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Key takeaways on USMNT roster; projecting the XI

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The USMNT squad for their friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay in September has been announced and there’s plenty to unpack.

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Gregg Berhalter’s 26-man squad includes plenty of promising youngsters, while he also left out veterans Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.

Below we take a look at the key takeaways from the roster announcement.


Bradley, Altidore overlooked
These omissions will make a lot of headlines initially, but don’t be surprised if Berhalter left Bradley and Altidore out because Toronto FC needs them for a playoff push. TFC play FC Cincinnati and NYCFC during the international break and head coach Gregg Vanney will be a relieved man that he has two of his stars ready for MLS action. Although, it could be a sign of things to come as both Bradley and Altidore had mixed displays during the Gold Cup this summer. Expect both of these players to be named in future squads but maybe, just maybe, this is a glimpse of the future for the USMNT. Bradley is 32 and Altidore turns 30 soon, and the high-pressing style that Berhalter wants doesn’t really suit either of them.


Even more youngsters get a chance
Sergino Dest, Paxton Pomykal, Miles Robinson are all ready to play for the USMNT. That is what Berhalter has said during this roster announcement and all three can expect to get minutes. Dest is an intriguing prospect at Ajax and he is able to play in a range of positions defensively. He and Pomykal played during the U-20 World Cup this summer and the FC Dallas midfielder has been sublime for the Texas side this season with his strength on the ball matched with superb calmness and creativity in possession. As for Robinson, he is another good young central defensive option for Berhalter following his breakthrough campaign with Atlanta United in MLS. After giving so many young players an opportunity to impress over the past 18 months, there are plenty more ready to step up from the U-20 squad who did pretty well at the World Cup this summer.


Left back spot open
It is clear that left back is a problem area for the USMNT. Tim Ream has tried his best to plug that gap but is much better at center back, while the likes of Dest, Nick Lima and Daniel Lovitz could all compete for minutes at left back in this camp, but that isn’t their natural position either. There is no real left back in this squad, which highlights the problem, and it is something Berhalter has to figure out to give his defense a better balance. Having John Brooks return from injury as the left-sided center back is a huge bonus, and he will help whichever youngster gets the nod to play alongside him.


Pulisic should play out wide
Christian Pulisic has been played all over the place over the past 12 months but he should be played in his best position, which is on the left. That allows him to cut inside and cause havoc, while he also has the space he needs to take on defenders one v. one and get attacks going. Playing him as a No.10 is just fine, but with Pomykal a promising talent in that position, Pulisic is better suited to a wide role, just as he’s shown for Chelsea in the opening weeks of the Premier League season. Weston McKennie will hold things down in central midfield, and the trio of Pomykal, Pulisic and Tyler Boyd have a great mixture of power, pace and creativity behind a central striker.


Projected lineup for USMNT v. Mexico, Uruguay

—– Steffen —–

—- Cannon — Long — Brooks — Dest —-

—- McKennie —- Morales —-

—- Boyd —- Pomykal —- Pulisic —- 

—– Zardes —–

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
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It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

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Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

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The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

Manchester United Watford live stream link
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A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:

LINEUPS

Manchester United

Watford


Wolves

Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

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ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf