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How will the USMNT lineup versus Mexico?

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Bruce Arena has some unique challenges in planning for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico at Azteca.

For one thing, Mexico’s really good. Beyond that, Arena has to marshall his men into battle just three days after its last match day (as does El Tri boss Juan Carlos Ozorio).

That lack of rest, coupled with the thin air of Mexico City and Mexico’s electric attack, make getting a point a tall task.

[ MORE: Saturday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup ]

Let’s begin with any prospective iron men. Osorio is into heavy squad rotation, which doubles Arena’s need for fresh legs. Who could defy a lineup change?

Christian Pulisic — Your best player plays, especially when he’s got the legs of an 18-year-old (because he is an 18-year-old).

Geoff Cameron — The odds say that John Brooks will come out of the lineup having played a bunch despite his tweak against Venezuela, and Arena will want some semblance of consistency in front of Tim Howard

Howard — He’s their best goalkeeper and has Azteca experience.

Michael Bradley — While he didn’t shine against T&T, he connected on 41 of 44 passes and his experience matters especially with Clint Dempsey expected to start on the bench.

Jozy Altidore — The big striker missed the friendly against Venezuela for a family wedding, and may have enough in the tank to start alone or with Bobby Wood.

DeAndre Yedlin — Stellar against T&T, and his two-way play could be a major asset south of the border.

Our guess is that all six of those players start, with two of Altidore, Pulisic, and Yedlin subbed out depending on the scoreline after an hour.

Arena is going to turn to longtime LA Galaxy charge Omar Gonzalez in place of Brooks, and will slot DaMarcus Beasley in place of Jorge Villafana. The latter was terrific against T&T, but Arena will want something more steady defensively guarding Mexico’s right side.

This is a major spot to hand Kellyn Acosta a big start at an important position, but Arena may want to use another midfielder alongside Bradley to clog up the middle of the park. Dax McCarty could also feature here.

Assuming Altidore and Bobby Wood up top, here’s what it could look like:

Howard

Yedlin — Cameron — Gonzalez — Beasley

Bradley — Acosta

Pulisic ————— Bedoya

Wood — Altidore

If Arena goes defense with just one striker, that’ll be Wood to start and opens up a place for Paul Arriola, Johnson, or even Nagbe. The Timbers playmaker has a knack for something special on offense, and going with one striker would allow Arena some leeway with Nagbe’s occasional defensive shortcoming and propensity for turning the ball over. To be clear, this is also a concern with Pulisic but there’s a gap in class there.

Howard

Yedlin — Cameron — Gonzalez — Beasley

Bradley — McCarty

Arriola — Pulisic — Nagbe

Wood

Finlay goal gives Minnesota win over former club Columbus (video)

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It had to be him.

As Columbus continues to search for itself under new management, it’s no surprise that one of its old heroes broke its heart on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Ethan Finlay, he of the 166 Crew appearances before being traded to Minnesota United, said earlier this week, “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to beat up on them pretty bad.”

So of course Finlay scored a 70th minute tap-in to give his Loons a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday in St. Paul. It wasn’t “pretty bad,” but it probably felt pretty good.

The goal was Finlay’s first of the season for United, keeping the hosts unbeaten at home.

Columbus falls to 1-5 away from home under Caleb Porter, and has won just once in its last seven outings.

Brighton ready to pay release clause for Swans manager

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Brighton and Hove Albion is ready to bring one of England’s brightest managerial prospects into the Premier League.

The Seagulls are set to pay a $3 million release clause to lure Graham Potter away from Swansea City, one year after the manager left Swedish club Ostersunds FK.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Potter was 35 when he was hired by the Swedish club in 2010, and helped Ostersunds to three promotions before moving to Wales in 2018.

Swans finished 10th this season, its first in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League.

Brighton regressed in a big way during the second half of this season, and remains in the top flight largely because Cardiff City was unable to take advantage of the Seagulls’ huge struggles.

The report says Swansea offered Potter a new deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium, but the manager wants to try the Premier League.

If he takes the job, Potter will manage against one of his former clubs; Potter played eight times for Southampton in the Premier League.

Pep: Domestic treble harder than winning Champions League

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Manchester City won its third tournament of the season on Saturday, battering Watford 6-0 at Wembley Stadium to add an FA Cup to its League Cup and Premier League titles.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

In doing so, City is the first club to win a domestic treble. Manager Pep Guardiola wants to win every competition he enters, but said winning all three is extra special.

“I love the Champions League but it is more difficult to do what we have done than to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said.

Wait, what?

From ManCity.com:

“It’s not easy being there every three days. We lacked a little bit of energy but it’s normal. It’s been so tough this week. We could not have had more energy but we kept it at the right time.”

Well, that makes sense. Whereas Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp risked less with his cup lineups, knowing his desire for the Premier League and Champions League, Guardiola’s lineups were aimed at winning everything.

And that’s largely why they’ve done it. City might’ve needed penalty kicks to beat Chelsea in the League Cup Final and a John Stones clearance to win the Premier League (or a Vincent Kompany thunderbolt), but the treble is impressive.

AC Milan boss Gattuso insists fifth “not a failure”

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For a solid four months, it appeared AC Milan was on track for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years. Then, it all fell apart.

Still, manager Gennaro Gattuso is insisting their season is not a failure, adamant that a fifth-placed finish would not be considered a disappointment for the club. His reasoning will not be exactly endearing to fans.

“Fifth place absolutely wouldn’t be a failure, not because I want credit myself, plus what would Roma and Lazio say?” Gattuso said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Frosinone. “There’s regret because for two months we’ve had our fate in our hands and we dropped so many points, but it’s not a failure.”

Milan was as high as third place in the Serie A table in mid-March and seemed close to wrapping up a return to Champions League play, but a stretch of one win in seven league matches saw them tumble down into the crowded battle below, with Atalanta, Roma, Torino, and Lazio all in a pack. AC Milan now sits sixth, and while they still remain in the mix for the fourth position, they would need to make up a three-point deficit in just two matches. Fifth-placed Roma drew today, so they can jump to fifth with a win against Frosinone.

Milan was a European powerhouse for decades until the club declined following its 2007 Champions League victory, ultimately falling out of the running for Europe’s top competition, with just a few Europa League appearances since 2014. Gattuso’s comparison to Lazio and Roma, two strong Italian clubs without Milan’s history, is bound to infuriate fans, along with his acceptance of the club’s shortcomings.

The late-season collapse has called Gattuso’s job security into question, but he said that will wait until the end of the season. “Both the club and I have put aside our small talk to reach our objective,” Gattuso said during the presser. “There will be time to talk about the future.”

“There are two games left and we’re still playing for our objective.”