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2017 Gold Cup: Group B Preview

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With the 2017 Gold Cup just two days away, it’s time to take a closer look at this year’s participants.

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Group B includes one of the tournament favorites, the U.S. Men’s National Team, along with Panama, Martinique and Nicaragua.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the start of the tournament:


Group B

United States

How it qualified: Automatic qualification as tournament hosts.

FIFA ranking: 23

Star player: Omar Gonzalez – While Bruce Arena is resting the European-based players and some of the veteran starters for the USMNT, Omar Gonzalez comes off a terrific season with Pachuca as well as strong performances with the USMNT in World Cup qualifying to help lead the U.S. at the 2017 Gold Cup.

One to watch: Kellyn Acosta – This may be obvious, especially after his goal against Ghana and his performance alongside Michael Bradley at Mexico in the Estadio Azteca, but Acosta has a chance to have a breakout summer with the national team and solidify his place in the starting lineup for the 2018 World Cup. Another to keep an eye on is 21-year-old centerback Matt Miazga.

Manager: Bruce Arena – Back for his second time in charge, Arena is set to test the U.S. depth in the first tournament of his second spell with U.S. Soccer.

Chance of winning group: 75% – The U.S. should easily finish in the top two of the group and if it defeats Panama in the USMNT’s opening match on June 8, the schedule sets up well for the U.S. to cruise to win the group.

Panama

How it qualified: Runners-up at the 2017 Copa Centroamericana.

FIFA ranking: 59

Star player: Anibal Godoy – The holding midfielder has been a real boost to the San Jose Earthquakes since signing in MLS in 2015. He’s scored five goals in 48 games and is difficult to play through in the center of the park.

One to watch: Ismael Diaz – The 20-year-old forward impressed European scouts enough at the 2015 Under-20 World Cup (as an 18-year-old) to earn a move to FC Porto, where he’s spent the last two seasons playing for the reserve squad. While he could be changing clubs this summer, the Gold Cup is a great opportunity for him to prove himself against top regional competition.

Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez – El Bolillo has been in charge of Panama since 2014, shortly after the nation missed out on qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Gomez has only lost two games in the past 8 months, including a pair of draws against Mexico and the U.S.

Chance of winning group: 15% – It all depends on the opener against the USMNT. If Panama can pull out an unexpected win as well as take care of business against Martinique and Nicaragua, it will win the group.

Martinique

How it qualified: Fourth place at the 2017 Caribbean Cup

FIFA ranking: Not a member of FIFA

Star player: Kévin Parsemain – The veteran striker has scored boatloads of goals for the French overseas territory, and even spent a season with the Seattle Sounders, though he missed nearly the entire campaign with a torn ACL.

One to watch: Jordy Delem – The current Seattle Sounder has looked strong and pacey down the right side of the field for the club. He spent the 2016 season with Sounders 2 before making the jump to MLS this season.

Manager: Louis Marianne. The veteran Frenchman is back in charge of Les Matinino. Fun fact. Former USMNT defender David Regis, a native of Martinique, is the general manager of the national team.

Chance of winning group: 5% – Martinique’s inexperienced squad at this level should keep them from advancing, but we’ve seen surprises before and perhaps they can stun the U.S. or Panama.

Nicaragua

How it qualified: won a two-game playoff, 4-3 on aggregate over Haiti in a battle between the fifth-place teams from the 2017 Caribbean Cup and the 2017 Copa Centroamericana.

FIFA ranking: 100

Star player:  Juan Barrera – The 28-year-old winger, who in 2015 became the first Nicaraguan-born player to sign for a European club, has had a long and illustrious career with the national team and is leading La Azul y Blanco to the Gold Cup for the first time since 2009.

One to watch: Daniel Cadena – Cadena is a Spanish-born midfielder who currently plays in Iceland and played for a time as a youngster for Real Betis.

Manager: Henry Duarte – The veteran Costa Rican has been Nicaragua manager since December 2014 and by qualifying for the 2017 Gold Cup, he’s led the nation to just its second regional tournament.

Chances of winning group: 5% – Like Martinique, Nicaragua’s overall inexperience at the international level should make for easy wins for the U.S. and Panama, but perhaps Juan Barrera and co. and produce a national moment folks will talk about for years to come.

Solskjaer “being very positive” despite disappointment in Man Utd loss

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Manchester United slumped to another defeat on Sunday, this time 2-0 at West Ham United, and lost another key attacker in the process.

Already missing Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, the Red Devils saw Marcus Rashford limp off the pitch and Mason Greenwood unavailable to replace him due to tonsillitis.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-0 Man Utd ]

Rashford is expected to be “out for a little while,” and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to put on a happy face despite another substandard performance.

He admits disappointment with the result and overall performance, but seems to imply it’s all part of a process for the Red Devils. From the BBC:

“At the moment we’re just all very flat. Key moments went against us. They had some great finishes. We just didn’t have the quality when we had those big moments. In the Premier League if you don’t take them you won’t get any points. It tipped in their favor and we just have to accept that.”

“I’m disappointed we didn’t win today, but apart from that I’m being very positive. I’ve said many times that there will be highs and lows. We’ve had some highs along the way, today we just have to accept we got no points and look forward to next week.”

Solskjaer says Martial and Greenwood should both be back soon, with a Cup tie against Rochdale before Arsenal visits Old Trafford on Monday.

AT HALF: Alexander-Arnold’s sensational goal highlight of wild 45 minutes

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An insane first half between Chelsea and Liverpool yielded three goals, two that counted, and one that was a thing of pure beauty at Stamford Bridge.

Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s goal was the beautiful part, while Roberto Firmino has also scored and Mason Mount‘s toe couldn’t skip past VAR in the run-up to Cesar Azpilicueta’s overruled goal.

A free kick atop the Chelsea 18 came Liverpool’s way after Andreas Christensen got tangled with Sadio Mane.

[ STREAM: Chelsea v. Liverpool (NBCSN) ]

A training ground play had Salah roll a shot pass for Alexander-Arnold to belt past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 15th minute.

The goal is Alexander-Arnold’s first in 10 months for the Reds, who are bidding to go 6-0 to start the season. That’s above, and here’s Firmino’s below:

10-man Wolves level late against pitiful Palace defending

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Wolves fought back for a deserved point via a last-second equalizer, as Crystal Palace’s stoppage time silliness allowed a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

A Leander Dendoncker own goal put the Eagles in front, and Palace was up a man when Romain Saiss took his second yellow with 18 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But danger man Jeff Schlupp was denied in the box by star man Rui Patricio minutes before Diogo Jota capitalized on Palace allowed a silver platter cross to get to his feet.

Wolves are still winless, with four draws through six matches, and sit 19th. Palace’s eighth point has it 12th on the table.


Three things we learned

1. Ward giveth, and taketh away: Joel Ward forced the own goal that gave Palace the lead when his wild drive through traffic turned off Leander Dendoncker to defy Rui Patricio, but his inexplicable stooping, missed intervention on the game winner was stunning. More on that below.

2. Wolves fight to death to find easy winner: Adama Traore, Jonny Otto, and the Wolves attack did not bow their heads after Palace took their fortunate lead nor after Romain Saiss’ second yellow card sent them diown a man, and Nuno Espirito Santo will love how his men fought to the final whistle while making timely interventions at the back (and taking advantage of Palace misfires).

Wilfried Zaha was dispossessed and it took three uncontested passes down the left of the Palace shape for Traore to find himself one-on-one with Patrick Van Aanholt. The Dutch defender played off Traore, who simply swept a cross to the back post. A chest trap, volley or 900 other things from Joel Ward could’ve ended the game, but he tried and missed a diving header that allowed Jota two touches to roof into an empty cage.

3. Silly from Saiss should’ve sealed it: Romain Saiss was sitting on yellow for a foul on Wilfried Zaha when he went out of his way to foul the Ivorian right on the touch line. Both managers saw the clear foul up close and personal, and Nuno Espirito Santo will certainly not like the idea of trusting Saiss again after his automatic ban.

