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Three years apart, USMNT losses to Brazil show hope

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Timely interventions from center backs and a hot goalkeeper helped the United States men’s national team keep damage down to 2-0 in its loss to Brazil on Friday in New Jersey, and the Yanks looked far less overwhelmed than the 4-1 hammering at the hands of Selecao three years ago to this morning.

[ USMNT-BRAZIL: Full recap | Player ratings ]

The player ratings that night were ugly; Brad Guzan was a veteran struggling between the sticks, and the back line was shielded poorly by Ale Bedoya, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley. The lone goal came via Danny Williams, and the silver lining was the then-Reading man and young DeAndre Yedlin.

Of course part of that was down to Jurgen Klinsmann figuring it was a good time to trot out a back four of Tim Ream, Ventura Alvarado, Michael Orozco, and Geoff Cameron (lot of center backs, considering Yedlin was deployed at right mid). And give Dave Sarachan plenty of credit for doing God’s work without much hope of being named full-time boss. This is proper guardianship of a program.

Only two starters from that night in 2015 saw time on Friday: Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes. With all due respect to Zardes, Yedlin’s the one who matters to this discussion. He’s become a key part of a Premier League outfit, though at the time he was a bit player in Europe.

Had the Yanks been looking for results on Friday, they would’ve suited up Bradley and Altidore. They would’ve begged Cameron to come, asked Williams and Bedoya to do a job or two.

It can be difficult to keep the USMNT’s present in focus given the gigantic cluster that was failing to qualify for Russia and then failing to accept responsibility for said failure, but the future is genuinely bright.

There’s no guarantee that players will continue to develop, and the global reach of technology has meant that many countries have sent more prospects to bigger clubs, there is absolutely no denying that the potential of the USMNT right now is as high as its been since the 2001 U-20 World Cup roster of Donovan, Onyewu, and Beasley.

But look at the roster, even beyond Pulisic: Weston McKennie is a regular starter for Schalke at age 19. Teenage mid Tyler Adams is shining for RBNY and looks set to move abroad to the Bundesliga.

Timothy Weah is a factor in the Paris Saint-Germain first team set-up. Matt Miazga‘s early days on loan from Chelsea at Nantes are impressive. The elders at just 25, Yedlin and Brooks are week-in, week-out starters at Newcastle and Wolfsburg.

Also, Josh Sargent didn’t play, but he did play Saturday for Werder Bremen. He scored. Again (And imagine if the powers-that-were didn’t sleep on Jonathan Gonzalez, who the Yanks will see in an El Tri shirt on Tuesday).

This is all without a full-time strategy in the national team program, and at least three principal voices in 18 months. That’s about to be four in 24.

Whether it’s Tata Martino or Gregg Berhalter, Tab Ramos or David Moyes, someone is going to inherit the most promising collection of young American talent, skill, and experience in ages.

If not ever.

Now that’s cool.

Coronavirus: Italy may lift ban on sporting events by Monday

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MILAN (AP) The Italian government could lift its ban on sporting events by Monday in areas affected by the coronavirus if the number of cases stabilizes.

The outbreak forced a number of sporting events to be called off throughout the country this past weekend, including four Serie A matches in the north of Italy.

This week, the ban on sporting events was extended from Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont – the areas hardest hit by the outbreak – to also include the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, until March 1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“If, as I hope, the statistics don’t give us different signs then maybe already by Monday these measures won’t be continued,” Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said. “But it’s only Tuesday today and we have to wait and see what happens over the next few days. The health of the Italian citizens is the most important thing.”

Italy reported a 45% increase in the number of coronavirus cases Tuesday, from 222 to 300. Ten people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments.

“Obviously, I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” Premier Giuseppe Conte said before meeting with visiting World Health Organization representatives. “But we trust that with the measures we have implemented, there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Serie A matches this weekend are set to be played behind closed doors, including Juventus’ key match against Inter Milan. That game is not only potentially crucial to the title race but also sees the return of former Juventus coach Antonio Conte.

Inter’s Europa League match at home to Ludogorets on Thursday will also take place without any fans allowed in.

Serie C canceled all games in two leagues which have teams in the north. Volleyball and rugby games were also suspended nationwide through next weekend.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation suspended all of its events throughout the country for an entire week, although it said that “for now” next weekend’s World Cup ski races in La Thuile in the Valle d’Aosta region were still set to go ahead. Those races are operated by the International Ski Federation, which has already canceled races this season in China that were slated to test the course for the 2022 Beijing Games.

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

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

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The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

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So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.