season — Opta

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With the 2016-17 Premier League season officially complete, a look at some of the compelling, shocking and record-breaking stats, from August to May — all stats courtesy of the good folks at Opta:

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

30 — Chelsea (30 wins) have broken the PL record for most wins in a season (previously 29, by Chelsea in 2004-05, and 2005-06)

457 — Only Chelsea (457 minutes) were in a losing position in PL matches for less time than Liverpool (471 mins) this season

114 — Chelsea used all three substitutes in every Premier League game this season (114 in total) – they are only the second team to do this in a 38-game Premier League season (Manchester City, in 2014-15)

230 — Michy Batshuayi’s title-winning goal for Chelsea at West Bromwich Albion was his first PL shot on target since Sept. 24th, 2016 (230 days), and only his third overall in the competition

3,420 — Cesar Azpilicueta became the fourth outfield player in PL history to play every minute of a title-winning season (after Gary Pallister, in 1992-93; John Terry, in 2014-15; and Wes Morgan, in 2015-16)

1 — Because of their opening day victory against Leicester City, Hull City spent one more day on top of the PL than Tottenham Hotspur did in 2016-17 (0)

86 — 11 previous PL champions have won the title with a point tally equal to or less than Tottenham’s 86-point tally in 2016-17

+60 — Tottenham Hotspur’s goal difference of +60 is the highest in PL history for a non-title winning side

3 — Tottenham were the only club in England’s top four tiers to see as many as three players score 20+ goals for them in all competitions this season (Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min)

6 — Harry Kane now has six PL hat-tricks for Spurs, twice as many as any other player for the club (Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, both with 3)

0 — Liverpool were unbeaten in the PL against the top seven teams this season (12 played: 7 won, 5 drawn, 0 lost) but their record against the other 13 sides was (26 played: 15 won, 5 drawn, 6 lost)

38 — Both Arsenal and Manchester United have finished outside of the top four of the top-flight for the first time since 1978-79 (38 years)

600 — Manchester United became the first team to win 600 PL matches (962 played: 604 won, 209 drawn, 149 lost)

2,000 — Manchester United also became the first team to win 2000 points in the PL, with victory over Watford in February

11 — 11 different English players made 20+ PL appearances for Bournemouth this season. The last PL team to do this was Aston Villa, in 2000-01 (also 11 players)

48.8% — West Bromwich Albion scored a league-high proportion of their goals from set-piece situations this season (48.8%). They also conceded the lowest proportion from set-pieces (21.6%)

70 — Swansea City conceded 70 goals in the PL this season. Only two teams have conceded more in a 38-game PL season and survived relegation (Wigan, in 2009-10 — 79, and West Bromwich Albion in 2010-11 — 71)

13 — Hull City gave away 13 penalties this season, the most of any side in a single PL campaign

Men in Blazers podcast: “The Blazers” awards, plus John Terry’s farewell

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Rog and Davo recap the race for Top Four, John Terry‘s farewell at Chelsea and another Harry Kane hat trick. Plus, they roll out the red carpet for the 2016-17 end-of-season awards, “The Blazers.”

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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“Three trophies and CL”: Mourinho relieved after “most difficult season”

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Don’t try to tell Jose Mourinho that his first season at Manchester United wasn’t a raging success, because all you’d get in return is a simple shake of the head before he walks away.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Following Wednesday’s Europa League final victory over Ajax, one which put Man United into next season’s UEFA Champions League, Mourinho was adamant that the club’s 2016-17 season was a success, despite the fact the Red Devils finished sixth in the Premier League.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League,” as Mourinho put it, in his “most difficult season as a manager” — quotes from the BBC:

“We totally deserved the win. I am so happy to see the boys with the crutches with the trophy and now I am on holiday. I don’t want to see any international friendlies, I am selfish. I can’t do it.

“For me, enough is enough. It has been a very hard last few months, we were short of numbers.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League. I am very happy in my most difficult season as a manager.”

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

As for his summer shopping list and Wayne Rooney‘s future at the club, well… Mourinho was much clearer about one than the other — quotes from the BBC:

“Ed Woodward has my list, what I want, what I would like for more than two months. So now it’s up to him and the owners. But I don’t care about football for now.

“Wayne Rooney was ready to play, he was a big option. But I didn’t need to attack at 2-0. I told him yesterday that he could be the key man but he can perfectly be here next season. He is a very important player for us. If he stays next season I’d be very happy.”

USMNT’s Gedion Zelalem out 6-9 months with knee injury

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Following much fanfare as he rose through the ranks of Arsenal’s youth academy system, and even more after officially pledging his international allegiance to the U.S., Gedion Zelalem‘s progress stalled a fair bit this season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | U-20 World Cup ]

After failing to force his way onto the fringes of Arsenal’s first team, the 20-year-old was sent out on loan to VVV Venlo, where he made just nine league appearances (one start) in the Dutch second division. Now, with the U.S. U-20 national team at the U-20 World Cup in South Korea, his tournament is over after just 34 minutes.

Zelalen suffered ligament damage to his left knee during the first half of the Americans’ tournament-opening draw with Ecuador. The Washington Post received confirmation on Wednesday, from Zelalem’s family, confirming that he’ll be sidelined for at least six months. An earlier report, from Football.London, pinned the recovery time at up to nine months.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

“For Gedion, this was his second U-20 World Cup, so his experience was invaluable for us,” said U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos. “His passing ability is second to none in this tournament, and we’ll miss that. He was running the team from his position.