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World Cup preview: USWNT v. Thailand

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  • USWNT ready to kick off eighth World Cup campaign
  • USWNT has won six straight and has just one loss in 12 months
  • Thailand competing in second World Cup

It’s been a long wait, but the U.S. Women’s National Team is finally ready to take the field at the 2019 World Cup.

Head coach Jill Ellis has spent the past three years tinkering with the lineup and testing out new tactics, and its quite likely that Tuesday’s USWNT lineup will look quite similar to how it’s been recently, but quite different from 2016, when the USWNT was shocked by Sweden, losing on penalty kicks in the 2016 Summer Olympics quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup news ]

Just five players who started that day are likely to start on Tuesday at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, which is located about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Julie Ertz is a lock in central midfield, along with Becky Sauerbrunn at centerback and Kelley O’Hara at right back. Alex Morgan, she of more than 50 international goals and fully healthy again, along with the tricky, dribbling wizard that is Tobin Heath.

But this USWNT has taken real strides since the defeat by Sweden. Megan Rapinoe has cemented her place as a left winger, cutting inside and allowing Crystal Dunn, the last player cut from the 2015 World Cup squad, to maraud forward down the left. Rose Lavelle has broken into the team and along with Lindsey Horan, form a delightful one-two punch in box to box midfielders that are also creative and can find Heath and Rapinoe open to stretch the opponent’s backline.

If there’s anywhere that’s a question mark for this USWNT, it’s at goalkeeper, where Alyssa Naeher has patiently waited her turn, finally getting her chance after Hope Solo was effectively banished from the national team and forced into an early retirement.

Against Thailand, it will be a great opener for the U.S. to get the early nerves and jitters out of the way before going on to record what should be a comprehensive victory. There’s no guarantees at World Cups, but against a nation ranked more than 30 places lower, it should be a comfortable win for the U.S. in the end.

Plus, with Thailand and Chile as the build-up before facing Sweden, it will give the USWNT a great chance to get into their groove before facing some of the best competition this tournament has to offer.


What they’re saying

USWNT coach Jill Ellis: “‘Excitement’ is the best word to describe where I am and where the players are. The anticipation is growing. The players are ready, excited and hungry. We feel prepared. It’s been a long process, the preparation has been excellent and we’re ready to focus on tomorrow’s match.”

Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian on facing the USWNT to open the World Cup: “To face the number one team in the world at the opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a massive opportunity for us to test and assess ourselves.”


Prediction

Thailand has done very well to qualify for the World Cup, but this isn’t just any opponent. It’s the team with the best attack in all of women’s soccer. The USWNT’s forward trio of Morgan, Rapinoe and Heath should be enough on its own to break down the Thailand backline, and there will certainly be chances to score off corners as well. It should end up as a comfortable victory. USWNT 3-0 Thailand

Leagues Cup: Lampson leads LA; Fire out

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There’s no shame in Liga MX being a superior league to Major League Soccer, but it would be nice to get more showings of strength from the rapidly improving top flight for Canada and the United States.

The Leagues Cup provided that chance for four teams of MLS, who could make a statement with three quick victories over the next two months. In at least one of Tuesday’s cases, a side’s backups and reserves gave its club the chance to take it more seriously in the semifinals.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]

The Mexican sides, by and large, spend more money deeper into their squad, and most of the clubs were established well before still relatively young MLS.

Throw in both MLS sides clearly ignoring the tournament in favor of weekend league outings, and what could’ve been a really cool tournament could’ve also wasted a lot of peoples’ time on Wednesday despite MLS having the distinct advantage of being hosts for all four quarterfinals.

Godspeed, LA Galaxy.

Chicago Fire 0-2 Cruz Azul

Chicago opted to keep many of its first-choice players on the bench or out of the 18, and it showed in an easy win for away side.

Cruz Azul out-attempted the Fire by a 14-5 margin, and held 69 percent of possession. Fire backstop Richard Sanchez was forced to make six saves, but Roberto Alvarado and Elias Hernandez scored late in each half to plug a couple of away goals onto the board.

Alvarado’s goal was simply magical.

LA Galaxy 2-2 (3-1 pens) Club Tijuana

The resilient hosts took the favored visitors to penalties, where

Servando Carrasco gave LA a lead, and Matt Lampson stopped Erick “Cubo” Torres only to see Efrain Alvarez clanked the next effort off the post. Ariel Nahuelpán then leveled the score before Gibran Lajud made a save for Tijuana

But Lampson answered the bell, and it was 1-1 after three rounds each. He made another save on Angel Sepulveda’s poor penalty, and Giancarlo Gonzalez sent the Galaxy into the semifinals.

