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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.

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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.

Dele drives Spurs past Norwich City

Tottenham Hotspur match recap and highlights
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A win is a win, even if Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 home defeat of Norwich City was anything but convincing in London.

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Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son scored as Spurs climbed sixth in the table with 34 points.

Teemu Pukki scored for the spot for the Canaries, who remain dead last and six points off the safe spaces.


Three things we learned

1. Spurs can score in 2020: The Premier League had not been kind to Jose Mourinho’s men since a they twice came back in a 2-2 draw with these same Canaries at Carrow Road. In fact, Spurs went 315 Premier League minutes without a goal before Dele got his first half marker on Wednesday. Losses to Saints and Liverpool were joined by a weekend draw at Watford, so this win was vital (Spurs thrice scored over two FA Cup matches versus Middlesbrough).

2. Bounces go the way of Spurs: Norwich can forgive itself for feeling a bit snakebit considering how poor Spurs looked for most of the day. Dele’s shot or cross was deflected high toward the back post, where Heung-min Son was able to nod it over the line from extreme close-up range.

3. Serge Aurier shines: Bad Serge Aurier shows up quite a bit, but the full back had a great day on Wednesday. Aurier had an assist to go with two interceptions and three tackles. He was a menace and stuck into 50-50 battles, earning plaudits on the day.


Erik Lamela was lively early for Spurs, seeing a free kick deflected out for a corner and another chance saved by Tim Krul.

Dele put Spurs ahead when he lunged past Christoph Zimmermann to poke a Serge Aurier cross past Krul. Heung-min Son set up the play with a lay-off to the Ivorian.

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VAR was kind to Todd Cantwell early in the second half, as the sliding midfielder put his studs into Lamela and it was worth only a yellow card.

Spurs youngster Ryan Sessegnon fouled Max Aarons in the 68th to give Norwich a chance from the spot, and a long review did not lead to a reprieve. Pukki beat Lloris low and to the right for 1-1.

But Dele’s cross floated to Son for a back post winner and blushes were spared for Mourinho.

Leicester City smashes West Ham, loses Vardy

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Leicester City snapped a two-match losing run with a 4-1 defeat of West Ham United on Wednesday.

The third-place Foxes move to 48 points, but lost Jamie Vardy and Nampalys Mendy to first half injuries.

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Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira set each other up for goals and Ayoze Perez scored twice late in the win.

Mark Noble scored a penalty of his own for the losing side, whose 23 points are out of the drop zone on goal differential. The Irons have played one fewer match than everyone but Liverpool.


Three things we learned

1. Barnes rides high:  Harvey Barnes is having an uneven season in the Premier League, like many to just turn 22. But the youngster is certainly on an upswing, having scored in a weekend loss at Burnley and collecting a goal and an assist on Wednesday. His six assists lead the Foxes, and may just be the tip of the iceberg.

2. More of the same from West Ham (and that’s not good): David Moyes‘ West Ham looks a lot like Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham, which isn’t a surprise given the latter’s better reputation in recent seasons. It’s a draw and two losses since the 4-0 win over an abject Bournemouth, and the Irons’ match-in-hand on the relegation field is against Liverpool (who they still face twice). Felipe Anderson is set to miss a month and that won’t ease concerns either.

3. Vardy injury, defense a big concern: The league’s leading scorer got his leg stretched out on the pitch and was favoring his gluteal area in the first half, eventually limping off the field. Losing him would ask a lot of Kelechi Iheanacho.

The Foxes also would be wrong to overlook another goal conceded, even if it came by controversial penalty. Leicester has conceded in seven of eight league matches,  and five included multiple goals. It’s not a huge worry in a 4-1, but a trend indeed.

Man of the Match: Barnes.


Jamie Vardy cut into the box early but his first touch betrayed him and couldn’t get full power on a shot to Darren Randolph.

The in-form Barnes got the Foxes in front by turning a Ricardo Pereira dinked pass into the open goal.

An injury to Nampalys Mendy accelerated the return of Wilfred Ndidi to the pitch, the midfielder returning in the 34th minute.

Vardy was then forced off the pitch with an apparent back injury, bringing Kelechi Iheanacho into the fold in the 44th minute.

Barnes then returned the favor to Pereira, who whistled his effort into the goal in the fifth minute of first half stoppage time.

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But hold on.

Noble needed just five second half minutes to pull one back for David Moyes’ men, as Sebastien Haller won a suspect penalty off Ndidi.

Kasper Schmeichel made a fine save on Michail Antonio to keep it 2-1.

Leiceste regained control and looked the only threat to make it 3-1 after that, with Perez converted a penalty after Angelo Ogbonna fouled Kelechi Iheanacho.

The Nigerian forward then set up Perez for his second to salt away the win.

Leicester City’s Vardy limps off pitch versus West Ham

Jamie Vardy injury
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January is not being kind to English forwards.

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy limped off the pitch at King Power Stadium on Wednesday, an apparent upper leg injury the cause.

It was a non-contact injury, as Vardy pulled up lame after clearing the ball.

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Kelechi Iheanacho replaced Vardy, who leads the Premier League Golden Boot race by one goal over Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham was injured in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal, while Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford are all nursing long-term injuries.

That had led many to infer that England manager Gareth Southgate might ask Vardy to reconsider his international retirement, but here we are.

Leicester City is in the thick of a Top Four chase in the hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League, and losing Vardy would be a monumental blow.

Griezmann’s second half brace saves Barcelona from shock upset in Ibiza

Barcelona survives Copa del Rey scare
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Like a college kid on Spring Break, Barcelona vastly underestimated the power of Ibiza.

One of the biggest clubs in the world had loads of trouble in its Copa del Rey Round of 32 meeting at UD Ibiza on Wednesday.

Barcelona barely got past the third-tier side thanks to two Antoine Griezmann goals and a comeback 2-1 win at the Estadi Municipal de Can Misses.

UD Ibiza playing in a 5,000-seat stadium, took a ninth-minute lead and had more shot attempts as late as the 65th minute. New manager Quique Setien was left to sweat it out.

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Somewhat fitting that a man named Pep got the early goal. Josep Caballe Martin has more yellow cards than goals in Segunda B this season.

Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, and an injured Luis Suarez were among the players left behind, but this wasn’t a massively depleted Barcelona side. Arturo Vidal and Jordi Alba were brought off the bench.

Frenkie de Jong set up Griezmann for a 72nd minute equalizer, and Griezmann added his second off an Alba feed in the fourth minute of stoppage time.