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Three pressing questions for USMNT ahead of Gold Cup

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With the 2019 Gold Cup set to kick off in five days — and the U.S. men’s national team’s first game in nine — there are far more questions than answer for Gregg Berhalter’s team.

[ MORE: Lifeless USMNT hammered by Venezuela in final pre-Gold Cup tune-up ]

The list of pressing queries includes, but is not limited to, the following…

How is the midfield this bad?

Put another way, in statement form: it’s time to just build the midfield around Tyler Adams.

While the defending left plenty to be desired in the Yanks’ 3-0 defeat to Venezuela on Sunday, the likes of Aaron Long and Matt Miazga were done no favors whatsoever by the pressure applied (or lack thereof) by the midfield. Considering Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan comprised the starting midfield trio, the lack of pressure in the field’s middle third is hardly surprising. Come to think of it, Tyler Adams is the only pressing artist in the entire player pool, but head coach Gregg Berhalter has been pretty insistent on playing him at right back.

Central midfield will almost certainly be Adams’ long-term positional home, so why not stop wasting time and delaying the inevitable: turning the keys to the midfield — and, by extension, the team — to Adams? Without a press that opponents at least have to respect, opposing midfielders will continue to pick the USMNT apart with loads of time to pick a pass.


Why not just start Altidore?

Put another way: why isn’t Josh Sargent on this team again?

Sure, Berhalter wanted a bit more positional versatility with his final roster spot, but that came at the expense of arguably the most promising center forward prospect the U.S. has ever had. That seems… short-sighted (more on that in a moment).

If there is even a chance that Sargent becomes the starter at any point during his career, he should be on the roster for the first tournament of the new coach’s tenure. Full stop. Seeing how he isn’t on the roster, we’ll stick to debating the players at Berhalter’s disposal.

Jozy Altidore should be starting, for a number of different reasons:

  1. We have no idea whether or not he can play in Berhalter’s system, thus we need to find out.
  2. Playing without a capable center forward makes it difficult, if not impossible, to analyze the performances of any number of young attackers currently breaking into the team.
  3. His age when the 2022 World Cup kicks off: 33.

If we’re not going to see Sargent alongside the other attackers he’ll likely play with the next decade, let’s at least give them a functional environment in which to operate and develop.


What’s the USMNT’s goal for this Gold Cup?

Put another way: what exactly would you say we’re doing here?

Are we trying to win this particular tournament — in the year 2019 — or are we still focusing on the development of the next generation which will (hopefully) take us to the 2022 World Cup in 41 months? Of course, if you were to ask Berhalter that very question, he would give some variation of the following answer: “I see them as one and the same. We’re a young team, we need to gain tournament experience and learn how to win together.”

That’s all true, and we’ll see how strictly he sticks to that idea as the Gold Cup kicks off and wears on, particularly when he’s allowed to make a handful of changes to the roster between the group stage and the knockout rounds (assuming they advance, of course).

Red-hot Martinez extends record as Atlanta edge Orlando (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  Josef Martinez remains unstoppable, scoring in a record 12 consecutive games. Throughout that span, the Venezuelan has recorded 17 goals, with one of those giving Atlanta United the 1-0 victory against rival Orlando City on Friday night. The talk of the league remain Carlos Vela – deservingly so – but Martinez continues to put together another superlative season. The Five Stripes, who have won five straight league games, continue on a positive trend, too. Worried after a slow start to the season under Frank De Boer, the defending MLS Cup champions regain the top position in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Orlando – winless in their last two – will look to bounce back quickly as they remain tied with seventh place Montreal.

Three moments that mattered

10′ — Tesho misses a clear one-on-one early on  — Tesho had everything going for him, but then he failed to finish.

60′ — Martinez continues to score  — Aside from Vela, no one has been more reliable than the Venezuelan when it comes to scoring goals.

88′ — Villalba nearly makes it two for Atlanta — The Five Stripes were this close of ending things early against their rivals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Miles Robinson

Goalscorers: Martinez (60′)

Everton’s Silva: ‘It is concerning about the goals we didn’t score’

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Like in the two games leading into Friday night, Everton have done their part in creating clear-cut chances.

They haven’t done their part in finishing, however. A major point of concern for manager Marco Silva following his side’s 2-0 loss against Aston Villa. From the BBC:

“It is really difficult to see how we can lose this game when we create so many chances to score. It is a tough place to play football.”

The Toffees have now outshot all three opponents they’ve faced this season (34-21), but have only a goal to speak for their attacking dominance. Against Villa, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott squandered ideal chances in the first and second halves, respectively. In the minutes following his Everton debut, Alex Iwobi was the closest to converting for the visitors, hitting the post in the closing minutes of the match.

Silva, as critical as ever before, acknowledges that despite his team succeeding when it comes to creating chances, they desperately need to move the ball past the white line.

“The most difficult thing is to create and when you do you have to put the ball in the net,” the 42-year-old added. “It is concerning about the goals we didn’t score and of course we should score more. Against Palace we created lots of chances to score and didn’t and again today.”

