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So who is the USMNT’s Best XI right now?

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There was, let’s say, consternation in USMNT circles when Tyler Adams was not included in the Starting XI against England, and more when the Yanks fell 3-0 at Wembley to England’s second-choice stars.

Interim coach Dave Sarachan, who’s done a fine job all things considered, deprived U.S. supporters of the chance to watch key pieces Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Adams together in their senior shirts.

[ MORE: Netherlands wins, Germany relegated ]

It probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Adams was decent in his limited action, but Wil Trapp wasn’t a nightmare in captaining the squad. But it does show that the side still has a question of who fits in their peak 11.

Let’s start with the “no one’s debating this unless they’re Bruce Arena” aspect of this: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Adams, John Brooks, and Zack Steffen are no doubters. DeAndre Yedlin is very close to a no-doubter despite bad performances in his last two caps, and Bobby Wood makes the cut because Josh Sargent is yet to get any real first team experience at Werder Bremen and Jozy Altidore‘s just completed an injury-riddled 2018.

Zack Steffen

DeAndre Yedlin — XX — John Brooks — XX

Christian Pulisic — Weston McKennie — Tyler Adams — XX

XX — Bobby Wood

Who fills those spots?

CB2 — Geoff Cameron is still probably the best America has aside from Brooks, though Aaron Long has impressed and Matt Miazga has put in more good performances than bad for the club and country. Walker Zimmerman is on the up, too.

LB — Haha. Haha. Hahahahahaha. The endless question of American soccer purgatory. There’s hope that Antonee Robinson will continue to progress at Everton (currently on loan at Wigan) but the only other options are sincerely veteran: Eric Lichaj, Justin Morrow, and believe it or not Edgar Castillo (I am conveniently leaving out sueno, Jorge Villafana, in that he’s rarely impressed me at the international level).

Maybe we need to go to a back three.

LM — Neither Julian Green, Kenny Saief, nor Tim Weah have shown the diligence in tracking/marking to outwardly lay claim to this, and there aren’t a ton of true left midfielders who could lay claim to this. Could we cheat a little and use Kellyn Acosta here? Maybe…

ST2 — Is Josmer healthy? This is still Altidore, then, but the best beyond him are either young and unproven or also injured (Jordan Morris, Sargent, Andriya Novakovich). Weah could also be played here if he’s not used at left mid.

Have your answers? Cool, well we are taking our own advice and going for a back three. Let’s fill those blanks after this photo of Harry Winks and Tim Weah.

 (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Zack Steffen

John Brooks — Matt Miazga — Aaron Long

DeAndre Yedlin — Weston McKennie — Tyler Adams — Kellyn Acosta

Christian Pulisic — Bobby Wood — Tim Weah

Bench: Ethan Horvath, Danny Williams, Wil Trapp, Josh Sargent, Kenny Saief, Walker Zimmerman, Eric Lichaj.

Is that squad qualifying for a World Cup? Yes. Is it hanging with Mexico? Probably not, but that’s why we lean on the hope in room for growth in a young team.

Now since we’ve gotten to the meat of it, let’s then imagine the USMNT’s XI should the side not have embarrassed itself by not qualifying for the World Cup. How many names would be different?

In that instance, it would not have totally torn itself up over the past 13 months. Yes, it would’ve given the kids a chance, but names like Geoff Cameron and Jozy Altidore would not have been largely ignored by whoever’s been in charges. Wins would’ve still mattered quite a bit.

So while all these men wouldn’t have necessarily been called up this week to face England and Italy, here’s an XI of players who are likely the Yanks’ very best chance of winning a do-or-die match right now (And yes, we know Geoff Cameron is playing center mid for QPR at the moment. And don’t laugh: 30-year-old winger Fabian Johnson is contributing fairly regularly for the No. 2 team in the Bundesliga).

I’ll save you the everpresent comment of “Oh, man, (insert Jozy or Bradley here), enough with that. It’s over.” There, I said it for you. Now let’s get back to theoretical, right now, win or go home match.

Zack Steffen

DeAndre Yedlin — Geoff Cameron — John Brooks — Justin Morrow

Danny Williams — Michael Bradley

Christian Pulisic — Weston McKennie — Fabian Johnson

Jozy Altidore

Sadio Mane injury update

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An injury update has arrived on Sadio Mane after the Liverpool winger was subbed off in the first half of their 2-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday.

Mane, 27, is Liverpool’s leading goalscorer this season and the Senegalese star has taken his game to a new level.

Asked for an update on Mane’s fitness, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp confirmed the details and that the Premier League leaders will assess the damage further.

