How will the USA line up vs. Germany?

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There is just over 48 hours to go until the USA face their final Group G game vs. Germany in Recife.

You’e already nervous, aren’t you? Don’t worry, as am I. Let’s try and quell those prematch nerves by speculating who will start and what formation the U.S. will deploy against Joachim Low’s German powerhouse on Thursday. Yeah… that should do the trick.

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With the USA only needing a point in their final group match to punch a ticket out of the “group of death” and into the Round of 16, there’s a few different ways they could approach this. The main school of thought, especially if you listen to Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments, is that the U.S. will carry on with the status quo and play the same personnel and formation which has fared well vs. Ghana and Portugal. However, with Germany by far the strongest side they will face in group play and Klinsmann’s men only needing a draw, a more cautious lineup and approach may be followed.

Here’s a look at three different ways the USA could lineup vs. Germany on Thursday, with brief explanations as to why it could work. The midfield and attack have been tweaked in all three, with the USA’s defense staying the same after two solid showings so far.

Plan A: Stick with the tried and tested…

The simplest and most likely option, Klinsmann has already spoken about “going for the win” and sticking to his sides philosophy. Starting with the same lineup that drew with Portugal 2-2 in Manaus is the safe option, but is it the best option after his players suffered 90 minutes of draining play in the intense Amazonian humidity? It depends on if Jozy Altidore is fit and ready to come back into the lineup but more than likely he will be on the bench, at best, so the lineup will remain the same. (UPDATE: Altidore is officially out.)

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

——–Beckerman——–

—Zusi—Bradley—Jones—Bedoya—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan B: Ultra-defensive 

After all, the Germans have scored six goals already during the World Cup and have the likes of Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and a whole host of other attacking talents at their disposal. Wowza. If the U.S. are feeling drained from their tireless opening two games, it may serve them well to sit back and soak up the pressure, then aim to strike Germany on the counter. After all, don’t forget, they only need a point to advance. A narrow 4-5-1 formation, with Seattle Sounders youngster DeAndre Yedlin coming into the lineup over Bedoya out wide could happen. Can the USA soak up German pressure for the entire 90 minutes though? It would be a big ask.

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

—Yedlin—Beckerman—Jones—Bradley—Zusi—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan C: All-out attack

Maybe Klinsmann just goes all out for the win which would see the U.S. avoid Belgium in the last 16 and instead have a much more favorable tie against our old friends Algeria or perhaps Russia or South Korea. If Altidore is back fit, maybe he comes into the lineup from the start, more likely is that Johannsson or Wondolowski come in to partner Clint Dempsey in attack  with Zusi pushed higher. This would be a daring move against a stacked German side, but maybe one they aren’t expecting. A 4-3-3 formation close to the one we saw deployed at times during qualification and the Gold Cup a could work well, but it is also a huge risk.

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

Bradley—Beckerman—Jones

Zusi—Dempsey—Johannsson

Pulisic: Dortmund can win the league

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short on confidence these days.

The rising star for the U.S. Men’s National Team is currently in preseason training with Borussia Dortmund, and he believes his side can push Bayern Munich for the title. Bayern has won five-straight league titles, but the last team other than Munich to win was Dortmund itself in 2012.

“We’ve got a big chance to win the league this coming season,” Pulisic said, via German publication Kicker.

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Pulisic has been firing on all cylinders so far in preseason. During Dortmund’s tour of China, Pulisic had three assists in a 3-1 win over AC Milan, and he also started and went the full 90 against Bochum on July 22 back in Germany.

The 18-year-old is coming off a breakout season for the Black and Yellows, scoring five goals with 13 assists over 43 games between the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League.

“Last season was a good step in my development,” Pulisic said, noting he wants to be “more dangerous” in the attack. “I want to build on that.”

Of course, Pulisic followed the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Gold Cup, taking the title for the sixth time. In less than a year’s time, Pulisic will likely be on the field, starting for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the hopes and dreams of many Americans on his shoulders.

“(It was) a good victory,” Pulisic said of the final.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Bale’s agent laughs off speculation

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It appears Gareth Bale has no plans of following Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez out of Real Madrid this summer.

“It’s a ridiculous, stupid story,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett told the BBC, following reports that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane wouldn’t promise Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo that they’d staying with the club this summer.

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Of course, these prompted counter reports that Manchester United could take advantage of possible instability at the Santiago Bernabeu and swoop in for Bale, but it seems that Bale is not for sale.

Bale played just 27 times for Real Madrid last season in all competitions, scoring nine goals with three assists while dealing with multiple injuries. His entire career at Real Madrid in fact has been plagued by injury, but ahead of a World Cup year with Wales still in contention for a spot in Russia, Bale will be extra motivated to stay fit this season.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the world:

(more…)

Neymar storms off after training dustup with teammate

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Neymar just won’t stay out of the headlines.

As his long-rumored “will he, won’t he go” transfer saga between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona continues, Neymar stormed out of training on Thursday after getting into a tussle with teammate Nelson Semedo.

A video from the Daily Mail shows Neymar pushing Semedo before walking off and removing his training bib.

Neymar has reportedly agreed to personal terms with PSG over a move to France, but PSG have yet to come up with the nearly $260 million it would cost to trigger Neymar’s release clause. The news of Neymar possibly leaving Barcelona came as a shock, as he’s been content since joining the club to play slightly in the shadow of teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

If this fight is any indication, Neymar’s head could be turned and should PSG trigger the release clause, Neymar could be heading to Paris once Barcelona returns this weekend from its American sojourn.

In spite of all the transfer speculation, Neymar has dazzled for Barcelona on its tour of the U.S., scoring three goals in two games and delighting the thousands in attendance.

Australian women beat US 1-0 in Tournament of Nations

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SEATTLE (AP) Tameka Butt scored in the 67th minute and Australia beat the United States for the first time in the 28-game series, 1-0 in the Tournament of Nations on Thursday night.

The Matildas also snapped the Americans’ four-game winning streak.

Just moments after Butt’s goal got past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, Carli Lloyd blasted a cross from Megan Rapinoe at Australia goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who made a fantastic save. Lloyd had another chance that sailed just over the net.

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Japan and Brazil played to a 1-1 draw in the tournament’s opening game in the afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

Each of the four teams in the tournament is in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings. The top-ranked United States went into the game with a 25-0-2 record over the seventh-ranked Matildas.

Rapinoe, who plays for the NWSL’s Seattle Reign, had a good chance early on in the game but the Americans were unable to break through. Rapinoe has 12 goals to lead the NWSL in scoring this season.

The Matildas have been on the rise of the past several years, with quarterfinal appearances in both the 2015 World Cup and the Olympics last year.

Following the stop in Seattle, the tournament shifts to San Diego on Sunday before wrapping up in Carson, California, on Aug. 3.

U.S. Soccer is looking to host a Tournament of Nations each summer that there isn’t World Cup or Olympic competition.