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Preview: Youthful USMNT squad faces stronger test at Republic of Ireland

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Coming off an impressive, if still somehow underwhelming win over Bolivia, the U.S. Men’s National Team has jet across the Atlantic Ocean for a pair of much tougher tests.

Up first is a visit to the Emerald Island for a match against the Republic of Ireland (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET). Ireland were just two points from automatic qualification for the World Cup in Russia but ran into the buzzsaw that was Christian Eriksen and Denmark, falling 5-1 in the UEFA qualifying playoffs.

[READ: Neymar still in individual training as he makes his way back from injury]

But even so, and with some starters not called up, this is still a much more experienced and stronger squad that this young USMNT bunch will face. As the USMNT takes incremental steps towards the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the match against Ireland is a measuring stick to see how talented the USMNT’s youngsters really are, and perhaps how far they still have to come in the next four years.

Sargent, Weah look to build on impressive performances

The opposition wasn’t the highest quality, but despite their age and the fact that both players were making their first starts for the USMNT, both Josh Sargent and Tim Weah showed flashes of why they’re playing for major clubs in Europe.

Sargent was a constant thorn in the side of Bolivia’s backline, and his movement and pressing helped lead to the error that resulted in Sargent’s first goal. For Weah, after a nervy first 20 minutes or so, he settled in and finished off a pretty volley himself to put the cherry on top of his second USMNT cap.

Now the pair return to Europe to face a more chisled side, one that will certainly be more physical to deal with and keep possession better. Since it’s a friendly match with no pressure, though, there’s a chance the pair of attackers can play with the same freedom they did in Philadelphia, and hopefully develop good memories and habits with the USMNT that is in need of some positive energy.

Who steps up in Pulisic’s absence? 

Christian Pulisic should have been leading the line for the USMNT in Russia in less than two weeks. Instead, he’s been given the summer off to recover, recooperate from a long European season and get ready for another grueling campaign.

After starting against Bolivia, Pulisic was left off the USMNT squad as it headed to Europe, with ten new players replacing the seven that were released back to their clubs. Of the current 25-man squad, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who is a perfect like-for-like replacement with what Pulisic brings, though Bobby Wood could be used as a support striker that floats around to stay involved in the attack.

Another played called in, Luca De La Torre, could also deputize in the middle while Kenny Saief, usually a winger, could also in theory slide inside. Either way, USMNT coach Dave Sarachan has a big choice to make in terms of not only who replaces Pulisic, but how they replace his productivity.

Time to see Carter-Vickers and Miazga together

One of the big issues during the last five matches in World Cup qualifying is that Bruce Arena couldn’t figure out a consistent and ideal defensive pairing. After the pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler led the U.S. to the 2014 World Cup, Arena – and Klinsmann before him – cycled through Besler, Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, John Anthony Brooks, Tim Ream, and others. Now, outside of Brooks, it’s a whole new crop of defenders that the USMNT will have to rely on. The potential pairing for the long-term, featuring Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga, could – and should – start together on Saturday against Ireland.

Potential lineup

—– Steffen—–

—- Yedlin—- Miazga —- Carter-Vickers—- Robinson—-

—- Trapp—- McKennie —- 

—- Green—- Wood—- Saief—- 

—- Novakovich —-

 

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Why Derby deserve Premier League promotion

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With the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27, the richest game in soccer will see one of Aston Villa or Derby County promoted to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest Championship news ]

Which club deserves a spot in the English top-flight, and the estimated minimum $120 million it will generate, more?

You can use metrics such as fanbase, stadiums, players, historical success and quality of coaches to try and sort this out, but the fact of the matter is, the playoffs are always a complete, and utterly brilliant, lottery.

The path Villa and Derby took to get to the final this season proves that.

We’ve already focused on why Villa deserve to return to the PL after a three-year absence, so now it is time to see why Derby should return after an 11-year absence…


The Rams are on a roll and Frank Lampard, in his first season as a manager, has led Derby to Wembley to play Aston Villa with the latter the favorites to win.

