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USMNT-Paraguay preview: Youth served in Carolina

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Three: That’s how many USMNT players on the squad for Tuesday’s international friendly against Paraguay were with the team for the side’s 1-0 Copa America Centenario win over the visitors.

Bobby Wood “ran his socks off,” DeAndre Yedlin took two silly yellow cards, and Darlington Nagbe was an unused sub for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men on that night in Philadelphia.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ]

Paraguay boss Gustavo Morinigo wasn’t there either — both clubs have changed bosses since then, with Dave Sarachan now the USMNT interim boss following Bruce Arena’s World Cup qualifying failure — but could use five starters from that match.

So there are few easy predictions other than unfamiliarity and perhaps youthful exuberance. On neutral soil, in fact, Paraguay would probably be favored to ruin Sarachan’s unbeaten run as American bench boss.

For the record, the Yanks are little better than even money to win the match in Cary, North Carolina.

Levante full back Shaq Moore could start for the U.S., having broken through for the La Liga side late last year. He told ESPN that American supporters have reason to be intrigued by the youthful roster

“Fans should feel excited — not just about me, but about the new crop of players coming through. It’s tough knowing there is no World Cup [this summer], but I think we have good things coming in the future,” Moore said.

Plenty of other youngsters will be on show, and one Paraguay star getting American eyes will be Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron. The 21-year-old has is yet to score a senior goal for his country in 11 caps, a striking difference from his 10 goals and 10 assists in 35 appearances for the MLS side (It should come as no surprise that scoring on Chile and Argentina is more challenging than making plays against league competition in many parts of the world).

The U.S. is 3-2-2 all-time against Paraguay. Kickoff from Cary is expected shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Independiente rejects Atlanta United’s $12 million bid for Barco, wants $24 million

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If or when Atlanta United signs Ezequiel Barco, it will seemingly shatter the Major League Soccer transfer record.

According to multiple reports in Argentina, Independiente executive Pablo Moyano told Fox Sports Argentina radio that the club had rejected a $12 million bid from Atlanta United for the 18-year-old starlet Barco, and it wouldn’t settle for less than $24 million.

Moyano’s reasoning for the statement came from Barco’s performance in the Maracana last week, where he scored a penalty kick and led Independiente to the Copa Sudamericana title, the club’s first continental title since winning the same competition in 2010. Barco scored also in the Sudamericana semifinal against Libertad.

[READ: Liverpool’s Boxing Day Blowout]

It’s been reported that Barco has asked the club to accept Atlanta United’s offer so it may be a matter of when the deal becomes official rather than if, but we can be sure that the bid will rise above $12 million. Perhaps the clubs will meet in the middle at $18 million, but it will break the transfer record broken by Atlanta United just last year signing Miguel Almiron, who came with a reported $8 million fee.

MVP favorites Valeri, Villa headline 2017 MLS Best XI

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All five Major League Soccer MVP finalists — Diego Valeri, David Villa, Nemanja Nikolic, Sebastian Giovinco and Miguel Almiron — have been named to the 2017 Best XI squad.

[ MORE: F.O.M.O., and a USMNT-less 2018 World Cup draw ]

The attacking talent doesn’t stop there, as the above quintet is joined by Toronto FC midfielder Victor Vazquez and Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez.

Tim Melia and Ike Opara, who were previously named Goalkeeper of the Year and Defender of the Year, respectively, for their parts in leading Sporting Kansas City to the best defensive record in 2017, were chosen alongside Kendall Waston and Justin Morrow of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC, respectively.

Yes, that is indeed a rarely-seen 3-3-4 formation which very closely borders on being a 3-0-7. My personal ballot, which features a defensive midfield-type and was submitted on Oct. 22, reads as follows:

Goalkeeper: Tim Melia

Defenders: Ike Opara, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Kendall Waston

Midfielders: Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti, Victor Vazquez, Cristian Roldan

Forwards: David Villa, Nemanja Nikolic, Josef Martinez

Reserves (not on ballot): Alex Bono, Chris Mavinga, Sacha Kljestan, C.J. Sapong

Miguel Almiron knew nothing about MLS, everything about Tata

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Miguel Almiron’s future is going to be a big part of the story for as long as he’s in Atlanta United, but his past is in focus following another cool post in The Players’ Tribune.

It’s a cool read, for sure, to examine Almiron’s rise from “too skinny” kid without a club to one of the top prospects this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but the story of why he came to Atlanta is an argument for the “big name” manager (Tata Martino in this case).

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

Before the Paraguayan youngster was the talk of the transfer market, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the No. 1 jersey sale in the league, he was being recruited to the Georgian expansion outlet.

“I didn’t know much about MLS. I didn’t know where Atlanta was. I didn’t know anything. But Tata was manager, and that was all I needed to know.”

Given that Martino arrived not too long before Almiron, the following Tweet makes the point I’ve been trying to make as well as anyone:

Miguel Almiron named MLS Newcomer of the Year

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Unsurprisingly, one of Atlanta United’s biggest stars took home some hardware on Monday after a stellar first season in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS conference finals ]

Atlanta attacker Miguel Almiron was named MLS Newcomer of the Year today, beating out Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic and teammate Josef Martinez for the honor.

Almiron, who joined Atlanta from Argentine side Lanus, netted nine goals and added 14 assists for the Eastern Conference squad in 2017 and helped guide the club to the MLS Cup Playoffs after finishing fifth in the East.

The 23-year-old received an 37.38% average of the vote for the award, which was compiled based on votes from a combination of media members, MLS players and executives. Nikolic finished second with 24.92 percent, while Martinez checked in at number three.