U.S. national team sets new record after eight straight wins, but what does it really mean?

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Jurgen Klinsmann’s record-breaking side are on a roll.

But in the grand scheme of things, are people getting too excited about wins against minnows Belize, Cuba and Jamaica?

Some may argue you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and that’s true.

But it seems as if every four years or so, this same debate crops up as to how good the USA really are.

Simply put, we all know and acknowledge that the CONCACAF region is severely lagging behind in quality when you look at the likes of UEFA and CONMEBOL.

There’s no shame in admitting that. But it does provide the U.S. with a huge shock every time they reach the World Cup and come up against the world’s elite.

However Klinsmann’s tactic of playing top European nations in friendlies may bear fruit once the U.S. reach the World Cup in Brazil — come on, you’ve already booked your tickets and time off work next June, haven’t you? — next summer, and the fact that we’re already talking about the USMNT’s presence in that competition is a problem.

(MORE: United States nicks Costa Rica on a late goal)

Hexagonal qualifying is what it is. Every time the U.S. compete in it, they suffer one bad loss or tie and blame it on the conditions and environment in a Caribbean or Central American nation. The rest of qualifying, especially the home games, are a piece of cake.

But this is where the current Gold Cup success comes into play. After three wins from three, the USA are clear favorites to win it.

The pressure and winning mentality placed on the shoulders of players who aren’t guaranteed a spot on the World Cup roster is making everyone get better. Fast. Guys like Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman and Joe Corona don’t want to watch the World Cup from their armchair. They are desperate to be there.

As Steve Davis pointed out in the things we learned from last night’s win over Costa Rica, time is running out for some national team players who are making desperate attempts to impress Klinsmann.

In turn, Nats regulars like Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey are seeing the desire of their teammates to win the Gold Cup this summer and that’s has to be lighting a fire in their belly. Competition for places has never been greater in the U.S. national team. I truly believe that. There’s a solid pool of 35 players who are up to the task of competing for minutes at the World Cup.

That is the real reason why they’ve won eight games in a row. You can point to some shaky displays here and there but they’re getting it done with so many different players and you can’t fault their effort and commitment, as they clamber to make sure they stay in Klinsi’s plans for Brazil 2014.

They’re hungry to succeed and don’t want to be the group of players who lose and are left out of the 23-man squad heading to South America.

Breaking a record is great. Eight straight wins for the first time in U.S. national team history is an amazing achievement.

But I’m extremely confident it’s only the start. And until CONCACAF catches up with the USA, expect plenty more streaks like this.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.