Three things we learned from Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

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LONDON — Following Tottenham’s 0-0 draw with Everton at White Hart Lane on Saturday, we learned plenty about both teams as they aim to set a top four challenge in motion. On this showing, top six seems more attainable for both this season.

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With John Stones getting booed by both sets of fans and the subject of chants surrounding his transfer request amid interest from Chelsea, it was a lively encounter which saw Harry Kane continue to struggle in front of goal and Tim Howard pull off a heroic performance.

Here are three things we learned from the Lane.

KANE’S FRUSTRATION CONTINUES

As Kane raced through on goal, one-on-one with goalkeeper Tim Howard in the 23rd minute, home fans at White Hart Lane rose to their feet as one. After Kane’s heroics last season, everyone expected to see the net ripple and Spurs to be 1-0 up. Wrong. Kane hesitated, looked across at the linesman, then fluffed his shot and Howard saved superbly down low.

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He looked frustrated. Was snapping at shots and his aerial knockdowns were not finding the feet of his teammates. In the first half Kane continued to drop deep, twice hitting long-range efforts from distance which sailed harmlessly over Howard’s crossbar. After four games this season, Kane has failed to score a single goal and although he did have the ball in the back of the net in the second half, a quick glance to the linesman showed he was offside.

The England international scored 21 times in the PL last season, 31 times in 51 games total, but remember, Kane did not score his first PL goal of the 2014-15 campaign until Nov. 2. He still has plenty of time to turn things around this season but one thing is for sure, Spurs’ main man is in a slump and its now 22 shots without a goal this season.

HOWARD MORE THAN READY FOR USMNT RECALL

Just in case anybody had any concerns about Tim Howard returning to the U.S. national team fold for the first time in over a year next week when the U.S. face Peru and Brazil in friendlies, you needn’t worry.

Howard, 36, pulled off a highlight reel performance at White Hart Lane on Saturday, excelling in the first half with a string of fines saves just to give Jurgen Klinsmann a friendly reminder of what he’s capable of.

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First came his best, as Kane raced through on goal Howard stood his ground and saved superbly with his feet as Tottenham’s leading goalscorer from last year hesitated with the finish. In the 27th minute he saved well again down low from Ryan Mason after he broke into the box. Soon after Howard dove down to his left to stop a shot from Nabil Bentaleb and nobody from Spurs’ reacted to the loose ball.

In the 32nd minute he made a fine fingertip stop from Toby Alderweireld’s header from a corner and Howard’s heroics helped continued in the second half as he denied Mason with a low shot. Last week Howard was criticized by some when he was beaten at his near post by Kolarov in Everton’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester City, but the New Jersey native was Man of the Match this time out.

“I am man of the match this week and last week I was the goat. That is football.”

Klinsmann recently stated that Howard is his No. 2 behind Brad Guzan for the upcoming friendlies and will be for a while longer. After taking a self-imposed sabbatical from USMNT action, that’s to be expected. But if Howard keeps playing like this, he will be the USA’s No. 1 again before you know it.

ERIKSEN INTEGRAL; DEMBELE, CLEVERLEY GO DOWN

Without the injured Christian Eriksen, Tottenham’s creativity and spark in the final third took a big hit. Ryan Mason was tasked with playing just behind Kane in the first half but despite his endless running, he failed to unlock Everton’s defense and squandered multiple chances to score. The writing was on the wall nine minutes in as Mason was set free down the right but his ball into the box was high and wide. With Mason playing a more advanced role in Eriksen’s absence, he had another chance in the 17th minute after Danny Rose’s cross but finished poorly as he arrived late in the box. Delle Alli was brought on early in the second half to replace the injured Moussa Dembele but the 19-year-old didn’t fare much better. It’s clear that Kane is going through a tough time and that’s inhibiting Tottenham, but without their chief playmaker Eriksen, Spurs’ offense is struggling as they’ve scored three times in their opening four games.

Two players are also struggling with fitness after this game as both Tom Cleverly and Dembele were stretchered off. Cleverley’s right leg was caught in-between a sliding tackle from Dier, and while many claim it was a foul from Spurs’ central midfielder, there were no complaints from Everton’s players. Yes, Dier’s trailing leg caught Cleverley and caused the injury, but when sliding in to make a tackle sometimes this happens. There was no malice in that challenge but Cleverley was very unfortunate and could well be spending a long time out on the sidelines. At the start of the second half Dembele went down right on the touchline as he clipped a ball back across the box and it looked as if he injured his Achilles by clipping one leg with another. Again, another lengthy spell on the sidelines beckons.

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

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

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.

Report: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

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At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).