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Reports: Everton agree to $38 million Pickford deal

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It has been widely reported that Everton have agreed a $38 million deal with Sunderland for goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The 23-year-old was the major positive for the Black Cats last season as they were relegated from the Premier League and he will tie up the deal to Goodison Park after he returns from England U-21 duty in the 2017 European Championships.

It is a lot of money for Ronald Koeman to spend on a goalkeeper who has just one season (29 games to be exact) of Premier League experience under his belt, but Pickford’s imminent arrival will solve a major issue for the Toffees.

Last season both Joel Robles and Marteen Stekelenburg were guilty of high-profile errors and even the season before that the Toffees had issues with Tim Howard. Liverpool, Manchester City and several other PL clubs were said to have been interested in Pickford but Everton are set to spend big this summer with Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen reportedly on the way too.

Pickford came through the ranks at Sunderland’s academy and has spent several spells out on loan, most notably at Preston North End. His shot-stopping ability and sublime accuracy with kicking are his main strengths but it’s tough to see a weakness in his game as he shone in a struggling Sunderland side last season.

That’s why he is set to become the most-expensive British goalkeeper in history and the third-most expensive of all-time behind only Gianluigi Buffon and Ederson.

Fearless Arena, USMNT overcame all risks vs. Mexico

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The ship is steadied.

That’s the upshot of Bruce Arena’s second international break with the United States men’s national team, where the Yanks dominated Trinidad and Tobago before drawing Mexico on Sunday in Azteca.

The latter is a far more impressive result, with Arena’s game planning getting due credit and Michael Bradley’s early goal making sure it had every reason to flourish in the thin air of Mexico City.

[ MORE: Player ratings for USMNT

Arena’s 3-5-2 took some significant risks, and it’s a credit to the coach and players that even the ones that backfired didn’t hamper the team in pursuit of a result.

The moves that didn’t work are even debatable. DaMarcus Beasley received little help when Carlos Vela toasted him with a counter attack goal, and the left back was limited anyway by an early injury (Whether Arena should’ve bit the bullet and used an early sub with Jorge Villafana is another discussion).

Putting 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta next to Michael Bradley was another risk that mostly worked, though the moments that made that adverb necessary were big ones. Acosta was cooked by Javier Hernandez with a nutmeg and then stayed with the hobbled striker as Vela worked his way to scoring position. That’s two errors on a big play, and it’s almost certain a more experience player takes a card for a tactical foul on Hernandez at midfield. But the Yanks escaped, and now the promising Acosta has an invaluable evening under his belt. Risk rewarded in that sense.

Then there’s Brad Guzan — and I’ve beaten this drum before — who was just fine but not Tim Howard. I realize Guzan has Azteca success, but for me there’s a gulf between the two MLS keepers.

As an aside, it bothers me that preferring Howard — probably the most accomplished of an amazing history of American goalkeepers — could be perceived as a shot at Guzan, who is a fine goalkeeper. But give me Howard every darn time.

It’s more difficult to expound upon the positives because “man those center backs did their job” is often the least sexy route for a writer. But there’s an easy argument that Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez are better for a three-man unit than in a center back duo. And even if it seems an easy trust for Arena to use Cameron as “the man”, it was taking a chance in a big spot.

He also resisted the urge to rest Michael Bradley, who hasn’t been bad but has also not been himself for some time with the USMNT set-up. It wasn’t just the long-distance goal that proved this move astute, rather the calm of the regular metronome in the center of the park.

And as much as I argued for the exclusion of Darlington Nagbe from the XI for this contest, it took guts for Arena not to start the electric Portland Timbers attacker. It’s often going to be a problem to use both Nagbe and Christian Pulisic against teams that can do work in the center of the park, especially while we wait for Pulisic’s continuing evolution. Both are risk/reward players and on a night that saw the Americans anything but successful in keeping the ball — blame an otherworldly night from the magnificent Hector Herrera.

Consider this: Mexico had 67 percent possession and 84 percent pass success. That’s not a horrible night by any means, and the Yanks still managed a point.  I mean, look at the below screen grab from CONCACAF.com. Almost every Mexican player to play significant minutes attempted more passes than the American leader: Pulisic.

