West Ham 2-3 Everton: Baines’ free kicks drive Everton comeback (video)

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With West Ham having no goals since the two scored in their opening fixture against Cardiff City, and Everton having their own rough start, with just three goals to their name, it seemed unlikely that this particular match would yield much more than a few shots off target. Instead, we were treated to an impressive show, with smart substitutions from Roberto Martinez, beautiful free kicks from Leighton Baines, a West Ham penalty followed by a sending off, and a come-from-behind Everton win that puts them — temporarily at least — into fourth place.

Ravel Morrison opened the scoring with his first ever Premier League goal. The West Ham midfielder got on the end of a ball from Matthew Jarvis and took a shot from distance. The ball took a deflection off Phil Jagielka, perhaps confusing Tim Howard a bit. The shot wiggled under the diving Everton keeper to end up in the back of the net.

Martinez introduced Romelu Lukaku at the start of the second half, and the Chelsea loanee looked like he was set to prove a point. The forward had 17 goals on loan with West Brom last season, and his instant attacking run and pinpoint pass made it clear he was ready to help Everton really get their campaign off the ground. The Everton manager introduced former Wigan player James McCarthy for Steven Naismith at the same time, so when Leon Osman went down with injury in the 52nd minute, Everton were forced to cross their fingers and pray that they could get through the final 35 minutes without needing to make a substitution.

Turns out the Toffees had little to worry about. By the 60th minute, Everton had cranked up the pressure, and had West Ham panicking. The Irons were throwing every body behind the ball, trying everything to preserve the lead. It was James Collins that cracked, fouling Ross Barkley and earning himself a yellow card. The foul came in that infamous “dangerous position”, and Everton made the home side pay. Leighton Baines sent in an absolutely gorgeous free kick, curling his shot and tucking it to the top left corner.

With just under 30 minutes left to play, Everton were clearly in control, and clearly intent on finding the winner. It seemed as though they’d be the ones to take all three points, but Sam Allardyce had other plans. Immediately after the Toffees equalized, the West Ham manager introduced Mladen Petric for Modibo Maiga. The forward certainly made a difference, getting the ball down the right before slotting it in to Kevin Nolan. McCarthy panicked, kicking out at Nolan and ignoring the ball completely. The referee blew the whistle and it was Mark Noble that stepped up the take the shot. The West Ham captain put his shot low and to the left, while Howard dove the other way.

But Nolan went from hero to zero in the space of five minutes. The captain made a cynical challenge, once again on Barkley, and earned a second yellow card for his troubles. Worse, he gave Everton a free kick in almost the exact same position that Baines had scored from twenty minutes earlier. It was the defender that took the kick once again, and while Jussi Jasskelainen moved himself toward the right, this time Baines went left, and Everton had their equalizer.

That wasn’t enough for the visitors, however. Just two minutes later, Lukaku had his goal, getting his head on the end of a cross from Kevin Miralles. Everton’s joy at taking the lead was tempered by Lukaku going to ground, the result of an elbow to the back of the head. It took awhile for the forward to start moving again, but fortunately for his new side, he was eventually able to shake off the spins and rejoin his team — in time to celebrate their second win of the season.

West Ham: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Rat, Collins, Reid, Noble, Morrison, Nolan (Taylor 80), Diame, Jarvis (Vaz Te 72), Maiga (Petric 63)

Substitutes not used: Adrian, Tomkins, McCartney, Collison

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Naismith (McCarthy 46), Mirallas, Osman (Oviedo 52), Barry, Barkley, Jelavic (Lukaku 46)

Substitutes not used: Robles, Heitinga, Deulofeu, Stones

Aguero left off Argentina starting XI to face Bolivia

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Sao Paolo striker Lucas Pratto will receive a fantastic opportunity on Tuesday when Argentina faces Bolivia in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT travels to Panama in CONCACAF WCQ ]

It just so happens that Pratto’s gain is a major letdown for one of the Premier League’s top strikers. The 28-year-old is tied for second this qualifying campaign for Argentina with two goals.

La Albiceleste have announced their starting lineup ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Bolivia, which features mainstays Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Meanwhile, Aguero — who started in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday — is the lone change from manager Edgardo Bauza.

The Copa America runners’ up are currently depleted with a combination of injuries and suspensions. Four players will miss Tuesday’s meeting in La Paz due to suspension, including Gonzalo Higuain, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas will each miss the match after sustaining respective hamstring and knee injuries.

