How will US line up vs. Belgium in Round of 16 clash?

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With the U.S. taking on Belgium for a spot in the last eight of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there are plenty of ways Jurgen Klinsmann can approach this one.

Looking at the two teams on paper, Belgium has more quality overall with plenty of players winning league titles in Europe and competing in the UEFA Champions League.

[ RELATED: Three key battles that could decide US vs. Belgium ]

[ RELATED: Altidore fit for U.S. ]

However, they haven’t blown teams away at the World Cup with two 1-0 wins and a 2-1 comeback victory to their name so far. Similarly the U.S. are tough to break down and aren’t likely to smash in three or four goals in a single game.

Let’s take a look at three options Klinsmann has, as the declaration that Jozy Altidore is now fit to play changes things considerably when it comes to the USA’s starting lineup.

Plan A: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

After shutting down Germany and only losing 1-0 last-time out, many would argue that it was a decent showing from the U.S. against one of the favorites to win the World Cup. That said, Germany didn’t really get out of second-gear and if it wasn’t for Tim Howard’s heroics, Klinsmann’s side would have suffered a huge defeat that could have seen them knocked out. The only switch here is Bedoya coming in for Brad Davis, as the MLS winger failed to impact the game against Germany and was replaced early in the second half. Solid and steady.

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Gonzalez—Besler—Beasley

——–Beckerman——–

—Zusi—Bradley—Jones—Bedoya—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan B: The cautious approach… 

If the U.S. are really worried about the attacking talents Belgium possess, this could be the way to go. Klinsmann could well go with an ultra-cautious approach, as his side showed they can bend and not break in their win against Ghana and grabbing a draw (that felt like a loss) against Portugal. This lineup would see Geoff Cameron coming in at right back and current right back Fabian Johnson pushing up to the right midfield spot. That way the U.S. would have plenty of height at the back to deal with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Jan Vertonghen from set pieces. Also, having Johnson on the right wing could stop Eden Hazard from getting on the ball and causing serious issues for the USA.

——–Howard——–

Cameron—Gonzalez—Besler—Beasley

——–Beckerman——–

—Johnson—Bradley—Jones—Bedoya—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan C: Fight fire with fire…

Okay, this one is out there, but let’s discuss it. With Altidore declared available to play, do you risk bringing him on as a sub and then having to sub him? Maybe you start him, give Jozy 60 minutes and then switch things up. Here is the ultra-offensive look at how the U.S. could line up, as there is one noticeable absentee in the lineup: Michael Bradley. That is not likely to happen, but it seems to me as though Bradley really hasn’t been comfortable in a more advanced role for the U.S. He is a much better player breaking things up in midfield and someone like Mix Diskerud slots in better as an out-and-out playmaker. The U.S. could get torn apart if they deploy this lineup, then again they could be two or three up at  half time…

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Gonzalez—Besler—Beasley

——–Beckerman——–

—Zusi——Jones—Dempsey—

—Diskerud—

——–Altidore——–

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.