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Injection of youth gives USMNT different look ahead of Mexico clash

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Christian Pulisic. Jordan Morris. Paul Arriola.

All three played their part in the USA’s 4-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday and all three have given Jurgen Klinsmann a welcome selection headache between now and their next 2018 World Cup qualifier on Nov. 11 against Mexico.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Youth is on the rise with the U.S. national team and it’s not just about those three aforementioned starlets. Think about the likes of Lynden Gooch starring at Sunderland, Caleb Stanko who got a late cameo in Jacksonville on Tuesday and Kellyn Acosta who started in the win against St. Vincent and the Grenandines last Friday.

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All of a sudden there seems to be a new wave of young players Klinsmann knows he can pick and they won’t let him down.

Over the past two games 17-year-old Pulisic has dazzled with his skills, goals and assists and his star power is clear, but the emergence of Morris, 21, as a contributor, plus Arriola, 21, showing composure off the bench to score in each of his two USMNT appearances and Acosta, 21, able to slot in at left back, shows Klinsmann’s youngsters can now help out when needed. In fact, plenty of them are pushing the experienced players for roster spots.

Pulisic’s displays will grab plenty of the headlines, and rightly so. As Nick Mendola correctly pointed out following the USA’s win on Tuesday, this kid is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. He’s on a par with Landon Donovan but he’s playing and scoring in the Bundesliga at the age of 17. Donovan wasn’t doing that.

The Pulisic hype-train left the station a long time ago but others are ready to step up.

Speaking after the game to reporters, U.S. national team veteran Tim Howard is delighted to see the youngsters breaking through.

“We added some young players to the fold. Well, maybe they were part of it but they’re getting opportunities now. They make us a little more dynamic. We’re shifty. We’re able to press. It’s been a good change for us.”

Even the likes of Emerson Hydnman, Gedion Zelalem and Cameron Carter-Vickers will be looking over enviously at others getting a chance with the national team. There time to shine will come too but what we are seeing now is youngsters step up and prove they’re as good, if not better, than the guys who are currently on the fringes of the starting lineup. That has to be promising for the USMNT coaching staff.

A bullish Klinsmann is now ready to take on Mexico with a deeper, vibrant squad after his side finished top of Group C in the fourth-round of CONCACAF Wolrd Cup qualifying. That has set up a tasty clash with Mexico in November which U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati has already confirmed will be in Columbus, Ohio. That’s right, the venue for four-straight Dos a Cero wins for the U.S. over Mexico.

Klinsmann likes where the U.S. is at right now.

“Now going into hexagonal with a big chest, saying, ‘OK, let’s take on Mexico in the first game,’ with a lot of confidence and respect, obviously,” Klinsmann told reporters. “We see ourselves on the right path.”

The path has always been to develop young players and despite speed bumps along the way (that defeat to Guatemala away) finally there are signs of promise from the youngsters on the U.S. roster, as we saw in the last two World Cup qualifiers.

Facing Mexico will be a whole different ball game for any these youngsters, if selected, but with friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand next month the U.S. can give the likes of Pulisic and Co. some more minutes to see just how far along they are in their development.

You have to put the U.S. wins over the past five days into perspective but the one thing we learned, overall, is that these kids, they’re more than alright.

Neymar’s Champions League ban reduced

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Neymar will be able to feature in four of Paris Saint-Germain’s UEFA Champions League group stage games.

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PSG, who kick off their Group A games against Real Madrid on Tuesday, appealed against Neymar’s ban after he took to social media to criticize the officials following their Round of 16 second leg defeat to Manchester United last March.

Initially he was banned three games by UEFA, but after a successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), he will now be available for four of their six UCL group games as they also face Galatasaray and Club Brugge.

After scoring a sensational overhead kick goal in stoppage time on his return to action for PSG on Saturday, all of a sudden things are looking a lot rosier for Neymar.

That said, his wishes to move on this summer haven’t been forgotten by PSG’s Ultras. During their win against Strasbourg at the Parc des Prince they hurled abuse at him and held up banners lashing out at the Brazilian superstar.

Schedule for 2019 Club World Cup announced

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The schedule for the 2019 FIFA World Club Cup has been confirmed.

Liverpool will represent UEFA in the global competition in Qatar from December 11-21, as Jurgen Klopp‘s side will play at least two games.

The Premier League side will face either Liga MX side Monterrey or the winner of Al Saad SC/Hienghene Sport in the semifinal on Dec. 17, then four days later will play in either the third-place match or the final.

Below is the schedule in full.


First round
Match 1: Al Sadd SC v Hienghene Sport – December 11

Second round
Match 2: Monterrey v. Winner of Match 1 – December 14
Match 3: AFC Champions v. Esperance Sportive de Tunis – December 14

Fifth-place match
Match 4: Loser Match 2 v. Loser Match 3 – December 17

Semifinals
Match 5: CONMEBOL champions v. Winners of Match 3 – December 17
Match 6: Winners Match 2 v. Liverpool – December 18

Third-place match
Match 7: Loser Match 6 v. Loser Match 5 – December 21

Final
Match 8: Winners Match 6 v. Winners Match 5 – December 21

Rooney lambasts MLS over domestic salaries

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It is quite clear Wayne Rooney is leaving Major League Soccer in December to head back to England.