Argentina currently sits third in the CONMEBOL table while Bolivia is in danger of elimination with a loss on Tuesday. La Verde have managed just seven points in the first 13 rounds of World Cup qualifying.

Three keys for USMNT against Panama

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Coming off of Friday night’s dominating effort against Honduras, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks for their second win in five nights when Bruce Arena and co. head to Panama.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT goes for second win in Hex on Tuesday ]

Strong performances from players like Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic have USMNT fans buzzing ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Panama City, but there are several questions that lie ahead for Arena as the U.S. goes for its second win in the Hexagonal.

How does Arena cope with injuries?

The only downside of the team’s 6-0 win over Panama on Friday was the aftereffects if the match. John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Michael Orozco and Jordan Morris are no longer with the USMNT after sustaining injuries/illnesses, leaving Arena shorthanded as the Stars and Stripes head into the Estadio Rommel Fernández.

While Clint Dempsey’s emphatic national team return will provide Arena with some assurances up front, along with the emergence of Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, there are some questions in the midfield and defense for the U.S.

Jermaine Jones is available to return from his one-match suspension and could potentially fill the void left by Sebastian Lletget after his injury on Friday. While, Alejandro Bedoya — who replaced Lletget in the Honduras match — will also be in line for a starting spot.

Defensively is where it gets a bit tricky though, as Arena has to make up for an already-depleted backline. There was no DeAndre Yedlin or Fabian Johnson coming into this round of qualifiers, and John Brooks’ release from camp leaves the defense even thinner. Tim Ream appears to be Arena’s next choice to start at centerback with Brooks unavailable, but will he stick with Omar Gonzalez in the center or slide Geoff Cameron back into the middle?

It seems like the latter choice, especially given Cameron’s experience in the central defense, but that would mean Arena has to slot somebody else into the right back position. Graham Zusi has had slight experience in that role as of late, but it could be a bit of a gamble for Arena in another high-stakes match.

Bradley must control the middle once again

Forget Michael Bradley’s superb goal, which lifted the U.S. lead to 2-0 on Friday, it was the captain’s overall performance that is exactly what should be expected from the center midfielder.

Bradley completions/MLSSoccer

In 90 minutes of play against Los Catrachos, Bradley only missed on six passes while also making several successful tackles and recoveries to limit the Honduras attack.

The loss of Lletget is definitely a significant one for the Americans, given his lively movement going both ways. However, LA Galaxy teammate will likely be in line to replace the vibrant midfielder on Tuesday as he returns from a one-match suspension.

In regards to Bradley though, the U.S. veteran is at his best when he is able to move freely throughout the midfield, but Jones’ inclusion could present more of a burden for the Toronto FC player.

Jones is still a very capable midfielder, but he simply doesn’t have the pace to match that of a Lletget, which leaves Bradley more liable for covering ground defensively in front of the backline.

On top of that, the back four will see more changes on Tuesday after Brooks’ exit from the USMNT, making Bradley’s role all the more critical when facing players like Luis Tejada and Gabriel Torres.

[ MORE: CONCACAF qualifiers resume Tuesday afternoon ]

Dempsey/Pulisic bond continues to evolve

It couldn’t have gone much better for the pair on Friday night as Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic were directly involved in five of the game’s six goals.

The budding relationship between the two key attackers though is an intriguing one, and will likely determine just how successful this USMNT can be down the road. At 34, Dempsey is certainly on the back end of his career, however, his effort against Honduras shows just how dangerous the Seattle Sounders man can be, even after missing significant time due to a heart problem.

Meanwhile, Pulisic continues to shine in European with giants Dortmund, appearing both in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. The two likely won’t be together on the international scene for long, perhaps only until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the partnership is something to monitor over the next year-plus.

Not only does the duo represent a dangerous one-two punch in the attack but also a changing of the guard. Dempsey has been one of the most talented USMNT players in the nation’s history, and many believe Pulisic has the talent to match or even surpass that of the 55-time goalscorer.

We’ve seen it before when Landon Donovan was phased out of the U.S. squad and Dempsey was essentially handed the reigns of the attack, and this time Pulisic will be doing so with much more time to make an impact. The 18-year-old already has four international goals in 12 appearances, and if he improves on that goalscoring pace the U.S. will be enjoying his presence for many years to come.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

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Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

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The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.