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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).

Bilbao’s Williams: ‘I suffered racist insults’ at Espanyol

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams says that he was a victim of racial abuse from fans while playing at Espanyol in a Spanish league game on Saturday.

Williams said after the 1-1 draw that “I suffered racist insults, something that no one wants to hear and has no place here.”

Williams, who is black, played 82 minutes of the match before being substituted.

“People should come to enjoy themselves, to help their team. This is a sport about friendship,” Williams said.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

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With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

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BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.