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USA’s star trio align for USMNT v England

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LONDON — Christian Pulisic. Weston McKennie. Tyler Adams.

Those three U.S. national team players are 20, 20 and 19 years old respectively and after coming through the youth ranks together, the USA’s game at Wembley against England on Thursday is set to be the first time the trio will play together for the senior national team.

[ MORE: Pulisic ready to lead USMNT ] 

The future of the USMNT lies in their hands and all three are eager to lead the U.S. moving forward as they’ve been fast-tracked into the squad after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” Pulisic said. “I mean, I have played with so many of these guys before so it doesn’t even feel that unnatural. It’s just going to be a normal game for us. It’s great to have these guys together and we are looking forward it.”

And all three will soon be playing in the Bundesliga and testing themselves at the highest level in Europe.

Pulisic is already a star at Borussia Dortmund who top the German league, McKennie is carving out a wonderful career for himself at giants Schalke and Adams is expected to join RB Leipzig from the New York Red Bulls in the January transfer window.

With their career paths all taking a similar trajectory, McKennie believes they can look back on lessons they’ve learned together in their days with the U.S. youth national teams.

“It is something we’ve talked about and we’ve all looked forward to it,” McKennie added. “It is always nice to play with people you know and people you are familiar with and have been playing with since you were 15 years old. If we look at the journey we went through, Tyler and I didn’t go through the journey Christian did, but back in residency days Tyler and I shared some moments and it is always nice to step on the field together.”

After missing the friendly against Bolivia in May, where Pulisic and McKennie played, Adams is eager to get the band back together too.

“It hasn’t happened quite yet and everyone is talking about it a little bit, we are excited to play together. We haven’t played together in a while now,” Adams smiled. “They played together in the Bolivia game and they did well, so it is going to be exciting to step out on the field with them.”

When the trio — who are all expected to start at Wembley on Thursday — do step onto the field, they are not youngsters who will be ushered into the game.

They are expected to lead the USMNT against England, with McKennie and Adams likely to play in central midfield and Pulisic playing as a no.10 or off the flank.

At 20 years of age both Pulisic and McKennie realize that with their already strong careers in Germany’s top-flight they’ve been thrust into leadership roles extremely early on in their international careers.

They are ready to embrace it.

“Leadership really doesn’t have anything to do with age, I don’t think,” McKennie said. “Leadership is how you carry yourself on and off the field and how you represent yourself on the field also. You could be quiet off the field and on the field you could be bossing people around and giving commands and saying ‘here, left, right, that way’ and I guess the way you present yourself on the field, people that are watching the game can tell if you’re a leader or not. I think I am a person that can be a leader and Christian is also a person that has a leadership role. We have many guys on this team that vibe off each other and we listen to. It is a big opportunity for us to take on and I think we are doing a good job of it.”

Pulisic agreed that the U.S. need him to step up. Right now.

”I definitely need to be a more important piece of this team and continue to grow as a leader. That support for the team, for myself. Yeah. It’s going to be fun,” Pulisic said. “For me it’s tough because I’m not a very vocal guy, not super outgoing, but I think the biggest thing I can do is lead by example. I want to show these guys how it’s done on a professional level. I want to go in and to be focused every day and in training. I think guys see that, they want to do the same thing.” 

Their opponents on Thursday, England, have been through a monumental squad rebuild of their own in recent months under Gareth Southgate. That resulted in a run to the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and a fourth-place finish in Russia.

Adams believes the USMNT can look to the Three Lions for inspiration between now and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“It is a similar blueprint, for sure, you see a lot of young guys doing well and a lot of young players in England doing well in Germany and vice versa,” Adams said. “A lot of guys are getting opportunities now and that is the same as we want to do. The more experiences we have in big games like this, the better it will be for the future.”

In terms of Adams following his buddies to the Bundesliga, the New York Red Bulls star was coy on any upcoming move but he is looking forward to stepping up to the next level with his close friends.

“Anytime you can challenge yourself against the best players in the world and showcase yourself and your talent, whoever could be watching, it is exciting,” Adams said. “For me, I am focused on what I’m doing right now with MLS and obviously we are at an important part of the season. After that, should be exciting. I am excited for it.”

Everyone connected with the USMNT is excited to watch Adams, McKennie in Pulisic in action together for the full national team.

RSL’s Savarino downs Atlanta United in 94th minute

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Atlanta United dropped its second straight match, this time in gut-wrenching fashion, as Jefferson Savarino scored a 94th minute winner to hand Real Salt Lake a 2-1 win over Frank De Boer‘s bunch.

Josef Martinez appeared to have rescued Atlanta with his 78th minute equalizer, cancelling out Sebastian Saucedo’s first-half opener, but Savarino struck a blistering stunner from outside the box with the minimum three minutes of added time already passed. Savarino used straight muscle to shield a charging Leandro Gonzalez Pires off the ball, and the strike punished Brad Guzan for creeping just inches too far towards his near post.

The late winner redeemed a Real Salt Lake defense that fell asleep just a fraction too early on Martinez’s goal, as a low cross from Franco Escobar should have been easily dealt with, but the Venezuelan waited for the right moment and pounced in front of a snoozing Justin Glad to poke home the delivery.

While the two sides split the possession, RSL out-shot Atlanta and held the lead most of the way after Bofo put them in front just past the half-hour mark. The 22-year-old was given way too much space just outside the top of the box and placed a curler past Guzan for the opener for his second goal in two weeks.

The win gave RSL its third straight victory in what has become a streaky season. The campaign so far features two winning streaks and two losing streaks through 13 matches, with just one draw among the group. For Atlanta, the second straight loss leaves them stuck in fourth, squandering the chance to pass third-placed Montreal who sits a just point ahead.

LA Galaxy moves third in West with 1-0 win over Orlando

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A Jonathan dos Santos howitzer was enough to give the LA Galaxy a 1-0 win over Orlando City at home to move them into third place in the Western Conference standings.

The win not only boosted the Galaxy back up the standings but also stopped a brutal four-game losing skid that had threatened to erase the fabulous winning start to the season. It marks the club’s first clean sheet since a 0-0 draw with Minnesota United in late April.

The winner came in the 19th minute, a blast for his second goal of the season and first since mid March.

The clean sheet did not come easily. Dave Bingham stopped a Nani penalty in the 32nd minute after dos Santos tackled Sebastian Mendez in the area. Perry Kitchen – off the bench for his 2019 debut – was on hand to clear off the line after Bingham whiffed on a 68th minute Sacha Kljestan cross, while Bingham came up big three minutes later to stop a header by Chris Mueller off a corner.

Los Angeles’s victory moves them to 25 points, one behind Seattle who has a game in hand, and two ahead of Houston who has played three fewer games. For Orlando, they remain on 15 points, good for 10th in the East.

Ligue 1: PSG, Lille stumble to finish line

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Paris Saint-Germain’s late-season stumble came to a final conclusion on Friday as the Parisian giants lost to Stade de Rimes 3-1 on the road to close out the Ligue 1 season.

Kylian Mbappe scored in the 59th minute, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Baba Rahman, Mathieu Cafaro, and Pablo Chavarria all who found the back of the net for the hosts. The loss marks PSG’s third in the final seven weeks of the season, and fourth in the last 10. They had not lost a single league match all season until a 2-1 result against Lyon in early February, the first of five eventual league defeats.

PSG finished the year 16 points atop the league table, but having wrapped up the title weeks ago, the club’s poor finish to the year could weigh on Thomas Tuchel’s job security moving forward. Tuchel responded to continued questions about his precarious position with a joke, saying, “Honestly, I am worried… I get the impression that everybody knows something that I do not!”

Still, the bright spot was Mbappe’s goal, his 33rd of the league campaign, the most for any Frenchman in the domestic top-flight since 1966.

Elsewhere, second-placed Lille saw an eight-match unbeaten streak come to a close as they fell on the final day of the season to Stade Rennes by a 3-1 scoreline. Loic Remy scored a 35th minute equalizer for Lille but Ismaila Sarr’s 59th minute strike proved the difference, while M’Baye Niang’s second of the day – a 75th minute penalty – added icing on the cake. Still, Lille’s season is considered an unabashed success, finishing 16 points back of PSG and three above third-placed Lyon to qualify for the Champions League group stage.

