Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Three keys for USMNT in 2017 Gold Cup

Leave a comment

Many of the familiar faces aren’t with the USMNT for the group stage of this summer’s Gold Cup, but that shouldn’t stop Bruce Arena’s Yanks from making a run deep into the knockout rounds.

Either the U.S. or Mexico has won 12 of the 13 Gold Cups, but both are sending B-sides to this edition in moves that have sides like Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama, and Honduras hoping to make a memory.

It’s not like Arena nor suspended Mexican coach Juan Carlos Osorio have selected chopped liver in uniform for the group stages, but the list of who won’t be wearing red, white, and blue for the Yanks is a who’s who: Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Tim Howard. The list goes on.

[ MORE: Gold Cup predictions ]

That does open up the door to so many players, though, some familiar and others not. What do the Yanks need to do to make a deep run?

1) Get off on the right foot (and arrive at the quarters) — The U.S. will progress to the knockout rounds even with a stumble out of the gates against Panama on Saturday in Nashville, but winning Group B is a huge boon to those who fear Mexico’s B-side more than Costa Rica.

The Group B winners could not face the winners or runners-up of Group C — Mexico’s group — until the Final. Even if Mexico faltered big time in group play, El Tri will likely still finish in one of the top two spots. Beating Panama essentially ensures nine points and no worries about a goal differential problem from Los Canaleros.

So, yeah, the U.S. will make the quarters, when any of its roster flaws can be corrected by any number of top assets.

2) Find your central steel — Without Brooks, Cameron, and Bradley, the heart of the defense is a bit of an unknown. Seeing as a successful Yanks run would eventually need to deal with either Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell or Mexico’s Erick Gutierrez or Erick Torres, sorting it out quickly is important.

Arena will be tempted to lean on World Cup veteran and long time LA Galaxy buddy Omar Gonzalez, and Matt Besler has the experience to get the job done as well. But wild cards Matt Hedges and Matt Miazga present different styles of defense and either is four inches taller than Besler, who has been pretty great for Sporting KC this season.

On top of the center backs will likely be Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta, or perhaps Cristian Roldan in a pinch. Again, the skills are there and Acosta will likely be a USMNT player for a long, long time, but he’s still young as we saw when he made a pair of rookie mistakes on Mexico’s equalizer in the last World Cup qualifier at Azteca.

3) Finish chances early — This one’s simple and sweet: Buses will be parked by all three Gold Cup group stage foes, and it’s incumbent upon forwards Dom Dwyer, Jordan Morris, and Juan Agudelo to make sure the might of the Americans is felt within the opening throes of each match. For all of the above concerns with central steel, the absence of Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Pulisic from the substitutes could cause nerves for the attack if it stays 0-0 for too long.

10-man Wolves level late against pitiful Palace defending

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Liverpool, Arsenal v. Aston Villa

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’ve got two more London-hosted Premier League matches for your Sunday morning.

[ STREAM: Chelsea-Liverpool | Arsenal-Villa ]


There will be tests of depth and hunger, as Liverpool and Chelsea meet at Stamford Bridge off of midweek losses in the UEFA Champions League (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

Christian Pulisic is on the bench again as Mason Mount passes fit and Willian gets the other wing.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp is deploying his choicest XI for the occasion, aside from Alisson Becker’s continued absence through injury.

LINEUPS

Chelsea:

Liverpool


On another side of London, Arsenal will look to build on its midweek and forget about last weekend when it hosts Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, online via NBCSports.com)

Unai Emery is going to start 18-year-old Bukayo Saka after the youngster was the easy Man of the Match against Eintracht Frankfurt at midweek.

He’ll team with Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

No major surprises for Dean Smith‘s Villa.

LINEUPS

Arsenal

Aston Villa

Manchester United’s Rashford limps off with non-contact injury

Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marcus Rashford has suffered a non-contact injury in Manchester United’s Sunday clash with West Ham United.

Working the front line, Rashford slowed up inside the 18 and then took a few paces before collapsing onto the turf.

[ STREAM LIVE: West Ham-Man Utd ]

The striker, 21, has three goals in seven Premier League appearances this season. He was replaced by Jesse Lingard.

The good news, of course, is that Rashford walked into the tunnel on his own power.

The bad news is the often nefarious nature of non-contact injuries, where something in the body just gives under pressure.

Keep it tuned here for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s post-match comments, as the Red Devils trail West Ham 1-0.