Has Copa America draw been opened up for USMNT glory?

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Just over a week ago most U.S. national team fans were complaining, downbeat and many were calling for Jurgen Klinsmann to be fired.

[ MORE: Latest Copa America news

Now, with the U.S. playing Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinal in Seattle on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET), things are a lot different.

With Klinsmann’s boys battling back and putting in two superb displays to beat both Costa Rica and Paraguay to surprisingly clinch to spot in Group A in the process, the stars seem to be aligning for the USMNT.

[ MORE: JK wants to lose underdog tag ] 

After Colombia fielded a weak side and loss to Costa Rica to hand the U.S. top spot in Group A, they will now meet Ecuador in front a hugely pro-U.S. crowd in Seattle at CenturyLink Field. That will be a massive advantage as they hope to advance to the semifinals.

With Brazil and Uruguay crashing out at the group stage, suddenly the U.S.’s path to the final four has opened up.

[ MORE: Dempsey battles on up top ]

However, if they get past Ecuador in the quarterfinals then they will likely face the winner of Argentina vs. Venezuela which hasn’t been confirmed yet, but it seems likely that will be the quarterfinal matchup. So, yeah, if the U.S. beats Ecuador they will likely have Lionel Messi and Argentina to get by, meaning their path to Copa America glory has a considerable roadblock in the way. Yet, they will also have two days extra rest compared to their potential semifinal opponents. Plenty is stacked in the USA’s favor as the host nation.

Even getting past Ecuador will be no easy task but only a few weeks ago Klinsmann’s side beat them 1-0 in a pre-Copa America friendly. It can be done and this is a huge opportunity they can’t afford to let slip.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

Before the Copa America began this summer, Klinsmann stated the hosts must get to the semifinal stage to deem this tournament a success. Many scoffed at him for saying so. Now, why should the U.S. limit themselves to the final four?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 11: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States reacts after Paraguay is not called on a play in the second half during the Copa America Centenario Group C match at Lincoln Financial Field on June 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The United States defeated Paraguay 1-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The USMNT has a settled back line with Brad Guzan playing well in goal, plus Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson solid as rocks and John Brooks playing out of his skin. In attack Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood continue to be pests and Clint Dempsey is at his opportunistic best. After so much tinkering over the past few years, Klinsmann finally seems to have found his best starting lineup and he stuck with it for all three group games.

[ MORE: USA confident despite defeat to Colombia ]

Despite all of the criticism, if the U.S. beats Ecuador then they would have exceeded expectations this summer and the 2015 Gold Cup debacle and struggling performances in their opening CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers would seem like a distant memory. Even if the U.S. falls to Ecuador, it’s likely that Klinsmann will still see his job through until after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Of course, Argentina look like the overwhelming favorites for the title and Mexico is also playing extremely well, but other than that, the U.S. shouldn’t be worried about anybody else. Even in the defeat to Colombia in the Group A opener on Jun. 3, there was a sense Los Cafeteros got a little lucky as the U.S. forgot their shooting boots but were still confident. If the U.S. reached the semifinal and somehow gets past Argentina, then one of Mexico, Colombia, Peru or Chile will await in the final. Overcoming one of those four certainly isn’t daunting for the U.S. after Brazil and Uruguay, two of the pre-tournament favorites, crashed out.

The reasons for optimism are mounting up: On home soil. Young players stepping up. Powerhouses crashing out. Everything seems to be slotting together rather nicely for the U.S. national team.

Now, can they seize their moment and go all the way this summer? Even if they go out to Argentina in the semifinal, this tournament will deemed a major success and a crucial stepping stone on the road to the 2018 World Cup, especially for the young players on this squad.

If you would’ve said that this time last week, plenty of U.S. fans would’ve called you crazy. Oh, how quickly things change in this beautiful game.

Klinsmann and his players are now on the verge of a breakthrough moment.

Man City vs Man United: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester City vs Manchester United: Erling Haaland is set for his Manchester derby debut when the two-time defending champions host the rapidly improving Red Devils at Etihad Stadium on Sunday (watch live, 9 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE MAN CITY vs MAN UNITED

Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm with an absurd 11 goals scored in his first seven games after (ostensibly) choosing Man City over Man United before leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer.

Six weeks ago, Manchester United had not a single point from their first two games, including a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of tiny Brentford, but Erik ten Hag has since switched tactical course en route to four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over PL leaders Arsenal last time out, to set up this hugely intriguing showdown on Sunday.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Man City vs Man United

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Despite a pair of disappointing draws (Newcastle and Aston Villa), it’s been an unbeaten start to the 2022-23 season for Man City, who still lead the PL in possession (66.4 percent per game) while also becoming an unstoppable offensive force from last season (14 goals in their first seven games) to this season (23). That’s not to say it’s been easy as Manchester City go through a tactical shift of their own to better appeal to the big Norwegian’s poaching abilities. Though they have been forced to grind out results a few times already this season, it’s highlighted a newfound spontaneity for a side that’s been as regimented as any in the world. Will that freedom be what ultimately lands Pep Guardiola his first Champions League trophy since 2011, and perhaps a third straight PL title (and a fifth in six years) to boot?

