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USMNT 3-0 Bolivia: U.S. kids pummel visiting CONMEBOL side

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The average age of the United States starting eleven on Monday night was under 23 years old. It showed at times, but ultimately it did not matter.

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Walker Zimmerman, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah all grabbed their first international goals – including debut strikes for the latter two – as the United States clobbered a hapless Bolivia side 3-0. The visitors, also playing a number of young prospects, offered as little competition and opposition as comprehensively possible, with the U.S. pummeling their leaky high line.

The United States looked the more dangerous side in the opening 10 minutes, attacking down the left with a host of brilliant touches to spring white jerseys sprinting down the touchline unmarked. The best early chance came in the 10th minute as Rubio Rubin cut a sparkling through ball from the midline to spring Tim Weah completely unmarked one-on-one with Guillermo Viscarra, but the Bolivian goalkeeper stood strong to make the save and deny the US the opening goal.

The hosts were vicious in the final attacking half, pushing forward to challenge the Bolivian back line on the ball. In the 15th minute, Weston McKennie whiffed on a good shooting chance at the top of the box, and the ensuing cross was blocked hoping to give the U.S. a second chance on net.

[ MORE: 3 Things We Learned from 3-0 win over Bolivia ]

Weah went down appearing to need a substitute, but he came back on and was involved again down the attacking end almost immediately, playing a one-two with Josh Sargent that resulted in a shot for the latter, but it was blocked out of play. The U.S. attack often featured slick one-touch passing at the top of the box, although occasionally there were a few too many passes which allowed the defense to step in and break things up.

On 33 minutes, Weah and Sargent connected together again, but Sargent’s shot was blocked just wide. The pair appeared to be on the same page, able to predict each other’s movements on a number of occasions. The opening goal was coming, and finally it was delivered, albeit by an unlikely source in defender Walker Zimmerman. Off a 38th minute corner, Walker Zimmerman rose higher than his defender Ronald Raldes and powered a strong header into the top-right corner. The goal is the LAFC defender’s first international strike in his third international cap.

McKennie had a half-chance near the penalty spot just two ticks before halftime, but his effort was blocked as he looked to get it through traffic.

[ MORE: Player ratings from 3-0 win over Bolivia ]

After the break, the U.S. continued to hold the bunk of the dangerous possession, but the second goal came from a bad mistake at the back with Bolivia on the ball. With Bolivia making a change between the sticks at halftime, substitute Carlos Lampe made an ill-advised pass attempting to lift the ball over Sargent. The 18-year-old striker used his flexibility to pick the ball out of the air, and finished through the legs of a charging Lampe once he settled in the box. Sargent’s goal makes him the second-youngest debutant goalscorer in U.S. Soccer history, behind just Juan Agudelo in 2011.

The floodgates opened up just before the hour mark as Weah grabbed his own debut goal. Antonee Robinson delivered a cross to the doorstep from the left, and Weah snuck in between the central defenders completely unmarked to poke home their third goal and making it look easy.

As the game wound down, Dave Sarachan handed appearances to Benfica prospect Keaton Parks, Stuttgart winger Julian Green, Reading striker Andrija Novakovich, Stoke City’s Lynden Gooch, Manchester United prospect Matt Olosunde.

These players will wish they were warming up for a World Cup in under a month, but considering the hand they’ve been dealt, so far the future looks quite bright.

Report: Newcastle in takeover talks with UAE billionaire

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Reports out of Northeast England say Newcastle United supporters who want owner Mike Ashley out at all costs have new hope.

United Arab Emirates billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is said to be in talks with Ashley about a takeover of the St. James’ Park-based club, though there’s a lot of work to do for a deal to be complete.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

One report goes as far as to say Ashley has agreed to accept $444 million for the Premier League club.

Sheikh Khaled, 61, was educated at American colleges Boston University and Michigan State. He’s the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and was turned down with a $2.5 billion bid for Liverpool last season.

From The Chronicle:

NUFC have confirmed some talks with Sheikh Khaled. But say there is still “some way” to go on a deal. Newcastle United refusing to make any further comment at this time.

Takeover talks are nothing new at Newcastle, and there does seem to be some heat to these reports, but Ashley and his crew have spun these stories of interest in the past. And with Magpies supporters waiting for news on Rafa Benitez‘s new deal, some will be way of a smoke screen for an inability to reach an agreement with the celebrated Newcastle manager.

Wondolowski scores 149th, 150th goals; Earthquakes win

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TORONTO (AP) Chris Wondolowski scored his 149th and 150th MLS goals in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday night.

The MLS career goals leader scored both from close range.

[ MORE: Kante to miss Europa League final ]

Wondolowski got a yard’s separation from Drew Moor and deftly redirected in Cristian Espinoza’s cross in the 37th minute to tie it at 1. The go-ahead goal in the 81st minute was a virtual replay, with Espinoza finding Wondolowski in space.

The San Jose striker has six goals in two games. He scored all four goals in a 4-1 victory over Chicago last weekend to surpass Landon Donovan’s league record of 145 goals and up his career total to 148.

Richie Laryea opened the scoring for Toronto (5-6-2) in the 28th minute

San Jose (5-6-2) won for the first time in six road games this season.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”