Top five takeaways as USA clinch Gold Cup in style

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The morning after the night before.

As the dust settles on the US national teams swashbuckling Gold Cup success, there were certainly plenty of top moments to treasure for Jurgen Klinsmann, his players and fans of the USA.

Clinching a fifth Gold Cup title against Panama in Chicago on Sunday amid jubilant scenes, it was clear for everyone to see how much this one meant.

With six straight wins in the tournament, the US proved they can conquer CONCACAF. Now they have to take this form into the final few rounds of World Cup qualifying, and hopefully onto Brazil.

But without further delay, let’s reminisce about the good times times the Gold Cup has given the Yanks this July.

Here we go…

1. The return of Landon

Perhaps the best memory US fans will take from this tournament is seeing Landon Donovan back to his domineering best. The LA Galaxy forward had been out of the US national team picture for almost a year, but seven goals and seven assists and a Gold Cup MVP award later, it’s like he was never gone. And now, the 31-year-old is even better. Klinsmann has already stated that LD is likely to be involved in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, and when all’s said and done, people will look back to Donovan’s superb displays at the tournament as a turning point for the final few years of his career. Next stop: the starting lineup in Brazil.

2. Don’t rule out the ‘oldsters’… they’ve still got it

Kyle Beckerman, Clarence Goodson, Nick Rimando and Donovan are all over the age of 30, but they showed they’ve still got plenty left in the tank as Brazil 2014 edges ever closer. The performances of these veterans is hugely important to Klinsmann and his staff. Not only were they putting in terrific displays, but their value around the locker room and on the training ground will help keep the standards high in the USMNT, as the youngsters look to follow the exemplary showing from their elder statesmen. Leaders in every sense of the word.

3. Fans embrace the tournament, as sellout crowds and stunning tifo’s seal the show

Remember way back on July 9 when the USA’s Gold Cup quest began? Me neither. But below is a timely reminder of the awesome job the US fans in Portland did, as US soccer returned to the Rose City for the first-time since ’97. But that spirit was matched across the country as fans of all countries descended in huge numbers to give the Gold Cup a real party atmosphere. 907,208 fans watched the 25 games, at an average of 36,288 per match. Stunning. So kudos to the fans who made the Gold Cup just as exciting and entertaining off the field, as the play on the field. Big crowds and plenty of passion are a huge factor in making a tournament successful. And Gold Cup 2013 certainly was.

4. Wait up Jozy, finally, we are here to help

This tournament has seen the emergence of Eddie Johnson and Chris Wondolowski as strikers who can help take the considerable goalscoring burden off Jozy Altidore shoulders. Okay, the opposition hasn’t been that strong during the Gold Cup, we can all acknowledge that. But you still need someone to put the ball in the back of the ‘old onion bag’ and that’s exactly what “Wondow” and EJ did, with seven goals between them. Even if they’re just influential subs who can change a game late on, they’ll be valuable in tournament playing going forward.

5. Klinsmann is getting pretty darn good at making subs

Not only at making subs, but the German’s overall team selections have been spot on throughout the Gold Cup. Klinsmann has shown that he’s learned from his early mistakes as US manager, and now he has a extremely strong squad of 30-40 players to choose from. Players like Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud are now firmly in his plans as he rotated the squad superbly. How Klinsmann’s going to pick a roster for the World Cup next summer, (I know, I know, if they qualify…) is beyond me. But with substitutes Wondolowski scoring crucial goals and Johnson and Brek Shea scoring with their first touches off the bench, Klinsi’s tactical nous and instinctive touch to transform the outcome of a game are coming to the fore. He’s done it in the Gold Cup, can Klinsmann now translate it to the next level?

More: Jurgen Klinsmann says high-probability Donovan will be involved in September’s World Cup qualifiers

More: Landon Donovan claims Gold Cup MVP honors

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.