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How will, er, should the USMNT line up versus Martinique?

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If you had a 4-5-1 without a true left-sided threat in the midfield as your Starting XI for Saturday’s Gold Cup opening draw against Panama, perhaps you could title this article “How will the USMNT line up on Wednesday.”

For the rest of us, a little guesswork is in order.

Now perhaps U.S. training sessions make it clear that Eric Lichaj has fooled all of Nottingham Forest, or maybe left-sided Kenny Saief’s injury really gummed up the works for Bruce Arena (who it must be said got fine work out of right-sided man Kelyn Rowe).

[ USMNT-PANAMA: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Enter Martinique, who topped Nicaragua 2-0 and currently leads Group B ahead of Wednesday night’s tilt in Tampa. Former Seattle striker Kevin Parsemain scored and Les Matinino definitely deserved their three points.

There’s something to be said about the lack of familiarity in a B Team such as the U.S. Gold Cup squad, but any slack leant to the side will have been exhausted in the 1-1 draw against Panama. Almost no one on the squad found too many bright spots in analyzing the outing, which instantly had many looking at roster selection more than anyone would like following a friendly and a group stage match.

Short of more training time, how can we introduce some familiarity into the bunch? There are some good steps to take via the club route.

— Big FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges won’t have any problems bodying up Martinique, and can be used next to any other CB. More important, he can link up with young center mid and FCD teammate Kellyn Acosta. The kid can get a bit of a security blanket.

— If Rowe’s injury isn’t a major one, how about using New England teammate Juan Agudelo in a center attacking position? Rowe was very good in attack against Panama, and Agudelo injected a missing ingredient of electricity when Arena introduced him in the second half.

Taken to extremes, you could use other club teammates (Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi), but we’ll stray from that for now.

Assuming health, there is no reason for Arena to avoid utilizing Lichaj any longer. He’s a clear upgrade at Zusi for right back, and probably for Jorge Villafana on the left (though Justin Morrow would be a more natural substitution should Arena lift Villafana).

Here’s how we’d like to see the Yanks arrive to Raymond James Stadium in front of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who starred against Panama.

Guzan

Lichaj — Miazga — Hedges — Villafana

McCarty — Acosta

Rowe — Agudelo — Pontius

Dwyer

Dax McCarty didn’t have as good a performance versus Panama as he did against Ghana, but Acosta still need a steady partner. Roldan could be that, but it’s a bit of a risk given his lack of caps and age at this point. Alejandro Bedoya was Arena’s captain on Saturday. so here’s another way he could go:

Guzan

Lichaj — Besler — Gonzalez — Morrow

Rowe — McCarty — Bedoya — Pontius

Agudelo — Dwyer

USMNT celebrates winning 2017 Gold Cup – Video

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The U.S. national team won the 2017 Gold Cup title on Wednesday night and the Stars and Stripes celebrated in style.

[ MORE: Recap | Ratings | 3 things ] 

After beating Jamaica 2-1 in a tense final in Santa Clara, Calif. the champagne corks were soon popping as veterans and youngsters danced the night away to celebrate the USMNT’s first trophy since their Gold Cup success in 2013.

This was the USA’s sixth Gold Cup title and for many (Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey to name a few) it could be their last piece of silverware for the USMNT.

Watch them drink in the celebrations below as Bruce Arena (celebrating his third Gold Cup title) pulled off a veteran move to remove his suit jacket before getting drenched.

The U.S. are once again champions of the CONCACAF region.


Arsenal confirm Alexis Sanchez will return to training

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed Alexis Sanchez will return to training with Arsenal this Sunday.

Sanchez, 28, is yet to sign a new contract at Arsenal and has just 12 months left on his current deal, but it appears that Wenger isn’t planning on losing his Chilean superstar anytime soon.

Below is what Wenger has to say about Sanchez and Shkodran Mustafi returning to training this weekend after their exploits in the 2017 Confederations Cup which saw both men play in the final on July 2.

“Alexis and Mustafi, their first training session will be on Sunday, the day we play against Sevilla [in the Emirates Cup],” Wenger said. “They are practising on the day. First of all you make a really good check up of where they are, how much they have worked during their break. After, once you know where you stand, they need an adjusted programme and to see how quickly you can fit them in again.

“Of course it depends as well on what is the need in the squad, what is their quality. All of these things together make your decision. Do you put them on the bench when they are not ready [to start]? It is easier to put a striker on the bench than a defender, sometimes. Because in a short period they can make an impact. We’ll see.”

Manchester City hammer Real Madrid in LA

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Manchester City went full Beastmode on Real Madrid in the second half of their International Champions Cup game in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Neymar to PSG on? ]

In front of a record 93,038 fans, City scored four goals in the second half with Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Raheem Sterling all netting before youngster Brahim Diaz finished things off in style.

Kevin De Bruyne was in particularly menacing form with the Belgian at the heart of everything good for Pep Guardiola‘s men.

Despite the hammering Real Madrid did score the goal of the night with youngster Oscar Rodriguez smashing home a beauty into the top corner form distance in the 90th minute.

Click play on the video above to watch the highlights.

City now head to Nashville, Tennessee where they face Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday with both teams finishing off their U.S. tour in style in Music City.

Real Madrid travel to Miami, Florida for the small matter of an El Clasico against Barcelona to finish off the International Champions Cup tournament Stateside.

Report: Neymar agrees five-year deal at Paris Saint-Germain

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Paris, are you ready for Neymar to become the main man?

[ MORE: USMNT win Gold Cup title

The Brazilian has scored all three of Barcelona’s goals during their preseason wins over Juventus and Manchester United in the U.S. but was his game-winner on Wednesday in Washington D.C. his final strike in a Barca shirt?

L’Equipe is reporting that Neymar has agreed terms on a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain but that the French giants are now trying to get Barcelona to reduce the $260 million transfer fee which is Neymar’s release clause.

Per the report Neymar will earn over $34.1 million annually while reports in Spain suggest that both clubs want the Brazilian superstar to make a decision and are eager to push the deal through by next week if it’s going to happen.

Neymar, 25, is said to want to leave Barca and be the main man at PSG.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez around at the Nou Camp, it’s easy to understand that Brazil’s captain feels a little underappreciated sometimes but with Messi now 30 years old and Suarez 31, surely Neymar can wait it out a few years before he takes over Messi’s throne at Barca?

Hmmm, with the five-time World Player of the Year recently signing a new contract until 2021, Mess is going nowhere and maybe that was the trigger for Neymar and his representatives to look elsewhere as he’s about to enter his prime.

On top of all that the ongoing investigation from the Spanish authorities into his transfer from Santos looms large over the global superstar, but after winning two UEFA Champions League titles, three La Liga trophies and two Copa del Rey’s during his four years at Barca, would he really walk away?

His teammates and manager have been speaking about that posibility during Barca’s preseason tour of the U.S. and nobody seems too sure if he will remain. If anything the word “hope” is getting thrown around a lot rather than a definitive “yes” or “no” and even Gerard Pique had to back track on a social media post where he posed with Neymar and used the caption “he stays” to sum up the situation.

PSG are reportedly working around the clock to figure out how on earth they can finance this deal but it is becoming increasingly obvious that they are the only club who can afford to sign Neymar and their Abu Dhabi owners are doing all they can to make it a reality.