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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

Premier League Friendly Roundup: Leicester, Norwich in action

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Ayoze Perez got off to a great start for his new club on Tuesday, as Leicester topped Scunthorpe United, 1-0.

Perez, who arrived earlier this month from Newcastle in a $38 million transfer, scored on a first-time strike in the box that proved to be the difference in the game.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brendan Rodgers side got a chance to get minutes for plenty of first-team regulars. Johnny Evans, Jamie Vardy, Perez and Youri Tielemans all started. Wes Morgan, new signing James Justin, Rachid Ghezzal all came off the bench.

An interesting note was that Harry Maguire, the target of serious transfer interest from Manchester United, came off the bench at halftime and played the second half of the game. According to the latest reports, Man United and Leicester City are still very far apart regarding a transfer fee, so Maguire looks set to remain for the time being.

Elsewhere, Norwich City continued its preseason tour of Germany with a friendly match held behind closed doors. Norwich beat Bonner SC, 4-1, with goals from Adam Idah, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:


Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.


The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

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