Decision time looms, who will start for USA in Sunday’s Gold Cup final?

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Is this Jurgen Klinsmann’s hardest decision as USMNT head coach?

It has to be up there.

As Sunday’s Gold Cup final against Panama draws closer, Klinsmann has an incredible selection conundrum to unravel.

With so many of his players performing to a level never seen before, the USA’s squad is stronger than ever. But, as tends to happen in soccer, you can only select 11 players to go out there between the white lines.

Klinsmann must have a good idea of who he will select, but there are certain areas where two or three players are vying for the same position. There will be some very disappointed men on the subs bench at Soldier Field when Sunday afternoon’s final begins.

(MORE: Strongest U.S. national team in history? Check out these three starting XI’s)

So let’s break this down by each position and see who may have the edge. As you’ll see, Klinsmann has plenty of options.

Goalkeeper: Perhaps the easiest decision of the bunch to start off with, Nick Rimando has done extremely well in the Gold Cup, thwarting El Salvador superbly when the US had a slender 2-1 lead in the quarterfinal. Expect him to get the nod between the sticks.

Defense: This will be a somewhat tricky decision for Klinsmann, as Clarence Goodson played so well in the semifinal on Wednesday night. Does he bring back Omar Gonzalez to partner Matt Besler? Those two were the first-choice pairing during the USA’s recent World Cup qualifiers and handled the pressure superbly. Left back is set with captain DaMarcus Beasley, although he has been found out a few times. And Michael Parkhurst will put in another solid shift at right back.

Midfield: Perhaps the only man guaranteed a spot in the US midfield is Kyle Beckerman. Real Salt Lake’s dread-locked genius was incredible against Honduras, reading the game superbly and cutting off the supply line to the Honduran forwards. His role as destroyer is safe. But the other central midfield spots are between Stuart Holden, Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud. That is a very tough choice. Holden may have the edge and he put in a great shift on Wednesday, but Diskerud and Corona have both shown more going forward. It depends if Klinsi will play a diamond or a flat four across the middle, Alejandro Bedoya and Jose Torres did well out wide against Honduras, especially Bedoya, but he may opt to leave out the winger and bring Corona in to the middle to create a more compact unit. Huge call for the center of the field.

Forward: Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson has grabbed his chance with both hands and looks set to lead the line against Panama. And Landon Donovan should operate just underneath him. But will Klinsmann decide to play Donovan out wide and leave EJ up front on his own? And what about Chris Wondolowski? I think we will see the San Jose man come on in the second half, especially if the US need a goal to clinch the Gold Cup.

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

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CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

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

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

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Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

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Basel v. Krasnodar
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Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
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3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
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Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow