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Premier League preview: Man United vs. Newcastle United

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  • Red Devils unbeaten in 31 of last 32 home fixtures vs. Newcastle
  • Newcastle winless in its last six PL matches
  • Lukaku hasn’t scored in United’s last seven games

Manchester United hosts Newcastle United on Saturday from Old Trafford (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) as the Red Devils could potentially welcome back several of it biggest stars for the match.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo could return for Jose Mourinho’s side this weekend, as Man United looks to bounce back from its 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Nov. 5.

The ex-Sweden international Ibrahimovic hasn’t appeared in a match since April 2017, after being United’s top goalscorer a season ago.

The Red Devils will have to deal with the absence of Phil Jones at the back, though, as the England international misses out on the match with a thigh injury.

Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles, which certainly hurts the squad’s attack, while Mikel Merino and Paul Dummett remain sidelined with respective injuries.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho, on Paul Pogba’s status:  “I can say now because he’s back – I don’t like to speak while he’s injured – you can clearly see there is a Manchester United this season before Paul’s injury and after Paul’s injury. There are qualities in our football, qualities that influence our approach in matches, with Pogba and without Pogba. Simple as that.”

Rafa Benitez, on growing pains of being a young side“We are a newly-promoted club that has to settle down in the Premier League. We have a young squad, so it’s a learning process for everyone and losing some games is part of the process. Hopefully we can stop that this weekend, but we know it has to be like this. We have to think that the target is to stay in the Premier League, then after try to go as high as we can in the table.”

Prediction

Newcastle has had its share of struggles this season, and running into a Man United side that is gaining full fitness is a dangerous task. The Red Devils are a tough squad to beat at home, so Rafa Benitez and Co. have their hands full. Man United 2-0 Newcastle

PST Survey results: Who should be the next USMNT coach?

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Our next BASS post deals with who should coach the USMNT.

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

We asked thousands of voters who should helm the U.S. men’s national team after October’s horrifying World Cup qualifying collapse, and there were plenty of write-ins apart from a very even vote.

David Wagner earned the most write-ins, but the variety of names mentioned was varied and wild: Caleb Porter, Thomas Tuchel, Slaven Bilic, Gregg Berhalter, Dominic Kinnear, Eddie Howe, Nick Mendola (not kidding, smart alecks).

Guus Hiddink, Rafa Benitez, Miguel Herrera, Oscar Pareja, Mike Petke, Berti Vogts, Tim Howard, Geno Auriemma (not kidding again).

But here are the four top vote getters:

4) Sam Allardyce — 13 percent — Please, no. No. For everyone who thinks his down-home English structure will get the job done, please remember that there are probably 10-15 guys just like him who are less abrasive and haven’t been fired in disgrace from a national team. Want to hate someone’s perception of your league, MLS fellas? Wait til you get a load of him.

3) Laurent Blanc — 14 percent — Late of PSG, the 51-year-old Blanc has experience in cleaning up a mess; When he took over France, the FFF suspended all 23 of the players who bombed out of the 2010 World Cup.

2) Tata Martino — 19 percent — Atlanta United’s guru is best known for leading Barcelona between 2013-14, but has wide international experience with Paraguay and Argentina.

1) Tab Ramos — 20 percent — Call it the Gareth Southgate corollary, albeit by a slim margin. The 51-year-old Ramos has 81 caps for the USMNT and plenty of background in leading the U-20s for several years. He also played in both MLS and abroad, with Segunda Division experience for two teams in Spain.

USMNT player ratings: Youth drives the bus

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Player ratings from the U.S. national team’s exhibition clash with Portugal, the reigning European champions, and the first game of a very long four years as the USMNT rebuilds from the ground up with two eyes toward the 2022 World Cup…

[ VIDEO: McKennie scores on his USMNT debut… and a Horvath howler ]

GK — Ethan Horvath: 3 — Hit the above link to see Horvath’s calamitous howler. That ain’t a great way to begin your bid to take over the no. 1 shirt from Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Subbed off at halftime, which was the plan before kickoff, hopefully Hovath’s confidence isn’t too badly damaged without the chance to redeem himself immediately.

RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 6 — The best thing that can be said of Yedlin is this: you know what you’re going to get from him every time he steps on the field these days, and that’s something you couldn’t always say of the 24-year-old. He’s a constant presence and performer, and should have the right back spot locked down for much of the next two World Cup cycles.

CB — Matt Miazga: 6.5 — The best part of Miazga’s game is how quickly he reads, and reacts to, dangerous situations. There’s no one in the player pool who defends on the front foot as much as Miazga. As such, he’ll always require a partner who’s a brilliant emergency defender, which is hardly the strength of John Brooks, given his size and lack of recovery speed.

