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Three players (and a tactic) under the microscope for USMNT

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It’s becoming pretty clear that what the public wants to see from the United States men’s national team is not necessarily in lockstep with what Gregg Berhalter wants to see from the squad (aside from obviously goals and wins, which have both been in short supply).

He made this pretty clear last month, for better or for worse, when he defended his side’s myriad errors in playing out of the back against Mexico. He’d made it clear over a longer period of time, too, with the continued call-ups for a certain subset of players who have been poor for club and/or country.

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That happens with a lot of managers, and we still love Berhalter’s ability to squeeze something good out of lesser materials as he did with the Columbus Crew. While we admit to not being particular high on the manager’s squad selection, he shouldn’t have problems over the course of the two month’s CONCACAF Nations League matches with Canada and Cuba.

If he does, well, we’re going to be having a different conversation. And to be frank, that didn’t seem like anything worth worrying about just a few short months ago. Berhalter had been overrun by Tata Martino and Mexico in the Gold Cup Final, but honestly did a decent job in marshaling his men toward a result (Jozy Altidore atypically missed a big chance to score on the night).

Everyone’s allowed to make mistakes, but last month’s remarkably poor performance against Mexico rolling into a match versus Uruguay’s B-Team which was rescued by an increasingly impressive winger named Jordan Morris (‘Member him?).

But Cuba and Canada present two very different challenges for the United States over the next eight days. Cuba is the type of side the U.S. should boss 95 percent of the time, with bad fortunate possibly contributing to the occasional draw.

The attackers are going to be under pressure to produce this month, due to the fact that they, well, won’t be likely to face

Cuba has only one player on its roster playing outside of the Caribbean and Central America, and that’s USL striker Luis Paradela (who just came to Reno with the notable status as the first Cuban to play in the U.S. without defecting).

Canada presents a big threat to the U.S. back line, but its defenders should not be a match for a Christian Pulisic-led attack.

This is a week for the attackers.

Disclaimer: You won’t see us putting Christian Pulisic on this list for numerous reasons despite his status as an on-again, off-again lineup member for Chelsea. There is no doubting his acumen as a USMNT player and little reason to expect he’ll be anything but fantastic against these CONCACAF foes. If for whatever reason he isn’t a freed being against Cuba, or is rested, the chance to out-duel fellow CONCACAF phenom Alphonso Davies would be something he’d embrace even if he was going 90 on a religious basis for Frank Lampard.

1. Josh Sargent — Jozy Altidore’s latest injury has expedited the need for another CONCACAF killer, perhaps a new one. With Timothy Weah also injured, Sargent is the one.

Make no mistake about it: These games are not even in the ball park of “make or break” for the 19-year-old, who has started Werder Bremen’s last three Bundesliga matches.  Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt has opted for five different formations this season, deploying Sargent as a right wing four times and center forward twice.

But a strong showing or two could conceivably cement Sargent’s status as the top striker in the program.  Playing at a high level with Christian Pulisic amongst others would also help, because chemistry will be key in World Cup qualifying and Sargent can make a statement with his boss under pressure and both Altidore and Weah on the sidelines.

Sargent should have every opportunity to feature against Cuba and Canada, and we may see Berhalter put the teen in the lineup against Cuba on Friday and let his performance determine whether he keeps his place or sees Gyasi Zardes return to the fold against Canada.

2. Corey Baird — The Real Salt Lake man would be on the fringes of the national team picture under a lot of coaches, but Berhalter has liked what he’s seen from the 23-year-old. Baird started Berhalter’s first USMNT friendlies and is still in the fold. He’s come into club form heading into the last two international breaks, and is now called up for the fourth separate camp.

He’s gotta find a goal or standout cameo at the minimum, especially considering the players (Altidore, Weah) who will soon return to the fold. Baird has a goal and an assist from the left wing over his past two RSL matches as the club snapped out of its doldrums ahead of the playoffs.

3. Tyler Boyd — What a year it’s been for the one-time New Zealand striker, who took a loan to Turkey with both hands and earned a permanent transfer for a Champions League club and a new international registry.

Boyd is having fits and starts with Besiktas, and it’s fair to say that’s also been the case for the USMNT. He scored a pair of goals on his Gold Cup debut against Grenada, but was kept on the bench for the semifinals and final.

We’re not going to pretend that we see every Besiktas match, but the metrics for Boyd’s early performances have not been good. To be fair, no one had been playing that well for the 12th place side before they beat first place Alanyaspor at the weekend. The bad news is that Boyd was stapled to the bench, as he was three days prior when Besiktas lost to Wolves in the Europa League.

Like Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, this camp can be a welcome chance for Boyd to unleash his tools. Cuba is a bit easier to break down than Wolves or Trabzonspor.

BONUS. Playing out of the back — Gregg Berhalter bristled when asked about his side’s poor play against the Mexican press and his stubbornness in sticking with the attack all the way through a brutal loss to a rival.

If his men can’t do it against Cuba, forget about it.

This is going to be an under-the-radar test for Berhalter, who has continuously opted to use a mauler of a center back (Aaron Long) who is a heck of a tackler but lacking in the passing department. With Matt Miazga back in the fold and the chance to pair him with either Tim Ream or Miles Robinson, behind Michael Bradley, what will Berhalter choose and how well will it work?

James dazzles as Everton hammer 10-man West Brom

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Everton – West Brom had it all. Seriously.

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The Toffees beat the Baggies 5-2 as Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a hat trick, plus James Rodriguez and Michael Keane each bagged a goal.

Superb goals from Grady Diangana and Matheus Pereira gave West Brom hope but they were reduced to 10 men before half time and had manager Slaven Bilic sent off in the aftermath for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean.


3 things we learned: Everton – West Brom

1. Everton’s attack on fire: James Rodriguez pulled the strings and scored his first Everton goal with a fine strike. His link-up play with Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Andre Gomes was sublime and Everton’s entire attacking unit was fluid and in-tune. With Moise Keane, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi able to come off the bench, they have so many options. In James, Richarlison and DCL, their front free are all on the same wavelength and even Lucas Digne on the left flank enhanced their attacks.

2. Shaky Pickford a concern: The one negative for Everton will have been Pickford’s form. He should have done better with Diangana’s goal and although Pereira hit a stunning free kick, was Pickford’ position correct? He gave the ball away early with his feet a few times too and the England international has to stay focused and prove he can be trusted. Right now, it’s tough to say if Pickford should remain as the Three Lions’ number one.

3. Diangana backs up West Ham outrage: When Diangana was sold by West Ham to West Brom, the club he was on loan at last season, Hammers skipper Mark Noble hit out at the West Ham owners. That tells you how highly Diangana is rated. His goal summed up his class and he had some lovely flicks. Alongside Pereira, he will score and create plenty of goals for the Baggies this season.

Man of the Match, Everton – West Brom: James Rodriguez – Now, DCL scored a hat trick of tap ins and he was in the right place at the right time, but James oozed class. Everton’s entire attack is now clicking into place because of the Colombia star.


Everton should have taken the lead early on as James Rodriguez whipped in a superb corner but Calvert-Lewin could only head wide.

West Brom took the lead after Diangana was given the freedom of Goodison to run towards goal and he then drilled home a low shot into the bottom corner, past a slow-moving Jordan Pickford and in.

Everton responded well to going behind with Calvert-Lewin and Allan having chances, but then Jake Livermore did superbly to control and get a shot off but he hit the post.

Before the break Everton were level as Richarlison caused havoc after a cross and Calvert-Lewin flicked home. The equalizer was initially ruled out for offside but VAR checked the decision and it was overturned. 1-1.

James Rodriguez then made it 2-1 with a lovely strike from outside the box for his first Everton goal, then a few moments later Kieran Gibbs raised his hands to the face of James and was shown a straight red card. At half time West Brom boss Slaven Bilic was also sent off for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean as the Baggies imploded.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The second half saw the chaos continue.

Within a few minutes of the restart 10-man West Brom were level as Matheus Pereira curled home a stunning free kick into the top corner from distance.

But it wasn’t 2-2 for long as Richarlison’s header was saved but Michael Keane was on hand to tap home the rebound to put the Toffees 3-2 up.

Soon it was 4-2 as James brilliantly found Richarlison who teed up Calvert-Lewin to tap home. And Calvert-Lewin completed his hat trick as the ball bounced off the back of his head and in to make it 5-2.

Lucas Digne hit the bar with a free kick and Richarlison had a goal disallowed for offside as Everton eased to a second-straight victory to start the season in style.

Leeds – Fulham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Leeds – Fulham: A battle between two Premier League new boys on Saturday (Watch live at 10am ET, online via Peacock) is the first top-flight game at Elland Road for over 16 years.

LEEDS – FULHAM STREAM LIVE

Marcelo Bielsa and Scott Parker both delivered promotion from the Championship last season and both were expected to, even though Bielsa is the revered master of coaching and Parker is only in his second full season as a head coach. These new boys have very different styles of play but ultimately they are both much better going forward than they are at the back.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Leeds – Fulham this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Leeds (INJURY REPORT)

Leeds welcome back captain and center back Liam Cooper and that is their only change from the team which lost at Liverpool last weekend.

Fulham star new goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and right back Kenny Tete, with Mario Lemina on the bench. Aleksandar Mitrovic starts after being on the bench for the first game of the seasn due to injury.


What they’re saying

Marcelo Bielsa on Leeds’ start to life back in the Premier League: “Every game is a new story. We will try to correct all the things we did badly against Liverpool and we will try to maintain all the good things. A positive performance always gives a certain amount of optimism and a defeat generates sadness. This week the two of those things combined. The season is very new and the adaptation of the new players is going to take a while, which is the same for everybody.”

