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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 —-

 

WATCH: Ruben Neves spins an otherworldly ball over David De Gea

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Let us introduce you to your latest Goal of the Season contender.

Ruben Neves, who seemingly only scores beauties, struck again on Monday at the Molineux.

[ MORE: Neymar to Barca ]

The 22-year-old Portuguese playmaker loves to shoot as much as anyone, and set himself up clinically for his latest amazing marker.

Once Neves collected the ball atop the 18, he spun this magnificent effort over the flying David De Gea and off the underside of the bar to restore the deadlock in Wolverhampton.

De Gea may well have responded to this goal by quoting Ron Burgundy when Baxter ate the entire wheel of cheese.

Sensational.

AT HALF: Martial, Rashford team up for impressive opener

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Manchester United has a stylish opening goal in its quest to go a perfect 2-for-2 in Premier League play.

After quality passing in traffic ended with Marcus Rashford slipping a through ball in to both Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, the Frenchman bolted a ball into the upper reaches of the net.

[ STREAM: Wolves – Man Utd ]

To be honest, Rui Patricio had little recourse.

The goal is Martial’s second of the season, and United is 45 minutes away from moving atop the league.

Report: Barcelona will make Neymar loan offer

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The most expensive player in the world may be going back to his old club…on loan.

According to a report by ESPNFC, Barcelona will make an official approach for Neymar on a loan with an option to buy next summer, similar to the switch Philippe Coutinho made from the Camp Nou to Bayern Munich earlier today. In fact, the report specifically states that Barcelona will look to copy Bayern’s approach of a one-year loan with a fee ($9.4 million for Coutinho’s loan) plus all wages paid, followed by an option to buy ($133 million).

Barcelona prefers this approach as they have already racked up a massive transfer bill this summer, spending over $220 million on the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, Junior Firpo, and Neto.

While there have been numerous reports of potentially creative offers for Neymar over the past few weeks that mention players included in a swap deal, the ESPNFC report specifically states no players will be included in any current or future deal for Neymar either in the terms of the loan or as part of the option to buy. While Barcelona considered this approach in the past, Paris Saint-Germain was reportedly not interested in any players Barca offered, other than Coutinho. They apparently made an official offer already, ponying up $89 million plus Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic, but that was turned down.

The ESPN report does state that Coutinho’s loan to Bayern is seen by those close to Neymar as “a huge setback” as the Brazilian’s camp saw Coutinho as the key to making the deal happen, given that Barcelona is unwilling to put up a straight cash offer this summer. Unnamed Barcelona officials are also quoted in the report as stating that a for a potential Neymar deal, “it will be complicated,” but they are hopeful of progress.

The option to buy in Barcelona’s offer has reportedly not been decided upon as of yet, although previous reports have stated that PSG is unlikely to consider an offer that does not net them back what they paid for Neymar two years ago, to the tune of $245 million.

Watch Live: Wolves v. Man United

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Manchester United travels to Monlieux to take on their boogy team as Wolverhampton Wanderers look to make it four straight without a loss against the Red Devils across all competitions (Watch live, 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

The last time Manchester United beat Wolves was in 2012 when they won 5-0 at Monlieux in a season that saw Wolves eventually relegated. They were winless in all three matches against Wolves last season, including two in Premier League action and one in domestic cup play. To end that drought, they’ll need to break a Wolves streak of eight consecutive top-flight matches unbeaten at home, making their midlands ground a fortress of late.

WATCH WOLVES v. MAN UNITED LIVE ONLINE HERE

To help snap the streak, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has handed winger Daniel James a full debut, coming into the side in place of Andreas Pereira as the only change from the team that topped Chelsea 4-0 to begin the season. Juan Mata stays stuck on the bench, while Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial all spearhead the attack alongside James. Paul Pogba again partners with Scott McTominay in midfield to reprise a duo that was fabulous against the Blues. Alexis Sanchez remains out of the squad, although Solskjaer confirmed he is “close” to a return.

For Wolves, they deploy an unchanged side from the opening day draw with Leicester City. Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez are back leading the lines after being rested midweek for their Europa League win over Pyunik. Nuno again deploys a 5-3-2, with wingers Johnny and Matt Doherty serving as wing-backs along the three central defenders in Connor Coady, Wily Boly, and Ryan Bennett.


LINEUPS

Wolves XI: Patricio; Doherty, Bennett, Coady, Boly, Jonny; Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho; Jota, Jimenez.
Subs: Ruddy, Neto, Cutrone, Gibbs-White, Saiss, Vinagre, Traore.

Man United XI: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Pogba, James, Lingard, Rashford, Martial.
Subs: Romero, Tuanzebe, Pereira, Mata, Matic, Greenwood.