Before he leaves for a player-coach role at Derby County, he’s hellbent on having his say. He is keen to air some grievances.

Like a free-spirited floor manager who is working out his notice before moving on, Rooney has once again taken a shot at MLS. This time he has hit out over salaries domestic players in the U.S. and Canada receive.

In an interview with ESPN, Rooney, 33, doubled down after his recent criticism of travel issues regarding charter flights not being available for all away trips.

“I feel that American players get underpaid,” Rooney said. “I feel they deserve to get more money to stay in line with football in the rest of the world and in terms of the American sports. I’m not saying it to benefit me, I obviously won’t be in the league next season. I think it’s only fair to those players who are putting in the same work as all have to earn the right to earn more money for doing it.”

Has Rooney got a point? He has, but it is a complex area to delve in to.

With more money set aside in recent seasons for Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), it is easier for MLS franchises to spend more money on overseas additions, and they often do that rather than use it on domestic players.

If you are a non-Designated Player in MLS, the maximum salary you can earn is $10,192-a-week. Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others clearly don’t have to worry about their salary as DPs, but it is commendable that they are lending their voices to the cause. Rooney could just sit their and take his DP salary, but he’s not. So, he’s obviously seen something that needs to be addressed.

Do MLS players deserve to be paid higher? Of course. But it is still a growing league and is far away from the average salary in Europe’s top leagues. The average wage in MLS is around $7,000 per week, while in the Premier League it is around $70,000 per week.

With MLS expanding to new markets and attracting new interest from all over the globe, you’d expect the players who helped make the league what it is, the veteran U.S. and Canadian players, to be rewarded for their loyalty. But in the current system, it doesn’t work like that.

Why is Rooney speaking out now? The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) runs out on Jan. 31, 2020 and there is talk of a strike unless more charter flights and freedom of movement between MLS teams is granted.

Given his profile, having Rooney lead the charge makes sense. Expect to hear a lot more about the MLS’ upcoming CBA talks with the MLS Players Association (MLSPA).

Inter’s Conte fumes over media’s fixation on formations

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ROME (AP) Only three rounds into his Serie A return, new Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte is already fed up with the local media’s obsession with tactics and the “modulo” – Italian for formation.

Known for his three-man defense, Conte was asked if he would change to a more traditional four-man backline.

“Only in Italy are we fixated on formations,” Conte snapped at a reporter’s question over the “modulo.” “I’ve coached in England and they’re not the least bit interested in that there. I want to see courage and intensity, which we’re trying to express. The rest is all crap.”

When Conte guided Juventus to three straight Serie A titles from 2012-14, his “BBC” defense of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini was the backbone of the club’s success.

When he took over Chelsea in 2016, he used a 4-1-4-1 formation during dispiriting early-season losses to Arsenal and Liverpool before quickly changing to a 3-4-2-1 with David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill going on to anchor the defense in a campaign that ended with the Premier League title.

At Inter, Conte is using Diego Godin, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar to anchor a 3-5-2 and Inter has started with three wins from three matches to open up a two-point lead over Bologna and eight-time defending champion Juventus.

It’s the first time Juventus has not been atop the standings since March 2018.

Inter’s early success will be tested against struggling AC Milan in the city derby on Saturday.

“Modern football evolves and you have to keep up with the times,” Conte said. “Enthusiasm isn’t tied to results but rather what we’re trying to do. Rome was not built in a day.”

MANDZUKIC TO QATAR?

Mario Mandzukic could be on his way to Qatar after being left off Juventus’ squad for the Champions League group stage.

“There are market opportunities that present themselves. Mario has been a very important player for us over the years, he proved himself at every level, there is a possibility and in agreement with him, the coach and his agent, we decided it was best he didn’t come on this trip,” Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici said before Juve’s scoreless draw at Fiorentina on Saturday, confirming that there was an offer from Qatar for the striker.

Mandzukic scored goals in the double figures across all competitions for Juventus each of the past four seasons but new coach Maurizio Sarri has preferred to use Gonzalo Higuain in support of Cristiano Ronaldo this season.

Midfielder Emre Can was also left off the Champions League squad, and had to apologize to the club after saying he was “furious” over the decision.

WOMEN’S SERIE A

Italy’s run to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup has put more of a spotlight on the women’s Serie A.

The 12-team league opened its season over the weekend with the three favorites, two-time defending champion Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina the only teams to post victories.

Juventus’ 2-1 win over Empoli and Milan’s 3-0 shutout of Roma were shown live on Italy’s Sky satellite TV service Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Fiorentina’s 4-2 derby victory at Florentia San Gimignano was broadcast live via the club’s Twitter feed .

The Gazzetta dello Sport had a full page of coverage Sunday and Monday.

Inter Milan, making its debut in the top division, drew 2-2 with Verona.

Among the national team players to score were Cristiana Girelli for Juventus and Milan captain Valentina Giacinti, who led the league with 21 goals in 21 matches last season.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf