United States lineup prediction vs. Panama

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SEATTLE, Wash. – Before Monday afternoon’s practice, U.S. men’s national players fulfilled their last public commitment ahead of Tuesday’s game, appearing in front the media before their final training session at CenturyLink Field. Among the day’s favorite topics – aside from the suspect turf, Seattle’s crowd, Panama – were subtle attempts to get players to reveal parts of Tuesday’s starting lineup.

On Friday in Jamaica, the U.S. carried over the XI who started five days earlier against Germany, the first time in Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure the same lineup was used in consecutive games. But with midfielders Jermaine Jones (concussion recovery) and Graham Zusi (suspension) set to miss Tuesday’s match, that streak stops at two, and after nobody gave away any secrets at Monday’s practice, we’re left to our usual educated guesses as to who will take the field against Panama:

source:  Goalkeeper: Tim Howard’s firmly entrenched in the No. 1’s role, and while there was some constructive conversation this winter about the virtues of Brad Guzan, there’s been little desire to revisit that debate. The Everton-man will start on Tuesday.

Defense: With central midfield looking thin, Brad Evans would normally be considered as a potential partner for Michael Bradley. Not surprisingly, there’s been no discussion of that possibility, conventional wisdom holding the back line that started in Kingston will be kept in tact. That means central midfielder Brad Evans at right back, left midfielder DaMarcus Beasley at left back, with Omar Gonzalez partnering Matt Besler in the middle.

Midfield: Michael Bradley will start in the middle, with Geoff Cameron likely to get the call as Jones’s replacement. Klinsmann has been very complimentary of Cameron’s performance in Jamaica, with teammates echoing the coach’s praise. Sacha Kljestan may also be an option, but having started in the middle in the team’s disappointing performance against Belgium, the Anderlecht midfielder may miss out to the more stalwart option.

Fabian Johnson will start wide, but it’s unclear if he’ll be on his customary left side or on the right. Johnson acknowledged a switch is possible.

If that happens, the left side opens up for Eddie Johnson or Brad Davis. Johnson, who started on wide in the previous qualifying round, seems the more likely option, though if Fabian Johnson stays on the left, Tijuana’s Joe Corona could get the call on the right.

Forwards: With Jozy Altidore scoring in consecutive games, there’s little doubt the formerly drought-ridden striker will start up top. Clint Dempsey, a selection as guaranteed as Howard’s or Bradley’s, will wear the armband in support of Altidore.

Inter Milan back in the Champions League after late heroics (video)

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It’s been more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League, an infamous run that ended on Sunday.

Inter scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-place Lazio and advance into the Top Four via head-to-head record.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

Lazio held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but could not get the job done at home, collecting red cards in the 79th minute and stoppage time.

Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino scored his third goal of the season, redirecting a corner kick home in the 81st minute, as Inter clinched fourth place in Serie A.

Matic: Man Utd needs more experience in its squad

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Nemanja Matic would like to see a bit more veteran bravery in his Manchester United side.

The title-winning 29-year-old midfielder finished second in the Premier League this season, his first with the Red Devils after a strong run with Chelsea.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Blues beat United in Saturday’s FA Cup Final, and Matic says the answer to winning hardware isn’t in talent as much as it is wisdom.

From the BBC:

“The only team who is better than us this year is Man City,” said Matic. “Obviously, they play amazing football. But we are second and we are in the Champions League next year, which is the most important thing. I think we need some players with some experience to bring some more qualities to our team.”

United loses one veteran cog in Michael Carrick, and both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney have skipped town in the last year.

Who could fit the bill in terms of old hats in current United positions of weakness? Well, a full offseason for Alexis Sanchez will help, and perhaps the rumors of Toby Alderweireld make the most sense of any we’ve seen in recent weeks.

MLS Things: Shuttleworth, Quintero somehow get Loons a point vs. SKC

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Entering the day, no one was arguing that hosts Minnesota United were a better side than Sporting KC.

The Loons were 11 points and 19 goals worth of differential behind Western Conference-leading KC.

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

They still are, despite a 1-1 Sunday match which carried a fitting disparity on the pitch but nothing to separate the two on the scoreboard.

Khiry gets his just desserts

Oregon State product Khiry Shelton has been wonderful for Sporting KC this season, but the striker just hasn’t found the back of the goal.

That finally changed Sunday, when his downbound header got the better of Bobby Shuttleworth — more on him later — and allowed him a richly-deserved first SKC goal which could well break down the dam.

The eighth minute saw Shelton score his goal on one of just six Loons shot attempts.

Shuttleworth back in business

It’s not always sexy to go to the veteran backstop, but it looks like Adrian Heath should’ve called Bobby Shuttleworth’s name a long time ago.

Entering the day, Shuttleworth had the second-best WhoScored.com rating of any goalkeeper to appear in more than five matches (Evan Bush).

While certainly part of that has to do with the defensive actions foisted upon him, Shuttleworth was the main reason SKC’s 24-6 advantage in attempts failed to turn into anything other than a point.

Darwin

Darwin Quintero has had more good matches than bad ones since joining the Loons, and added his third goal in seven matches with this rebound finish on Sunday.

Quintero had two goals and four assists in 17 Liga MX matches, but has been perfectly revitalized by the Minnesota air.

VIDEO: Coutinho scores brilliant curler; Iniesta walks off

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It’s often funny to read the A. in front of Andres Iniesta’s surname on his match jersey, as if there’s any other.

On Sunday, the 34-year-old midfielder walked off the field for the last time (video at bottom) as a Barcelona player, handing the captain’s arm band to Lionel Messi and beginning a new era for both the club and player.

[ MORE: Bayern salutes Heynckes (again) ]

Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Sunday in the final La Liga match of the season.

While the match will be remembered as Iniesta’s last with Blaugranas, Philippe Coutinho gave a glimpse of the future with his eighth goal of the season and sixth in his last five games.

Barca finishes a 1-loss season with 99 goals and a 14-point lead over La Liga runners-up Atletico Madrid.