Lyon saw victory on the road to close out the season thanks to a 91st minute winner from Tanguy Ndombele who gave the visitors a 3-2 win at Nimes. A second goal from Maxwel Cornet had brought Lyon level just two minutes prior, and Ndobele’s near-post flick on a Leo Dubois cross completed the comeback win. They finish safely in third, ending the season on a six-game unbeaten streak with five wins in that span. Two games in early April – losses to 20th-placed Dijon and 15th-placed Nantes – likely cost them a shot at second place.

Monaco is safely in the top flight next season, but barely, as they fell at Nice 2-0 on the final day to finish just two points above the relegation zone. They finish with just one win in the final nine matches, and were saved by a seven-match unbeaten run through February and March that 15 of their 36 points on the season.

Marseille finished the season with a 1-0 win over Montpellier thanks to a 58th minute Florian Thauvin strike, but it wasn’t enough as St. Etienne finished five points clear in fourth on 66 points, with Marseille on 61 in fifth, missing out on a Champions League place.

Rapinoe kicks FIFA, says women’s soccer not treated equally

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. star Megan Rapinoe gave FIFA some kicks two weeks ahead of the World Cup, maintaining the sport’s top executives are not doing enough to close a huge gender disparity in investment.

“They have essentially unlimited resources. I don’t think that it’s really been a huge change at all,” the 33-year-old Californian said Friday, two days ahead of the Americans’ send-off match against Mexico. “Sort of the incremental change that we’ve seen is just not enough.”

A champion at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 World Cup, the Seattle Reign midfielder has been the most outspoken American player.

FIFA doubled prize money for the women to $30 million this year from the amount four years ago and the amount for the winning team to $4 million. That remains a fraction of the money at last year’s men’s World Cup, where France received $38 million from a $400 million pool. FIFA has raised the men’s pool to $440 million for 2022.

“I would like to see a major paradigm shift and sort of a major overhaul,” Rapinoe said. “There’s been such a lack of investment for all of these years and such a lack of care and attention that doubling or tripling or quadrupling investment, care, attention to the women’s game I think would be appropriate.”

Rapinoe also criticized FIFA for allowing three major finals to take place on the same day, splitting focus that could otherwise be solely on the women. The women’s final in Lyon, France, will kick off at 11 a.m. EDT and be followed by the Copa America championship match in Rio de Janeiro at 4 p.m. EDT and the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in Chicago at 9 p.m. EDT.

“It’s ridiculous and disappointing, to be honest,” Rapinoe said.

FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura, the sport’s highest-ranking woman executive, and the FIFA media office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Players on the U.S. team have sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March, charging institutionalized gender discrimination. The USSF countered that pay and benefits for members of the men’s and women’s teams, bargained by separate unions, can’t be compared and said there was no basis for allegations of illegal conduct.

“It’s not this divide. It’s very much a cohesive unit,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “It doesn’t enter the locker room. It doesn’t enter the meeting space. We’re working together and making this work and, yeah, I understand. I’m a woman. I have a young daughter. I understand a lot of the bigger social issues out there in terms of that. But I also know right now the job is to get the team focused and they are focused.”

Preparing for her third World Cup, Rapinoe is among three American co-captains, joined by two-time FIFA player of the year Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan. With short, spikey dyed blond hair, Rapinoe is the most recognizable U.S. women’s player.

Before the 2012 Olympics, she came out as gay . She knelt during the national anthem three years ago in support of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and this year became the first openly gay woman to appear in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue .

Rapinoe is not surprised at attacks on LGBTQ rights and abortion rights.

“Equality for all requires people who have more of it right now to give up some which I think, obviously, is a good thing for everyone,” she said. “But some people don’t want to give that up, so they’re doing everything they can to keep all of it to themselves. I don’t think it’s surprising. I think those people are probably going to do everything they can to keep all the power that they have for as long as they possibly can.”

She maintains inequality for women in sports goes beyond soccer.

“I think it’s pretty clear women in sport have not been treated with the same care and financing and all of that that men’s sports has,” she said. “So I don’t think anyone’s really arguing about that anymore.”