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US plan lineup changes with short rest for Mexico match

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MEXICO CITY (AP) The U.S. will have to step up when it plays Mexico at Estadio Azteca in a World Cup qualifier on Sunday, and not just because of the altitude.

The Americans will have had just two days off following Thursday night’s 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Commerce City, Colorado, which lifted them into the top half of the standings – and one of the three qualifying slots – midway through the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena is planning lineup changes because of the quick turnaround.

“It’s somewhat I think similar to club play in Major League Soccer, where you travel at times great distances in a short period of time and play two games,” Arena said. “However, a typical club team doesn’t have the depth that a national team program should have.”

Christian Pulisic, the emerging 18-year-old star midfielder, scored a pair of second-half goals, giving him seven in just 15 international appearances. Pulisic, who has scored or assisted on seven of the Americans’ last eight goals, insists he won’t have a problem going 90 minutes.

“Absolutely. I’m still young,” he said. “They’re a good team and not easy to beat at home. It’s going to take a lot, but I think with the guys we have and the confidence we have, there’s no reason why we can’t do it.”

Clint Dempsey, 34 and one goal from tying Landon Donovan’s American record of 57 international goals, could get rotated out. Dempsey was unhappy when Arena replaced him with Kellyn Acosta in the 61st minute Thursday.

A hostile crowd, smog and sometimes heat help create among soccer’s bigger homefield advantages at Azteca, which has been reduced from 120,000 capacity to 87,000 during several renovations.

The U.S. was 0-19-1 in Mexico City – getting outscored 81-14 – before a 1-0 exhibition win five years ago.

“It’s fun. I’m sadistic. I like that,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “It’s exciting, because the other side of the fear factor is success and joy, and so we’re going to hopefully have some of that.”

While U.S.-Mexico games at the steep stadium often have been played in under afternoon sun – the Easter Sunday qualifier in 2005 kicked off at noon – Sunday’s match will start at 8:30 p.m. CDT. The U.S. Soccer Federation insisted on a night game as part of the agreement to move the game up two days from the original schedule, a shift that gives El Tri more time to prepare for its Confederations Cup opener against European champion Portugal on June 18 at Kazan, Russia.

The Americans have gained just two points in qualifiers at Azteca, 0-0 draws in 1997 (day game) and 2013 (night).

“We know the conditions will be tough,” right back DeAndre Yedlin said. “We know the ref probably won’t be on our side. We know the fans obviously won’t be on our side.”

Mexico won 2-1 at Columbus, Ohio, in November in its opening match of the hexagonal, the first home loss for the U.S. in qualifying since 2001. A 4-0 loss four days later at Costa Rica left the Americans last in the standings and caused USSF President Sunil Gulati and his board to fire Jurgen Klinsmann and bring back Arena, the U.S. coach from 1998-2006.

Missing several regulars because of injuries and illness, the Americans rebounded in March with a 6-0 home win over Honduras and a 1-1 draw at Panama. Arena’s biggest changes have been to install Darlington Nagbe at wide midfield and Jorge Villafana at left back.

Nagbe had been dropped from the roster by Klinsmann. Arena, then coaching the LA Galaxy, noticed Villafana last during during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Santos Laguna.

“Tonight’s game is basically the first time this group has played together in a qualifying game, so we’re just getting a feel for each other,” Arena said. “If Sunil had hired me much earlier, I would have had a little bit more time with this team.”

Mexico beat visiting Honduras 3-0 Thursday night, changing six starters from its previous qualifier in March and resting forward Javier Hernandez and defender Hector Moreno. Coach Juan Carlos Osorio told Azteca Deportes television after the match that midfielder Andres Guardado and defenders Miguel Layun and Rafael Marquez will miss Sunday’s game because of injuries. In addition, defender Carlos Salcedo left in the 54th minute Thursday after hurting a leg.

AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Commerce City contributed to this report.

PL Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle

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  • Newcastle has lost 8 PL away matches in a row
  • Man City last lost at home in PL play to Chelsea in Dec 2016
  • Newcastle has picked up 1 of a possible 30 points vs. PL top half this season

Manchester City has a great chance to rebound from its first loss of the season as they host struggling Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday, live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

The Magpies have picked up their terrible mid-season form of late, but still remain just three points above the drop. They are unbeaten in three, with a win and two draws, and have lost just once in their last five.

Through Newcastle’s losing streak, the Magpies struggled to keep the ball out of their own net, with defensive issues all over the place. They suffered through a nine-game winless run where they conceded 19 goals. However, of late, the roles have reversed, and suddenly they can’t score. In their last four games, they have just two goals.

City, meanwhile, have a few injuries to deal with on the defensive side of things, where they cannot afford them. Fabian Delph went down in the last match and could be out for significant time, along with Vincent Kompany who continues to show his age and history of fitness issues.

