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Three things we learned from USMNT’s 4-0 loss to Argentina

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The U.S. national team’s run at the 2016 Copa America Centenario is over (mostly — they’ll still play the loser of Colombia versus Chile in the third-place game on Saturday). It should be said, before anything else, that the Yanks reached Jurgen Klinsmann’s stated goal in advancing all the way to the semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | Copa America 2016 ]

On the whole, this tournament was a success for a USMNT that so badly needed a run of positive results in order to re-establish a semblance of excitement and intrigue around U.S. Soccer. In that vein, it was a success. In wondering whether or not it means a step forward for the program, much less is clear…

The lineup was wrong, but we knew that (Part 1)

Disclaimer: No lineup Klinsmann could have selected would have resulted in anything even marginally better than what transpired Tuesday night. Inversely, no lineup Klinsmann could have selected would have resulted in a performance worse than the one we witnessed Tuesday night.

Kyle Beckerman as one half of a midfield-two versus Argentina? It’s easily the most offensive thing Klinsmann has done in his five years as USMNT head coach — and there have been some doozies. Klinsmann failed to realize this game would be too fast for a 34-year-old defensive midfielder who only ever sits in front of the backline. That’s a serious problem.

Not only is it an obvious misstep on paper and in theory, but has been such in practice on a number of occasions over the last 24 months. I wish I didn’t see this coming, but…

[ FULL RECAP: USA 0-4 Argentina ]

The lineup was wrong, but we knew that (Part 2)

(Credit: MLSsoccer.com)
(Credit: MLSsoccer.com)

In the year 2016, Chris Wondolowski started a semifinal against Argentina in a major tournament. With Bobby Wood suspended, we all knew Klinsmann would pick Wondolowski rather than moving Gyasi Zardes, an athletic, physical forward who actually complements Clint Dempsey (sort of), up top. Wondolowski’s a canny operator inside the penalty, but here’s the problem: the ball just about never got into Argentina’s penalty area, where he excels. Instead, that photo at right is the entirety of his contributions on the night. Over the course of 90 minutes, the USMNT failed to register a single shot. Not a shot on goal — a shot. Not great!

How I’d have done it, because someone will demand to know: Zardes starts up top; Graham Zusi plays wide right; Fabian Johnson starts wide left; Matt Besler starts at left back. Far from ideal, but functional.

What made the defense so strong in the USMNT’s victory over Ecuador was the (essentially) three-man backline of Besler, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Three mobile center backs, they’re capable of covering a lot of ground and stepping into passing lanes after making smart reads. Alejandro Bedoya, who was suspended against Argentina, served as the de facto left back, shielding Besler, actually a central defender, while deployed wider than usual. It was a wise tactical wrinkle from Klinsmann. Johnson, for everything he is as an attacker, isn’t a great defender, so throwing him back out wide to defend Lionel Messi was unwise in hindsight.

[ MORE: Player ratings — one or two bright spots … maybe? ]

Messi is the greatest, and it was a pleasure losing to him

What is there to say about this guy at this point? He’s inarguably the best player in the world, and he’s probably, at the age of 28, the best player in the history of the game. But you knew that already. The 2015-16 season was statistically his worst in seven years — he still scored 41 goals in 49 games for Barcelona (all competitions).

At this point, we’re numb to the numbers, though. We’re numb to the goals that leave us without words. We’re numb to the fact that we live on the same planet, at the same time, as someone who can do this … and that’s a truly beautiful gift we’ll never deserve.

Now go win you a major tournament, Messi, so the haters can no longer trot out that tired excuse for why you’re not the greatest ever.

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 21:  Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina interacts with a fan who ran onto the field prior to the start of the second half during a 2016 Copa America Centenario Semifinal match between Argentina and the United States at NRG Stadium on June 21, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.

Roma-Chelsea reports could see Dzeko, Batshuayi… and Sturridge on the move

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Here’s a wild rumor out of Italy, as Gianluca Di Marzio has UEFA Champions League Round of 16 sides Chelsea and Roma working out a big transfer.

[ MORE: PST chats with Dzeko in July ]

Again, before we lay it out, we know that both clubs would not be able to use Cup-tied players in the UCL and that gives the rumor its unrealistic bent.

Chelsea reportedly is willing to send $62 million and striker Michy Batshuayi on loan to Roma in exchange for Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeiri. Reports say Roma is holding out for another $20 million, potentially add-ons.

Dzeko isn’t producing at his otherworldly rate of last season, but is far and away i Lupi’s leading scorer and bagged a brace against Chelsea in the UCL. And Batshuayi scored in Chelsea’s first two matches of the tournament.

There is something to the rumor, at least in terms of Emerson. The London Evening Standard quotes the player’s agent as saying talks are ongoing and the move is a “dream” one for Emerson, who is behind Aleksandar Kolarov on the left back depth chart since returning from injury.

Roma would need a UCL-eligible center forward, as Czech youngster Patrik Schick has been unable to find his scoring boots since a summer move from Sampdoria. Football Italia says, sensationally, that Roma would use some of the money to pry Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool.

Maybe the Emerson move goes through, but the striker swap feels like a headscratcher for Dzeko and Chelsea.