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Three things we learned from USMNT’s win vs. Cuba

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The U.S. beat Cuba 2-0 in Havana on Friday with Jurgen Klinsmann’s side using their historic friendly as a valuable learning experience for the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers to come.

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Second half goals from Chris Wondolowski and Julian Green did the damage as the U.S. now head to RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. to face New Zealand in another friendly next Tuesday.

Here’s what we learned from the USA’s victory as Klinsmann’s boys continue to prepare for their World Cup qualifiers next month.


GREEN TAKES HIS CHANCE

The one U.S. player who always looked dangerous whenever he got on the ball was Julian Green.

Green, 21, hadn’t been involved in any of the USMNT’s 10 games previous to this game in Cuba but he took his chance and proved to Klinsmann he can step up and be an option on the left flank.

Look, when we think of Green all of our minds flash back to him hooking home against Belgium in the Round of 16 loss at the 2014 World Cup. Since then he hasn’t scored again for the U.S., until now, and he totally deserved to get on the scoresheet as he tapped home Wondolowski’s cutback.

Green first had to deal with first being the new messiah of U.S. soccer (magnified by the fact that Landon Donovan’s international career was ended in part due to his arrival) and then being cast aside ruthlessly. When he excelled as a central striker this summer and scored a hat trick for Bayern Munich in a preseason win against Inter Milan in Charlotte, NC, many though he’d get much more of a look-in for the German giants. That hasn’t been the case so far this season under Carlo Ancelotti and after this promising display it is clear that Green needs to get a loan move away from Bayern in January to kick-start his career and stay among the reckoning for the U.S. national team.

The German-American forward did his chances no harm at all in a tough environment in Havana.


FIELD CONDITIONS A LEVELER

Calling it a tough environment is too kind. The pitch in Havana was horrendous. Let’s play it straight. Often a pass would see the ball bounce two or three times, at least, before reaching an opponent.

It was bad and a real leveler between a U.S. ranked 22nd in the world and a Cuban outfit ranked 139th.

With the U.S. players looking more worried about picking up an injury than trying to possess the ball for most of the game — Christian Pulisic was targeted with hefty challenges and his first touch was often off as he was correctly hauled off at half time to avoid any injuries — the message from Klinsmann in the first half seemed to be to pump it long to Jozy Altidore and see what happens. You could hear Klinsmann bellowing from the sidelines to play it long and his defenders didn’t mind. There was no point playing it into central midfield for either Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan to get on the ball, their main strength, because there was no predicting which way the ball would bounce.

That said, the home side made the best of the conditions which leveled the playing field and they hit the post twice in the second half and threatened in the first half with a high line.

In the 34th minute the impressive Arichel Hernandez had a great chance on the break as Cuba played it out wide and he arrived on the edge of the box but saw his shot well-saved by 21-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath. In the second half a counter saw Maykel Reyes stride forward and drive a shot in at the near post which hit the post and rebounded out and not long after Cuba hit the other post as Roberney Caballero arrived at the back post and headed against the upright.

Cuba gave the U.S. a few scares but in truth the USMNT were just pleased to leave the pitch without any scary injuries. This will have been an eye-opener for some of the younger players in Klinsmann’s team as to just how testing conditions in CONCACAF could be. The state of the pitch and a moment of sheer lunacy from the officials summed up how treacherous of an encounter it was for the U.S. Somehow the ref didn’t spot Steven Birnbaum getting scissor kicked in the head late on as Jurgen Klinsmann dropped the F-bomb (picked up clearly on the TV mics) as blood gushed out of Birnbaum’s head. Peak CONCACAF.


DON’T FORGET THESE GUYS

Wondolowski jumped off the bench at half time and did what he does best: score goals.

The San Jose Earthquake captain, 33, has now scored at least 10 goals in each of his last seven Major League Soccer seasons and Wondo chipped in with a goal and an assist to prove he’s not done yet. With Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood (he was off target in the first half in the first and second half) and Jozy Altidore mainstays up front and the likes of Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola emerging, Wondo is often the forgotten man. Yes, we all know he missed a good chance against Belgium in the World Cup but he knows how to sniff out a goal and he now has 11 in 35 appearances for the U.S. Wondo can still do a job through World Cup qualifying.

Elsewhere Horvath staked his claim in goal with an assured display and with Tim Howard doing well for Colorado in MLS but no longer first-choice for the USMNT and Brad Guzan not a regular at Middlesbrough, the Molde youngster may just have moved himself up the pecking order. Apart from that, bit-part players didn’t get too long to prove their worth but we will likely see much more from them against New Zealand with youngsters Lynden Gooch, Arriola and Morris all likely to get significant minutes.

Gold Cup: Mexico secures place in knockout round with win over Canada; Martinique over Cuba

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The Mexico National Team at the 2019 Gold Cup has been very focused on introducing inexperienced players into the squad, and yet, it was a veteran on Wednesday that reminded everyone how much he still has left in the tank.

Mexico captain Andres Guardado, who came off the bench for the injured Erick Gutierrez in the first half, scored a brace as Mexico held off a surging Canada late in the match. Guardado’s first goal was an absolute golazo from 30-yards out, while his second showcased his poise and calm in the box.

