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2016 Copa America: USMNT’s prospects for group draw mostly not horrible


The group-stage draw for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which takes place on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET) in New York City, could go a long way toward determining the U.S. national team’s fate at this summer’s tournament to be played in cities across the United States.

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Just as with the World Cup, a bad draw for the group stage could hand the USMNT three dauntingly difficult fixtures from which they need a minimum of four points to advance to the knockout stage.

Fortunately for the USMNT, their worst-case scenario group-stage draw isn’t half as bad — at least on paper — as what we thought they would face at the 2014 World Cup. Having been placed into pot 1, thanks to their host nation status, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will avoid Argentina, Brazil and Mexico until the knockout stage, should they advance that far. Unlike the Chileans, though, who hosted and won the 2015 Copa America, the Yanks’ home-field advantage will be decidedly lessened when facing any nation with a significant population living in the States, which is to say, most nations from the Americas and Caribbean.

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Based largely upon their respective showings at the 2015 Copa America, 2015 Gold Cup and a bit of the eye test, the difficulty (from most difficult to least difficult) of teams making up pots 2-4 looks something like this:

Pot 2: Chile, Colombia Uruguay, Ecuador — Nothing about this pot can spell good news for the USMT. Chile and Colombia are neck and neck at the top of the group, with a slight advantage going to the former as the current Copa holders. Uruguay have the undisputed best player of the four nations, though, in Luis Suarez. Simple math says there’s a 75 percent chance the USMNT gets one of the above South American giants, and a 25 percent shot at Ecuador, a largely disappointing side (failed to advance from the group stage) at last summer’s Copa.

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Pot 3: Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti — Competition the USMNT knows very well, and against which they typically perform well. Jamiaca gets the nod ahead of Costa based on, 1) their experience from playing in last year’s Copa, and 2) the massive improvement they showed during the ensuing Gold Cup, where they finished runners-up to Mexico (and beat the USMNT in the semifinals). Speaking of sides who troubled the USMNT more than a bit last summer, Panama (third-place finishers) and Haiti (outplayed but ultimately fell to the USMNT during the group stage) round out CONCACAF’s representatives.

Pot 4: Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Bolivia — Peru knocked off Paraguay to finish third at last summer’s Copa, buoyed by the tournament’s joint-top scorer, Paolo Guerrero (4 goals), so the USMNT wants little to do with either of those sides, really. As for Venezuela and Bolivia, the former came within a point of advancing from a group that featured Brazil, Colombia and Peru, while the latter snuck out of a group that included Chile, Ecuador and a B-team Mexico side.

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With that said, the USMNT’s best- and worst-possible draws, in this writer’s opinion, are as follows, while anything else falls somewhere in between based upon the above rankings.

Best-possible draw: USA, Ecuador, Haiti, Bolivia

Worst-possible draw: USA, Chile, Jamaica, Peru

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.


Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.

Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]

Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.

Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.

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Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.

English defender Onuoha speaks out on fear of police in the U.S.

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Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha is speaking out on his experience as a black man in the United States in the wake of ongoing protests and violence following the killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Speaking with the BBC, Onuoha says he has loved his time in the United States but admitted a wariness around law enforcement that he does not experience at home in England. The 33-year-old says there are “plenty of good” police in the country but admitted he doesn’t feel “100% safe” around law enforcement officers and that he has a “fear and distrust” of them.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Onuoha says the protests and demands for reform are “emotional” and “overdue,” adding that he feels empowered by the non-black voices joining the calls for justice.

From The BBC:

“I have loved living in this country but there is [another] side of it. In the UK, I am more comfortable because if something happens it probably will not be deadly – but over here because of their rights it is more common that altercations become deadly. I am always very aware of that whenever I go around anywhere.

“I am comfortable but when it comes to any kind of brutality, if it’s from the police, if they read me the wrong way then my life could be taken. I feel that every single day. It is not just me but everybody else as well.”

The Nigeria-born English defender joined RSL in 2018 and has played 36 times for the Utah club. Onuoha previously spent seven years with Queens Park Rangers after beginning his career with City and Sunderland.

MLS released a statement on the Floyd killing earlier this week, expressing unity with the black community and “horror” at the “senseless murder” of the 46-year-old American man.