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Three things from the USMNT’s historic failure in Trinidad

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The United States failed in a major way on Tuesday, and that’s still somehow sugarcoating its 2-1 loss in Trinidad and Tobago.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Americans will not be plying their trade at a World Cup.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

Yup.


Bruce Arena, you played yourself

The USMNT manager preached squad rotation last month in an embarrassing two-match stretch that saw the Americans take just one point.

So what does he do following an exceptionally emotional 4-0 home win over Panama? Puts the same exact lineup out there.

The Yanks looked dazed and listless for the most part, aside from Jozy Altidore dropping deep into the midfield to help, well, whoever else was supposed to be there with Michael Bradley and some hard running from Paul Arriola and DeAndre Yedlin (I believe Jorge Villafana had a tackle in there, too).

Arena then doubled down on his domestic philosophy bringing on Clint Dempsey, Kellyn Acosta, and Benny Feilhaber as substitutes. Premier League mainstay Geoff Cameron was left on the bench for 180 minutes. Nevermind leaving international caliber players like Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, and even Danny Williams in the wilderness.

Adding to the embarrassment were Arena’s postgame comments, in which he seemed to imply he had better players he would’ve used in the future.

“If we had qualified for the World Cup, there needed to be a number of changes for the World Cup roster.”

In its hour of need, U.S. Soccer turned to its domestic heroes. And they failed.

But so did the players

Find a player who stood out on Tuesday.

I’m still waiting.

Yes, Pulisic scored a great goal. And both DeAndre Yedlin, Jozy Altidore, and Bobby Wood ran their socks off. Clint Dempsey provided an injection of fury and hit the post as a substitute.

But they needed far more than that and, as they had in every road Hex match and several home ones, showed an entitlement and lack of urgency that belied their status as the third- and later fifth-place team in CONCACAF.

Michael Bradley will probably not play at another World Cup. USMNT legends Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Geoff Cameron almost certainly will not.

And the guys Arena did use?

“Our center backs were not confident with the ball, and really we were playing eight against 10 in the first half. Our forwards were not able to hold the ball. We didn’t get Pulisic into the game. We played poorly.”

To be fair, it wasn’t both center backs, rather Omar Gonzalez. Arena’s former LA Galaxy charge scored an own goal and nearly gave a penalty kick away moments later.

Overhaul or nothing

This one is short and sweet: Arena was almost certainly not going to manage beyond the World Cup in Russia, but powerful president Sunil Gulati was almost certain to go onward. I’m not sure there are enough American Outlaws and moneymen on Earth to back that move now.

Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Leicester leads all-time 26W-18D-23L
  • Foxes 3W-1D vs. Eagles since Oct. 2015
  • Palace won at Leicester in Feb. 2015

The Claude Puel revolution at Leicester City has the Foxes surging up the Premier League table, and Saturday’s visitors from Crystal Palace are making moves of their own (Watch live Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester has won four-straight matches, the latest a 4-1 beatdown of Southampton at St. Mary’s, and returns to King Power Stadium with a chance to make a dent on the five-point deficit between the Foxes and the Top Four.

 

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

After beginning the season 0-7, Crystal Palace has claimed 14 of 30 points to move from 20th to 18th on the table. Roy Hodgson’s men have two wins and four draws in their last six matches.

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Harry Maguire on the task at hand:

Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his high-flying loan spell from Chelsea: “It’s what you aspire to be when you’re younger. Right now it’s a case of trying to improve as much as I can and to keep the performances up. As long as I’m enjoying it I think I’ll do well, so I’m really happy. The experience of playing week in week out and the physical side of things, getting my body used to playing games – sometimes three in a week – has been a massive thing for me, especially when I haven’t played for two years regularly. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to get away from Chelsea, to play regular football, get my body used to it, get more robust and I think once you have that then it’s a platform to play better.”

Prediction

This could be a fun one, with names like Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Vardy, Mahrez, and Gray ready to bless the match with pace and creativity. Goals have come in bunches when Leicester’s on the pitch, and we’ll call it 2-1 to the Foxes.

RBNY’s Grella heads to Columbus (through Colorado)

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Mike Grella didn’t get to pick No. 20 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop Columbus from getting their hands on the New York Red Bulls veteran.

Colorado selected Grella with the third overall pick, then sent him to Columbus for a second round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

[ MLS: Ousted “blacklisted” by MLS? ]

The only other pick was made by Minnesota United, who took Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United.

Grella, 30, is a well-traveled Duke product who has played in England and Denmark. He scored 18 times with 13 assists in 89 matches for the Red Bulls, but missed most of the 2017 season with a pair of knee injuries.

It’s a good gamble for the Crew, and an extra draft pick for 2019. Second-round picks have become long odds to make MLS rosters, with Tommy McNamara and Aaron Long the last impact players to come out of the round. That was in 2014, and both needed changes of scenery before hitting their MLS strides.

John Cena makes entertaining Premier League predictions

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We do not recommend putting any money on John Cena’s Premier League predictions for this weekend.

The actor and WWE star was the guest picker on the BBC site on Friday, and admitted his soccer knowledge doesn’t extend much further than Cristiano Ronaldo and a tour of Tottenham (he has a fondness for Spurs, it seems).

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

But his actual selections are quite amusing. From picking matches based on species to trying to anger his fiancee’s Arsenal supporting brother, Cena brought the goods.

Our favorites:

Why West Ham will win at Stoke: “Who doesn’t love a good ham? It provides you with nourishment, happiness and a sense of community. It is always served at a big family function gathering. I like West Ham. 0-1.”

Why Southampton will win at Chelsea: “From where I am from, in Massachusetts, Southampton is a pretty cool place, so I am going to have to pick them, only because of how it relates to the States.”