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USMNT looks to build on Panama win against Costa Rica

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The USMNT picked up a 3-0 win over Panama last weekend, with surprising tactical prowess in Gregg Berhalter’s first match in charge. The opponent was quite poor and the team had a month to prepare, but it was still a bit of a jolt for fans to see a clear plan put into action and executed to perfection in the coach’s debut.

Now, the team looks to move forward and continue to display the same competency against Costa Rica on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in San Jose. Berhalter will likely look to shake up his lineup to get a look at new players, while also awarding some of the more positive performances against Panama with a reprise.

It will be fascinating to see if Berhalter changes his tactics up for a new opponent, or continues to charge forward with what worked against Panama. Most noticeably, San Jose right-back Nick Lima was utilized in a hybrid role, drifting into the midfield while the team was in possession. Against Panama, the USMNT held a significant portion of the game’s possession, able to work diligently to create chances. However, on Saturday against Costa Rica, the United States will face a team that has a much better ability to maintain possession, leaving the USMNT to do more defensive work.

While that will test Berhalter’s tactical flexibility, it will also test the USMNT defense, who will likely have much more to do than against Panama, where one or two moments punctuated an otherwise elementary evening for the back line. While the USMNT earned the all-important clean sheet last time around, that will be put under further scrutiny on Saturday against a Costa Rica side headlined by 31-year-old Jonathan McDonald who had 12 goals in 17 matches for domestic club Alajuelense this past Apertura.

Lima is likely to see the field as a reward for his Man of the Match performance against Panama, while Corey Baird, Nick Lovitz and Aaron Long also may have earned more playing time. Zack Steffan is a virtual certainty to see the field again, needing caps to secure a work permit after his move to Manchester City. Michael Bradley could see the bench as a known quantity, although his experience may be seen as too valuable to sit down.

Fresh names we’re likely to see at some point on Saturday include D.C. United midfielder Russell Canouse who could partner with either Djordje Mihailovic or Wil Trapp in the center of the pitch. Christian Ramirez may have also earned a start after coming on late against Panama and scoring the final goal, and Paul Arriola who also saw a more uneventful substitute appearance last weekend. Sebastian Lletget could also see time, potentially earning his sixth cap and third start with plenty of work to do to return to the fold after injury.

As with the Panama match, the most important thing for fans to see will be less the individual performances by players on the fringe of the squad, but the collective cohesion that Berhalter brings to the squad and the tactical direction the new boss takes against a likely more competent opponent.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.


“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.

Clark County “declines to prosecute” Ronaldo for rape

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not face sexual assault charges for a June 2009 incident in the United States, attorneys say.

An American woman filed a civil lawsuit against the Juventus superstar last year, claiming that Ronaldo forced himself upon her while she was in a prone position in his hotel room.

[ MORE: Bayern keen on Zaha ]

Ronaldo had expressed belief that he would be cleared of the claims, and claimed that graphic documents produced by German publication Der Spiegel were altered and fabricated.

Las Vegas police issued a warrant in a bid to get Ronaldo’s DNA, and the DA’s office says the woman’s refusal to name her attacker stopped them for collecting “vital evidence.” The woman reached a civil settlement with Ronaldo in 2010.


“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the D.A.’s office said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”

Bayern Munich kicking the tires on big Zaha bid

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A sensational report is linking Wilfried Zaha not just with a move away from Crystal Palace, but a move clear of the Premier League altogether. says that Bayern Munich has turned to Zaha, having been rebuffed in their pursuit of Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.

Palace wants $100 million for Zaha, but so far has only received a $50 million offer from Arsenal for his services. Reports Monday said Arsenal is upping its bid, and offering a loan of Reiss Nelson as a make-good. Palace has had good Fortune with loans from the big boys of the PL, in particular with Ruben Loftus-Cheek two seasons ago.

A lot of this makes sense for all parties, apart from Sane, and it will be interesting to see if the report brings a bigger bid from the Gunners.

Zaha is a sensational player, and has created chances year-after-year for the Eagles. He wants to taste the Champions League, but Palace is not willing to let him go for (much) less than its asking price given its sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United.

Bayern will spend less on Zaha than it would on Gareth Bale or Sane, and get a determined player who is very much in his prime. Zaha would also get the chance to showcase himself with actual breathing room on the pitch, thanks to Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and others.

And Palace, of course, will end up with between $80-100 million and the knowledge that it won’t need to mark Zaha on a Premier League pitch. More importantly, the money raised from Zaha and Wan-Bissaka will allow them to strengthen at nearly every position (above what they have now, not above AWB and Zaha).