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Three things from the USMNT’s draw with Venezuela

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The United States worked out the kinks against Venezuela ahead of two huge World Cup qualifiers.

Drawing 1-1 in Utah, the Americans started slow and won’t love their evening overall.

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Yet the Yanks saw dynamite performances from Tim Howard and Christian Pulisic, with Jorge Villafana also doing plenty of good.

Set pieces are a real concern

Bruce Arena’s appointment didn’t guarantee much, but it promised significant improvement on set pieces. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team did not fare well on corner kicks and free kicks, and Arena was supposed to fix what ailed the Yanks tactically.

Not yet.

The Yanks have not been much better, if at all, in dealing with set pieces, allowing another goal off a corner on Saturday and saved from a second by one of two fantastic saves by Tim “No. 1 Forever” Howard.

Either Fabian Johnson (likely), John Brooks (maybe), or both were victimized on the goal, moved out of position by the ping-pong of the ball amongst Venezuela heads (Win a 50-50, gents!).

And the second saw Clint Dempsey lose his mark for the first header, and Michael Bradley lost on the second as Howard bailed both veterans out.

Pulisic, Pulisic, Pulisic

At the risk of over exuberance, the Borussia Dortmund 18-year-old continues his path toward becoming a transcendent U.S. talent.

Pulisic scored five goals for BVB this season, and now has five as a national team member. Again, he’s 18.

This time, it was a composed move atop the 18.

“The ball just came back to me on top of the box. I just didn’t see the shot on my right foot, so I cut it back once and just put it right to the back post.”

There’s also something about the way Pulisic sees the ball in the center of the park, and the way he sets up for his longer passes, how they come off his foot.

There are some questions about his BVB future with Thomas Tuchel, a huge Pulisic proponent, out the door, but there aren’t any when it comes to his import within the USMNT structure.

Post-friendly calm

Listening to Pulisic and Tim Howard after the game, this friendly was part of the process. No, it didn’t look good. No, they didn’t come out well. But yes, they knew they were experimenting as well as the merits of that experimentation.

That last part is the biggest difference so far under Arena, and the half-year game plan to get used to playing at altitude has embedded itself in the players. We’ll see whether it’s successful on Thursday versus Trinidad and Tobago, and then Sunday at Mexico, but right now we like hearing the following:

Pulisic: “Obviously we had a slow start. We didn’t come out with the right intensity like we should have but as the game went on we found a groove. We’re getting used to the altitude. We’re looking a lot stronger and we feel much more confident.”

Howard: “Just a little bit of experimentation but Bruce Arena emphasized that every time you put that shirt on it means a lot.”

Facebook, Amazon Prime could bid for Premier League streaming rights

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One day in the not-too-distant future, we could be watching Premier League games on Facebook or Amazon’s streaming services.

That’s according to Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who confirmed that both Facebook and Amazon are expected to to bid for the Premier League’s broadcast rights when they open again in 2022.

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“Absolutely I think they’ll enter the mix,” Woodward said. “Anecdotally there was strong interest in the last cycle, and we’re hearing that around the Premier League table, but we’re also hearing that from a European perspective as well in terms of interest in the Champions League and Europa League rights.

“In the wider picture you have to look at what’s happening elsewhere at the moment.There isn’t any clear European sale to these kind of partners at the moment. But looking at the interest Facebook and Amazon had in the Indian Premier League rights, anecdotally it sounded like very big numbers.

“So I do think we are going to see an increase in engagement from these and we would welcome the interest. I think it’s going to be increasingly important to digitally engage with fans, and we think we can be complementary to partners like this coming in.”

According to reports, Facebook bid $600 million to stream India’s cricket league aptly named the Indian Premier League but lost out to 21st Century Fox’s Star India, which bid for the television and streaming rights together.

Currently, NBC owns the Premier League rights in the U.S., including streaming rights, but perhaps in the future we could see separate deals for television and streaming sites.

However, more than likely, pressure from Facebook and Amazon Prime could drive the cost of the rights up, ensuring an even bigger payout for all 20 Premier League clubs.

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.