“Sadio is a real shame he had to go off,” Klopp said. “Hopefully it’s not too bad – just a muscle tweak, but we will see tomorrow.”

Asked about their gruelling schedule coming up before their mid-season player break in mid-February, Liverpool’s boss basically confirmed that Mane will not play in the FA Cup fourth round this weekend.

“That is tough and it’s probably without Sadio,” Klopp said when asked about their FA Cup trip to Shrewsbury on Sunday.

Klopp was then about the pressure of being 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League table and look nailed on to win their first league title in over 30 years, Klopp shrugged it off but mentioned that the next week will take a big toll on his players.

“I didn’t think about it, I know we play Sunday at Shrewsbury, I know we play Wednesday at West Ham and I know we play Saturday,” Klopp said. “That’s three games in seven days which is a lot. We lost Sadio Mane and that’s the pressure I think about. All the rest is no pressure.”

Mane has spearheaded Liverpool’s title procession this season and there seems to be no real need to rush him back from a hamstring injury.

With the damage done and Liverpool’s Premier League title all but secured, Klopp should focus on having him fit for their upcoming UEFA Champions League knockout games. That should be the focus as the likes of Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino, Curtis Jones and Xherdan Shaqiri can step in for Mane.

Liverpool cannot replace Mane, especially given his form this season, but given the comfortable situation they find themselves in there’s no need to risk losing him for an extended period of time.

Javier Hernandez explains retirement comments

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Javier ‘Chicharito‘ has explained comments he made about his move to the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer as he mentioned the word ‘retirement’ in his YouTube reality show which featured him talking about his move to LA.

That’s right, using the words retirement and MLS in the same sentence will unleash an unreal level of fury among the most ardent supporters of North America’s top-flight.

Chicharito, 31, was shown in tears as he spoke with his parents on the phone about his move to the Galaxy and it appears his comments have been blown out of proportion as he was speaking about the end of his European journey as he returns to North America.

“It’s so simple. I think all over the world, but in my country, we love and we are, like, obsessed with drama and excess,” Hernandez said. “They don’t really listen to what I said at the beginning of the retirement (comment). This retirement could last 10 years. That word is strong for them when I mention (retirement), but it’s just the beginning of that. Hopefully this beginning is going to last so long.”

Drama? LA? Soccer? Surely not…

Hernandez has issued some much-needed perspective on this topic. Is he heading towards the end of his career? Well, folks, water is wet. Anybody who tries to say MLS is not a great place for stars from Europe to see out the final years of their careers is in denial. There is still a place in MLS for huge names to raise the profile of the league and have a swansong while they are paid handsomely.

MLS isn’t dominated by those type of players anymore but we’ve all seen the success David Villa, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane had and more recently Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney.

Yes, Hernandez probably should have not used the word ‘retirement’ but it was taken out of context and even if he now realizes he’s in the final years of his career he seems hellbent on enjoying them in the USA as he tries to restore the Galaxy’s status as the elite club in MLS.

Chicharito is keeping it real and we salute him for that. Anybody who has a serious problem with his comments should probably just go back to yelling at the clouds.

Chicharito seizes chance to be center of the Galaxy

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Carson, Calif. — Javier Hernandez has been to the top of the soccer world. He spent the last 10 years in Europe’s top leagues, winning trophies and representing some of the biggest clubs.

Yet from Manchester United to Sevilla, the Mexican striker better known as Chicharito often struggled to get consistent playing time.

Whether his path was blocked by Wayne Rooney‘s brilliance or a manager’s lack of confidence in him, Hernandez rarely got to show his full talent. When he wasn’t fighting injuries, he often served as a key backup instead of a centerpiece.

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That’s the main reason the 31-year-old Hernandez agreed to return to North America with the LA Galaxy, who introduced their latest superstar acquisition Thursday.

Chicharito is the center of the Galaxy now, and he is thrilled.

“I just want to play,” Hernandez said in his distinctively rapid bilingual delivery. “This league and this team, it’s giving me that opportunity (to show) that I’m one of the best players around the world. That’s why they want me to be here, to try to improve this league and this team. … It’s a win-win-win-win. I know I’ll be on the pitch most of the time if I keep working hard for the club. I’m going to be doing what I loved since I was in the belly of my mother.”

With Chicharito playing in only nine games so far this season for Sevilla, the timing was finally perfect for this long-rumored combination of player and club.

