El Salvador v United States - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup

United States reaches for Gold Cup perfection in Sunday’s final against Panama

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  • U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann is suspended
  • The United States is perfect through five matches, with a splashy 19-4 goal difference
  • The United States has won 10 consecutive matches
  • Landon Donovan has been dominant, with 5 goals and 7 assists in the tournament
  • 4 p.m. ET on Fox and Univision

Most of the top nations in this year’s Gold Cup brought lesser versions for the regional competition, electing to give their front-line men some much deserved time off.

Panama treated the even differently, sending a primarily first-choice team to the United States, hopeful of success that might kick start a stalled drive for World Cup 2014. As such, the Central Americans strivers, also making a push to generally elevate their place in the region, pose a genuine threat to the U.S. reach for tournament perfection during Sunday’s final inside Chicago’s historic Soldier Field.

U.S. players and coaches keep telling everyone in pre-game media sessions that a tough test is ahead. In reality, that just hasn’t happened yet, as a team of mostly second choice men from the U.S. player pool have been more than enough, utterly shredding the field of competitors to this point. So much of that dominance is about Landon Donovan, who has cast off his previous estrangement from the national team spectacularly.

As evidenced by Donovan’s sizzling return, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann keeps pushing all the right personnel buttons. His team has navigated five matches perfectly, winners in five out of five with a splashy 19-4 goal difference. The 19 goals scored is easily a tournament high among the 12 teams.

So much of that Donovan (pictured), who is dominating the tournament like few ever have. Five goals and seven assists in five Gold Cup matches represent totals just this side of stunning, and he has immediately established an on-field rapport with U.S. striker Eddie Johnson, one that will keep the Panamanian back line busy Sunday.

(MORE: Donovan is streaking in the Gold Cup)

Donovan has played in more Gold Cup matches than anyone in history, so he surely knows the terrain and the historical context. Even he has been surprised by how the United States has flattened the field, not really stretched a bit, not even in the quarterfinals or semifinals.

“I guess I would have expected it to be a little more diff up to this point,” he said.
“But we know Sunday is going to look different than any of these [previous Gold Cup] games have, we are aware of that. But I think it’s a testament to this group and how we’ve done. We haven’t played the same lineup at all. One guy goes out, the next guy comes in and does a great job. It’s just been like that. We’re circulating [personnel], guys are confident, they are eager and excited. Everybody is playing really well and it’s been fun to be a part of it.”

Clobbering the field thusly is new, but success in the tournament isn’t. The United States won the semi-annual tournament in 1991, 2002, 2005 and 2007 and had four runner-up finishes around those titles.

There are a couple of potential hitches in all these Gold Cup good tidings. One is the suspension of manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who was dismissed from Wednesday’s semifinal win over Honduras for slamming the ball to the field. He was frustrated over a perceived lack of protection for U.S. players.

Top assistants Martin Vasquez and Andi Hertzog will pull sideline duty, presumably while in some kind of communication from Klinsmann.

There is also the Blas Perez factor. Perez isn’t just the top man for the small Central American nation, he has also established himself as one of the region’s premier goal-scorers. Physical, skillful and full of great instinct near goal, he also scores regularly at club level for FC Dallas.

Perez, scorer of Panama’s opener in Wednesday’s semifinal 2-1 win over Mexico – a surprise only to those who had not watched this determined bunch previously in the tournament – wasn’t around in June when the United States had a relatively easy time with Panama in a final stage World Cup qualifying match in Seattle. Perez was out with a stomach illness.

Along with young striker Gabriel Torres (who was just signed by Colorado of MLS), they will provide the toughest test yet for a U.S. back line without too much to do so far. There have been occasional vulnerable spots revealed: last week, Salvadoran forward Rodolfo Zelaya reminded us that DaMarcus Beasley isn’t a natural defender, and generally gave the United States something to worry about. Also add to the “worry list” defending on set pieces, which has been dodgy.

(MORE: Klinsmann has important center back choice to make)

Another potential obstacle is all the Gold Cup miles Donovan has already logged. Until the program’s all-time goals and assists leader was subbed off 22 minutes before the end on Wednesday, having already supplied two goals and an assist in the comfortable 3-1 win over Honduras, he had played every minute in the tournament. Getting just that little break near the end Wednesday will help, Donovan said, also complimenting the job U.S. Soccer’s training and fitness staff have done while managing the competition’s brutal pacing. This will be the United States’ sixth match in 20 days, with travel between each stop.

“Generally, at this point in my career, after about 60 minutes, you really start to break down, your body starts breaking down physically,” Donovan said. “So, even having a rest for about 20 minutes [Wednesday] will help a lot for Sunday.”

John Terry still hopes to remain at Chelsea beyond this season

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
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John Terry is a Chelsea legend.

It is the only team he’s every played for and even at the age of 35 the legendary captain of the Blues looks better than ever.