As for Manchester United, the Ten Hag era has been a wild roller-coaster ride already, short as it’s been. The back-to-back defeats were one thing, but the abject performances were the real cause for discontent. While picking up the four straight victories, the Dutchman has also settled on a midfield setup with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen operating in (effectively) a double pivot with Bruno Fernandes the most advanced of the three. It has brought defensive stability, of course, but more importantly the change has revealed a deadly counter-attacking side. Each of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes have scored twice during the winning run, with new boy Antony also getting in on the fun on his debut. With space in behind (and the proper service from deep), Ten Hag might just have his first winning formula (albeit quite unlike him).


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee)

Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE, Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

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WATCH: Lionel Messi spins gorgeous free kick goal past Nice’s Schmeichel

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Lionel Messi got the better of Kasper Schmeichel with an outstanding free kick as Paris Saint-Germain outlasted Nice 2-1 on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

The world’s greatest scorer was fouled to set up a free kick just inside the arc. Nice, of course, got into a wall and former Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel arranged it to his liking.

As he does so many times, however, Messi spun a free kick just over the wall. The ball, which came so close to taking a slight turn off a leaping wall member (actually, did it?), tumbled down and right into the side netting to give PSG a 1-0 lead before the match was a half-hour old.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi scores relentless Groningen goal ]

Gaetan Laborde tied the match before halftime, and Nice’s revamped roster looked set to hold tight for a point (The club’s signed familiar Premier League names Schmeichel, Ross Barkley, Aaron Ramsey, and Mario Lemina).

Even that wouldn’t be enough, though, as Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to replace young Hugo Ekitike to finish a Nordi Mukiele assist for a 2-1 win.

PSG has eight wins and a draw this season, good for a two-point lead on second-place Marseille. Messi has five goals and a joint-league-best seven assists, tied with Neymar. Mbappe and Neymar are tied for the league goals lead with eight.

Lionel Messi free kick goal video

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi defies xG with relentless goal (video)

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USMNT forward Ricardo Pepi’s goal while trying to will Groningen back into an eventual 4-1 loss to AZ Alkmaar on Saturday will not be one of the expected variety.

The 19-year-old striker, on loan from Augsburg, ran onto an audacious long pass from 20-year-old defender Neraysho Kasanwirjo but had plenty of work to do with AZ leading 2-0.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez scores audacious overhead goal ]

Pepi sees one defender fall in a race to the ball, then bodies up AZ’s Sam Beukema a little outside the six-yard box.

Hand-to-hand combat sees both players hit the turf, and Pepi probably could won a penalty.

But the World Cup hopeful spins while on the pitch and snaps a shot past charging AZ goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst to make it 2-1.

Video after the jump.

Ricardo Pepi
fotmob.com

Ricardo Pepi goal video: Fantastic start to Groningen loan

Pepi now has a goal or an assist in his first three Eredivisie outings, not unlike his fantastic start to life in a USMNT shirt.

His goal contributions have taken a dive since his first two USMNT matches — World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Jamaica — and he only has one assist from the following 10 outings in a U.S. shirt.

Still, Pepi is clearly one of Gregg Berhalter’s favorite options for the upcoming World Cup, and his performances will be measured against Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok, FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, and others.

In a tournament where every moment matters, his work for this scrappy finish will be well-noted by the USMNT staff.

Josef Martinez scores vicious overhead kick in Atlanta United loss (video)

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If this is the last goal of Josef Martinez’s (likely) final season with Atlanta United, it will be very appropriate.

So for Martinez, even in a losing effort, to go airborne for an overhead kick that is a simply sensational feat of athleticism and power, well, it just feels right.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan forward joined the Five Stripes in 2017 in what seemed a massive capture for the club at the time and now seems downright gargantuan, but he’s fallen out with current manager Gonzalo Pineda and was even suspended for a match last month.

[ MORE: West Ham beats Wolves | Klopp reacts to latest setback ]

Martinez has nine goals and four assists in an injury-abbreviated 25-game season, giving him 111 goals in 156 appearances for ATL UTD. The former Torino and Young Boys striker is still being capped for Venezuela and would leave with an MLS Cup, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and Campeones Cup as well as a boatload of individual honors.

Atlanta lost 2-1 to New England on Saturday and returns home for their season finale next weekend versus New York City FC. The Five Stripes won’t make the playoffs unless at least two teams decide not to field teams, so if the NYCFC game doesn’t go well, let’s pretend this one was his final appearance for the club.