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USMNT: Three questions ahead of USA-Mexico in the Hex

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Following the announcement of Jurgen Klinsmann’s 26-man roster for the U.S. national team’s upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Mexico (Columbus, Ohio — Friday, Nov. 11) and Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica — Tuesday, Nov. 15), a few important questions regarding the squad and lineup choices spring to mind…

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1. Who starts alongside Brooks?

Over the last six or so months, the John Brooks-Geoff Cameron center-back partnership has proved itself the Yanks’ best since the glory days of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez/Cameron in 2013 and 2014. With Cameron set to miss this round of internationals due to a knee injury, a starting spot opens up. Gonzalez seems the most sensible candidate to deputize: he’s playing regularly, and well, for Liga MX Clausura champions Pachuca, and he’s got experience playing against Mexico in his career.

Steve Birnbaum seems the likeliest option this side of Cameron, and that’s a mostly terrifying reality given his form down the stretch of the MLS season for D.C. United. Besler regained a bit of his 2013-14 form over Sporting Kansas City’s final three games of 2016, but he’s 1) left-footed, like Brooks, and 2) never started a game alongside Brooks at center back (Besler started at left back with Brooks next to him against Ecuador at Copa America 2016).

Best guess (L-R): Fabian Johnson, Brooks, Gonzalez, DeAndre Yedlin

[ MORE: MLS Cup Playoffs power rankings — conference finals edition ]

2. How attack-minded does Klinsmann dare to be?

Put another way, Klinsmann wouldn’t dare leave Christian Pulisic and Sacha Kljestan out of the starting 11, would he?

With Kyle Beckerman not on this roster, the days of the Beckerman-Michael Bradley-Jermaine Jones midfield-three might finally be over. Bradley and Jones are presumed locks to start, which leaves just the no. 10 spot up for grabs (assuming hoping against all hope Bradley isn’t played there, again).

You might say, But what about Alejandro Bedoya? He can still start three defensive midfielders, to which I say, start Bedoya on the wing opposite of Pulisic. Andres Guadrado has been the best player in CONCACAF for a little over a year now, and Yedlin is going to need all the help he can get up and down Mexico’s left attacking flank. There’s no one on the roster better equipped than Bedoya to provide that cover from the front. Without the assistance of Bedoya, Yedlin will be pinned back deep inside his own half, resulting in a narrow attack that Mexico can navigate all night long. Yedlin has to be able to get forward with freedom, knowing that when he does, the winger ahead of him will rotate defensively.

Best-case scenario: Bradley, Jones in the back; Pulisic, Kljestan, Bedoya from left to right, with Pulisic and Bedoya switching from time to time, just to let Pulisic run at the other full back.

[ MORE: Mexico’s star-studded squad for the showdown in Columbus ]

3. What’s the pecking order amongst the strikers?

Since scoring his first goal of 2016 on July 31 (no, not a typo), Jozy Altidore has 13 goals and assisted on seven others in 17 games for Toronto FC (including the ongoing playoffs). It’s the best form he’s been in since his final days at AZ Alkmaar in 2013.

Bobby Wood has four goals in 11 games for a truly awful Hamburg side this season (all competitions), to go with his stellar form for the USMNT at the Copa and in fall friendlies.

Jordan Morris scored eight of his 12 goals, and bagged three of his four assists, between the start of the summer and present day. Leaving him off the Copa roster is looking more and more like a masterstroke by Klinsmann with every passing game.

Best guess: Altidore starts; Wood is slightly ahead of Morris as the first striker off the bench, assuming Morris isn’t forced to withdraw from the squad (hamstring). It’s been a while since the USMNT had one in-form striker, let alone three at the same time.

Nuno ‘proud of the boys’ after Wolves’ magical UEL run ends

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Nuno proud, but frustrated: Wolves’ 2019-20 campaign kicked off 383 days ago, on July 25, and finally ended on Tuesday in a late, heartbreaking defeat to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

From those early-round UEL qualifiers, to another fine season in the Premier League (finishing 7th), to reaching the quarterfinals, it’s been an incredible, dramatic, exhausting road for Nuno Espirito Santo and his players.

Speaking after the game, Espirito Santo revealed he was experiencing equal part pride and frustration at the way their season had just ended. Pride for meeting the challenges they faced along the way, and frustration for the missed opportunity — quotes from the BBC:

“We have frustration, in the last minutes it is something that has happened to us many times. We required focus on a set piece. I am proud of the boys, we played a tough team and we had moments, small details, small margins.

“That happens in football. We came this far and now it’s over. Let’s rest and look to the future. We need more players to help us, it’s a small squad.

“Sevilla made us run, we made a big effort to control it but of course there were players who gave everything and the legs and brain doesn’t work so good. We must be proud of ourselves, admit we made mistakes during the season that we need to rectify to compete at a high level. We must work harder and become stronger.

“We are here because we did things good the previous season. European football is something that we chase because we want to improve and compete agianst the best. The Premier League is challenging enough, it’s like playing the Champions League every week.”

The Wolves players will now have the next week or two off before reporting for the first day of 2020-21 preseason later this month. The 2020-21 Premier League season is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.

