The USA have gone for a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond for their friendly against Azerbaijan in San Francisco on Tuesday night.
With Omar Gonzalez still nursing a knee injury, Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron starts at center back alongside Matt Besler in a new-look U.S. backline.
Left-footed Fabian Johnson is deployed at right back, while DaMarcus Beasley continues at left back. In midfield Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones form a formidable partnership in the engine room with Graham Zusi on the right and Alejandro Bedoya on the left. The diamond formation has been preferred with Bradley supporting the forwards and Jones playing as a pure holding midfielder.
Experimenting with formations and personnel is what these warm up games are all about.
Captain Clint Dempsey will be alongside Jozy Altidore in attack, as Jurgen Klinsmann selected what looks like his strongest XI from the start against Azerbaijan. The Eurasian nation are ranked 85th in the world but should provide the USMNT with a stern test as they prepare for their World Cup opener in Brazil in less than 20 days.
One of the most interesting areas to analyze will be in defense where Cameron and Besler have only started one game together in the past, a 2-0 win over Jamaica in October. With Gonzalez struggling to be fully fit, many are calling for Cameron and Besler to be the first-choice partnership in the heart of the USMNT’s defense this summer.
Let’s see how they fare at Candlestick Park in the first of three warm up games before the U.S. depart for Brazil.
U.S. starting lineup vs. Azerbaijan
Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Jones, Zusi, Bedoya, Bradley; Dempsey, Altidore
All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.
Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.
Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.
In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.
Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.
With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.
It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.
The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.
According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.
Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.
It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.
Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.
After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.
Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.
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