CB — John Brooks: 6.5 — Seeing Brooks on the field after three months out with a thigh injury only served as a reminder that his presence might have made a massive difference last month — not that they shouldn’t have been able to qualify without him, mind you. According to recently departed head coach Bruce Arena, Brooks and Miazga could have very well been the starting duo in Russia; with any luck, the same will be true of Qatar in four years’ time.

LB — Eric Lichaj: 5.5 — While Lichaj is somehow, against all odds, still only 28 years old, he’ll be 32 years old when the next World Cup begins. If he’s called into the next two or three USMNT camps, we’ll take serious the possibility he’s an option in the medium- to short-term. Until then, he’s starting at left back simply because someone has to.

[ RECAP: USMNT draw Portugal in first game of 2022 WC cycle ]

CM — Danny Williams: 7 — With the leash cut all the way off of Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta ahead of him, Williams had but one job against Portugal: protect the backline when the youngsters’ press is broken. It happened on a few occasions, and Williams put out the majority of those fires. It’s a trio that lacks a true playmaker — the sexy factor, if you will — but proved highly functional for the 84 minutes they shared the field.

RM — Tyler Adams: 6 — Adams, uh, struggled in the first half (see passing chart, at right — that’s a whole lot of red arrows). He started the second half of his USMNT debut much brighter, though, as he got on the end of Danny Williams’ cross to the back post and forced Beto to make a spectacular, sprawling save. Adams is still a player with a “permanent position,” thus an important period of his development lies directly ahead. In 2017, we saw him play at least one game at all three levels wide on the right, in central midfield, and the based of the midfield.

CM — Weston McKennie: 8 — The 19-year-old Schalke midfielder 1) scored a goal on his debut; 2) smashed the crossbar with a header from close range; and, most importantly, 3) provided a bit of renewed excitement around the USMNT. McKennie and Acosta proved a formidable central midfield pairing, capable of pressing high up the field and pushing the tempo. Where they struggled, however, was in unlocking further advanced attackers into the final third. That will, in theory, come with time and repetition — two things the USMNT has in abundance over the next 18-30 months.

CM — Kellyn Acosta: 6.5 — Acosta and McKennie had very similar games to one another, with the obvious exception of McKennie’s goal and near-goal. Given that Acosta is three years McKennie’s senior, you’d have hoped to see a bit more connectivity from his side of the field. Alas, no such luck in this one.

LM — Juan Agudelo: 5.5 — The good: in his 59 minutes on the field, Agudelo misplaces just three passes. The bad: not a single one of his 15 completed passes was played in the forward direction (in fact, not a single one of his 18 attempted passes was played forward). He’s already a tough fit on the wing further forward; playing the 24-year-old (yes, really) even deeper seems an impossible exercise to assess.

[ MORE: Brooks-Miazga the center-back partnership of the future ]

FW — C.J. Sapong: 5.5 — With the midfield set up to create turnovers and chances on the counter, Sapong’s physical presence and accompanying hold-up play was hardly a perfect fit, but he made the most of his very limited opportunities.

Sub — Bill Hamid: 6 — Only forced to make two saves — both routine — in his 45 minutes on the field, Hamid managed to avoid hurting his stock.

Sub — Cameron Carter-Vickers: 5 — While Miazga’s strength is the speed with which he reads the game, the polar opposite must be said for Carter-Vickers, thus he’s not terribly suited to play alongside Miazga. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see them play together.

Portugal 1-1 USMNT: New era begins

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  • USMNT returns after World Cup debacle
  • McKennie, CCV, Adams earn 1st caps
  • McKennie scores from Sapong assist

Weston McKennie’s goal on debut was the highlight of a disjointed but encouraging 1-1 draw for the United states men’s national team in Portugal on Tuesday.

The match was the United States’ first since its historic loss in Trinidad and Tobago last month, and interim boss Dave Sarachan oversaw a young and spirited effort.

Vitorino Antunes leveled for the Portuguese before halftime, a significant error from American backstop Ethan Horvath.

[ WATCH: McKennie goal, Horvath howler ]

CJ Sapong and Kellyn Acosta took early attempts for the U.S., and Portugal was forced into a 10th minute sub when Pepe was injured.

The first 10 minutes were understandably frantic with two clubs with any fine tuning together, and Eric Lichaj bailed out an indecisive Ethan Horvath in the early goings.

DeAndre Yedlin had a few shaky moments at right back thanks to RB Leipzig forward Bruma.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ]

The Yanks had a promising move flutter when Tyler Adams couldn’t get full muster on a cut back from CJ Sapong. Beto made the save.

That’s when the Americans went ahead following a center circle interception by Acosta. Sapong raced down the left and side-footed a pass for McKennie, who worked a defender before beating Beto to the near post. Slick stuff.

[ RELATED: PST talks with McKennie ]

Horvath had been inactive before a massive error in the 31st minute. A knuckling shot dipped between his legs and trickled past John Brooks’ sliding clearance. 1-1.

The keeper made a nice collection of a Bruno Fernandes blast in the 35th minute, as this attempt didn’t dip enough. And he’d be called on for another save off a bad giveaway in the 39th.

Brooks hammered a header into the goal off a Kellyn Acosta set piece, but a foul on Miazga pulled the marker off the board before it got there.

Subs at the break: Bill Hamid for Horvath, and Cameron Carter-Vickers for Brooks. Portugal inserted Joao Mario for Fernandes.

Williams’ left-footed cross deflected to Adams, whose header saw a terrific save by Beto.

The ensuing corner saw McKennie head off the bar, and the rebound was cleared before Miazga could attempt a follow-up.

It was still 1-1 in the 59th minute, when Lynden Gooch and Jorge Villafana entered the fray for an ineffective Juan Agudelo and solid Eric Lichaj.

Man City’s Bernardo Silva stripped McKennie in a dangerous place to force Hamid into a fingertip save on Gonçalo Paciência, and Portugal couldn’t convert on the ensuing corner kick.

Carter-Vickers almost maneuvered a free kick home in the 72nd minute, but Beto’s karate kick save led to another corner.

Portugal-USMNT preview: Turning the page

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On the ride to school this morning, I casually mentioned to my second grader, “U.S. versus Portugal tomorrow.”

To which he replied, “But I though we didn’t make the World Cup.”

[ MORE: O’Neill to USMNT? ]

Judging by the vitriol attached to nearly every USMNT post on nearly every soccer web site, much of American soccer would prefer a lack of matches for some time, too, and we’re looking beyond the 7-year-old set.

It feels likely that’s one of the reasons the U.S. didn’t arrange for a second friendly for this window after a reported date Wales fell through. Sure, there’s probably a team that would come to the U.S. for a match, but the Yanks would already be in Portugal and the USSF probably doesn’t want to put its players in front of its stung fans any time soon.

So the Yanks will turn the page on a wasted World Cup cycle, on the road (Though, to quote Bob Seger, they will still feel the eyes upon them as you’re shaking off the cold. They’ll pretend it doesn’t bother them, but they’ll just want to explo-o-ode).

That’s especially decent of them considering this crew doesn’t have much to do with the miserable effort last month, when the inconsistent Yanks followed up a home win over Panama by essentially throwing up on the pitch in Trinidad and Tobago (Next time: Game plan earlier, write open letter guarantees later).

Portugal hasn’t lost since March, a run of 12 matches with just two draws. Fernando Santos’ men have kept four-straight clean sheets, but this won’t be the same bunch of players. Portugal is leaving much of its A-Team behind for a different reason than the U.S., as they want to see who could slip into the First Team for this summer’s World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Cedric Soares, William Carvalho, Nani, Andre Gomes, and Jose Fonte will not be in attendance, joining American regulars Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic, Geoff Cameron, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley at home.

That said, you’ll see some real problems on the flanks. Barcelona fireball Nelson Semedo is there, as is Man City attacker Bernardo Silva. Milan’s Andre Silva, he of the 11 goals in 18 caps, will likely feature, and Valencia’s Goncalo Guedes is also an option.

[ MORE: Players with most to gain versus Portugal ]

Good news! John Brooks is back! The towering 24-year-old Wolfsburg defender was one of those players who could’ve made a huge difference for Bruce Arena last month (the other, Geoff Cameron, was healthy). Brooks will likely pair with Matt Miazga or Tim Ream at the heart of the U.S. defense, with an outside shot that Spurs loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers of Sheffield United could see time.

A good test, to be sure, and DeAndre Yedlin will at least keep Portugal’s left side honest. Yet we really can’t be sure how interim manager Dave Sarachan will line ’em up. This is one of his few chances to run the American national team, something done by just 35 other men in history.

For what it’s worth, two managers have unbeaten marks in U.S. history. John Kowalski went 1W-1D in 1991, and Thomas Cahill did the same in 1916. So Sarachan can join pretty rare and wild company.

It’s going to be a heck of a test for the Yanks on Tuesday.