Europa League: Wolves knocked out by late Sevilla winner

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Europa League: Wolves’ magical run through the Europa League came to an end on Tuesday, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side was knocked out in the quarterfinals by UEL specialists Sevilla.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Sevilla

Sevilla were quite comfortably the better side on the night, the side with the vast majority of the scoring chances, and thoroughly deserving semifinalists. Julen Lopetegui’s side will face Manchester United in the semis on Sunday.

It didn’t come easily for Sevilla, though. The game remained level at 0-0 for 87 minutes, until Lucas Ocampos rose above the crowd to head home his 16th goal of the season in the 88th minute.

Wolves had the game’s first — and virtually their only — chance to go ahead inside the first quarter-hour, but Raul Jimenez was denied from the penalty spot in the 12th minute. The real story here, however, is the ease with which Adama Traore left the pack behind and dribbled the ball 81 yards before Diego Carlos cut him down from behind.

Jimenez’s blunder from the spot was one of just two shots on target — both by Jimenez — that Wolves could muster in the game.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

Sevilla began to ramp up the pressure after halftime and went dangerously close to breaking the deadlock just after the hour mark, as Youssef En-Nesyri weaved his way through traffic inside the penalty area before firing a low strike on goal. Fortunately for Wolves, Rui Patricio was all over and denied En-Nesyri his wondergoal.

Ever Banega forced Patricio to make a vital save of his curling free kick in the 77th minute, but again the Portuguese was up to the challenge. He scrambled across goal and rose high to get a hand on the ball and push it over the crossbar.

Shakhtar Donetsk thrashed Basel 4-1 in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal. They will face Inter Milan in the second semifinal next Monday.

Other Europa League scores

Shakhtar Donetsk 4-1 Basel
Man United 1-0 Copenhagen (Monday)
Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Monday)

Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David

Lille sign Jonathan David
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Lille sign Jonathan David: Lille announced on Tuesday their signing of Canadian star Jonathan David from Belgian side Gent for a reported transfer fee of $35 million.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

The fee paid is a record not only for a Canadian player, but also makes David Lille’s club-record signing and the most expensive player ever sold by a Belgian club.

David had been linked with a move to dozens of clubs across Europe, including a handful of Premier League sides, in recent weeks but it would appear that Lille’s recent success with young players starring in the first team, before selling them to those bigger European sides for massive profits, was an important factor in David’s decision to move to Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Hojbjerg from Southampton; Walker-Peters to Saints ]

The 20-year-old operates predominantly as a center forward but has, on rare occasions, played as a second striker underneath the main man. David racked up 48 goals and 20 assists in his two seasons at Gent, including a number of standout performances in the Europa League.

Wolves – Sevilla: How to watch, start time, prediction

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Wolves – Sevilla should be an epic UEFA Europa League quarterfinal on Tuesday (start time, 3pm ET) in Duisburg, Germany as both teams will fancy their chances of winning the trophy if they advance.

Remember: these ties are one-legged encounters so the winner on the night will advance to the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolves have come through the qualifying rounds to get this far as the Premier League side have been in the 2019-20 Europa League for over a year, while Sevilla are the unofficial top dogs in the competition having won it more times than any team in history.

The La Liga side finished fourth this season in Spain under Julen Lopetegui, while Wolves finished seventh in the Premier League and know the only way they will be playing in Europe next season is if they win this competition and there qualify for the Champions League.

Ahead of a huge night for Wolves, below is a look at how to watch Wolves – Sevilla in the USA, the betting odds, prediction and much more.


Team news

What they’re saying

Nuno Espirito Santo praised Sevilla and knows his team have a big challenge ahead, while he backed his team to take the next step on their three-year journey together:

“It’s been a long journey, not only this season. A long journey that started three seasons ago in the Championship. It’s basically the same group of players. It was about trying to build a team, creating an identity, and we look forward to tomorrow to compete well and play a good game. We’ve been able to create an identity. It’s one of the most precious things in football – having an identity, based on a style of play and how we deal and socialize with our rules and tasks, how we deal with problems that happen. Trying to create a team, recruiting players, some take time, some not, but this is what it’s all about. We have to manage the result and I’m very proud of how we’ve done things and now I can say we have our own identity. It’s based on strong foundations of respect and hard work, and this is what we want to show tomorrow – a good team, with an identity, committed to the challenge.”

Sevilla star Lucas Ocamps on the threat Wolves possess: “Anyone who watches a little football has already seen them play. I feel like they are very competitive and physical. They have great players and they come here hungry for glory to beat us. I think it will be evenly matched because we’ll have the same desire and it’s going to be tough.”


Odds for Wolves – Sevilla – Full Europa League, Champions League odds

Wolves are the underdogs (pardon the pun) as they are +235 to beat Sevilla who are +120, but the tie at +230 is interesting. We can see this going to extra time and maybe even penalty kicks.


Prediction for Wolves – Sevilla

Wolves love upsetting the odds and Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore will be looking to exploit Sevilla on the counter, but Sevilla are a savvy team and are third favorites to win the Europa League yet again. Wolves are dangerous but I’m going for a Sevilla win after extra time. 2-1.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com