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Preview: USMNT to face Peru in tune-up for CONCACAF playoff vs. Mexico

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Who: US national team vs. Peru
When: Friday, Sept. 4, 7 pm ET
Where: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

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37 days — that’s all that stands between Jurgen Klinsmann’s US national team and an Oct. 10 showdown with Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, CONCACAF’s place in the 2017 Confederations Cup on the line.

On Friday, Klinsmann’s bunch will square off against a Peru side that finished third at the 2015 Copa America. It will be the USMNT’s penultimate tune-up ahead of next month’s clash at the Rose Bowl.

[ MORE: If you’ve ever questioned Jurgen Klinsmann, you don’t understand soccer ]

WITHOUT THE BIG STARS

For one game, the USMNT will be without Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, the squad’s two most recent captains. The veteran duo will join up with the USMNT following their Major League Soccer games this weekend, which means a few extra minutes for a select few fringe players, most notably Danny Williams, Mix Diskerud, Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson.

Between Bradley’s late arrival and Kyle Beckerman’s absence from the squad, Williams figures to see major minutes alongside and/or replacing Jermaine Jones, who returns to the USMNT after three months out with a groin injury. Klinsmann says Jones will play against Peru, but is nowhere near 90-minutes fit.

GUZAN REMAINS NO. 1, HOWARD BACK AS NO. 2

Klinsmann confirmed this week that Brad Guzan will retain the no. 1 goalkeeper spot despite the return of longtime no. 1 Tim Howard following a year-long sabbatical post-2014 World Cup. Guzan, who assumed the no. 1 shirt in Howard’s absence and played every minute of the USMNT’s fourth-place finish at the Gold Cup, has been chosen to start in goal through the game against Mexico.

[ MORE: How might USMNT lineup vs. Peru? JPW takes a look | U-23s stumble in Olympic prep ]

VETERAN DEFENDERS RECALLED

Welcome back, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez! Oh, how USMNT have missed you guys (Gonzalez was on the 2015 Gold Cup roster, but played sparingly). After watching John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado struggle to forge a reliable partnership over the Gold Cup’s three-plus weeks — and looking progressively worse in failing to do so — the return of battle-tested center backs like Besler and Cameron will have USMNT fans hoping a return to the bench is in short order for the early-20s duo for the future.

Hilariously enough, now that Cameron has won a starting center back job at Stoke City — something Klinsmann insisted necessary to be considered for the position with the USMNT — the 30-year-old will probably end up back at right back, at least in the short term, with Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler on the injured list. Cameron, of course, was Stoke’s regular starter at right back when he was told to win at job at center back.

Mario Balotelli hits out at Liverpool after AC Milan loan move: “Now I will play as a man”

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12 months on, Mario Balotelli is back in an AC Milan jersey and it finally seems like he’s entered the “last chance saloon” in his crazy career.

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On Thursday Balotelli, 25, joined Milan from Liverpool on a season-long loan deal and the Italian forward has accepted an incredibly restrictive “good behavior” clause in his contract which bans him from such things as “extravagant haircuts,” going to nightclubs and insists he must limit alcohol consumption among many other things.

The man known as “Super Mario” knows he is entering a pivotal stage in his career and he calls this “the second half” as he returns to Milan for the second time after having previous spells at Internazionale, Manchester City and his ill-fated time at Anfield which yielded just four goals in 28 games.

Speaking to Gazzetta Dello Sport, Balotelli was reflective on his return to the San Siro.

“I have played and lived as a boy,” Balotelli said. “Now I will live and play as a man. I know that many do not believe in me, but I have a duty to try and to make sure I succeed. The past must be remembered to avoid making the same mistakes, but the future cannot be viewed through a rear view mirror. The time has come to turn a page and look forward. Things haven’t gone well. I have wasted several opportunities. But the game is not over… I still have a second chance.”

Although he accepted his time at Liverpool was a “mess” Balotelli also pointed the finger at Brendan Rodgers and the way he set up his forward line.

“I must accept my faults but the formation chosen by Rodgers was not suited to my characteristics,” Balotelli said. “At the beginning I missed several easy chances, then I had fewer chances to score, a bit of bad luck, injuries. A mess of things.”