INJURIES: Manchester City – OUT: Fabian Delph (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee). QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (illness), Vincent Kompany (fitness). Newcastle – OUT: Jesus Gamez (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: Dwight Gayle (knock).


What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on build-up of injuries: “In these situations, it always depends on the mentality of the players, if they can make a step forward. If they can they play in positions that are not natural positions and the other guys help them, everything is going well.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on not having a full squad: “When you have a short blanket, if you pull it to your face, your feet are cold, if you cover your feet, your top half is cold.”

Prediction

Newcastle has been ok of late, but not nearly enough to keep Manchester City out of the back of the net. This could get ugly, with the Citizens looking to rebound from their season’s first loss. 3-0 Man City with the possibility that it could get much worse if Newcastle gives up.

PL Preview: Burnley vs. Manchester United

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  • Burnley has 1 win vs. Man United in last 23 meetings
  • Manchester United has not conceded a goal in 2018
  • Paul Pogba is joint-top of the league with 9 assists

A critical top of the table battle comes our way from Turf Moor (!!) on Saturday as Manchester United travels to Burnley live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

Since losing at Chelsea back in early November, Manchester United in unbeaten away from home and has won four of the five road matches. Burnley, meanwhile, has lost three matches in a row to start the new year and has not won in Premier League play since December 12th against Stoke City.

The goalscoring form of each team is also in stark contrast. Manchester United has not allowed a goal in any competition in 2018, and last conceded back on Boxing Day in a 2-2 draw with this Burnley side. The Clarets, meanwhile, have just one goal in their last three Premier League games and just three goals in their last six.

INJURIES: Burnley – OUT: Chris Wood (knee), Stephen Ward (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Chris Taylor (ribs). Manchester United – OUT: Daley Blind (undisclosed), Eric Bailly (ankle), Michael Carrick (heart), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on the gap in riches between clubs: “I don’t think any of us are surprised by the gap in the Premier League – I think it’s been there a long time and it’s getting harder year on year since the business model of football has changed.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on focusing despite transfer rumors: “In this moment, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan our player, [Alexis] Sanchez an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow, I want to switch off and focus on the most important thing, which is the match.”

Prediction

Burnley may be coming back down to Earth, but they are still a formidable team with great organization, and Manchester United will be once again held to a draw, this time 1-1.

Alexis Sanchez in Arsenal squad, could play vs Crystal Palace

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Ahead of his nearly imminent move away from the Emirates, Alexis Sanchez could make an appearance for Arsenal against Crystal Palace this weekend as he was with the squad at the team hotel on Friday night, according to reports in England.

According to the reports, Arsene Wenger has not decided if he will play Sanchez against Palace or not, as any potential injury could seriously jeopardize any outgoing transfer in the works. However, naming him to the bench and allowing Sanchez to make one last appearance in front of the home fans would be a nice touch before he leaves, likely for Manchester United.

It probably doesn’t help Wenger’s selection that oft-injured Danny Welbeck will miss the match after picking up a muscle problem in training.

Sanchez did not travel with the team to Bournemouth last weekend as Arsenal lost 2-1 in stunning fashion. Sanchez has missed four Premier League games this season, and Arsenal has lost three of them.

The reports state Sanchez trained with the Arsenal first team on Friday, but only because the youth team he trained with the day before had left for a road trip.

Reports: LA Galaxy trades Gyasi Zardes to Columbus for Ola Kamara

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According to a reports by the LA Times and by ESPN, the LA Galaxy have traded US international Gyasi Zardes along with allocation money to the Columbus Crew for striker Ola Kamara.

Both reports state that Columbus will receive $400,000 in guaranteed allocation money in the deal, plus another $100,000 should Kamara score 12 goals next season to trigger the incentive.

Zardes was once a force along the wing for Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, but the 26-year-old has declined heavily in the last two seasons as injuries and poor form have held him to just eight goals over the last two seasons, including just two last campaign. Meanwhile, Kamara has been a star for Columbus in his first two years in Major League Soccer, scoring 16 goals in 2016 before netting another 18 last season, leaving him third in the league in goals scored over those two seasons.

The LA Times report states that Kamara will earn a new contract after the trade, giving him a raise over his current $482,500 yearly salary.

Zardes is an interesting case who shouldn’t be given up on just yet. A homegrown player for the Galaxy, he scored 17 goals in the 2014 season, including on in the MLS Cup Finals as the Galaxy won it all. He earned a seemingly permanent place on the USMNT as a result, and has 37 caps to this date. However, his goalscoring form has since evaporated, leaving him with no more than six goals in an MLS season since, and has just six goals in those 37 caps for the national team.

The Galaxy will need to acquire an additional international roster spot in order to activate Kamara for the season opener on March 4th against Portland, as they have filled up their seven spots as of now.