Man of the Match: Vicente Guaita — The Crystal Palace goalkeeper was sensational in the draw, and the only reason Wolves weren’t ahead well before the Dendoncker own goal.


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

An early corner kick led to a James McArthur goal mouth block of Leander Dendoncker’s low drive toward the near post, as Wolves got their first pressure on Palace following an opening 10 minutes that belonged largely to the hosts.

Palace’s Ayew headed a Luka Milivojevic corner into the arms of Rui Patricio in the 26th.

Vicente Guaita made the play of the first half when Raul Jimenez looped a cross over Mamadou Sakho to an unmarked Matt Doherty. The powered header was slapped away by a flying Guaita to keep it scoreless.

The keeper was again called upon when a 1-2 allowed Diogo Jota to lash a shot on goal in the 38th.

Palace took a stunning lead within 40 seconds of halftime, as Ward’s hard drive took a big turn off Dendoncker to spin past Patricio. The sequence began with Jeff Schlupp dribbling Willy Boly, the latter being imperious for most of his season.

By the time Romain Saiss was shown his second yellow for a fouls on Wilfried Zaha, the game felt academic. Would the 10-man Wolves find anything in the final 18 minutes?

The opposite, really, as Schlupp cued up substitute Christian Benteke which looked set for glory until the Belgian took an extra touch and drove into the arms of Patricio.

West Ham surges past tame Manchester United

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Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham United passed a big test, moving into the Top Four with a decisive 2-0 defeat of struggling Manchester United at London’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scored on either side of halftime to send West Ham fourth with 11 points.

Man United remains eighth with eighth, and lost Marcus Rashford to injury.


Three things we learned

1. Healthy Yarmolenko a big asset: Injuries short-circuited Andriy Yarmolenko’s first year at West Ham after they did the same to his only campaign at Borussia Dortmund, so it’s been easy to forget that the Ukraine playmaker is pacey, creative, and lethal. His lunging finish to beat De Gea in the first half was simply one moment of a match full of good ones, as he fooled Harry Maguire in the process. Three shots, a key pass, and a goal from the right-sided wide man. Good stuff.

2. Pogba import underscored as Rashford adds to injury woes: With Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba already out, the non-contact injury that sent Marcus Rashford to the tunnel is a scary thought for a United team incapable of creative work through the middle. Andreas Pereira was a danger out wide, and Daniel James has proven himself a handful, but a long-term injury to Rashford would heap pressure on young Mason Greenwood. Without Pogba pulling the strings inside — forget Martial’s early season wizardry — this team is in big, big trouble.

Not great, Ed.

3. Technique on return: Aaron Cresswell had a free kick from the right of the 18, with the wall lined up to stop any ideas of a near post effort. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. The West Ham left back swept a piece of technical beauty over the wall, spinning it into the upper 90 despite the best efforts of David De Gea. Sensational.

Man of the Match: Yarmolenko.


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Andreas Pereira’s industrious run up the right forced a hard obstruction out of Angelo Ogbonna, who collected a yellow card.

Andriy Yarmolenko was bright early, and linked up with Felipe Anderson to curl a shot into the arms of David De Gea in the 20th minute.

Marcus Rashford drove into the box then was thrown-off by the oncoming Declan Rice and bobbled his dribble, allowing the West Ham man to take the ball away.

De Gea had to make a save on a half-hit Mark Noble strike which was re-directed by Victor Lindelof.

Yarmolenko scored before halftime, Noble and Anderson working the ball inside for the Ukrainian to cut past De Gea through traffic. Beautiful stuff, and it forced a rare mistake out of Harry Maguire.

The second half started well for United, with Juan Mata missing a sliding effort at the back post set up by Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay bundled a shot to Lukasz Fabianski in the 57th.

That’s when Rashford limped off following a non-contact injury.

Yarmolenko set up Anderson for a near post drive that De Gea foiled in the 62nd.

Cresswell made it 2-0 from a free kick in the 84th, De Gea somehow getting a hand to the left-back’s piece of technical beauty.