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What did we learn about USMNT during international break

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The U.S. Men’s National Team finished the October FIFA international slate with a somewhat demoralizing loss and an uplifting draw, if there is such a thing.

The young U.S. core continues to show flashes of great talent, but overall the team still seems to be stuttering along under caretaker manager Dave Sarachan, who just managed his 10th game and could likely finish out the calendar year as USMNT boss.

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Below is a look at the key takeaways from the USMNT’s October friendlies:


The USMNT is still far from elite

The next generation of USMNT stars is likely the most hyped since the 1999 U.S. U-17s produced Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and of course, Kyle Beckerman. But as seen in the match against Colombia, they’re still far from the level it takes to make a deep run at a World Cup.

Colombia’s precise decision making and lightning-quick counter attacks caught the U.S. off guard and out of position on multiple times in the second half, leading to the lopsided 4-2 scoreline. Colombia, a World Cup quarterfinalist in 2014, would have made the quarterfinals again had it beaten England in penalty kicks. James Rodriguez, truly a World Class talent, also showed the difference between he and say, Timothy Weah or Kellyn Acosta at the moment with his wonderful goal. In just a split second, Rodriguez turned inside the box, saw a glimmer of an opening and curled home a perfect strike. None of the USMNT players are at the mental level to do that right now. Perhaps they will in the future.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if the USMNT isn’t at a top-ten level right now. It matters more that they progress every year and make it to that level by 2022. But the match against Colombia was a reminder of still how much farther the U.S. has to go to make up the gap.

Young Attack Has Serious Promise

We’re not far off from a front three of Josh Sargent in between Christian Pulisic on the left and Timothy Weah on the right. The former and latter starred at times over the two matches against Colombia and Peru, with Weah setting up a goal against Colombia with a perfectly-weighted pass on the break and Sargent scoring the USMNT’s lone goal against Peru.

Even more importantly, the two players made mistakes and showed the mental fortitude to overcome them. Sargent looked nervy at the start of the match against Peru, but found his composure after 10 minutes and seemed to play at a speed that was faster than the rest of his teammates. Weah meanwhile continues to show great soccer IQ, showing great defensive positional awareness and a desire to track back and put pressure on the opponents. The exact lack of pressure shown by Kenny Saief was one reason that gave Rodriguez his chance in the corner of the box last week.

Should Weah and Sargent find more first team minutes and improve, the USMNT’s attack in four years could be a very scary sight to opponents.

Outside back continues to be a problem

First, it was Antonee Robinson against Colombia. Then, it was DeAndre Yedlin (and at times, Ben Sweat) against Peru.

Again and again, individual errors from outside backs have led to goals conceded for the U.S., and the trend didn’t stop during the October internationals. Robinson struggled once again – though to be fair Colombia overloaded his side of the field – leaving the left back position up in the air for perhaps the seventh-straight year. Meanwhile, Yedlin had poor moments in both matches, especially failing to man-mark Edison Flores, which gave Peru its goal on Tuesday evening.

Yedlin is still the presumed favorite moving forward, but with Cannon’s success in MLS, there could be an open position battle coming.

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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