While the Galaxy made major improvements and reached the playoffs last season behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s franchise-record 30 goals, they desperately needed another topflight striker at the center of coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s attack when Ibrahimovic chose to return to Europe. Unlike most Major League Soccer clubs, the Galaxy have the money to go get elite talents, even in the January transfer window.

Hernandez is well aware of the five-time MLS champions’ history of landing world-class players, reeling off his own list of favorites: “Robbie Keane. Steven Gerrard. Giovani Dos Santos. Jonathan Dos Santos. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Landon Donovan. David Beckham, that’s the most iconic one, obviously. And then my name is over those. I’m just so blessed and so humble that I can be a part of all this.”

The speedy, shifty Chicharito likely fits Barros Schlelotto’s style even better than the hulking Zlatan, and the Argentine coach worked aggressively behind the scenes to land Hernandez.

While Chicharito’s European career got off to a strong start at Manchester United under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, he repeatedly struggled elsewhere when managers clearly didn’t believe in his abilities.

[ MORE: Premier League Club Power Rankings ]

“More than anybody, Guillermo was involved in making it happen,” said Galaxy general manager Dennis Te Kloese, who has known Chicharito since the player’s childhood. “In the end, it had to do with Javier’s interest in being a part of this organization because he’s going to be in a team and with a coach who has a lot of trust in him.”

That clearly wasn’t always the case in Hernandez’s European career. After four years in Manchester, Chicharito spent one season at Real Madrid and two more at Bayer Leverkusen, followed by two seasons back in the Premiership at West Ham. He scored goals at every stop, but never landed a permanent, consistent role matching his importance to the Mexican national team.

“I think what makes a lot of the world-class players even better is (how) they get used to their circumstances,” Chicharito said. “That’s something that I think I can bring. I want to show them that I’ve never been a selfish player – even though strikers are going to be in front of everyone, and I’m probably going to take the shot. I’m completely motivated.”

The top goal-scorer in the history of the Mexican national team already knows Los Angeles from many trips representing El Tri, which is invariably treated as the home team at the Rose Bowl by California’s massive Mexican-American population. Chicharito was greeted at the airport by hundreds of noisy fans when he arrived with his young family Wednesday night.

“I’ve been playing in this country since I was 16 years old,” Chicharito said. “I’ve won a lot of games here, and I’ve been treated with a lot of value and respect. I want that, and it’s coming from the best club in the USA. They came to get me, and that speaks of what they think of me.”

While the MLS is an undeniable step back in overall exposure and competition, Hernandez knows he will deal with even more scrutiny on his home continent from the fans and Spanish-language media based in Los Angeles.

That extra scrutiny has already started: When Chicharito’s YouTube reality show released an episode Wednesday in which Hernandez told his father that moving to the Galaxy was “like the beginning of my retirement,” fans and critics immediately seized on the term often used to denigrate MLS.

Chicharito explained himself with a smile before he held aloft his Galaxy jersey and formally began his next chapter.

“In my country, we love and we are, like, obsessed with drama and excess,” Hernandez said, clarifying that he only meant he had finished the European portion of his career.

“They don’t really listen to what I said at the beginning of the retirement (comment). This retirement could last 10 years. That word is strong for them when I mention (retirement), but it’s just the beginning of that. Hopefully this beginning is going to last so long.”

Simeone has no plans to leave Atletico Madrid despite setbacks

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It might seem insane, the idea that anyone other than Diego Simeone would manage Atletico Madrid any time soon.

And if the 49-year-old Argentine manager comes available, the market for his services is going to be active.

Simeone was answering questions about his future following Atleti’s stunning 2-1 loss to third-tier Cultural Leonessa in the Copa del Rey’s Round of 32 on Thursday.

“I have the desire to work like every day since I arrived,” Simeone said, via Marca. “The penalties or the extra time in the Champions League didn’t change me, nor will going out in this round. I have an important squad and results will come soon.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Simeone has led Atleti to a La Liga crown, two Europa League titles, and a pair of Champions League finals.

He’s a three-time La Liga coach of the year, and Atleti has finished Top Three in all of his seasons at the club except 2011/12. He was hired in December of that year and won Europa.

The third-place run is at risk this season, and not because Simeone hasn’t been able to marshal his back line (Come on, obviously). The club has struggled to find goals without Antoine Griezmann, though massive signing Joao Felix has shown signs. After Alvaro Morata’s 10 goals, only Angel Correa (5) and Felix (4) have more than two.

Hence all the Edinson Cavani talk. And the Alexandre Lacazette talk.

If Simeone were to be looking for a job, it would be interesting to see how many jobs would almost instantly become available.