Yet it doesn’t feel like a lucky result, and that perception is a feather in Arena’s cap. On a night where Hector Herrera cranked one off the pipe, the Yanks scored an amazing but fortunate goal, and several big name players were kept from the lineup, the U.S. got a result that feels just.

The boys have bought in, most naysayers shut up, and hope springs eternal even with the knowledge that the Yanks will likely be in CONCACAF’s fourth place following Tuesday’s qualifiers in Costa Rica and Panama.

LIVE – USMNT seeks historic WCQ win over Mexico, in Azteca

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The U.S. national team is set to take its latest crack at claiming a first-ever World Cup qualifying victory at Estadio Azteca, as Bruce Arena’s Yanks take on Mexico inside El Tri‘s national house of horrors, tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET.

[ LIVE: Follow Mexico vs. USA ]

Arena said he would make as many as seven changes to the lineup that knocked off Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday in Colorado (played at altitude — 5,100 feet — to prepare for tonight’s trip to Mexico City — 7,200 feet), and he made good on that threat promise.

Out are the likes of Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey (who’s one goal away from tying Landon Donovan for all-time USMNT record, and has also never scored a goal against Mexico), Jozy Altidore, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson, as well as two others; replaced by Brad Guzan, Paul Arriola, Bobby Wood, Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream.

Lineups

Mexico: Ochoa; Salcedo, Reyes, Moreno, Alanis; Herrera, J. Dos Santos, Fabian; Vela, Hernandez, Lozano

USA: Guzan; Beasley, Ream, Gonzalez, Cameron, Yedlin; Bradley, Acosta; Pulisic, Arriola; Wood

How will the USMNT lineup versus Mexico?

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Bruce Arena has some unique challenges in planning for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico at Azteca.

For one thing, Mexico’s really good. Beyond that, Arena has to marshall his men into battle just three days after its last match day (as does El Tri boss Juan Carlos Ozorio).

That lack of rest, coupled with the thin air of Mexico City and Mexico’s electric attack, make getting a point a tall task.

[ MORE: Saturday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup ]

Let’s begin with any prospective iron men. Osorio is into heavy squad rotation, which doubles Arena’s need for fresh legs. Who could defy a lineup change?

Christian Pulisic — Your best player plays, especially when he’s got the legs of an 18-year-old (because he is an 18-year-old).

Geoff Cameron — The odds say that John Brooks will come out of the lineup having played a bunch despite his tweak against Venezuela, and Arena will want some semblance of consistency in front of Tim Howard

Howard — He’s their best goalkeeper and has Azteca experience.

Michael Bradley — While he didn’t shine against T&T, he connected on 41 of 44 passes and his experience matters especially with Clint Dempsey expected to start on the bench.

Jozy Altidore — The big striker missed the friendly against Venezuela for a family wedding, and may have enough in the tank to start alone or with Bobby Wood.

DeAndre Yedlin — Stellar against T&T, and his two-way play could be a major asset south of the border.

Our guess is that all six of those players start, with two of Altidore, Pulisic, and Yedlin subbed out depending on the scoreline after an hour.

Arena is going to turn to longtime LA Galaxy charge Omar Gonzalez in place of Brooks, and will slot DaMarcus Beasley in place of Jorge Villafana. The latter was terrific against T&T, but Arena will want something more steady defensively guarding Mexico’s right side.

This is a major spot to hand Kellyn Acosta a big start at an important position, but Arena may want to use another midfielder alongside Bradley to clog up the middle of the park. Dax McCarty could also feature here.

Assuming Altidore and Bobby Wood up top, here’s what it could look like:

Howard

Yedlin — Cameron — Gonzalez — Beasley

Bradley — Acosta

Pulisic ————— Bedoya

Wood — Altidore

If Arena goes defense with just one striker, that’ll be Wood to start and opens up a place for Paul Arriola, Johnson, or even Nagbe. The Timbers playmaker has a knack for something special on offense, and going with one striker would allow Arena some leeway with Nagbe’s occasional defensive shortcoming and propensity for turning the ball over. To be clear, this is also a concern with Pulisic but there’s a gap in class there.

Howard

Yedlin — Cameron — Gonzalez — Beasley

Bradley — McCarty

Arriola — Pulisic — Nagbe

Wood

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.