Preview: Can US national team beat Guatemala in Gold Cup tuneup?

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  • US have 13-4-6 all-time record against Guatemala
  • Landon Donovan makes return to US national team
  • Yanks Gold Cup campaign begins July 9 vs. Belize

The USA face Guatemala in San Diego on Friday night (watch live on NBC Sports Network, 11pm ET) for their only warm-up match before the 2013 Gold Cup begins.

Jurgen Klinsmann will get to have one final look at his inventive roster, as players push their cause for a starting spot before the tournament opener against Belize in Portland on Tuesday night.

Guatemala will provide a tough test, as the US square off against their familiar foe once more. The last time these two met was during the semifinal stage of World Cup qualifying, where the US defeated Los Chapines 3-1 in Kansas City last October.

Klinsi will be hoping his squad, mixed with veterans and youngsters hoping to make next summer’s World Cup squad, can make a strong start to the Gold Cup tournament with minnows Belize and Cuba the USA’s first opponents during their group games. While the final game of Group C on July 16 will provide the toughest test, as Costa Rica stand in their way.

Landon Donovan is back in the national team fold for the first time in almost a year, and the LA Galaxy star is delighted to be involved. “I am very excited to be back,” Donovan said. “It’s been a long year or so since I’ve been in. I’m in a little bit of a different place than I was before. And now, I am very much on the outside looking in. I’ve got to make my way back in, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Donovan has been handed a chance to prove his international credentials, as Klinsmann looked elsewhere while the former USMNT captain took a self-imposed break from the game during the 2013 off-season and beyond.

(MORE: Gold Cup dress rehearsal against Guatemala promises “a good test” for USMNT)

The US have a strong record against their Central American counterparts, with a 13-4-6 all-time record against Guatemala. The last time Los Chapines defeated the Yanks was way back in 1988, 19-games have passed without a US defeat since.

Tonight’s game won’t just be a friendly, as the US players will be fighting for starting spots in the Gold Cup. And Klinsmann has already said that the starting-11 this evening will be his first choice lineup for the Gold Cup. Thus raising the intrigue for US fans, and those traveling to San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium to cheer on the Nats.

DaMarcus Beasley has been named captain and will likely start at left back, but many other positions are up in the air. Real Salt Lake’s skipper Kyle Beckerman is set to occupy the hold midfield role while Stuart Holden can finally stamp his name on the team sheet after a horrendous time with injuries. Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud and Jose Torres provide plenty of midfield options while veterans Donovan and Herculez Gomez have proven quality up front or out wide. The big question marks going forward lie at the feet of Jack McInerney, the Philadelphia Union’s predatory striker who leads MLS in scoring with 10 goals.

The US are aiming for Gold Cup success, to help seal their passage to the 2017 Confederations Cup. So Klinsmann won’t look kindly on any poor performances in tonight’s friendly.

(MORE: Donovan to get chance with US national team)

As for Guatemala, they are a tough and physical outfit who often push CONCACAF’s best teams all the way during qualifying. The fell just short of making the final round of World Cup qualifying, as they lost out to Jamaica due to an inferior goal differential.

Tough to break down and solid defensively, the US national team will see a mirror image of this from plenty of teams throughout the Gold Cup next month.

“They will make it very tight, they will have all the numbers behind the ball, and we have to find ways to break them down,” Jurgen Klinsmann said. “I think they can give us a good test for what we can expect in the Gold Cup. That’s the reason why we asked them to play the friendly. It’s going to be tricky.”

Find out how tricky it will be by tuning into NBC Sports Network to watch the US face Guatemala at 11pm ET tonight.

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

[ VIDEO: Rooney sent off, Kamara scores golazo ]

The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports