Which US national team stars saw their stock rise after Gold Cup glory?

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Following the 1-0 win over Panama in Sunday’s Gold Cup final, plenty of USMNT players will pleased with their contribution over the past month.

Six games in searing temperatures, at packed out stadiums, facing energy-sapping opposition will have taken its toll on plenty of the USA’s stars.

But after a well-deserved break, a few Yanks in particular will be all smiles with Gold Cup medals around their neck.

We are going to leave Landon Donovan out of this conversation because, well, quite frankly he should never be in it in the first place.

And some may disagree with this, but Chris Wondolowski doesn’t make the cut. We already knew he could score against poor opposition but he showed he still can’t do it against the better teams after his display in the quarterfinal.

(MORE: Top five takeaways as USA clinch Gold Cup in style)

Back to Donovan, in my opinion he would be on the plane to Brazil and involved in the upcoming qualifiers in a heartbeat. And after his MVP showing during the Gold Cup, plenty more will assume Donovan’s place in the US squad is rubber stamped, for now.

However there were some players who shone almost as brightly as Donovan, as Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad triumphed. Let’s see who.

1. Kyle Beckerman

He cleaned up the space in front of the USA’s central defenders with consummate ease throughout the tournament. Real Salt Lake’s captain doesn’t do anything spectacularly well and you can’t really rave about him, as readers on this blog have pointed out to me in the past. But he keeps things ticking over nicely, does a tremendous job of shutting off the oppositions passing lanes and is calmness personified in the heat of the battle. Every team needs a man like him. Barcelona have Sergio Busquets, Real Madrid have Xabi Alonso and if one of the first choice midfielders is injured, the USA would be fine with Beckerman patrolling in front of the back four. True professional and a great tournament.

2. Mix Diskerud

Not too many people had seen Diskerud play before this Gold Cup, apart from that stunning goal vs. Russsia, and now they want to see more. The Norwegian-American was known for his vast range of passing and delicate interplay, but we saw a real grit and determination from him. Especially in the final. Diskerud must have been disappointed to be left out of the starting lineup but when Holden went off injured, he came on and solidified the midfield with a ruthless shift of tackles and clever probing. Panama’s midfielder never got a chance to settle on the ball. This tournament did Diskerud no harm at all.

3. Clarence Goodson

Signing for the San Jose Earthquakes on the eve of the tournament, US fans were pleased to see Goodson heading back to MLS. And now they’ll be even more excited after the dominate displays he put in. The former Brondby captain was calm and assured on the ball but matched every challenge thrown at him. Plus his two exquisite long range balls to help set up goals in the USA’s win over Honduras were sublime. Goodson, Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez? Now it’s a tough decision.

4. Eddie Johnson

After being added to the squad for the knockout rounds, EJ came up big, twice, as the US downed El Salvador and then Hondruas. 2-1 up and struggling to get that vital third goal against El Salvador against the partisan crowd in Baltimore, EJ came off the bench and scored with his first touch. Then he struck early to settle US nerves against Honduras in Dallas. So often the man for the big occasion, Johnson must now be second on the depth chart after Jozy Altidore for the central strikers role. A job well done.

5. Brek Shea

This may raise some eyebrows, but Shea needed this tournament, big time. You have to remember he wasn’t even on the roster but after Josh Gatt’s injury, Klinsmann kept Shea around and the rest is history. His goal won the Gold Cup after his first touch as a sub in the final, it wasn’t a classic but they all count. But whenever he came onto the pitch he added pace, whipped in some great balls and was a huge nuisance. It was a glimpse of the old Shea, which is something we haven’t seen for a while. However, I think we’ll be seeing plenty more of him for the national team in the coming months.

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.

Heynckes squashes Lewandowski rumors after Premier League rumors

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The English media – mainly the tabloids – has had a field day over the last 24 hours with rumors of a Robert Lewandowski move to the Premier League claiming, but the Bayern Munich manager is having none of it.

Jupp Heynckes told the German press during his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the club’s Saturday match against Hertha Berlin, “I can’t imagine there is a chance [the club executives] will sell Lewandowski.”

“Bayern is not a selling club,” Heynckes went on to proclaim. “They want to, and always will want to, keep their top players.”

The reports stated that Lewandowski was “flirting” with a move to the Premier League, and that while Manchester City and Chelsea were the more logical destination, Liverpool was actually the preferred landing spot as the Polish international was open to a reunification with former boss Jurgen Klopp, whom he worked with at Borussia Dortmund before his switch to Allianz Arena. Lewandowski’s contract at Bayern Munich currently runs through 2021, leaving the player with little say over his future.

While the rumors seem like a long shot, what does make sense is that, at 29 years old, Lewandowski doesn’t a ton of time left to convince a Premier League club he’s worth a heavy investment for the next couple of years. Many top teams – most notably Arsenal – are hesitant to sign players over 30 years old, and would be even less inclined to pay a hefty transfer fee for a player without a long future ahead of them. Manchester United just paid a cut-rate price for Alexis Sanchez, and while that was largely due to Arsenal’s position of weakness regarding the expiry of Sanchez’s contract, Sanchez’s age also partially contributed to that knocked down transfer rate.

Nonetheless, Bayern’s sale history is minimal, having only offloaded surplus players, such as defender Medhi Benatia this past summer, Mario Gotze back to Borussia Dortmund the summer before, and Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City in 2015.