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Three things we learned from USMNT 1-0 Paraguay

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CARY, NC — The United States topped Paraguay 1-0 at WakeMed Field in Cary, NC on a goal by Bobby Wood, but that’s not where tonight’s story lies.

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On a night of youthful energy, the United States was far from pretty, but the performance sparked plenty of promise. Here are the three most notable talking points we can take from the victory.

1. Tyler Adams can ball

MLS fans (more specifically, Red Bulls fans) knew this already, but tonight the full national fan-base got to experience it. Tyler Adams was a force in the first 20 minutes, and he threatened throughout with freedom in the middle. When Paraguay began to build he lost influence, but the 19-year-old showed plenty of promise. He scythed up the Paraguay midfield in the opening 15 minutes for the best early US chance, and he popped up all over the field.

[ MORE: Tyler Adams shines the brightest as USA defeats Paraguay ]

Then, just before halftime, he absolutely ROASTED the high Paraguay line. We’re talking a burst of speed that forced all 10,000 at WakeMed Park to audibly gasp. Usain Bolt would be proud. It led to the US goal just before the break as he tried to round the keeper and was taken down.

A smart player who utilized space well, Adams isn’t your true #10 but instead more like a #8 with an intelligence on and off the ball. He played very well next to Marky Delgado, who sat deeper (and also had a quality game himself).

2. Wil Trapp could be a long-term answer at holding midfield

The position that has plagued the United States for the longest, the USMNT may have found a holding midfielder. Wil Trapp played his position perfectly, forcing Paraguay’s attack out wide which resulted in gobs of crosses which Carter-Vickers and Miazga were able to guard effectively. He dropped between the center-back pairing consistently as the opponent pushed forward, and he quieted the press with calm distribution. His tackling was of high-quality as well, poking the ball free numerous times and clattering Nestor Camacho legally to stop a late first-half break. Then, on the hour mark, he guarded Oscar Romero in a dangerous position at the top of the box, muscling him off the ball to guide the Paraguay attack wide, where it fizzled.

[ MORE: Young team’s chemistry surprisingly good in Paraguay win ]

Michael Bradley’s international career has been defined by his inability to find a best position, and often was pidgeonholed in the holding midfield role with no freedom to roam or space to provide his trademark through-ball. Could Wil Trapp be the answer the United States needs at that position? He might only have one World Cup cycle in him – two at best – at 25 years old, but he looked the part tonight.

3. It’s still hard to tell if U.S. Soccer has a clear direction

One of the most puzzling things after the final whistle was Dave Sarachan’s use of substitutes. He had six available to make, and used one until there was 13 minutes to go. He used 3 in regulation, and left 2 of them in his pocket altogether. With so many young players to take a look at, it left many wondering what the point of the game was if the maximum amount of players were not tested in a match setting. The U.S. setup has done many puzzling things with player selection and development over the years, giving opponents of the current regime plenty of fodder. This did nothing to quiet those fears.

Tim Weah, a promising 18-year-old attacker who just earned a call-up to the PSG first-team, got five minutes. Bobby Wood playing 77 minutes until relative unknown Andrija Novakovich was brought on. Erik Palmer-Brown was not tested in defense. Zack Steffan played the whole way in goal. This doesn’t make much sense given the ultimate goal of the game meant to evaluate young talent in a true international match setting, especially with only one friendly scheduled in this window instead of the usual two.

For all U.S. Soccer fed fans before these most recent friendlies about getting a good look at players for the future, this match didn’t do that to the fullest extent.

It’s official: Goalkeeper Alisson completes record transfer to Liverpool

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Liverpool fans finally have a highly-touted goalkeeper to mind the net as they look to continue the upward trajectory under Jurgen Klopp.

After much speculation, courtship, and negotiation, AS Roma accepted a world-record transfer fee of $87 million, the highest ever paid for a goalkeeper. It beats the record held for nearly 17 years by Gianluigi Buffon for his 2001 transfer from Parma to Juventus.

Alisson’s Liverpool medical was completed on Thursday, and the deal was complete. First, Roma gave Alisson an official send-off on social media, confirming the Brazilian had left the club.

Then came the official confirmation from Liverpool about a half-hour later.

“In terms of my life and my career, it’s a huge step for me being part of this club and this family,” Alisson said in the official club release. “You can be certain that I’ll give my all.”

Alisson comes highly rated from his time in the Italian top flight. Originally a youth product of Brazilian Serie A club Internacional, Alisson moved to Roma in the summer of 2016 after three professional seasons in his home country. Statistically, Alisson was the best goalkeeper in Serie A last season, with not only the best save percentage in the league (77%) but also the best distribution rate.

At the 2018 World Cup this summer, Alisson started for Brazil and played every minute of their World Cup journey in Russia. While he wasn’t terribly impressive, he didn’t have too many chances to put on a starring performance, but again his distribution out of the back was stellar. Alisson was the only player at the World Cup to play the entirety of his team’s first two matches and not misplace a single pass, reaching all the way to Brazil’s third group stage match against Serbia before failing to complete a pass. He went 31 straight pass attempts over those two-plus matches without a miss.