He also defended his behavior with the Reds and claimed he was professional during his time back in the Premier League at Liverpool. So, will Balotelli grab this second chance to shine back in Serie A with both hands and change his ways?

He has devised a plan to get back into the Italian national team under Antonio Conte and make the squad for the 2016 European Championships next summer. If Balo is serious about cleaning up his act, it must happen now or his sublime talent will be wasted at the expense of his eccentric temperament.

VIDEO: Belgian player in hilarious “magic butt spray” incident on the pitch

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This has to be one of the most bizarre incidents you will ever see on a soccer pitch. Ever.

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Javier Martos, who was wearing the captain’s armband for Belgian Pro League side Charleroi, went down with a bit of a jarred back after a heavy landing in their game against Club Brugge this weekend.

No worries.

The trainer ran onto the field to administer what can only be described in soccer circles as “the magic spray.”

But as you can see from the Vine below, this particular physio went nuclear when it came to applying the spray on Martos’ backside. Thankfully Martos was fine to play on, so we can all have a little chuckle about this situation.

If you don’t laugh at the hilarious video below, then I don’t really know what to say to you. Take a look, you won’t regret it.

MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0 Real Salt Lake (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Players Real Salt Lake were without Saturday night in Vancouver: Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Joao Plata, Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler, Jordan Allen and Luke Mulholland. With both eyes firmly placed on their US Open Cup semifinal on Wednesday night — and in the midst of a 15-day, five-game jaunt across North and Central America — Jeff Cassar, who was sent off himself in this one, opted to rotate his squad a great deal. So, it’s really little surprise they were beaten and battered, to the tune of 4-0, by the Whitecaps at BC Place. It was shocking, however, at just how easy RSL made life for the Whitecaps and how quickly things got out of hand. With their 13th victory of the season in hand, the ‘Caps remain very much in the thick of the Supporters’ Shield race, where they trail D.C. United by just two points with a game in hand. Meanwhile, RSL sink to eighth in the Western Conference, three points behind the Seattle Sounders for the sixth and final playoff place.

[ MORE: MLS transfer deadline day roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

7′ — Rivero taken down in the box, PK awarded — Elias Vasquez was (woefully) adjudged to have taken down Octavio Rivero inside the RSL penalty area despite minimal contact, and certainly nothing outside your run-of-the-mill jostling on a set piece. Rivero converted to give the ‘Caps and early lead.

40′ — Kah scores his third in two games for the ‘Caps — Pa-Modou Kah, center forward, am I right? Nope, still wrong. This is one of the more hilarious — and Kah-esque— goals you’re bound to see in MLS this season. With roughly 85 percent of the net wide open through which to tap home his easy goal, Kah somehow hit the 15 percent occupied by Jeff Attinella, and scored anyway.

50′ — Techera taps home from close range — “Close range” doesn’t really do justice just how far Cristian Techera actually had to hit Jordan Harvey’s cross to put it over the line. Though, to be fair to Techera, the tight angle was quite difficult and he did well to not hit the post followed by his face.

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Man of the match: Cristian Techera

Goalscorers: Rivero (PK – 7′), Kah (40′), Techera (50′, 68′)

VIDEO: Lionel Messi got angry, head-butted, choked Roma’s Yanga-Mbiwa

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Has it happened? Has it finally happened?

Has Lionel Messi, the undisputed best player in the world, finally made his “heel turn” and gone full-on evil after a decade of being the lovable little guy?

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Predicting the 2015-16 Premier League ]

If the 28-year-old Argentine’s actions on Wednesday, in which he head-butted and briefly grabbed the throat of Roma defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (above video) in the 35th minute of a preseason friendly, are any indication, perhaps the quiet, bullied, tiny runt of the soccer world has finally snapped and decided to fight back.

Messi, by the way, went on to score Barcelona’s second goal of the game just five minutes later.

[ MORE: Di Maria “very happy” to join PSG | Neville and Carragher’s hilarious FIFA 16 commercial ]

The best part of the above video, in which Messi does the aforementioned things, is the close-up shot and reaction of Neymar who sees all of this transpiring a few yards away, and can’t believe what his eyes are telling him.

I’ll kick things off in the comments section. Two options to begin your post: “If Ronaldo had done that…” and “If Suarez had done that…”