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Three things we learned: England v. USMNT

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LONDON — England beat the U.S. men’s national team 3-0 at Wembley on Thursday, as Gareth Southgate‘s much-changed side started strongly and held the young Americans at arms length for much of the contest.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Match recap ]

First half goals from Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold set England on their way, while Callum Wilson scored a debut goal to make it 3-0 in the second half. Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood had great chances to score in each half, but Dave Sarachan’s USMNT didn’t really get going in front of almost 70,000 fans at the home of soccer.

Here’s what we learned from a rough outing for the USMNT as Wayne Rooney said farewell to England with a win.


PULISIC LOOKS A LITTLE JADED

In the build-up to this game, Christian Pulisic just didn’t seem too happy. He met with various media outlets in the UK to discuss how he is the future star of U.S. Soccer and how the hopes of a nation are on his shoulders and so on and so forth, which is nothing he hasn’t heard before. But maybe it was the fact he was an unused sub for Borussia Dortmund in their big 3-2 win against Bayern Munich before the international break, or maybe he, like most U.S. fans, is struggling to get excited about this program right now.

Pulisic — who was playing for the U.S. for the first time since May and just the second time in 13 months — could have been the hero for the USMNT at Wembley. In the 24th minute he was clean through after a mix-up in the England defense but when faced with Jordan Pickford one-on-one, his strike lacked conviction and Pickford saved well. Pulisic then switched off for England’s first goal, just moments later, as he allowed England to find Lingard on the inside left channel and the Manchester United winger curled home. He played on the right in the first half but drifted inside in the second half and got on the ball more, with a few more clever flicks and crosses, but his touch looked off and he didn’t have that spark we’ve seen time and time again.

There is no doubt that this is still Pulisic’s team moving forward, but the USMNT’s 20-year-old sensation seems a little jaded right now. After several injuries early in the 2018-19 campaign, you can understand why.

Ahead of the game Pulisic told Pro Soccer Talk, among other U.S. outlets, that a new head coach should be “someone who has a plan and someone who has an idea of how we want to play moving forward.” Right now the lack of direction is clear for the USMNT as Dave Sarachan has done the best he can on an interim basis, but Gregg Berhalter’s impending arrival should be sped up as quickly as possible. Pulisic and the other USMNT youngsters need to know what the plan is moving forward.


3-5-2 BEST FIT FOR THIS USMNT SQUAD

Antonee Robinson going down with an untimely injury ahead of this game could have changed Dave Sarachan’s tactical plan considerably. Away at France in June the USMNT played in a 3-5-2 formation and looked solid in a 1-1 draw. Yes, they suffered tough moments defensively but they stood tall and grabbed a draw. Against an England reserve team, they never really looked in this. Before Pulisic had his big chance England could have had at least two goals and they got behind DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana way too easily.

The two USMNT fullbacks may not be totally to blame for that as Pulisic and Weah ahead of them did not dig in and do their defensive work in the first half. Julian Green looked totally off the pace in support of Bobby Wood in what turned into a 4-4-2 formation at times. Tyler Adams (somehow left out of the starting lineup) alongside Wil Trapp and Weston McKennie in central midfield would give the U.S. a better balance, while Robinson and Yedlin down the flanks as wing backs allows them to be at their attacking best without worrying about tracking back too much. Against the so-called elite teams, a 3-5-2 formation should be the go-to setup for the USMNT moving forward.


ENGLAND SHOW WHY ROONEY WAS RIGHT TO RETIRE

Wayne Rooney came on after 58 minutes for his 120th and final cap for England and was given a wonderful reception by the home fans at Wembley. Before the game England’s all-time leading goalscorer was given a guard of honor by both sets of players as he walked out onto the Wembley pitch with his children and was applauded. Rooney has more caps than the entire England starting lineup put together, as the magnitude of his service over the years was clear for all to see.

The way this England reserve side performed in this game, especially in the first half, proved why Rooney was right to call time on his international career in August 2017. The pace and power of Sancho, Lingard, Wilson and Alli ripped the U.S. defense apart and if you think that Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane are in reserve, it shows you the incredible depth of England’s attacking options. None of them are quite like Rooney, and his unique skillset is still valued in the game. But Southgate’s young Three Lions side are now about pace and power rather than the cerebral beauty of Rooney’s passes and touch.

Every time he got the ball England’s fans urged him to shoot, and Rooney came close twice late on, but in the end this night showcased exactly why he stepped away from the Three Lions after 13 years of playing for them. A legendary career came to an end at the appropriate time.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:


Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.


The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

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De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of proposed Juventus move

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s recruiting tactics with Matthijs de Ligt during the UEFA Nations League final appears to have worked.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Juventus posted a video on the club’s social media accounts that shows de Ligt arriving in Turin, Italy on a private jet, likely to sign his contract and get started with the club. It’s a huge precursor to an announcement for one of the top targets of this summer’s transfer market, and it represents a huge coup for Juventus.

Just a month ago or so, Juventus were on the outside looking in, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, and even Manchester United and Manchester City all mentioned in the race to sign the Netherlands and Ajax star centerback. And yet, PSG, which appeared in the lead at one point, lost ground to Juventus, and de Ligt now gets to compete alongside Ronaldo after facing him twice over the past season.

It’s the latest move in the incredible rise of de Ligt over the past three years. De Ligt was promoted to Ajax’s first team as a 17-year-old, and pretty quickly established himself as a huge talent for the Netherlands. Then Netherlands National Team coach Danny Blind called up de Ligt to start in a crunch World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria, with the Netherlands desperate for some defensive answers.

It’s didn’t exactly go well.

And yet, de Ligt has overcome those experiences and raised his game to new levels each of the last two years. Alongside Davinson Sanchez, Ajax made it to the Europa League final, and last year, de Ligt scored as Ajax defeated Juventus on the way to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Ajax was just a few minutes away from the finals before Tottenham’s late winner.

At the same time, along with Virgil Van Dijk, they form one of the strongest centerback partnerships in Europe, and look set to lead the Netherlands to UEFA Euro 2020.

As mentioned before, it’s a massive get for de Ligt, assuming that the soon-to-be 20-year-old can settle in Turin. Juventus’ defensive corps continues to grow older, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini both well into their 30s. De Ligt’s arrival can help give some stability at the back and allow Juventus to transition to the next generation of centerbacks.