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USMNT Preview: Austria v. United States

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  • The 0-0 draw with Scotland ensured the US will finish 2013 with the best winning percentage during a calendar year in U.S. MNT history.
  • Tim Howard sits one victory away from the all-time record of 53 wins set by Kasey Keller (53-27-18). 
  • The Austria match is the final US match of the year and kicks off at Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna at 2:45 p.m. ET that will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network and UniMas.

On Tuesday the United States Men’s National Team will look to put last week’s lackluster Scotland performance behind them and kick-on against Austria in Vienna.

When looking at the Scotland match or Tuesday’s contest with Austria one must keep in mind that they are friendlies. As in, exhibition matches. Glorified training sessions. Nothing more.

So while performances like last Friday’s goalless draw will undoubtedly impart a sense of dread upon USMNT fans, let’s keep an open mind as Jurgen Klinsmann tinkers away. The US coach is in the midst of determining who will snap up the final roster spots for Brazil, which is why guys like Sacha Kljestan (attacking midfield), Mix Diskerud (holding midfield) and Eddie Johnson (left wing) were all played out of position against Scotland.

It was a test to see who possesses versatility. Diskerud passed. Kljestan and Johnson, not so much. Against Austria on Tuesday, expect the probing to continue although the aforementioned trio may return to their typical positions. The center-back partnership of Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, which failed to impress against Scotland, may also get another turn while Eric Lichaj, who came on for the injured Brad Evans on Friday, may have another opportunity to prove his worth.

Aron Johannsson is another player we can expect to be in the starting XI against Austria. The AZ forward has enjoyed a spectacular season in Dutch football and was easily the most dangerous man on the pitch against Scotland. There’s little doubt that Brazil is in Johannsson’s future so now it’s about figuring out who he works well with and where he best fits on the field. Don’t be surprised if Klinsmann changes the formation to a 4-4-2 to see how the Icelandic wonder can work with a guy like EJ.

The biggest question to answer on Tuesday, however, is whether Kljestan or Brek Shea deserve a spot on the squad in Brazil.

Kljestan has been fantastic for Anderlecht, owning his role in the holding midfield. Playing in the Champions League has provided the 28-year-old with experiences that few other USMNT players possess, yet he rarely seems to play as well for country as he does club. With the stiff competition in the USMNT holding midfield, he’ll need to show Klinsmann something special if he wants to be selected for next summer’s tournament.

There is no bigger dark horse than Shea. Injuries have hampered his growth and playing time at Stoke City, yet the blonde ambition still possesses a unique and explosive skill-set that plays well in a USMNT kit. He is a role player but a one with such devastating speed and dribbling ability that he continually manages to give opposing defenses nightmares. If he can pull off something special against Austria, he might just punch his ticket to Brazil.

Despite being ranked 53rd in the world, Austria boasts some impressive talent. Aston Villa winger Andreas Weimann has devastating speed and a knack for goal while Stoke new-boy Marko Arnautovic is a confident, powerful attacker that looks to take defenders on.

The midfield is run by Schalke’s Christian Fuchs along with German club players Emanuel Pogatetz (Nuremberg) and Sebastien Proedel (Werder Bremen) and Austria Vienna duo Manuel Ortlechner and Markus Suttner. In defense Austria possesses one of their greatest weapons, Bayern Munich full-back David Alaba who gives side’s problems with his strong tackling and ability to shoot from outside. 

What They’re Saying

Austria coach Marcel Koller: I saw five recent games and they used different players each time. They have a couple of excellent strikers, players with great individual qualities who can easily score.

Prediction

The US make up for last week to earn a hard-worked 2-0 victory with goals by Johannsson and Diskerud.

Eight Premier League clubs among world’s Top 20 earners

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  Marcos Rojo of Manchester United slides in as Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United battle for the ball as during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on November 2, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Manchester United can spend because Manchester United prints money.

Maybe that’s an oversimplification, but the Red Devils earned more than $632 million this year. That’s better than second-place Barcelona and third-place Barcelona by $60-plus million.

It’s United’s first year atop the list since 2005. Here’s the full report.

[ FA CUP: Liverpool moves on ]

The UEFA Champions League heavy list sees eight Premier League sides: United (1), Man City (5), Arsenal (7), Chelsea (8), Liverpool (9), Tottenham Hotspur (12), West Ham United (18), Leicester City (20).

Serie A is second with four clubs, while La Liga and Bundesliga have three clubs on the list. Ligue 1 (Paris Saint-Germain) and the Russian Premier League (Zenit Saint Petersburg) complete the group of 20.

The Associated Press’ stalwart reporter Rob Harris has this handy chart:

Why Antoine Griezmann is exactly what Man United need

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JULY 07:  Antoine Griezmann of France celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA EURO semi final match between Germany and France at Stade Velodrome on July 7, 2016 in Marseille, France.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Multiple reports are linking Manchester United with a summer move for Antoine Griezmann.

Do they need him? Yes. Yes they do.

[ MORE: Costa back for Chelsea ]

An incredible stat emerged at the weekend which stated that United has the worst “big chance” conversion rate in the whole of the Premier League. Stats company Opta state that United have had 37 big chances (this stat is described as “a situation where a player should be reasonably expected to score”) this season, converting just 12 of them at a ratio of 32.43 percent.

