Sydney Leroux scores four as US women rout Mexico 7-0 on a night of firsts

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Sydney Leroux will steal the headlines from the U.S. women’s national team’s 7-0 win over Mexico. Four goals in the first half will do that. But it was a night of firsts for the U.S. that proved equally important for the long-term.

While Mexico started the match with a couple of encouraging forays forward, Abby Wambach’s 11th minute goal — increasing her world record to 161 — sunk the spirits of El Tri and Leroux stomped those into the ground with four consecutive goals before the break.

But in head coach Tom Sermanni’s starting lineup was National Women’s Soccer League rookie of the year Erika Tymrak, earning her first cap with the senior team. Leigh Ann Robinson, one of Tymrak’s five FC Kansas City teammates on the 18-player roster at RFK Stadium, also made her U.S. debut at age 27. And 20-year-old Morgan Brian stepped onto the field in front of dozens of family members, friends and University of Virginia teammates and scored two minutes later to complete the rout of a tired, unorganized, but young Mexico team.

The result is largely unimportant. What we learned from these five players still searching for more playing time or only just arriving on the U.S. scene is most interesting.

Sydney Leroux – Four goals speak for themselves, but this isn’t Leroux’s first pummeling of a team. Leroux scored five goals in a 13-0 demolishing of Guatemala during Olympic qualifying in January 2012, but much like Tuesday night’s game, the statistic must be weighed against the opponent. The Boston Breakers striker has scored against better opponents, including her birth country, Canada, but still seeks more playing time behind a pretty set Abby Wambach-Alex Morgan forward pairing. Morgan sat out Tuesday as part of left ACL recovery, while Christen Press, the other forward pushing for more playing time, stayed with her Swedish club, like most of the rest of European-based U.S. players.

Erika Tymrak – The rookie of the year is also the story of the year (or at least co-story of the year) from NWSL for going from relatively unknown rookie and second round draft pick in January to a U.S. call-up in September. There were some obvious nerves from Tyrmak in the first half but she was clearly comfortable combining with Kansas City teammates Kristie Mewis and Lauren Holiday. Tymrak settled in after halftime and took on defenders. All in all, it was a good debut for the crafty 22-year-old midfielder.

Leigh Ann Robinson – The right back hardly had much to deal with coming in off the bench in the second half but said before the game she would be happy with whatever came of her two days with the United States. Robinson was the best left back in the NWSL this season before a lineup change pushed her to the right side, where she was the best right back. She should get another shot to prove her stuff in upcoming fall friendlies.

Morgan Brian – A goal in her second senior cap, two minutes after checking into the game, in front of a whole crew of Brian supporters? Yea, Morgan Brian had a good night. At 20 years old, Brian is already cool and calm on the ball. Abby Wambach raved about Brian in June when the Virginia midfielder was in camp, and it’s very clear why. She’s good under pressure like a player well beyond her years.

Crystal Dunn – Not to be forgotten is the performance put in by right back Crystal Dunn, another top college prospect to have caught Sermanni’s eye. The 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy winner made things look easy on Tuesday (which, relative to some of the better competition of past games, they were) and displayed yet again that she is the fastest outside back option the U.S. has. She’s a senior at UNC and almost sure to be a part of the 2015 World Cup team.

Highlights:

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.