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How will, er, should the USMNT line up versus Martinique?

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If you had a 4-5-1 without a true left-sided threat in the midfield as your Starting XI for Saturday’s Gold Cup opening draw against Panama, perhaps you could title this article “How will the USMNT line up on Wednesday.”

For the rest of us, a little guesswork is in order.

Now perhaps U.S. training sessions make it clear that Eric Lichaj has fooled all of Nottingham Forest, or maybe left-sided Kenny Saief’s injury really gummed up the works for Bruce Arena (who it must be said got fine work out of right-sided man Kelyn Rowe).

[ USMNT-PANAMA: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Enter Martinique, who topped Nicaragua 2-0 and currently leads Group B ahead of Wednesday night’s tilt in Tampa. Former Seattle striker Kevin Parsemain scored and Les Matinino definitely deserved their three points.

There’s something to be said about the lack of familiarity in a B Team such as the U.S. Gold Cup squad, but any slack leant to the side will have been exhausted in the 1-1 draw against Panama. Almost no one on the squad found too many bright spots in analyzing the outing, which instantly had many looking at roster selection more than anyone would like following a friendly and a group stage match.

Short of more training time, how can we introduce some familiarity into the bunch? There are some good steps to take via the club route.

— Big FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges won’t have any problems bodying up Martinique, and can be used next to any other CB. More important, he can link up with young center mid and FCD teammate Kellyn Acosta. The kid can get a bit of a security blanket.

— If Rowe’s injury isn’t a major one, how about using New England teammate Juan Agudelo in a center attacking position? Rowe was very good in attack against Panama, and Agudelo injected a missing ingredient of electricity when Arena introduced him in the second half.

Taken to extremes, you could use other club teammates (Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi), but we’ll stray from that for now.

Assuming health, there is no reason for Arena to avoid utilizing Lichaj any longer. He’s a clear upgrade at Zusi for right back, and probably for Jorge Villafana on the left (though Justin Morrow would be a more natural substitution should Arena lift Villafana).

Here’s how we’d like to see the Yanks arrive to Raymond James Stadium in front of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who starred against Panama.

Guzan

Lichaj — Miazga — Hedges — Villafana

McCarty — Acosta

Rowe — Agudelo — Pontius

Dwyer

Dax McCarty didn’t have as good a performance versus Panama as he did against Ghana, but Acosta still need a steady partner. Roldan could be that, but it’s a bit of a risk given his lack of caps and age at this point. Alejandro Bedoya was Arena’s captain on Saturday. so here’s another way he could go:

Guzan

Lichaj — Besler — Gonzalez — Morrow

Rowe — McCarty — Bedoya — Pontius

Agudelo — Dwyer

Watch Live: Sheffield United v. Crystal Palace

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Sheffield United host Crystal Palace at Bramall Lane on Sunrday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Blades fans will enjoy their first home game back in the Premier League.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Chris Wilder, the lifelong United fan who is now their manager, will be emotional and fans of the Yorkshire club will create a heated atmosphere for opponents to visit this season.

In team news Sheffield United are unchanged from the team which drew at Bournemouth last week, with club captain Billy Sharp on the bench.

Crystal Palace bring in star man Wilfried Zaha who starts up top


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Zidane says Bale will stay at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale is staying at Real Madrid.

The Welshman was not wanted by manager Zinedine Zidane, who stated that publicly on many occasions over the summer.

But Bale started and grabbed an assist as 10-man Real beat Celta Vigo 3-1 in their La Liga opener on Saturday and it seems like Zidane is ready to brush all of this Bale talk under the carpet.

“He’s going to stay and we all have to think of that as a positive thing,” Zidane said. “The injury to Eden Hazard was bad luck for us but it didn’t change the plans we had for Bale in this game. Gareth and everyone else here is going to show this shirt the respect it deserves.”

After his move to China broke down at the last minute amid conflicting reports blaming Bale and the club for the collapse of the deal, his future at Real has seemed pretty much dead in the water.

Adding in a serious injury to Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard picking up a knock, and all of a sudden Bale is needed again. But for how long?

He was linked with a loan move to Bayern Munich but Philippe Coutinho moved to Bavaria instead, and Bale wasn’t chased by Premier League clubs during the summer due to his huge wage demands. With the transfer window across many European countries closing at the end of this month, he has run out of options to leave a club where the hierarchy and fans don’t want him.

Bale, 30, is now stuck at Real and he has another three years left on his contract. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the man who has won four Champions League trophies at Real, yet has become the main villain at the Santiago Bernabeu as fans lambast him for playing golf and not learning to speak Spanish fluently during his six years in Spain.

Ibrahimovic scores twice, 10-man Galaxy ties Sounders 2-2

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half and the LA Galaxy tied the Seattle Sounders 2-2 on Saturday night despite playing nearly the entire match down a man.

The Galaxy’s Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for the denial of obvious goal opportunity.

Ibrahimovic tied it at 1 for the Galaxy (13-11-2) with a header in the 45th minute. In the 65th minute, he was taken down by Kim Kee-hee while going for a header in the area and converted the penalty, making it 2-1 with his 20th goal of the season.

LA defender Jorgen Skjelvik scored an own goal in the 82nd minute when he inadvertently deflected goalkeeper David Bingham’s attempted clearance into the Galaxy net.

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for the Sounders (11-8-7). Harry Shipp hustled to round up a loose ball and fed it to an open Ruidiaz, who slotted it home.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.