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Mexico – as is custom for El Tri – controlled possession and looked very confident on the ball, zipping it around midfield and at times, playing on a faster speed than Canada, it seemed. However, with Canada sitting in a low defensive block, it took until the 40th minute for Mexico to get on the board through Roberto Alvarado finishing into an empty net after a big save from Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Canada pushed higher up the field in the second half and seemed to be turning the tide before Guardado picked up a loose ball – and there may have been a foul on Canada – and el Principito unleashed a rocket that Borjan had no chance to keep out.

Canada made six changes in the starting lineup from its first game and it was the introductions of Scott Arfield, Jonathan Osorio and Jonathan David in the second half that began to get Canada back into the game. A mistake by centerback Nestor Araujo in the 75th minute, trying to be fancy with a Cruyff turn allowed David to advance down the Mexico goal on a breakaway. After a cutback, David played Luca Cavallini in the box and Cavallini scored to cut it to 2-1.

However, Guardado, and LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna, put the game away for good two minutes later. Antuna got around his defender and centered to Guardado. The wily midfielder took three Canada defenders out of the play with a quick touch to his right, before scoring a deflected goal off the post and in.

Earlier in the evening, Martinique recorded a dominant 3-0 victory over ten-man Cuba. Star striker Kevin Parsemain didn’t score, though he did play a role in Martinique’s third goal with an outstanding back-heel pass.

Copa America: Watch Newcastle’s Almiron sets up Paraguay opener with 60-yard sprint (video)

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For the second time in as many games, Argentina has allowed it’s opponent to score the first goal. This time, it has Miguel Almiron to thank.

Starting with a dummy that lead to a more than 60-yard sprint to the end-line, Almiron showcased his top-line speed, strength, and dribbling ability as he lead Paraguay down the field in transition, eventually crossing into the middle. It was there that Olimpia’s Richard Sanchez met the cross and sliced it home to put Paraguay up 1-0 in the first half.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Atlanta United fans saw plenty of that blazing speed during Almiron’s two years in the U.S. If Newcastle fans get to witness this in person more this coming season, Almiron will be a fan-favorite.

 

 

Transfer Roundup: Neymar to cost $337 million? Could Jorginho follow Sarri to Juve?

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Will he stay or will he go?

That’s the main question surrounding Neymar this summer. If reports out of France – and there are many – are to be believed, Neymar will have to stay.

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Le Parisien reported on Wednesday that if Neymar was to leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer, it would cost an insane $337 million (€300 million) in transfer fees. With that price, and UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, it pretty much rules out any club from Europe from signing the Brazilian star. Neymar has recently been linked with a move back to Barcelona, with $112 million and other players reportedly included in a deal from Barcelona to PSG.

There’s so many moving pieces involved in any case. Antoine Griezmann is expected to leave Atletico Madrid, with Barcelona the rumored destination. But if Neymar goes to Barcelona, could Griezmann head to PSG? Meanwhile PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi pretty much called out Neymar for some of his off the field – and on the pitch – antics, likely hurting their relationship.

So while it seems like Neymar – and PSG – may want the relationship to end, PSG won’t miss out on getting its money back.

Here’s more transfer stories from around Europe:


Jorginho to Juventus? 

Jorginho is to Maurizio Sarri like red wine is to a medium-rare steak. They just go great together.

With Sarri moving to Juventus, that raises the question that Jorginho, who moved with Sarri to Chelsea, could move back to Italy this summer. There’s plenty of reasons why it could make sense. Despite playing 56 times for the Blues, including helping lead them to the UEFA Europa League title, he took plenty of criticism from the media and fans for his lack of defensive ability. Fans were also upset with Sarri’s insistence of playing Jorginho at the 6, and not at the 6 or as part of a double pivot with N’Golo Kante. In Premier League games that Chelsea was undone, it was because Jorginho was overrun in midfield.

Jorginho meanwhile could go back to Italy, where he has citizenship, plays for the national team and enjoyed so much success with Napoli.

According to reports out of Italy, Jorginho’s agent said that the player is happy in London, but they would wait and see what happens next from Juventus.

“Chelsea have a four-year contract with the man,” Joao Santos said, via Football Italia. “We’ll wait a few days to figure out whether there is any truth in this interest mentioned in the papers. His past at Napoli won’t be an issue, because Jorginho is a professional. Right now, Jorginho is happy at Chelsea. He found a great atmosphere and we can’t really say that he’d like to go elsewhere, but anything can happen on the transfer market. We’ll wait and see…”

Follow Live: Mexico faces Canada in Gold Cup doubleheader nightcap

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From Mile High USA, Denver, Colo., the 2019 Gold Cup continues with a highly-anticipated matchup between Mexico and Canada.

El Tri is coming off a 6-0 rout of Cuba in the opener at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last week, while Canada thrashed Martinique, 4-0 in its opener. All of which leads to Wednesday, when an up-start Canada faces a young and firing Mexico in the 10 p.m. ET nightcap.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

The LA Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna, a late addition to the squad, scored a hat-trick against Cuba and is one of the many young players getting their first chance to impress new Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Meanwhile, Canada is having a recent resurgence, with young stars Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies and Mark-Anthony Kaye all making an early impact.

Meanwhile, Cuba and Martinique now battle it out in the first match of the night from Denver at 8 p.m., with both sides hoping for three points and a chance to emerge from the group in third place. Cuba has already lost one player to asylum in the U.S., but it’s unclear what kind of impact that will have on the team.

Follow along with us on the link above and in the comments below.