Initial take-aways from U.S. win over Jamaica in World Cup qualifying

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KANSAS CITY — The United States clinched first place Friday in CONCACAF final round qualifying out of the region with a 2-0 win over Jamaica, the final World Cup qualifier at home until the process begins anew before World Cup 2018.

Some early thoughts on Friday’s match at Sporting Park:

Credit the U.S. for digging up some urgency

I saw a couple of Twitter pals who thought the United States lacked urgency … and I don’t exactly disagree. Then again, trying to manufacture urgency is tricky business; generally speaking, it’s either there or it isn’t.

In that regard, you’d have to call a wonderful fall night at Sporting Park (another great, loud crowd there) a victory in more ways than one for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men. One of Klinsmann’s larger goals was to create a more aggressive mindset throughout the program. Part and parcel is handling teams in friendlies and in these less meaningful matches – and Jamaica is a team that the United States has regularly handled at home.

The first 60 minutes? Meh. Not much to shout about for the United States. But credit to Klinsmann for a couple of subs that worked out, and to his team for eventually sorting out the midfield and continuing to probe aggressively for channels through the Jamaican back line.

The breakthrough finally came thanks to local lad Graham Zusi (the place nearly came apart when Zusi found the far post in the 76th minute). There was a lot of good work from quite a few U.S. men in that one.

The Jamaicans were pretty much done at that point. The rest was just playing it out, seeing whether the final score would land on 2-0 or 3-0 or wherever.

It took the Americans awhile … but Klinsmann and Co. did ultimately locate that urgency he has worked so hard to create.

Did someone play their way out of roster contention?

In at least one way, this was like a U.S. friendly: the match was mostly about fine-tuning and, from the most practical standpoint, about individual assessment. As I always say with friendlies, the athletes cannot really play their way onto a World Cup team with plum performance in matches that don’t really matter – but they can sure play their way off.

You have to wonder this evening about Alejandro Bedoya.

Bedoya is solidly on the bubble and he was front and center among the brigade who needed a big night at Sporting Park. But the place turned into a mini-house of horrors for Bedoya, who did little right in the first half and was only slightly better after the break.

Klinsmann knows as well as anyone: if a guy cannot do it on a wonderful Friday night with nothing on the line, can he be trusted when it’s all on the line in soccer’s ultimate pressure cooker, a World Cup?

The U.S. back line held up

It’s a little hard to make much of this, as Jamaica’s attack lacks much structure and polish. Generally speaking, the visitors just weren’t very good. That said, Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley did well in handling Jamaica’s speed on the flanks.

And centrally, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron were on the job in their first time together as a central pairing. The one nit-pick on Cameron: his passing over longer distances rarely found their targets.

That’s perhaps a product of his playing right back at Stoke, and working with the different angles that come from that spot.

Wondering about Jozy Altidore

Another U.S. man who didn’t have his best night: Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore. He did score toward the end, and maybe that will help him shake the Black Cats funk.

This was always a concern, that he would go to a less-stable situation at Sunderland and watch his game fall to pieces.

There’s plenty of time for a rally. It’s just such a darn shame to see all the good work of the summer more or less evaporate. Altidore is still a good striker – he’s just not a confident striker at the moment. And that’s a problem for the men paid to score goals.

(MORE: 10 quick halftime thoughts from U.S.-Jamaica qualifier)

Manchester City hammer Real Madrid in LA

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Manchester City went full Beastmode on Real Madrid in the second half of their International Champions Cup game in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Neymar to PSG on? ]

In front of a record 93,038 fans, City scored four goals in the second half with Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Raheem Sterling all netting before youngster Brahim Diaz finished things off in style.

Kevin De Bruyne was in particularly menacing form with the Belgian at the heart of everything good for Pep Guardiola‘s men.

Despite the hammering Real Madrid did score the goal of the night with youngster Oscar Rodriguez smashing home a beauty into the top corner form distance in the 90th minute.

Click play on the video above to watch the highlights.

City now head to Nashville, Tennessee where they face Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday with both teams finishing off their U.S. tour in style in Music City.

Real Madrid travel to Miami, Florida for the small matter of an El Clasico against Barcelona to finish off the International Champions Cup tournament Stateside.

Report: Neymar agrees five-year deal at Paris Saint-Germain

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Paris, are you ready for Neymar to become the main man?

