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Bruce Arena must change tactics to win Gold Cup

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If last night’s 2-0 “win” over El Salvador proved anything to USMNT fans, it’s that Bruce Arena has plenty of work to do if the United States is to seriously challenge for the 2017 Gold Cup title.

Lowly El Salvador has beaten one CONCACAF opponent in its last 10 tries. That victory came over Curaçao. Nevertheless, the United States struggled to deal with the Central American nation, as El Salvador sported multiple stretches of good pressure, and the U.S. back line was unbelievably lucky to come out with a clean sheet they did not deserve.

Given the performance, Bruce Arena has only one option going forward. With the B Team he’s put together on the current 23-man roster, the USMNT manager cannot stick to his usual 4-4-2 formation. He must adapt.

[ MORE: West Ham signs Chicharito ]

With a significantly worse defensive line than the U.S. is used to, Michael Bradley is unable to play by himself in a central defensive midfield role as he did against El Salvador. With just Bradley and Darlington Nagbe in the middle of the pitch, the United States sported a gaping hole down the center, begging their quarterfinal opponent to counter up the gut, which they did to great effect.

Arena knew the U.S. strength was down the flanks, and that’s where he chose to attack. You can see by the halftime touch map that the United States chose to move the ball up the edge, particularly the left with Justin Morrow and Gyasi Zardes.

Arena knew his midfield was thin, and attacked accordingly. Nevertheless, defensively it failed to hold up. Without the more superior John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, and DeAndre Yedlin behind them, a midfield pair of Bradley and Nagbe just isn’t enough to cut down the counter-attack.

So what is Bruce Arena to do? Change his tactics; it’s the only option. Instead of his favored 4-4-2, he must change to a 4-2-3-1. While that cuts down on room for more attacking players, it allows Bradley to partner with Kellyn Acosta in the midfield hole. In front of the pair can either be Clint Dempsey or Darlington Nagbe in the ACM role depending how Arena plans to attack. That leaves Jozy Altidore alone up front, and while that’s less than ideal for a striker who plays better with a partner, it’s the necessary sacrifice that must be made so the U.S. midfield isn’t carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey by the better attacking teams left in the Gold Cup.

Bruce Arena’s preferred tactics may work with better players on the first-choice USMNT roster, but with a significantly downgraded selection at his disposal, especially along the defensive line, the United States coach must adjust his tactics against Costa Rica and likely Mexico to even have a chance.

Hart to West Ham; Newcastle, West Brom to add internationals

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England international backstop Joe Hart, Egyptian back Ahmed Hegazi, and English U-21 star Jacob Murphy have all completed or are nearing moves to Premier League homes.

Hart has reportedly passed a medical in front of a loan move to West Ham United, one which will see Manchester City pick up some of his wages and reunite the England goalkeeper with former Man City teammate Pablo Zabaleta.

The Hammers used Darren Randolph and Adrian last season, and Hart certainly brings solid acumen to the London Stadium.

[ USMNT: Lineup vs. El Salvador? ]

Hegazi, 26, is off to West Bromwich Albion on a loan deal with an option to buy. The 6-foot-5 former Fiorentina center back deepens and lowers the age of the Baggies’ center back corps, and brings 39 caps of Egypt experience to the fold. He comes on loan from Egyptian powers Al-Alhy. Gareth McAuley (37) and Jonny Evans (29) round out the Baggies’ crew of CBs.

And Newcastle United’s weeks-long chase to add Jacob Murphy from Norwich City has reportedly found an agreement in fee. A $10.5 million bid was rejected by the Canaries, but Sky Sports says his agents wanted the move to go through and Norwich will accept almost $16 million to give Rafa Benitez his prized forward.

The 22-year-old followed up a nine-goal season in League One with Coventry City by posting eight goals for the Canaries in the Championship last season. Murphy has a twin brother on Norwich, Josh, and scored a goal at the U-21 EURO this summer. He’ll join Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu in an exciting, if unproven at the level, group.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Paulinho, Sigurdsson, Mendy

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A number of big deals have already been completed this summer, and the transfer market has progressed to the point where rumors that have dragged on for weeks now look to be completed.

There are a host of such deals involving players who have been in the newspapers for some time now.

