Gold Cup Today: USMNT face Honduras, Panama vs. Haiti kick things off – Day 1

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The first day of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament has arrived.

Just when you thought Women’s World Cup fever had dissipated, it’s time for the chaps to take over.

[ LIVE: 2015 Gold Cup updates ]

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side are the reigning Gold Cup champs and they will be in action on the opening day which see two Group A games take place in Frisco, Texas.

Below is a brief primer on what to expect from both, while you can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.

Game 1: Panama vs. Haiti
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX
Live updates: NBCSports.com

After reaching the final and narrowly losing to the U.S. 1-0 in 2013, Panama will be hoping to puts its World Cup qualifying disappointment behind them and go for glory once again. With FC Dallas forward Blas Perez playing in front of his home crowd, expect the Panamanian forward to give a spirited Haiti outfit plenty of problems. In the 2013 Gold Cup the Haitians made it tough for opponents, but Group A is likely to be a three-way slog between Panama, the U.S. and Honduras for a quarterfinal berth. Expect Panama to record a win and open up its 2015 campaign in style.

Game 2: USA vs. Honduras
When: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX
Live updates: NBCSports.com

Jurgen Klinsmann wasn’t too impressed with the USA’s performance in their final friendly before the Gold Cup, but the U.S. did beat Guatemala 4-0 in Nashville last Friday. That said, the USMNT know that CONCACAF foes Costa Rica and Mexico have improved drastically since the 2013 competition and if they want to earn that spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, they will have to be at their best this summer.

ProSoccerTalk’s Andy Edwards is in Texas with the U.S. and spoke with Klinsmann and USMNT skipper Michael Bradley on the eve of this tough test vs. Honduras. One of four CONCACAF teams who went to the World Cup last summer, Honduras have the likes of Andy Najar who could cause the U.S. problems out wide and the last time these teams met the U.S. drew 1-1 with Maynor Figueroa grabbing a late equalizer. If the U.S. gets off to a slow start, expect a large contingent of Honduran fans to get  louder and louder inside Toyota Stadium. Settling for a draw isn’t disastrous for the U.S. but they will want to start their title defense off strongly.

Chelsea signs Tomori to new 5-year deal

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Chelsea center back Fikayo Tomori earned a new five-year contract with the club.

The 21-year-old has a goal and an assist in 16 matches across all competitions, though he’s spent the past two Premier League outings on the bench.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tomori joined Chelsea at age 7, and made his Premier League debut in the 2016 season finale versus Leicester City.

He averages 2.3 tackles per game, with 1.7 interceptions, and 2.6 clearances in Premier League action this season.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“The club has been so good to me, looking after and developing me during that time into the player and the person I am today. It’s a dream come true to sign a new five-year contract. I’m really happy the club have shown this faith in me and I’m just excited to carry on.”

The 21-year-old Tomori became a full England international after loan stints to Brighton and Hove Albion, Hull City, and Derby County. The latter stop found him under Frank Lampard, which certainly didn’t hurt his opportunity to shine at the parent club this season.

Chelsea has four strong, young center backs in Tomori, Kurt Zouma (25), Andreas Christensen (23), and Antonio Rudiger (26). Christensen and Rudiger are signed through the 2021/22 season, while Zouma’s deal goes one season longer than the duo.

Jota takes super sub to new level in Wolves win

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Sometimes the phrase “game changer” is used a bit too loosely, but there’s no debating Diogo Jota fit the bill to a ‘t’ on Thursday.

Wolves scored four times in 11 minutes, three coming courtesy Jota, as the Premier League side buried Besiktas 4-0 in Europa League play on Thursday.

Jota entered in the 56th minute, scored in the 57th, and completed his hat trick in the 68th.

[ MORE: Who can Wolves draw in UEL? ]

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men had already clinched a place in the knockout rounds before the match day, and finish one point below Braga in Group K.

Jota has five goals in five days after scoring twice against Brighton on Sunday. The 23-year-old had an up-and-down season to start but has been mostly good over the past half-dozen games.

He has 37 goals in 107 matches with Wolves, including nine in all competitions this season. He scored nine times last season after a 17-goal campaign in the Championship.

Leander Dendoncker had Wolves’ other goal, with the day’s assists going to Oskar Buur, Joao Moutinho, and Pedro Neto.

 

Who can Premier League clubs draw in Europa League?

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Group winners Arsenal and Manchester United will avoid a loaded batch of seeded teams, while runners-up Wolves can draw a bevy of powerful teams in the Europa League Round of 32.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo can find himself drawn against former club Porto, but also could have to match wits with Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, Inter Milan’s Antonio Conte, or Red Bull Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch.

[ MORE: Man Utd pounds AZ ]

Speaking of Marsch, the Salzburg boss could go from meeting Liverpool to squaring off with Steven Gerrard and Rangers.

Gerrard could also, of course, go up against hated playing days’ rival Manchester United.

Seeded teams
Ajax
Arsenal
Basel
Benfica
Braga
Celtic
Espanyol
Gent
Inter Milan
Istanbul Basaksehir
LASK
Malmo
Manchester United
Porto
Red Bull Salzburg
Sevilla

Unseeded teams
APOEL Nicosia
AZ Alkmaar
Bayer Leverkusen
Club Brugge
Copenhagen
CFR Cluj
Eintracht Frankfurt
Ludogorets Razgrad
Olympiacos
Rangers
Roma
Wolfsburg
Wolves
Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting Lisbon

Who can Premier League teams draw in the Round of 32?

Arsenal: APOEL Nicosia, AZ Alkmaar, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Manchester United: APOEL Nicosia, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Eintracht Frankfurt, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Wolves: Ajax, Basel, Benfica, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, Inter Milan, Istanbul Basaksehir, LASK, Malmo, Porto, Red Bull Salzburg, Sevilla

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
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Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.