The 25-year-old will now likely slot straight into the Liverpool starting lineup, and the club will need to figure out what to do with its other goalkeepers Loris Karius, Simon Mignolet, and Danny Ward. Mignolet began last season as the starter before conceding the gloves to Karius who infamously committed a pair of egregious errors in the Champions League final.

Toronto FC suspends all supporter groups after Ottawa stadium fire

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The Ottawa police were called and the match halted after flares thrown from the Toronto FC supporter section set fire to the stadium and pitch during a Canadian Cup match between Toronto FC and Ottawa Fury on Wednesday night.

Videos caught the Toronto FC supporters holding and throwing flares around the 72nd minute of the match, but things backfired when their flags accidentally caught fire, followed by parts of the bleachers next to them. One video posted to Twitter (shown below) shows the fans scrambling to put out the blazing flags and the fires in the stands where they are sitting.

Toronto FC announced Thursday afternoon that the club was temporarily suspending all supporter group privileges while they conduct an investigation to root out who is responsible.

“The safety of our fans, employees, and supporters is the highest priority for TFC,” said Toronto FC club president Bill Manning in a statement. “The events which took place in Ottawa last night involving TFC supporters were unacceptable and needlessly put the safety of others at risk.”

Due to the seriousness of this incident, we are left with no choice but to suspend all recognized supporter group privileges indefinitely as we conduct a thorough review TFC’s recognized supporter program. We are cooperating fully with the Ottawa Police Department as they investigate this incident and work to identify those responsible.”

Another video posted from a lower angle shows a player attempting to stamp out a small fire on the field of play when a loud bang comes from the Toronto FC supporter section behind him.

Ottawa Fury released a statement of their own after the match, seemingly downplaying the incident after the flares were smuggled in past security checkpoints.

“Upon seeing smoke and fire, which appeared to be more serious than they were, fans in other parts of the stadium notified Ottawa Police and Ottawa Fire that an incident had occurred and emergency services quickly responded,” the Ottawa Fury statement said. “Upon arrival they confirmed the incident had been resolved and returned to their respective stations.”

“All members of the visiting supporters group had been subjected to bag checks and security scans prior to entering the stadium and no fireworks or other devices were detected. TFC has apologized for the behavior of the members of the supporters group responsible for igniting the fireworks. Ottawa Police have launched an investigation into the incident.”

Canadian media is reporting that the ownership group of the stadium will be fined for allowing the flares to enter the stadium undetected. The match was temporarily halted while the incident was sorted, and the fans were reportedly ejected from the match. The game ended in a 1-0 road victory for Toronto, with the second leg of the semifinal to come.

Scottish club Hearts fields ineligible player in Cup match

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Scottish club Hearts of Midlothian has issued a statement saying they are “embarrassed” after fielding an ineligible player in a League Cup match against 5th-tier semi-pro team Cove Rangers on Wednesday.

18-year-old Hearts youth product Andrew Irving entered in the 65th minute as a substitute for Olly Lee, but was ineligible due to what the club is calling an “administrative error.” Irving, according to the Hearts statement, signed a contract extension back in January but the paperwork was never correctly submitted to the league, hence leaving Irving as unregistered.

“It is with much embarrassment that we have to advise that during last night’s Betfred Cup group stage match away to Cove Rangers, Hearts inadvertently fielded an ineligible player,” Hearts Chief Executive Ann Budge said in a statement on Thursday morning.

“While stringent processes are already in place to try to prevent something of this nature occurring, clearly mistakes can happen.  An additional step in our internal procedures will be implemented immediately to try to ensure this cannot happen again. The club would like to apologize to its supporters, to Cove Rangers Football Club and to the footballing authorities for this inadvertent breach of the rules.”

Since the Scottish League Cup – currently known as the Betfred Cup – has utilized a group stage format the last few years, it is possible that the club will be docked points instead of ejected from the tournament. Previously, clubs such as Brechin, Dunfermline, and East Stirling were all disqualified in the past for similar offenses, according to Mark Donaldson of ESPN. The league will hold a hearing on Monday to determine the appropriate sanctions.

Hearts won the match 2-1 on a 57th minute goal by former Cardiff City, Plymouth, and Rangers striker Steve MacLean.

This is the second incident of this nature of late, as Major League Soccer club LAFC is under investigation for potentially fielding an illegal seven international players in a US Open Cup match against Portland Timbers on Wednesday. As a result, US Soccer postponed the draw for the semifinals until the investigation is complete.

6 clubs fined, risk FIFA transfer bans for debts to players

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ZURICH (AP) Clubs from Russia and Qatar are among six fined by FIFA and warned they risk one-year transfer bans for failing to settle debts to players.

[ MORE: Steffen to England? ]

FIFA says the clubs also face deductions of six league points if they fail to pay the debts in 30 to 90 days.

The clubs are: Kuban of Russia; Al Arabi and Al Kharaitiyat of Qatar; Zamalek of Egypt; Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates; and Mersin Idman Yurdu of Turkey.

FIFA says all failed to comply with rulings by FIFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport “to pay significant overdue amounts of money to players.”

They were fined between 15,000 and 30,000 Swiss francs ($15,000 and $30,000).

FIFA says national soccer federations face disciplinary cases if they fail to enforce the verdicts.