Tijuana had most of the ball, nearly doubled LA’s passes, and out-attempted the Galaxy 20-7.

Emmanuel Boateng turned a Kai Koreniuk shot past Gibran Lajud for a 27th minute lead, but TJ tied the score within six minutes and took the lead just before halftime.

Dave Romney had an answer after halftime with a thundering header off an Efrain Alvarez corner kick, and LA was back in business with 37 minutes to play.

Tijuana’s Miller Bolanos hit the post in the 70th, but the danger was largely non-existent the rest of the way aside from wasted free kicks.

LA’s Julian Araujo was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card.

10-man Real Madrid comes back to draw 10-man Arsenal

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Maybe Zinedine Zidane ought to rethink his stance on Gareth Bale?

Of course it’s just preseason, but the on-the-market Real Match forward subbed into Tuesday’s match in Maryland on Tuesday and spearheaded a comeback 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

Real won in penalties, as all International Champions Cup matches must have a winner.

[ MORE: Rich new deal for Hudson-Odoi ]

Real was down a man after 10 minutes when Nacho Fernandez handled a ball on the goal line, and Arsenal also went down a man when Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw his second yellow of the contest in the 40th minute.

Alexandre Lacazette converted a penalty, then set-up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a goal 14 minutes later as the Gunners handled their business early.

The chemistry between two remains very real.

Real started new boys Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, and Luka Jovic in addition to Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, and Sergio Ramos.

Bale came in for Hazard at halftime and poked a 57th minute rebound home and Marcelo set up Marco Asensio two minutes later to complete the comeback.

Asensio, sadly, would only last a few more minutes, needing to be stretchered off with injury.

Champions League wrap: PSV strikes late to win thriller (video)

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Five first legs of the UEFA Champions League’s second qualifying round are in the books, including a thrilling back-and-forth with a show-stopping stoppage time winner.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]


PSV Eindhoven 3-2 FC Basel

Bruma scored a debut opener for the Dutch hosts, who fell behind 2-1 in the 79th minute before Sam Lammers and Donyell Malen struck in the 89th minute and second minute of stoppage, respectively, to put PSV ahead.

Basel will be okay taken two away goals home via Albian Aljeti and Omar Alderete.

Lammers came in for Mexican star Hirving Lozano in the 79th minute to score the leveler within 10 minutes before Malen, who went the full 90, kept his focus to deliver this clever winner.

The New Saints 0-2 Copenhagen

Pieros Sotiriou and Robert Skov scored on either side of halftime to give the Danish powers a healthy advantage heading into the second leg.

Elsewhere
FK Sutjeska 0-1 APOEL Nicosia
Saburtalo 0-2 Dinamo Zagreb
Viktoria Plzen 0-0 Olympiacos

Wednesday
BATE Borisov v. Rosenborg — 1 p.m. ET
Ferencvaros v. Valletta — 2 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2 p.m. ET
Maribor v. AIK — 2:15 p.m. ET
Red Star Belgrade v. HJK Helsinki — 2:45 p.m. ET
Dundalk v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Celtic v. Nomme Kalju — 2:45 p.m. ET

Rodgers says no close bids for Maguire

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Those tired of seeing Harry Maguire‘s name in the headlines, hoping his transfer saga had concluded with weekend reports that Manchester United agreed to a fee with Leicester City, well, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

[ MORE: Who is Newcastle’s new $50M forward? ]

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers credited Maguire for his professionalism — the center back scored in a friendly win on Tuesday — and said that the club’s vice chairman Aiyawatt “Top” Srivaddhanaprabha has not received a fitting bid for the 26 year old’s services.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“There’s no big pressure to sell any player. If a player does leave Leicester City, then the player would need to be met because we have a top-level player, coveted by top-level clubs and I respect that,” Rodgers said. “Harry is on a long contract here and there’s been no valuation or near to that which would make Top have a look.”

Nooooooooooo.

Look, we’ve still got a few weeks until the close of the window, and every supporter has a target they want their club to acquire and some have some assets they hope stay in the same shirt at the deadline.

The Maguire story is getting a bit tedious now. He wants to go to Manchester United, but Rodgers is happy to keep him at Leicester. Maguire’s not the player who will quit on the club if he’s not sold, and Leicester’s hope of landing a replacement will dip as the deadline draws nearer and clubs like Burnley (James Tarkowski) realize their replacements options have been lessened by the wait.