Like Villa, we are talking about a team which has some magical moments in its history. Derby were Champions of England under Brian Clough twice in the 1970s but since then success has been hard to come by. A five-season spell in the Premier League from 1996-2002 was followed by a miserable season in 2007-08 (the worst in PL history) and the Rams haven’t been back to the top-flight since.

Owner Mel Morris, a local businessman who is behind gaming apps such as Candy Crush, has led their crusade back towards the PL in recent seasons but Derby have come up short in the playoffs time and time again, with the Rams failing in the playoffs in three of their previous five campaigns.

Heading into the final weeks of this season Derby were in the chasing pack after a poor second half of the campaign. For most of the season it seemed like Frank Lampard’s youngsters were nailed on for a top six finish, but then they wobbled and it seemed like they may miss out on the playoffs altogether.

But a run of four wins in their last six to finish the season gave them extra momentum heading into the playoffs.

Then came that incredible night at Leeds.

1-0 down from the first leg, then 1-0 down on the night in the second leg, Derby had a mountain to climb with a 2-0 aggregate deficit at Elland Road as Leeds’ fans started the party… Then Derby scored three unanswered goals in a wild 13-minute spell to turn the game on its head before Jack Marriott added his second and Derby’s fourth of the game late on to stun Leeds and send them to Wembley.

With the backdrop of the spygate scandal — which saw Leeds and Bielsa punished earlier in the season for spying on Derby’s training sessions — and the fact Leeds were heavy favorites to get past Derby, this was a sweet moment for Lampard and his adoring squad and fans.

Derby don’t have a lot of cash to work with. They have relied this season on Lampard’s contacts as some of the best young talents at the Premier League level (Mason Mount and Harry Wilson) wanted to learn from him and that is why they arrived at Pride Park on loan. Lampard has translated his knowledge as a player who had an amazing career to several of his Derby players, and it is exciting to think what he can go on to do.

This Derby squad is made up of youngsters from the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool and veterans like Richard Keogh, Ashley Cole and Bradley Johnson who are desperate for one last chance to play in the Premier League.

Lampard has galvanized the entire club and the Chelsea legend regularly bounces in celebration with the Derby fans after games. Runs in both the FA Cup and League Cup saw them beat Manchester United and Southampton on penalty kicks, while they also pushed Chelsea close to show they are capable of competing with PL clubs regularly.

Derby are full of guts and their young stars Wilson and Mount have the ability to win games with one swipe of their foot.

Lampard is a loveable character and if Derby do beat Villa to clinch promotion, he can work his magic to secure some big names signings and they will be an intriguing squad who, like Villa, will play open, expansive soccer. If Derby don’t get promoted then Lampard is already being lined up for Premier League jobs, even at the club where he became a legend, Chelsea. If the Rams do go up we will get to see Lampard and this exciting attacking side put on a show.

That is why Derby deserve promotion to the Premier League.

Real Betis beat DC, as US U17 star scores (video)

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Remember the name: Griffin Yow.

It shouldn’t be too hard, as the Clifton, Virginia native has a pretty cool name, and it seems like a new star could have well been born at Audi Field on Wednesday.

16-year-old D.C. United forward Griffin Yow scored in their 5-2 friendly defeat to La Liga side Real Betis, as the U.S. national team U-17 star continued his speedy rise at DCU.

His goal came just after half time and halved Betis’ lead after first half goals from Loren and Sergio Leon put the Spanish side in a commanding position.

After Yow’s goal made it 2-1, legendary winger Joaquin made it 3-2 before Quincy Amarikwa made it 3-2 as late goal from Marc Bartra and Robert put some gloss on the scoreline for the visitors.

As for Yow, he made his MLS debut as a late sub in April against New York City FC after some impressive displays for their USL affiliate, Loudoun United FC.

After coming on as a sub in the 32nd minute in this game, Yow certainly made an impact.

He has scored six goals in 11 appearances for the U.S. under 17 side, and it seems like we will be hearing a lot about this guy in the years to come.