Forward overload: Sermanni tasked with managing four world-class US women’s national team strikers

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Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Christen Press have combined to score 30 of the United States women’s national team’s 47 goals this year. All four are world-class forwards, but for the most part only two of the players are on the field at the same time.

Sunday’s 4-0 win over Australia, in fact, marked the first time that Wambach, Morgan and Leroux all started in the same match, despite all being national team regulars – a sign of coach Tom Sermanni’s dilemma. it’s a good problem to have, to be clear.

“It’s more of a management thing for me rather than to be concerned about who is going to score goals today,” Sermanni said. “It’s a slightly different problem than most teams (have).”

Sermanni has the U.S. playing in a 4-4-2, with a quartet of forwards who could start for almost any team in the world. And his best solution it seems is to keep two of them on the field, with the other two ready to step in at any moment — and not necessarily at forward.

A 4-3-3 could be a solution, but Sermanni says all four of Leroux, Morgan, Press and Wambach are best in central positions. And the U.S. women are equally deep in the midfield, with talent centrally and on the flanks.

“If you’ve got three up top, I don’t think that the balance of our strikers, in general, is a three up top scenario,” he said. “I think that what is better when you’ve got a major central striker – which we obviously do have – and two players who are more comfortable in wider roles, we tend to have strikers, in general, who are more comfortable in central roles, and then we have very good wide midfield players.”

source: Getty Images
Alex Morgan’s skill is well known, but the U.S. has more world-class forwards than can fit on the field at once. (Getty Images)

Those wide players include mainstays Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Heather O’Reilly, who are equally necessary on the pitch. The United States’ midfield is crowded, too, with young group of up-and-coming players to join the three aforementioned, plus Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd centrally.

Sermanni did start Leroux out wide on Sunday and played Press there when she entered the game for Leroux in the 57th minute. Leroux played okay there given the short amount of preparation for the role, Sermanni said, but it wasn’t any indication that she’ll be converted to a wide player..

“I put her out there because I think she deserved to start in the team given the squad that we had and the way she’s been training and playing,” Sermanni said. “When she does play up front she can drift out to the left side so she’s not uncomfortable over there and she did play a couple of times on that side for the Boston Breakers. It’s not the perfect role for her, but under the circumstance, it was the best fit for the team in this game.”

Press has seen time on the wing with the U.S. throughout the year, and said she’s willing to adapt to whatever Sermanni asks of her. Whether it’s up top or as a wide midfielder, whether starting or in reserve, her goal is the same as the rest of the group’s: To be in Canada in 2015, and to help the U.S. lift its first World Cup in 16 years.

There is time for Sermanni to figure out how to best use his star strikers. How he manages their minutes and roles at the 2015 World Cup could look similar to how he is doing it now: Use Leroux or Press on the wing in a pinch, but primarily look to them as a spark in the second half.

The last thing any defender wants to see midway through the second half, after chasing around Alex Morgan and keeping track of Abby Wambach all game, are the speedy, dangerous Leroux and Press standing at midfield, waiting to enter the match. And 18 months from now, there’s nothing to say that the roles might even be different. Any combination of the four in any role is intimidating and productive.

“I think that every team you play for, you have to change,” Press said from San Antonio on Monday after U.S. training. “As I’ve become a more veteran player – not that I’m a veteran player – but I’ve learned that I played for three teams in the last three years and every time I’ve had a different role. If I’m asked to change again, that’s something I can do and I’ll do willingly.”

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.

VIDEO: Asensio, Real Madrid outclass out-of-sorts Barca; PSG trolls?

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This one wasn’t even close, and is going to instantly have many Barcelona fans wondering if the loss of Neymar is going to be too much for Ernesto Valverde to handle.

Real Madrid rode a stunning Marco Asensio strike to a 2-0 first half lead at the Bernabeu on Wednesday en route to a 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

It’s Real’s 10th Spanish Super Cup, and first since 2012.

[ MORE: Bacca to Villarreal ]

Karim Benzema also scored in the opening frame, which saw Barca looking out of sorts and rudderless.

As in the first leg in Barcelona, the Blaugranas had their moments but failed to show sharpness and class against the reigning La Liga and UEFA Champions League winners.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar, Luis Suarez headed off the post. The second half wasn’t producing a magic comeback.

Both teams kick off their La Liga seasons on Sunday, with Barca hosting Real Betis and Real off to Deportivo de la Coruna.

Meanwhile, it seems like PSG spent the afternoon trolling Barca, first posting a shot of ex-Blaugranas stars Dani Alves and Neymar training, and then an incredulous Neymar accompanied by a laughing emoji.

Carlos Bacca joins Villarreal, Boateng leaves Las Palmas

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MADRID (AP) Colombia striker Carlos Bacca joined Spanish club Villarreal on loan from AC Milan on Wednesday.

Villarreal said the one-season loan agreement includes the option to buy the player at the end of the season.

Bacca returns to a Spanish league where the 30-year-old forward flourished in two seasons at Sevilla before joining Milan in 2015.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

Bacca has made 39 appearances for Colombia, scoring 13 goals. According to Villarreal, he has scored 165 career goals in 336 matches. He scored 14 goals for Milan last season.

Elsewhere in Spain, Las Palmas announced that Kevin-Prince Boateng was leaving the club after both sides agreed to end his contract two days before its season opener.

Las Palmas said that Boateng was leaving due to “personal reasons of an irreversible nature.” The club thanked the former AC Milan standout for his “professionalism” that he displayed during his single season on the Canary Islands.

Las Palmas opens the Spanish league season on Friday at Valencia.

Man City has $23 million Evans bid shot down by WBA

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Could Jonny Evans be the latest player to cross Manchester’s red and blue divide, albeit with a stop in between?

Reports Wednesday say West Bromwich Albion has rejected a $23 million Manchester City bid for the Northern Irish center back.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

$23 million? That’s like 40 percent of a Kyle Walker!

Evans, 29, is the Baggies captain and a key piece of the club’s aims to continue its long stay in the Premier League.

He joined Manchester United’s academy at age 16 and stayed at Old Trafford through 2015, taking loan opportunities at Royal Antwerp and Sunderland on the way.

At United, Evans won three Premier League titles and two League Cups, and also has a Championship win from one of his two stints at Sunderland.

The 61-times capped Belfast native would give City a key component for Premier League play along with a center back corps of Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, and John Stones. Eliaquim Mangala completes their veteran depth, and is certainly City’s weakest position.

Would West Brom sell at any reasonable price? The Baggies are not deep at center back, either — not too many clubs are — and will be in a boatload of trouble without Evans. And given the transfer market, finding a proper replacement at under $30 million is going to be difficult (Reread that sentence. What a summer).

It’s another argument for the transfer window closing before the start of the season.