[ MORE: USMNT win Gold Cup title

The Brazilian has scored all three of Barcelona’s goals during their preseason wins over Juventus and Manchester United in the U.S. but was his game-winner on Wednesday in Washington D.C. his final strike in a Barca shirt?

L’Equipe is reporting that Neymar has agreed terms on a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain but that the French giants are now trying to get Barcelona to reduce the $260 million transfer fee which is Neymar’s release clause.

Per the report Neymar will earn over $34.1 million annually while reports in Spain suggest that both clubs want the Brazilian superstar to make a decision and are eager to push the deal through by next week if it’s going to happen.

Neymar, 25, is said to want to leave Barca and be the main man at PSG.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez around at the Nou Camp, it’s easy to understand that Brazil’s captain feels a little underappreciated sometimes but with Messi now 30 years old and Suarez 31, surely Neymar can wait it out a few years before he takes over Messi’s throne at Barca?

Hmmm, with the five-time World Player of the Year recently signing a new contract until 2021, Mess is going nowhere and maybe that was the trigger for Neymar and his representatives to look elsewhere as he’s about to enter his prime.

On top of all that the ongoing investigation from the Spanish authorities into his transfer from Santos looms large over the global superstar, but after winning two UEFA Champions League titles, three La Liga trophies and two Copa del Rey’s during his four years at Barca, would he really walk away?

His teammates and manager have been speaking about that posibility during Barca’s preseason tour of the U.S. and nobody seems too sure if he will remain. If anything the word “hope” is getting thrown around a lot rather than a definitive “yes” or “no” and even Gerard Pique had to back track on a social media post where he posed with Neymar and used the caption “he stays” to sum up the situation.

PSG are reportedly working around the clock to figure out how on earth they can finance this deal but it is becoming increasingly obvious that they are the only club who can afford to sign Neymar and their Abu Dhabi owners are doing all they can to make it a reality.

PHOTOS: Arsenal reveal new away jersey for 2017-18 season

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Arsenal have gone blue.

[ MORE: New PL jerseys for 2017-18 ] 

The Gunners released their new away jersey on Thursday ahead of the preseason Emirates Cup tournament kicking off this weekend.

With Arsene Wenger‘s men previously unveiling their third kit on their tour of Australia earlier this month, this light blue number will be their main alternate jersey for the upcoming campaign.

London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham have had similar color kits in the past, so cue plenty of banter on social media.

After Manchester City unveiled a bright cerise colored away kit, Liverpool went for an luminous orange jersey and Manchester United released a grey and white shirt, this jersey is a little more subtle.

It kind of looks like a goalkeeper kit on first viewing, but Mesut Ozil and the lads wear it well, even though conclusions are being made about Alexis Sanchez not appearing in any of the promotion shots for the new jerseys.


Extremely early, Gold Cup glee-driven thoughts on a USMNT World Cup roster

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The United States men’s national team won its sixth Gold Cup title on Wednesday, topping Jamaica 2-1 on a late winner from Jordan Morris.

It’s the sort of goal that moves a 22-year-old forward’s name from pencil to pen on a World Cup roster, one the Yanks will hopefully be planning following qualifying under Bruce Arena.

Morris is one of several players who took hold of their chances to march into Russia via fine performances as part of the USMNT’s “B Team” in the Gold Cup, along with Darlington Nagbe, Matt Besler, and maybe Paul Arriola (This assumes you hadn’t already counted Omar Gonzalez).

[ MORE: Recap | Altidore’s free kick | 3 things ]

It seems to us there are six spots in play right now. The forward batch of four is set and Ethan Horvath will probably join Tim Howard and Brad Guzan in the goalkeeper corps.

Five defenders look set and the same amount of midfielders (Besler, Brooks, Cameron, Gonzalez, Yedlin, Bedoya, Bradley, Johnson, Nagbe, Pulisic), leaving three defender and three midfielder spots. It looks set to come down to Kenny Saief or Kelyn Rowe in the midfield, and Tim Ream or Graham Zusi at the back.

So what’s the United States’ 23-man roster look like for Russia right now? Here’s our best guess (and we’re thinking as Arena, not us):

Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath

Defenders (8): Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, Jorge Villafana, DeAndre Yedlin, Graham Zusi.

Midfielders (8): Kellyn Acosta, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Kelyn Rowe.

Forwards (4):  Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, Bobby Wood.

Bonus seven-man waiting list: Joe Corona, Dom Dwyer, Dax McCarty, Tim Ream, Kenny Saief, Danny Williams, Gyasi Zardes.