Three questions still unanswered as USMNT builds toward 2015 Gold Cup

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PST’s Kyle Lynch already told us about the three things we learned from the U.S. national team’s 2-0 victory over Panama on Sunday, so how about a few minutes to discuss the three things we still don’t know as the USMNT heads into the bulk of the 2015 calendar year?

[ Follow: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

After all, that’s what an “educated” soccer society would do, isn’t it?

What’s the long-term tactical system going to be?

3-5-2? 4-4-2? 4-2-3-1? Over the last two games alone (Chile and Panama), we’ve seen all three, which is all well and good considering we’re 41 months away from the next World Cup. What’s not OK, though, is that the 2015 Gold Cup is less than four months away, and there’s no telling what formation Klinsmann might choose the next time his team steps on the field.

Furthermore, it’s not just about a formation — because formations are ever fluid and changing between offense and defense — but it’s a matter of an identity as a team, something Klinsmann promised when accepting the USMNT head coaching job 42 months ago.

Reverting back to reactive, defend-for-our-lives soccer worked fairly well at the 2014 World Cup, but it was ultimately that team’s undoing in the tournament, just as it has been every other USMNT World Cup team in recent memory. If Klinsmann doesn’t feel he has the players to play the progressive, possession-based style of soccer he wants, then he’d be better off working on the type of soccer his team is actually going to play once the games start to count again.

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Bradley, Dempsey star vs. Panama, but who else improved their stock? ]

Is Jermaine Jones really going to be a starting center back?

I sent out an extremely tongue-in-cheek tweet prior to kickoff of Sunday’s game regarding the Jermaine Jones Center Back Experience™. I don’t particularly understand the allure of changing the position of — not to mention the team’s entire tactical setup to extend the career of — a 33-year-old life-long central midfielder as a center back. Jones is really, really good at what he does — and that’s, among other things, provide energy in the midfield, win the ball back quickly and make dangerous forward passes.

As a center back, he’s asked to do very little of that. Instead, he’s asked to watch the midfield action from afar, read the game closely and very carefully pick and choose his moments to pounce. Those are three things, with all due respect to what Jones does well, that Jones does not do well. He’s good enough to start in the USMNT midfield today, this summer, next summer and perhaps even in Russia in 2018.

However, as a center back who bring a sense of urgency to the defense and likes to play adventurous passes out of the back, Jones is the dream candidate for such a role. But that really only works as the middle man in a three-man backline.

In short, if Klinsmann continues to run Jones out in a four-man backline, expecting him to play a disciplined center back, my head is going to explode.

[ FULL RECAP: USA 2-0 Panama as the winless streak comes to an end ]

Is it wise for Klinsmann to give preferential/hypocritical treatment to certain players?

He loves Jones. I mean, absolutely loves him. We know this. As stated above, he’s changed the team’s entire tactical setup to prolong his international career — there’s not many American players worth doing that for, and Jones is maybe one of them.

But when he makes statements like the following — according to ESPN’s Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman during Sunday’s game against Panama — after pointing to Geoff Cameron’s failure to appear in the same position week in, week out with Stoke City as the reason he can’t lock down a regular spot the national team, I have to wonder, “Does Klinsmann believe a single word coming out of his own mouth?”

“Not at all.” — Klinsmann’s response when asked whether Jones playing in midfield for the New England Revolution is a problem, given his recent switch to center back for the USMNT

Surely playing different positions for club and country only a coincidence that it’s not an issue at all for Jones, a player Klinsmann appears to lean upon heavily, while it’s the very thing that has kept Cameron from getting what many would argue is a due run of regular games in the USMNT lineup.

Dortmund hammer Freiburg but gain no ground on Bayern

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Borussia Dortmund moved back within one point of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich with a 4-0 win against Freiburg on Sunday.

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd ]

Dortmund went ahead in the 11th minute when 19-year-old Jadon Sancho scored from the six-yard box after a run by Marco Reus. It was Sancho’s 11th Bundesliga goal this season.

Dortmund added three after the interval with goals from Reus, Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer with a penalty.

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

In the day’s other game, Hertha Berlin was held 0-0 at home by bottom side Hannover, which ended an eight-game losing streak.

On Saturday, Bayern beat Werder Bremen 1-0.

With four rounds left, Bayern leads with 70 points, Dortmund has 69 and Leipzig is third with 61.

La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

PSG wins French league after 2nd-place Lille fails to win

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain clinched the French league title without kicking a ball as second-place Lille could only draw 0-0 at Toulouse on Sunday.

Lille had to win to have any chance of catching PSG, but PSG is now 16 points ahead of its only rival with five matches left after this weekend.

After failing to clinch the title in the past three matches, drawing one and losing two, PSG can celebrate the eighth title in its history ahead of its home game against Monaco later Sunday.

It is PSG’s sixth title in the last seven seasons, with only Monaco in 2017 breaking PSG’s dominance.

Although the title was long expected from a side scoring 92 goals in 32 games so far, it took longer than it should have.

PSG could have won it three games ago, but drew 2-2 at home to Strasbourg when a win would have clinched it.

Then PSG needed a draw at Lille last Sunday, only to lose 5-1 in the club’s heaviest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge of the club in June 2011.

A win away to Nantes would have sufficed, too, on Wednesday night only for PSG to lose 3-2 .

The 10 goals conceded in those three games made for PSG’s worst defensive record during a three-game spell since 1985.

Also Sunday, striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as 13th-place Nantes beat 17th-place Amiens 3-2.

Later, Saint-Etienne needed a draw at Reims to move above Marseille and into fourth place.

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

Klopp hails Liverpool mettle in face of “proper banana skin”

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Jurgen Klopp knows that more than a few clubs would’ve slipped up Sunday at Cardiff City, given the hosts’ desperation and the visitors’ midweek triumph, but his Reds stood up to the test.

[ RECAP: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool ]

Liverpool beat Cardiff City 2-0, scoring a pair of second half goals to go back atop the Premier League before Manchester City plays its final match-in-hand of the season in a midweek Manchester Derby.

“It was prepared to be a proper banana skin and we knew that, the boys were unbelievable,” Klopp said after his team kept a second consecutive clean sheet.

He insists that he’s not feeling pressure as Liverpool may need to win every one of its matches and get help to capture its first Premier League crown.

“I only know about me and I didn’t feel it (the pressure) we have to do it like we do it. We cannot change it. The boys try really with all they have, we only speak about the things we have to do. Their attitude is outstanding and it’s a tough season but a very positive one as well.”

Liverpool has two banana skins left, a visit from Huddersfield and trip to Newcastle, closing out the league slate with Wolves at Anfield.