Preview: USMNT to face Brazil in final tune-up for CONCACAF playoff vs. Mexico

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Who: USA vs. Brazil
When: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 8 pm ET
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

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

The countdown is on and the days are ticking away quickly — 33 and counting — until the U.S. national team clashes with Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, a one-game playoff for the confederation’s spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup, at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 10.

Following a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Peru on Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT squad has one last chance to either state their case for a place in the team to face El Tri next month, or fine-tune and forge partnerships in key areas of the field, when they take on Brazil at Gillette Stadium Tuesday night.

[ MORE: If you’ve ever questioned Jurgen Klinsmann, you don’t understand soccer ]

CAPTAIN BRADLEY RETURNS; DEMPSEY NOT WITH TEAM

Michael Bradley, who remained with his club team, Toronto FC, through the weekend, has joined the USMNT ahead of Tuesday’s game as originally planned. Meanwhile, Klinsmann elected to not bring Clint Dempsey into camp in favor of leaving him with his club team, Seattle Sounders, as he returns from a hamstring injury and regain full fitness.

“I had a good conversation with Clint,” Klinsmann said. “He’s still not 100 percent and we agreed it’s best to let him stay with Seattle to allow him to continue making progress ahead of next month’s match against Mexico.”

Klinsmann made another pair of changes for Tuesday’s game, as defender Matt Besler was released from cap to rejoin Sporting Kansas City ahead of a league game Wednesday night. Goalkeeper William Yarbrough was also released to rejoin his club team, Club Leon. Stanford University forward Jordan Morris and Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson were also added to the roster.

[ MORE: USMNT beats Peru, 2-1 | Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

MORE TURNOVER ALONG THE BACKLINE

With the departure of Besler, an assumed and deserved starter at center back, John Brooks looks set to retain the starting job at left-sided center back despite a poor showing at the 2015 Gold Cup and struggling through his 63-minute shift against Peru. Besler’s 27 minutes against Peru showed, yet again, that the 28-year-old is much better suited to start meaningful games at this point than the 22-year-old German-born behemoth.

Starting alongside Brooks against Peru was Omar Gonzalez, who struggle plenty himself before being replace by Ventura Alvarado at halftime. Alvarado, of course, was Brooks’ regular partner during the Gold Cup, a failure of a tournament in which the USMNT finished fourth. Besler and Gonzalez, when played together, have put in stellar shift after stellar shift along the backline.

Tim Ream looks to be the answer at left back, for now at least, with Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley currently injured. Geoff Cameron, who now starts at center back for Stoke City, looks locked in at right back due to Timothy Chandler’s absence (injury). Cameron, of course, was a regular starter at right back in the Premier League before Klinsmann instructed to win a starting center back job in order to be considered for the position with the USMNT.

[ MORE: Cameron relishing homecoming to beloved Boston, as USMNT faces Brazil ]

FULL ROSTERS

USA

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (8): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Greg Garza (Atlas), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Veracruz), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Alfredo Morales (FC Ingolstadt), Danny Williams (Reading), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Andrew Wooten (SV Sandhausen), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

BRAZIL

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jefferson (Botafogo), Marcelo Grohe (Gremio), Alisson (Internacional)
DEFENDERS (8): David Luiz (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gabriel Paulista (Arsenal), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Filipe Luiz (Atletico Madrid), Danilo (Real Madrid), Douglas Santos (Atletico Mineiro)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Luis Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Elias (Corinthians), Ramirez (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Firmino (Liverpool), Willian (Chelsea), Kaka (Orlando City SC), Lucas Lima (Santos)
FORWARDS (4): Neymar (Barcelona), Lucas (PSG), Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg), Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich)

Mohamed Salah an injury doubt for Liverpool

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Mohamed Salah is an injury doubt for Liverpool’s trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Salah, 27, has been struggling with a right ankle injury over the last six weeks and he has been subbed off in his last three Premier League appearances for Liverpool as well as missing their draw at Man United last month.

“Yesterday he trained,” Klopp revealed. “He trained the whole time since he was here, but only the things we wanted him to do. Today is another important session to see how it looks and we can make the decision. It’s not that it got worse but it’s still kind of there, that’s the problem. We have to be sensible with things like this. But I didn’t make the decision. If I would have made a decision, I probably wouldn’t have told you now, but it’s true I have to see the session today.”

Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez are also injury doubts and late calls will be made on the duo, while Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Alisson and Georginio Wijnaldum were all in international action and have only just returned to Liverpool’s Melwood training base.

“From the others, I cannot say 100 per cent, I don’t know 100 per cent,” Klopp said. “Today is a very important session to judge that, especially with the players who came back late.”

When it comes to Salah, he didn’t feature for Egypt during the international break and Liverpool have given him a special program to follow to build up the strength in his ankle.

The Egyptian winger has scored in recent home wins against Tottenham and Man City but his performance levels haven’t been as explosive as last season and that’s because he’s nursing this ankle injury. At some point Klopp needs to give him a rest, and with the busy festive season creeping ever closer, it seems like Liverpool’s boss is ready to rotate his squad a little more as they play in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday against Napoli.

Main takeaways from MLS contract deadline day

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Major League Soccer saw a lot of big names in the news as “Contract Deadline Day” played out across the U.S. and Canada.

— The New York Red Bulls watched two all-timers walk out the door, as Bradley Wright-Phillips did not get a new contract and the club declined its option on Luis Robles (STORY).

— Not a player move, but Austin FC announced the hiring of former NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna to the same position.

[ MORE: PST’s talk 1v1 with Reyna earlier this season ]

— Toronto FC is yet to reach a deal to keep Michael Bradley in town, but remains in contract talks with its captain. The same is true for Nicolas Benezet, while Drew Moor is out-of-contract.

— And that’s also what’s happening in Portland with Diego Valeri, the longtime star in talks with the team despite not having his option picked up.

Chicago Fire announced a new branding initiative, changing its logo from a classic crest to something else and dropping the SC for an FC. Like Columbus before them, everyone will still call them the fire and ignore the SC, FC, or whatever see. It’s what happens when you take a formal nickname.

The club also cut ties with playmakers Nico Gaitan and Aleksandar Katai.

— Minnesota United remains in talks to bring back Reading loanee and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner Vito Mannone, and that means longtime backstop Bobby Shuttleworth will hit the open market.

— Orlando declined its option on Dillon Powers, and also let the clock run out on the contract of one-time megastar Sacha Kljestan.

— Real Salt Lake did not reach an agreement with Kyle Beckerman on a new deal, though MLSSoccer.com thinks he’s still in the mix.

— New England is letting Juan Agudelo walk into free agency.

— Atlanta United exercised the contract option for Julian Gressel, but he’s being badly underpaid and the club needs to find salary room for a proper new deal.

— Thierry Henry is keeping his two brightest attacker, with Ignacio Piatti getting another year at the club and Saphir Taider seeing his loan from Bologna made permanent.

— The Philadelphia Union did not exercise their option on Marco Fabian, and are letting Haris Medunjanin leave without a new deal.

— Roman Torres did not see his option exercised by the Sounders, and Kim Kee-hee is also leaving the club.

— Sporting KC waves goodbye to Seth Sinovic, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber, and Gedion Zelalem.

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

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

Top Premier League storylines: Week 13

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Yes, Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and, sure, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manuel Pellegrini are in managerial hot seats, but is there any match more intriguing than Man City and Chelsea squaring off with the knowledge that a bad outcome could see them double digits out of first?

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


The Jose Mourinho Era begins against a familiar foe

  • West Ham v. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have matched wits many times, which could help the former in his bid to get ready for a rankled Spurs side to kickstart the Premier League weekend.

Mourinho has only matched up with six managers more than Pellegrini in his career, and boasts a 7W-3D-4L record. Can he quickly get Spurs put together for a visit to a desperate Irons side.


Chelsea, Man City put slim title hopes on the line

  • Manchester City v. Chelsea — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Both Pep Guardiola‘s City and Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have lost to Liverpool, meaning their chances to directly affect the Reds’ title hopes are limited. Matches like this one are the ones that get the Reds salivating, in fact, knowing that only one team can snare three points.

City enters the day nine points back of first and a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City. The Top Four race sure looks clear cut right now — the chasing pack is eight points behind fourth — but failure to win on Saturday will likely leave either side double-digit points back of first.


Knock off the Red Devils? Wilder things have happened

  • Sheffield United v. Manchester United — Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has the newly-promoted side in fifth place on the table, one point better than his celebrated visitors. The Blades will sit no worse than five points back of the Top Four if they can beat Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Red Devils, adding another big name to a season of results which already includes a defeat of Arsenal and draws against Chelsea and Spurs. United is still without Paul Pogba and now will also miss Scott McTominay. Another upset brewing?


Reds hope to get back to business as usual in title fight

  • Crystal Palace v. Liverpool — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

A week removed from a glitzy show against Man City, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds now visit a Palace side who is probably getting sick of facing the Premier League’s best. Roy Hodgson‘s table rise has been stunted by a four-match winless run that includes 2-0 losses to Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea to go with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

A Liverpool win will boost it clearer of Man City and/or Chelsea, as the Reds seek a double-digit lead on the field (Second-place Leicester City is away to Brighton and Hove Albion).


Arsenal looks to right wobbly league ship versus slumping Saints

  • Arsenal v. Southampton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Unai Emery‘s Gunners may be doing fine in the Europa League, but they’ve taken just two points from 12 since an Oct. 6 defeat of Bourrnemouth at the Emirates Stadium. Saints only win since mid-September in any competition is a 4-0 demolition of rivals Portsmouth. If Arsenal cannot get right here, well…