With a challenging bout against Wolves at Goodison Park next on the schedule, the Portuguese will certainly look to tinker his attack to improve the team’s poor conversion rate. Despite falling to score 10 yards in, Iwobi contributed positively for Everton at Villa Park. Moise Kean, still adjusting to the rigors of the league, can be another prudent option to consider.

Luckily, Everton have time – and a match against Lincoln City midweek – to weigh their options. Silva, as he clearly explained at Villa Park, would want the goals to come in sooner rather than later.

Villa’s Wesley hopes to ‘continue like this’ after scoring first goal

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Anwar El Ghazi was the x-factor Friday night, giving every Aston Villa supporter in attendance at Villa Park the excuse to roar at the top of their lungs following his composed finish in the dying seconds of stoppage time.

But about an hour earlier, Villa’s $28-million striker, Wesley, gave the same supporters a reason to believe that they had a chance against Everton, and, most importantly, that Villa made the right decision in securing his signature just months ago.

[ MORE: Recap | Highlights ]

With a timely run and a well-paced strike, the Brazilian opened his Premier League and Aston Villa account. Something manager Dean Smith knew was bound to happen. From the BBC:

“Wesley is not rewarding me but this performance was very good tonight. I believe in him, I have watched him for a while at Club Bruges, playing in the Champions League so I know the calibre of player we were bringing in. You can’t judge someone after two games.”

Prior to Friday, Wesley was less effective than expected in the claret and blue, recording only two shots on target in his first 164 minutes in the league. Smith was swarmed with questions about the striker’s ineffectiveness as the pressure continued to pile on.

Against Everton, however, with the Villa struggling to keep possession and most playing through frenetic counter attacks, the 22-year-old made the most out of the small number of chances he saw. 21 minutes in, he scored. A couple of minutes later – if it wasn’t for a superb last-second tackle from Everton’s Yerry Mina – the Brazilian would have had a brace.

When he wasn’t aiming for goal, the striker was effectively displacing Everton’s back four with his clever runs and brawny hold-up play. One could tell that the Brazilian was playing the game to his strengths, in peace.

“I am very happy tonight, what a performance from the team,” Wesley said after the match. “We worked hard, played very well and we hope to continue like this week by week then we will see what happens.

“The manager knows me, he sees me everyday working hard and the supporters know me too. I keep calm, I know my qualities and today you saw that I can do.

“I hope to continue like this, the last two games were very difficult but now I have to help my team with goals.”

Time will tell if Wesley will continue on the same path, but after a slow start, its quite crystal clear that everyone at Aston Villa is behind the Brazilian striker.

Late El Ghazi goal seals Aston Villa victory over Everton

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With three points under their belt and Villa Park rocking like never before, it now feels like Aston Villa are finally back in the Premier League.

Pinned back the majority of the second half, trying to conserve a 1-0 lead, Anwar El Ghazi‘s last-gasp goal sealed the deal for Villa, edging Everton 2-0 on Friday.

Wesley‘s cathartic welcome to the Premier League 21 minutes in gave Dean Smith‘s side the room to breathe, despite being behind the ball the majority of the match.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


Four things we learned

1. Certainly not the case last time they featured in the Premier League, Villa now have the luxury of boasting game-changing choices off the bench like El Ghazi, who can come in and finish things off.

2. Three matches in, and the Toffees’ glaring void is a clinical finisher up top. They’ll need to find a solution, sooner rather than later.

3.  In the 30-minute cameo, Alex Iwobi displayed that he can turn out to be a difference-maker for Everton this season, if utilized properly.

4. On a good night, there aren’t many stadiums that roar louder than Villa Park.

Man of the Match


Jota, positive for 77 minutes on the right side of the midfield, combined time and time again with Villa right back Frederic Guilbert for the greater good of creating energetic counters. The Spaniard’s first assist of the season came in similar fashion, when Wesley finished off his precise through ball.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton, like in the first half, imposed themselves on the home side, dominating control of the ball. A lack of fishing and creativity in the final third, however, complicated things for Marco Silva‘s side. As the clocked ticked, the ingenuity was nowhere to be found.

Shortly after coming on, Iwobi put forward the clearest chance Everton had experienced all night. The substitute’s shot, though, struck post, denying any chances of a brilliant debut by the former Arsenal man.

Villa continued to sit back with its four-man backline and Douglas Luiz right above as the No. 6, while remaining attentive on when to spring forward and take advantage of an unbalanced Everton.

El Ghazi surprised many, riffling a shot from 25 yards out. Pickford, vigilant as ever before, calmly blocked it out of danger.

Right before stoppage time, the Toffees were a couple of feet from walking away from Villa Park with a vital point. Theo Wolcott, however, failed to keep his strike leveled, skying the ball well over the bar.

Just minutes later, substitute El-Ghazi showed those watching how to finish, leading Villa to their first Premier League win since 2016.