Meet the US Women’s World Cup team: Midfielders

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Jill Ellis’ midfield has been the most scrutinized section of the field over the past eight months. Whether there are two or three players in the middle of the part, a narrow or a wide system or a direct style of play, this is the area that the match will be won and lost.

[ NEWS: Latest on Women’s World Cup

Can the U.S. women win the midfield? The question will loom large over each match, especially against the better, more technical teams that will be able to keep the ball away from the Americans.

Shannon Boxx

Shannon Boxx is headed to the World Cup at 37 years old, but age was the least of her fights to get to this point. Boxx’s battles with Lupus and Sjogren’s disease have been ongoing and she missed a large chunk of 2014 to give birth to her daughter. Once among the world’s best midfielders, Boxx is the only defensive midfielder on the United States’ roster. It isn’t a position that U.S. coach Jill Ellis specifically utilizes, but it is one that could be necessary to kill off matches which the United States leads late. The combination of that with Boxx’s fitness levels set the stage for her to be a late-game sub if the U.S. is leading.

Morgan Brian

The team’s youngest player, Morgan Brian, shot into the spotlight over the past two years, winning back-to-back MAC Hermann Trophies as college soccer’s best player becoming the easy-choice No. 1 pick by the Houston Dash in the 2015 NWSL Draft. Brian has adapted relatively seamlessly to the international and professional levels. Brian is an attacking midfielder who has often been shoehorned into a wide role or deeper role at times. She provides depth in central midfield, which has been locked down by Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd.

Tobin Heath

Tobin Heath is a rare breed of American midfielder: crafty, technical and confident enough to beat players one-v-one. She is the most likely of all the U.S. players to have her nutmeg or other skill move go viral, as one did recently when she torched a Mexico defender. Heath battled a hamstring injury earlier in May but has since played. Her ability to play on the flanks could come in handy for a U.S. team whose biggest weakness in the early spring was too narrow of a shape and a lack of creativity (cue Heath) to break down opposing defenses that sat in.

Lauren Holiday

Of all the X-factors on this United States team, Lauren Holiday’s play could be the most important to watch. With FC Kansas City, Holiday was the best player in the NWSL in 2013 and looked it for large stretches of 2014, when she helped her team win the league title with two brilliant assists in the final. But Holiday plays in a deeper and slightly less comfortable role with the United States, where she burdens more defensive duties and frequently drops as low as level with the center backs to collect the ball and distribute. Holiday, who solidified her place on the world stage in 2011 as Lauren Cheney, is married to Jrue Holiday, a guard for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd’s quest is a microcosm of her team’s: translate Olympic success into World Cup glory. The Americans are three-time defending Olympic champions and Lloyd scored the gold-medal winning goal in 2008 and 2012, the only player to achieve that back-to-back feat. At 32 years old, she is very much in her prime and eager to fully stake her claim as the world’s best midfielder. She is certainly already in the conversation as the United States’ best all-time scoring midfielder (63 goals), but a World Cup title could cement that.

Heather O’Reilly

HAO, as Heather O’Reilly is known, is one of the most experienced players on the United States national team. She is known for her fierce hustle and blazing speed, the latter of which is a half-step slower at 30 years old but the former of which is as relentless as ever. O’Reilly is a reserve these days after spending much of the last decade as a regular starter, but she provides the United States with that much-needed width that it at times so desperately needs.

Megan Rapinoe

Arguably the team’s most creative player, Megan Rapinoe is one of the team’s most recognizable players both on the field and off. She has been part of the United States’ greatest recent moments – crossing the ball to Abby Wambach in that historic 2011 quarterfinal comeback against Brazil and scoring an Olimpico in the 4-3 extra-time win over Canada in the 2012 Olympic semifinal, arguably the best game ever played – and she still probably doesn’t get enough credit for what she does. The U.S. misses a beat when Rapinoe isn’t on the field. The creativity can dry up and the crosses are less frequent. She’s dynamic, entertaining and one of the team’s most personable players.

UEL, LIVE — Man Utd, Wolves lineups out; Arsenal leads Eintracht

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The Europa League group stage begins play on Thursday, with Arsenal in Germany to face Eintracht Frankfurt.

A younger Arsenal is leading on a deflected shot from Man of the Match candidate Joe Willock.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Manchester United and Wolves set to kick-off their respective matches against Astana and Braga at 3 p.m. ET.