The Independent claims that United are willing to pay Griezmann’s release clause of $106 million to sign him from Atletico Madrid and the French international said back in November that he would like to link up with his international teammate Paul Pogba.

Seems straightforward enough…

There is, however, a complication surrounding any deal as Atletico currently have a transfer ban and if their appeal falls through then the Spanish club won’t be able to buy or sell any players in the summer.

For United, 25-year-old Griezmann would be the major arrival at Old Trafford this summer and the report also suggests that Mourinho is eager to offload Luke Shaw this offseason, plus Memphis Depay will leave in January as Lyon’s pursuit continues.

Back to Griezmann though, and it is reported that United have been pursuing the diminutive striker since the summer when he stole the show at EURO 2016 as the top goalscorer in the tournament which saw the host nation France lose in the final to Portugal.

On paper, Griezmann would be a phenomenal buy for United. He is exactly what they’ve been missing this season.

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10: Antoine Griezmann (L) and Paul Pogba (R) of France shows their dejection after their team's 0-1 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Yes, Zlatan has been ruthless in recent weeks — 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions says as much — but he is 35 years old and can’t be expected to go on forever. He has also had bad moments in front of goal this season and when you look around United’s squad they have raw young talents in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but not much else, and certainly no clinical strikers like Griezmann.

When I think of United, I think of a team creating copious amounts of chances and with their direct play under Mourinho they have certainly missed plenty of “big chances” this season, dropping points after failing to finish teams off and drawing many games they should have won.

If Griezmann was at United this season he’d probably be leading the PL in goals scored. I’m sure of it. He is of the same ilk as a Javier Hernandez or Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a lightning quick poacher who is cool in the box. Yet, Griezmann also offers more with his pace and creativity and that’s why United should break the bank to sign him this summer.

This season Griezmann has scored 12 goals in 25 appearance for an Atletico side battling back from adversity to position themselves in the La Liga title race once again. Over the course of his two-and-a-half seasons at the Vicente Calderon he has now scored 69 goals in 132 games in all competitions. Every step up he has made the striker has done it with ease.

For United to become title contenders and get back to the upper echeleons of Europe, Mourinho needs a predator in the box. Zlatan and Wayne Rooney are getting on and youngsters Martial and Rashford will take time to develop. With the likes of Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan putting chances on a plate for those in front of them, United’s fans must be salivating at the thought of seeing Griezmann in a red shirt.

If United go out and buy Griezmann this summer it will be yet another huge statement in their intent to be back among the elite.

Liverpool moves on: “Job done. Let’s go home”

Liverpool's Lucas Leiva, center, celebrates scoring against Plymouth Argyle during the English FA Cup, third round replay match at Home Park, Plymouth, England, Wednesday Jan. 18, 2017. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)
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Even given two youth-heavy lineups, Liverpool won’t forget Plymouth Argyle any time soon.

The Reds were held 0-0 two weeks ago as Plymouth forced a home replay in the third round of the FA Cup, and Liverpool only managed a single goal on Wednesday in advancing to face Wolverhampton.

[ MORE: Costa back for Chelsea ]

Jurgen Klopp admitted he was dreading extra time. The Reds nearly saw it when the League Two side hit a second-half post, but Lucas Leiva‘s first goal in seven years held up over 90 minutes.

Well, his first match goal in seven years.

“It’s that long? I scored last week in training,” Lucas said after the game.

Here’s what Klopp said, via the BBC:

“In the second half it was good, but then it became a bit static. We had a penalty, and 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 would have been OK, but 1-0 I’m fine with that. I was not too concerned for going through, but I thought ‘Oh my God another 30 minutes’, but it is all good, no extra-time, job done, let’s go home. As nice as it is here, we leave as early as possible, so all good.”

On a rare goal for Lucas Leiva, Klopp adds: “Every week in training we play old versus young and he is a top scorer for old, which is unbelievable.”

One thing to note: Liverpool has only scored multiple goals in one of its last six matches. Sure, two were young lineups, but they were also against League Two competitions (and one was a clean sheet).

Look for the Reds to break out soon, perhaps Saturday morning when Swansea City visits Anfield.

Real Madrid winless in three after Copa del Rey loss (video)

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 18: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid in action against Hugo Mallo of Celta de Vigo  during the Copa del Rey Quarter Final, First Leg match between Real Madrid CF and  Celta Vigo at Bernabeu on January 18, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Forty straight without a loss sure makes three without a win feel like a slump, even when one draw lives in both camps.

Real Madrid fell to Celta Vigo in the first leg of its Copa del Rey quarterfinal, a 2-1 loss that also stands as the club’s first home set back since a Madrid Derby loss to Atletico on Feb. 27, 2016.

[ MORE: Depay off to Lyon ]

Iago Aspas and Jonny scored for Celta Vigo, with Marcelo briefly making it 1-1. And we mean briefly. Jonny scored off the ensuing kickoff following Marcelo’s deflected laser.

Real lost to Sevilla on the weekend for its first loss in 41 outings, three days after drawing 3-3 at Sevilla in Copa del Rey play.

Zinedine Zidane’s club now sits just a point ahead of Sevilla in La Liga play, though it has played one less game than its closest competitors.

Alaves won at Alcorcon in Wednesday’s other first leg. Thursday sees Barcelona at Real Sociedad and Eibar at Atletico Madrid.