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:

Reports: Barcelona holding talks with Verratti’s agent

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Barcelona has their eyes set on a new Andres Iniesta.

Sure, projecting anyone to meet Ballon d’Or finalist standards is silly, but news that Barca has had multiple meetings with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti does inspire comparison hunting.

[ MORE: Klopp explains Lovren extension ]

An influential and creative central midfielder, the 24-year-old Verratti is 8.5 years younger than Iniesta and wowed Barca in the first leg of PSG’s ill-fated UEFA Champions League tie with the Catalans.

Mundo Deportivo, amongst others, reports that Verratti feels life at PSG has gotten stale and that Barca is one of the few clubs that represents a significant jump up in class. He’s also been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past few transfer windows.

Verratti has a contract through 2020-21, so any purchase will not be cheap considering PSG’s desire to continue growing its status as a UCL contender. The Italian is 21 times capped by the Azzurri.

Klopp talks new Lovren deal, Top Four worries, Watford

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Liverpool announced a new contract for Dejan Lovren on Friday, complete with the requisite “I love my club” comments from the defender.

Then Jurgen Klopp got his hands on a microphone.

The outspoken manager explained that re-signing Lovren to a new “long-term” deal ensures that the Croatian spends the best years of his career with the Reds.

[ MORE: Top PL Storylines ]

He also spoke plainly about Lovren’s perceived struggles and successes since arriving at Anfield from Southampton in 2014.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“If Dejan played for another club you would want to sign him – and pay a lot of money. He is 27, the best time is still to come.”

“If you’d asked fans after the Dortmund game they would said give him a 20-year contract. After the Palace game fans would have said ‘can we find another team who will have him?’ Truth is somewhere in between.”

Turning to Monday’s trip to Watford, Klopp isn’t concerned about the chance that his Reds will open the day outside the Top Four if Man City and Manchester United both win at the weekend.

He also says the Reds could have Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge at Vicarge Road, though Jordan Henderson remains out.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Bournemouth

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  • Sunderland won 2-1 on Nov. 5
  • Fourth meeting since 1990
  • Sunderland leads all-time 5W-3D-1L

Sunderland looks to keep its faint hopes of Premier League safety alive by managing a season sweep of Bournemouth when the two sides meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Black Cats are a mess, having lost to Tees-Wear Derby rivals Middlesbrough on Wednesday and living 12 points back of 17th place Swansea City.

Bournemouth battered Middlesbrough 4-0 last weekend to move seven points clear of the drop zone, and can finish the day in the top half with a win up north.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss David Moyes on calls for him to quit“I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose. There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis on Sunderland’s woes“It just show how things can happen when clubs are not run properly. If we do lose Sunderland from the Premier League it will be a real shame. They are an enormous club and playing at grounds like theirs is the pinnacle of anyone’s career.”

 

Prediction

The Black Cats haven’t quit, but manage two fewer points than they need, all but heading for the Championship after a 2-2 draw.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Hull City

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  • Hull won 2-1 on Nov. 6
  • Tigers two points clear of drop zone
  • Saints lead all-time 23W-20D-15L

After back-to-back losses to Man City and Chelsea, Saints meet a different kind of desperation when Hull City arrives at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

With a win, Hull can move five points clear of the final relegation spot and heap pressure on Swansea City, who plays Sunday. With a loss, Marco Silva’s men open the 17th place door for Swans.

[ MORE: JPW on Romeu the Destroyer ]

Since the start of the 2011-12 season in the Championship, Southampton has won six of seven matches against Hull. That seventh, however, was the match at the KCOM Stadium earlier this season, one that saw now-West Ham man Robert Snodgrass spur a Tigers comeback.

Saints open the day four points back of eighth place West Brom, and also hold a match-in-hand on the Baggies.

What they’re saying

Saints boss Claude Puel on slump busting“After two losses it’s important to move forward now and take points on Saturday in front of our own fans. We have to improve in the right areas and find a good balance of play, but also a good clinical edge in both penalty areas.”

Marco Silva on Hull’s away troubles““We have conceded goals on the counter-attack away from home in games when the result has been looking good for us – we cannot make it possible for our opponents to do this to us. The second goal we conceded at Stoke is an example of this – conceded at a time when we were in control of the game. Details like this are making the difference and these are things we must look to change. This is clear to me and I pass this on to my players.”

Prediction

Saints have more quality than Hull, but may not have as much fire in the belly. Still, home field means a lot here and Southampton should reverse the score line from November’s tilt. 2-1, with Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic leading the way.