Lineups are out for both sides. United will be very young against Kazakh side Astana ahead of a Sunday visit to West Ham United, while Wolves start Raul Jimenez and Patrick Cutrone up top in Portugal versus Braga.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
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

Top Premier League storylines: Week 6

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Of the seven Premier League sides to handle midweek Europeans challenges, only two face-off and that predictably is the hallmark of the weekend in England.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

What else is cooking? Smell the aromas of the weekend ahead, below.

How will Frank Lampard attack Liverpool?

  • Chelsea v. Liverpool, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Blues’ 5-2 defeat at Wolves last week did not help spin a win over Valencia in the Champions League, and Frank Lampard’s next chance to make a statement comes against a team that is perfect in PL play and finds itself licking its wounds from a subpar performance at Napoli. Can a very fresh Christian Pulisic make the difference for Chelsea? Will Callum Hudson-Odoi take the positive vibes from his new contract and solid PL2 appearance into the fray?

Will Fernandinho help stabilize Man City against improving Watford?

  • Man City v. Watford, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

City went to Ukraine and blanked Shakhtar Donetsk with Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho at center back, and the Brazilian center midfielder says he’s been preparing for his possibility for some time. If Watford looks anything like it looked in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, we could see a very decent test for City’s back line.

Weary Spurs get top-half test from Leicester City

  • Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Inconsistent Tottenham meets a Leicester City side with Top Six ambitions, licking its wounds from a 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford which probably deserved a point. Spurs aren’t feeling great following another blown 2-0 lead in a big spot away from home. How will they react in Leicester?

Will Solskjaer’s midweek rest risk reap rewards on Sunday?

  • West Ham United v. Manchester United, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to hand heavy minutes to youngsters and second-choice players against Kazakh side Astana on Thursday at Old Trafford. Will that pay off when trying to stop Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons on Sunday morning?

Early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park

  • Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Look, it’s Week Six and normally we’d say anything can happen in a Premier League season, but let’s be reasonable: If you’re looking at the teams for Newcastle and Brighton, this result will matter as many as any down the stretch in determining Premier League status for 2019/20.

Hudson-Odoi signs new deal with Chelsea

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Man, is Bayern Munich gonna feel like it wasted its time.

Chelsea starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi has re-upped with the Premier League side to the tune of five more years, inking a deal through at least the 2023-24 season.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

Hudson-Odoi, 18, made his breakthrough with Chelsea last season and was heavily recruited by the German giants.

He joins Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic as young wingers committed to the club for the long-term, but is still away from the Blues first team after an achilles tear late last season. He registered an assist in 61 minutes for Chelsea’s PL2 side last week.

Here’s manager Frank Lampard, via

“I have seen Callum come through and he’s a fantastic talent. He is going to be central for us on the pitch and that is the opportunity in front of him now. There are things as a young player that he will want to improve but he can be central to this team and for England. I want to work with him, I want to drive him forward and I want to improve him as a player.”

Hudson-Odoi has five goals and five assists in 28 appearances for the Blues and isn’t 19 until November.

American eyes can’t help but wonder how this will affect Christian Pulisic, himself a big investment for Chelsea. One thing’s for sure: Chelsea has depth on the wings.

Report: Man City’s David Silva in ‘likely’ Inter Miami move

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Arguably the greatest player in Manchester City history could become the first star player of Inter Miami.

That’s the story coming out of England, where The Independent reports that David Silva will “likely” join Inter Miami CF for its inaugural MLS run in 2020.

It’s well-known that Silva is leaving Man City this summer after one last-go at his first UEFA Champions League title.

[ MORE: Man City bests Shakhtar ]

David Beckham has been recruiting some of the top names in the game, and has been linked with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Silva, 33, checks all the boxes. The Spanish star won two EUROs and a World Cup, and is still playing at a very high level. He has five assists in six matches for City this season.

If healthy, it would be foolish to expect anything but dominance out of Silva, though beware the think pieces out there about how he “might find it tougher than he thinks.” We’re talking about a world beater who posted 10 goals and 14 assists for City last season.

Even at his age, he’d carry one of the top resumes of any player to join Major League Soccer (Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would like a word).

He has 71 goals and 134 assists in 402 matches for City, and would eventually line up against fellow City Football Group club NYCFC.