[ MORE: Thursday Roundup | Wednesday ]

Former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho has been rumored to be on his way to Barcelona for months. The 28-year-old moved to Chinese club Guanzhou Evergrande two summers ago, but with Barcelona looking to retool its midfield, he’s resurfaced. Yesterday, reports suggested the Guanzhou could be considering legal action against the Catalan club for tapping their player up, and the deal seemed less likely than ever to be completed with Guanzhou apparently breaking off all communication with Barcelona.

Still, speaking to the media at Nelson Semedo’s unveiling, Barcelona technical secretary Robert Fernandez said that a deal for Paulinho could still be completed.

Asked if the Paulinho transfer was dead in the water, Fernandez said, “It doesn’t have to be. Barca have to be vigilant, and when a player from a particular League comes up and you’re interested, you know what you have to do, and from there you have to do the deal.”


On Thursday it was announced that Gylfi Sigurdsson would not travel to the United States for Swansea City’s preseason tour, thanks to the transfer speculation surrounding the Icelandic playmaker. Still, the club is doing its best to hold firm.

Speaking with WalesOnline on Friday, American owners Steve Kaplan and James Levian made a joint statement, saying, “We will not be bullied or forced into a decision until a club meets our valuation of the player.” Reports over the weeks have suggested they have tagged Sigurdsson at $65 million and will not budge from that amount.

The two owners continued, saying they hoped Sigurdsson would stay and that he still could join the team if his future is sorted out in the next week or two.

“We have the ultimate respect for Gylfi as a person and a player and we are optimistic that he will reconsider his decision and join his team-mates.”


Manchester City is still in need of full-backs despite the completion of a deal for Tottenham’s Kyle Walker. With any potential agreement for Dani Alves scuttled by PSG, they have reportedly turned their sights towards the Ligue 1 champions.

According to a host of reports, City is nearing a deal for Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy. The 22-year-old has shown fantastic ability to move forward up the flanks and now could help City solve its full-back deficiency.

Reports on social media in both France and England suggest that the two clubs have agreed on a deal of $51 million for Mendy, and that the player is traveling to Manchester to complete a medical. Should this deal be completed, it would mean City will have spent $120 million on a pair of full-backs this summer.


Newcastle is looking for reinforcements now that they have been shot straight back up into the Premier League. Dwight Gayle currently leads the Magpies attack after a stellar Championship campaign last season that saw him rack up 23 goals, but Rafa Benitez apparently wants more.

According to reports in his native Uruguay, Bordeaux striker Diego Rolan is a player that Benitez is after. The reports say that Newcastle was given permission to speak with the 24-year-old, who has 25 caps for Uruguay.

The biggest roadblock for Newcastle in this deal is Championship side Fulham, who have been reportedly chasing Rolan for weeks. Rolan has apparently been waffling on whether he wants to drop down to the Championship to a club where he will immediately become the first-choice striker, or join Newcastle and battle for a starting spot in the Premier League. The player reportedly traveled to London on earlier in the week to meet with Fulham but left without making a decision.

Benitez frustrated over lack of Newcastle signings

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Rafael Benitez has called the transfer market “crazy” as Newcastle United’s preparations for their Premier League return continue to go at a snails pace.

[ MORE: Lukaku joins United for $96.5 million ]

Surely Newcastle won’t make the same mistakes they’ve made in the past.

Benitez, 57, spoke at a fan event in Newcastle and revealed that his side are struggling to bring in the players they would like to push on after gaining promotion from the Championship.

“It’s not easy for a lot of teams because the market is a little bit crazy. We have to try to do our best,” Benitez said. “The top sides have a lot of money. The other teams are spending too, but we will see what we can do. We know where we are – that is not ideal because everybody wants to see a lot of players signing already, but we have to keep working and see what we can do. We can do nothing other than just keep working to find the players that we want, and hopefully we can do it.”

The timing of this comment is clever from Benitez and the former Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager has always been keen to push the owners and board as much as he can to get what he wants.

With Newcastle starting preseason, the Magpies boss is giving owner Mike Ashley a nudge to remind him that he needs backing in the transfer market before the new season kicks off on Aug. 12.

