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USMNT set to focus on result against Peru

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The United States fell to a 4-2 defeat to Colombia on Thursday, and the feeling after that match was overtly positive despite the final score. The team of mostly youngsters was more than competitive against a side that featured several well-known stars – James Rodriguez, Falcao, Juan Cuadrado to name a few – and only a pair of late goals proved the difference.

That will be less acceptable on Tuesday as the USMNT gets set to take on Peru at Rentschler Field in East Hartford at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Against a team with fewer recognizable stars and less international pedigree, a loss with positives will be far more difficult to swallow, especially after Thursday’s result. While Peru is certainly no CONMEBOL pushover – they’re coming off a 3-0 whipping of Chile – the opponent’s public perception goes a long way in determining the acceptability of a defeat in an international friendly.

Given the positive yet mistake-riddled performance against Colombia, a big focus will be on correcting mistakes. On Thursday, we saw some spotty man marking (see: Yedlin on Borja’s goal), poor wing play against speedy midfielders (see: Antonee Robinson vs Cuadrado), and struggles keeping up on the counter (see: Falcao goal). So against a more beatable opponent, how will the team respond? Mistakes are good if the players can learn from them.

Much of the focus last week was on Michael Bradley’s long-awaited return to the national team, and he delivered against Colombia, helping control play in the middle of the field, a vital resource against a superior opponent. So while Dave Sarachan promised “a lot of changes” to the starting lineup this time around, Bradley will almost certainly retain his place. Another pair of players we could see against Peru is Timothy Weah and Josh Sargent, who both came on late against Colombia and were positive influences on the game. Watching Bradley feed those two up front could be an excitable vision towards the future.

Brad Guzan will be in goal after Zack Steffan left the camp with an injury. He will face a Peruvian attack that looked positive last time out, but that lacks a proven goalscorer. The two true forwards in the Peru squad are Yordy Reyna and Raul Ruidiaz, who have a combined six goals in 52 appearances. The leading scorers in the squad are midfielders Christian Cueva and Edison Flores, and they will prove the biggest threat for Guzan at the back should they find the starting lineup.

Ultimately, while performances have been more important than results of late, a failure to earn three points will be a disappointment because in a match like this against a quality opponent, it will take a positive performance to earn the win.

Oxlade-Chamberlain back in Liverpool training

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back in Liverpool training, nine months after a horrible injury cost him the chance to appear in the UEFA Champions League Final.

Initially ruled out for the duration of the 2018-19 season following an ACL year, “The Ox” is giving the Reds a boost in Dubai.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

The 25-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain posted five goals and seven assists in his first season at Liverpool.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has 32 England caps and 283 senior appearances between Southampton, Arsenal, and Liverpool. He left the Gunners in part because of a desire to play a more central role in the midfield.

Oxlade-Chamberlain detailed his recovery late last year. There’s yet to be discussion of when he might be fit to return to match play, but Liverpool will be careful with its industrious playmaker.

Montreal owner Saputo hands presidency duties to Gilmore

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Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo is giving the reigns of his club to a new president.

Saputo announced Tuesday that he’s handing over presidency duties to Kevin Gilmore, the former chief operating officer of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

The Saputo family founded the Impact in 1992, and Joey Saputo shepherded the club into Major League Soccer.

The Impact is coached by Remi Garde, the former Aston Villa boss, and has Designated Players in Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taidir. The Bleu-blanc-noir just started training camp.

Cardiff “very distressed,” “praying for positive news” regarding Sala

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Cardiff City executive director Ken Choo has released a statement on the missing flight from France to Wales which carried new signing Emiliano Sala.

Crews in Wales continue to search for the plane, which disappeared from radar late Monday night.

Fans have flocked to Cardiff City Stadium and Nantes town square to lay flowers in hopes of a miraculous recovery for Sala and his pilot.

From Cardiff City’s official site:

“We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.

“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.

“We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.

“All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.

“We continue to pray for positive news.”

Ronaldo pleads guilty to tax fraud at Madrid court

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MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo has pleaded guilty to tax fraud and received a two-year suspended sentence.

The Juventus forward, who was facing charges stemming from his days at Real Madrid, was in court for about 45 minutes and signed an agreement which will cost him nearly 19 million euros ($21.6 million) in fines.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

Ronaldo arrived at court in a black van and was wearing a black sports coat and black pants. He walked up some stairs leading to the court house and even stopped to sign an autograph.

Ronaldo made the deal to plead guilty with Spain’s state prosecutor and tax authorities last year.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

In 2017, a state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euros ($16.7 million). Ronaldo was accused of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights.

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