[ MORE: Wenger reveals bank talks ]

That’s why when he announced in January that the club wasn’t going to offer him a new deal and he’d likely be on his way this summer, fans of Chelsea reacted angrily and jumped to the support of Terry. He’s won four Premier League titles with Chelsea, a UEFA Champions League trophy, five FA Cup and three League Cups.

He is the most successful player in club history and despite his off-the-field issues, he is one of the greatest defenders England has ever produced.

Speaking to Soccer AM on Sky Sports in the UK, Terry revealed that he still believes he has a few years left in the tank and that he hopes it’s with Chelsea.

“I’ve got a couple of years left. Definitely I intend to keep playing, hopefully that’s at Chelsea, but if not it will be somewhere else,” Terry said. “I am definitely feeling good physically and I intend to play as long as I can. As a professional footballer you’re a long time retired, so I think not only for myself but for all of us we should get the most out of it and enjoy it while it’s there.”

With talk of a move to China, MLS or elsewhere in Europe, it seems like Terry still has his heart set on remaining on Chelsea.

The fact that he’s toned down his rhetoric in this interview suggests perhaps some headway has been made behind-the-scenes as Antonio Conte will arrive as Chelsea’s new manager in July following the 2016 European Championships where he coaches Italy.

Should Conte push for Terry to get a new one-year deal at Stamford Bridge?

Right now, Terry is still the best central defender Chelsea has. Despite his age and many believing it may be good for both parties to move on and for Conte to not have to worry about Terry’s huge influence in the dressing room, surely the Blues can’t just let a top-class center back walk free this summer?

Luke Shaw aiming to make Manchester United return this season

SWANSEA, WALES - AUGUST 30: Luke Shaw of Manchester United warms up with Bastian Schweinsteiger (R) prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on August 30, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Luke Shaw has been out-of-action for a half-year, dating back to a horrible injury in Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League defeat at PSV Eindhoven in September.

[ MORE: LVG says Leicester will have to earn title ]

Shaw, 20, is hoping that spell on the club sidelines will end before the end of this Premier League season, as the $45 million buy from Southampton continues to progress toward match fitness.

From ManUtd.com:

“I am back outside now, still with the physio but, day by day, I am getting better and fitter. I am just going to keep pushing now until the end of the season and see what happens. At the moment, my leg feels really great every time I go outside. There was a bit of aching at the start but now they are all gone. It is just back to hard work now and hopefully I will see the fans before the end of the season.”

It’s a good goal for the youngster, but there’s obviously zero need to rush things. With the FA Cup surely a tempting proposition as well, Shaw will also need to be reintroduced to playing in matches. Would Louis Van Gaal want to risk that during some pivotal encounters in the race for a Top Four place?

Red Bulls acquired defender Aurelien Collin from Orlando City

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 15:  Aurelien Collin #78 of Orlando City SC heads the ball during an International friendly soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on July 15, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Orlando won the match 3-1. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The New York Red Bulls have acquired veteran center back Aurelien Collin from Orlando City SC in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

The Red Bulls announced the deal for the 30-year-old Collin on Friday.

[ MLS: Red Bulls 4-0 FC Dallas ]

Collin, who is from France, was acquired by Orlando City ahead of its inaugural MLS campaign last season. Before that, he spent four years with Sporting Kansas City, where he won the 2013 MLS Cup and was named the MVP of the game.

Collin was named MLS Best XI in 2012 and earned three consecutive MLS All-Star appearances from 2012-2014. He has played professionally in France, Greece, England, Scotland and Portugal.

USMNT’s Tim Howard starts for Everton

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard smiles during practice Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in St. Louis. The U.S. men's team is scheduled to play a World Cup soccer qualifying match against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Tim Howard is back in goal for Everton.

[ WATCH: Stream PL games via Live Extra

The U.S. national team legend, 37, returns for the Toffees and is named captain by under-fire manager Roberto Martinez.

Howard hasn’t played in a Premier League game for Everton since January 24 when the Toffees lost 2-1 against Swansea at Goodison.

Since then he has struggled with a calf injury and has been replaced by Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles as Everton’s starting goalkeeper. In the past few months Everton’s manager Martinez has come under increasing pressure from the fans as they’ve continued to coast along in midtable and were beaten in the FA Cup semifinal by Manchester United last weekend.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up this summer? ]

The New Jersey native has signed a deal with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids — a contract which makes him the best-paid goalkeeper in MLS history — who he will join on July 1 as he return to the U.S. to finish out his career.

After spending 13 years in England with Manchester United and Everton, it seems like Howard will get a final chance to say farewell to Everton’s fans in the last three weeks of the season.

Despite criticism from sections of Everton’s supporters this season, Howard has been a fans favorite for most of his decade on Merseyside.

Below is the starting lineup for Everton as they face Bournemouth on Saturday at Goodison (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra).