U.S. vs. Turkey preview: A bigger test for the USMNT

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Fresh from a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan, the USMNT heads across the country to Red Bull Arena. In New Jersey they’ll face Turkey, who are 38th in FIFA’s latest rankings.

The Crescent Stars finished fourth in their group in UEFA World Cup qualifying, but don’t let that fool you. The group was dominated by the Netherlands, but Romania, Hungary and Turkey faced a tough battle to finish second. Now, after five straight victories, including Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Brazil-bound Honduras, Turkey are moving up in the standings.

They’ll certainly make stiffer competition than Azerbaijan. Which means that the USMNT will, in turn, need to up their game. In Tuesday’s match, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann selected a starting XI composed of players that could very well feature in the first group match against Ghana. Various changes were made, at the halftime interval and beyond, but Azerbaijan held on until the 75th minute, when Mix Diskerud finally scored for the U.S.

Since the win over Azerbaijan, much of the focus has been on Klinsmann’s use of the midfield diamond. It’s likely the coach will continue to use the formation, which, thanks to the narrow way in which the midfielders set up, relies on the fullbacks for width and provides extra players in the center of the field.

However, that’s not going to be much help if no one’s able to score for the U.S. There’s still concerns over the form of Jozy Altidore, while Chris Wondolowski couldn’t get his shots around the Azerbaijan goalkeeper. Fortunately, it sounds like Clint Dempsey will be fit for the match against Turkey, which may give a better idea just how the formation will function.

All in all, having a tougher opponent on Sunday should help in evaluating the true strengths and weaknesses of the USMNT squad.  Unless you follow the Turkish Super Lig, you’re probably not going to recognize many of the visitors’ players, but they’re solid defensively and should challenge the U.S. more with their attack. Turkey’s scored twelve goals in four matches (although perhaps counting the six against Kosovo isn’t exactly fair), so it’s likely that the U.S. defense will have more to do than they did against Azerbaijan, at least.

Kickoff is Sunday, June 1 at 2 p.m. ET.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million, and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.

Geiger, Marrufo, Villarreal picked as Gold Cup referees

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) Mark Geiger, who three years ago became the first American to referee a knockout stage match at the World Cup, is among 17 referees picked for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Americans Jair Marrufo and Armando Villarreal also were announced Thursday for the 12-nation tournament, which runs from July 7-26 in various U.S. cities.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Geiger, who is from New Jersey, was a referee for France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria in the round of 16.

Three each were picked from Mexico (Roberto Garcia, Fernando Guerrero and Cesar Ramos) and Honduras (Melvin Matamoros, Oscar Moncada and Hector Rodriguez).

Two will come from Costa Rica: Henry Bejarano and Ricardo Montero.

Others picked for the tournament are Joel Aguilar (El Salvador), Drew Fischer (Canada), Walter Lopez (Guatemala), Yadel Martinez (Cuba), John Pitti (Panama) and Kimbell Ward (St. Kitts and Nevis).