Belgium coach Marc Wilmots kept Romelu Lukaku out of the starting lineup for Belgium’s final warm up game, but that didn’t stop the striker from falling prey to injury in the win over Tunisia.
Wilmots elected to start 19-year-old Divock Origi in Saturday’s friendly in Brussels, but with Belgium held scoreless after an hour, replaced him with star forward Lukaku. Dries Mertens gave Belgium with win with a goal in the 89th minute, but the triumph shortly turned to dismay. Lukaku limped off with an apparent ankle injury in the final moments of the match.
“For now it looks like a severe sprain, but of course there will be further tests tomorrow,” Wilmots said. “As it looks now, Romelu will be out for three or four days. Let’s hope it stays that way.”
Belgium will be crossing their fingers that the World Cup Injury Plague hasn’t touched their team once more. Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke ruptured his Achilles during training in April, ruling him out of the tournament. That leaves Lukaku as the only center forward with real experience (Origi has just two caps for his country).
While the Belgium midfield is bursting with talent, and the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas and Kevin De Bruyne can certainly score goals, Wilmots is not one to set up his side without a target man. And with Lukaku having already scored four goals in Belgium’s last two games, they’ll certainly want his presence up top.
Belgium’s first match is on Tuesday, June 17 against Algeria. Should tests reveal Lukaku’s injury to be a minor one, he should be set to play the opener. If not, their World Cup hopes may plummet to the ground.
Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley
to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.
Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.
[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]
Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check it out:
Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.
Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.
[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]
Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?
- Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
- FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
- LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack. Upset chance: Long shot.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.
Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.
Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.
Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.
Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.
Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.
Men In Blazers are back with their latest podcast, and the boys are hitting club soccer here and abroad as well as Bruce Arena’s men in the red, white, and blue.
Rog and Davo break down transfer window activity, rumored and real; get a heat check on the USMNT heading into the Gold Cup; and recap the (Ray) Hudson River Derby.
All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:
[ Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]
[ Click here for the RSS feed ]