Benitez was given huge funds last season (Dwight Gayle, Mohamed Diame and Matt Ritchie all arrived) when Newcastle were in the second-tier after Benitez came in late during the 2015-16 campaign but couldn’t save them from relegation. For the past six months reports have popped up stating Benitez was unhappy with the lack of transfer funds available and it was thought he could walk away in May after guiding Newcastle back to the PL.

However, the club released a statement early in the summer stating that Benitez would be staying on and he commented on how happy he was with the transfer policy as the owner had promised every penny from promotion would be spent on the squad. Benitez obviously isn’t too happy with Newcastle’s transfer dealings right now (they missed out on signing the likes of Willy Caballero and Tammy Abraham) but there’s still over eight weeks left in the summer window to get deals done.

Christian Atsu has arrived on a permanent deal from Chelsea this summer, while defender Florian Lejeune arrived from Eibar but it’s been hard going apart from that. Yes, the likes of Gayle and Jonjo Shelvey provide Premier League experience and will be vital if Newcastle are to kick on and finish in the top half of the PL table as they hope to, but adding more quality is essential if Newcastle aren’t going to embroiled in yet another relegation battle.

Benitez knows that. Hence, these comments.

Where does Lacazette rank amongst top PL strikers?

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Alexandre Lacazette is one of the best strikers in the world, but where does his arrival at Arsenal place him in the context of Premier League hit men?

As tempting as it would be to rate each team’s strike corps, we’re wondering where each club’s top striker would place if ranked with the other 19 leading men in the Premier League.

For clarification, we’re going to use an asterisk for wantaway Chelsea striker Diego Costa — whose move to Atleti could be imminent — and count Sergio Aguero of Man City despite Gabriel Jesus‘ deserved status as “next big thing”

[ MORE: Lacazette signing huge for Wenger’s Arsenal ]

We’re also going to count Joshua King of Bournemouth ahead of new Cherries signed Jermain Defoe.

Here’s to our quickly-assembled, non-scientific list. It’s readied for your critical destruction, though we’re only ready to put two team’s top men ahead of Lacazette.

Group One: The New Boys

20. Glenn Murray, Brighton and Hove Albion — An effective Championship scorer.
19. Elias Kachunga, Huddersfield Town — His 12 FLC goals by far his finest season.
18. Dwight Gayle, Newcastle United — Any chance he carries over an electric 2016-17?

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Group Two: More Questions Than Answers

17. Marko Arnautovic, Stoke City — Capable of the sublime, but inconsistent.
16. Troy Deeney, Watford — A finisher, sure, but has reached his ceiling.
15. Andre Gray, Burnley — Make or break year for him.
14. Salomon Rondon, West Bromwich Albion — How would he do outside Pulis’ system?
13. Michy Batshuayi, Chelsea* — Not crazy to see this season as a major breakthrough campaign.
12. Andre Ayew, West Ham United — Health is his most important hurdle.
11. Manolo Gabbiadini, Southampton — Was Puel his elixir, his brief run a lucky one?

(Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

Group Three: On the precipice

10. Marcus Rashford, Manchester United — Will he ever get a chance to be Man Utd’s main man?
9. Fernando Llorente, Swansea City — A head for goal and a savvy set of pegs.
8. Christian Benteke, Crystal Palace — Zaha and Townsend the perfect complements to his aerial set.
7. Joshua King, Bournemouth — Eddie Howe helped produce 16-goal campaign; Can he do it again?
6. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool — Initially we used Divock Origi as an out-and-out striker, but with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah on the wings, it’s Firmino who deserves the title of the Reds’ top striker.

Group Four: A class of his own

5. Jamie Vardy, Leicester City — He’ll work harder than you, and only needs a yard. But is he next level?

Group Five: The elite

5*. Diego Costa, Chelsea — Just a placeholder in case he stays.

4. Romelu Lukaku, Everton — At times he’s a clumsy one for a top-end hitman, but hard to argue with the 25-gola season.
3. Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal — It’ll take some adjustment, but the Frenchman appears built for Arsenal and the PL.
2. Sergio Aguero, Man City — Only a matter of time before Gabriel Jesus becomes the guy for City, but until then don’t rule out the clinical Argentine.
1. Harry Kane, Spurs — At 23, Kane has 78 PL goals. Alan Shearer had 39 at that point. Yeah, England’s “Next Alan Shearer” is finally here.