Scott Parker on facing Leeds and if it will give him a better idea of where they’re at compared to playing v. Arsenal: “Yeah, definitely, [but] saying that, we want to be competitive in those games [too]. Every game we go into we want to be competitive and get something out of the game. Of course, this weekend we go to another promoted team, a team that won the division last year, very handsomely, who have spent a lot of money to improve the team even more. The challenge for us is we want to go in and try and get a result in this game, like we will do every game this year, so we’ll try and do that and plan accordingly to get a result.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Leeds (-160) are the heavy favorites but Fulham (+450) are worth a pop at these huge odds. The draw (+290) is intriguing as the bookies were obviously impressed by Leeds’ opening day display at Liverpool, but were they too impressed?

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Prediction

I’m going to go for a draw here. I know people are well on board the Leeds bandwagon, and rightly so, but I still think there’s a lot for them to improve on before they start pushing for a top 10 finish in the Premier League. Fulham were a bit unlucky with the first two goals in their opening day loss to Arsenal and if Aleksandar Mitrovic is fit to play, he will have plenty of joy up top. 2-2.


How to watch Leeds – Fulham stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock

VIDEO: James, Pereira stunners; Gibbs, Bilic sent off

Everton - West Brom
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Everton-West Brom: So, the Baggies went from being 1-0 up at Everton with just over 10 minutes of the first half to go, to then being 2-1 down at half time and having left back Keiran Gibbs sent off and manager Slaven Bilic also shown a red card.

STREAM EVERTON – WEST BROM LIVE

Then a few minutes into the second half Matheus Pereira scored a superb equalizer via a long-range free kick.

Bonkers. Everton-West Brom was just chaos.

Let’s break this all down.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Colombian sensation James Rodriguez made it 2-1 right on half time with a lovely strike from outside the box for his first Everton goal.

Then a few moments later Kieran Gibbs raised his hands to the face of James and was shown a straight red card. West Brom had hit the self destruct button in a big way.

At half time West Brom boss Slaven Bilic was also sent off for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean as the Baggies imploded.

Pereira then scored a beauty of a free kick to stun Everton and make it 2-2, but soon after Everton were ahead again in a real topsy-turvy game.

Here’s a look at Bilic being sent off.

Everton – West Brom: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Everton – West Brom: The Toffees and Baggies are set to kick off weekend no. 2 of the 2020-21 Premier League season on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET, online via Peacock).

It was a chaotic game from start to finish as we had stunning goals, red cards and VAR drama galore.

EVERTON – WEST BROM STREAM LIVE

Everton were one of the PL’s most impressive sides last weekend, as they began their campaign with a 1-0 victory away to Tottenham Hotspur. Most impressively, though, was the instant impact of three newcomers — James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure — who slotted into the team and played important parts in collecting three points on their debuts.

As for West Bromwich Albion, returning to life in the PL brought something of a rude awakening in the form of a 3-0 home defeat to Leicester City. After two seasons in the EFL Championship, West Brom undeniably have their work cut out for them if they’re to stay up this season.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Everton – West Brom this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Everton – West Brom (INJURY REPORT)

Everton are without four players — Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf), Fabian Delph (calf) — none of whom were available for selection to the 18-man squad a week ago.

The Toffees are unchanged from the win at Tottenham on the opening weekend.

West Brom will be missing Danish forward Kenneth Zohore (calf), who also missed out on the opening weekend, and name an unchanged lineup from the opening weekend.

 


What they’re saying

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti, on his squad’s depth: “They are experienced players, all three of them in different ways, James, Allan have international experience. Doucoure has played really well in the Premier League. They have brought more confidence to their teammates. We have a more competitive squad. It is difficult to do the lineup, difficult to make the bench and the most difficult part is to tell the player to stay home and watch the game on TV. But if we want to be a more competitive team we have to have competition in the squad.”

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on wanting more signings: “We would love to do it. It is important we bring a different type of striker to what we have into the club. We are trying to get it done but it’s not easy, but it is instrumental for us. Then the next phase is to improve the team from last season. We got Button the goalkeeper, we got Kipre from Wigan – two good additions to our squad. We’ve got [Branislav] Ivanovic, and now [Conor] Gallagher, and we’re hoping and trying to get a couple more. It’s not a secret — we have good numbers of strikers, but we’re looking to add a bit more quality.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Everton (-190) are, predictably, heavy favorites for this one, with West Brom checking in at +525. The draw is currently sitting +320, if you’re a firm believer that West Brom stand a chance.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

It’s a mighty tough schedule to start the season for West Brom, as they go from last season’s fifth-place finishers to a side with similar aspirations this season. For as long as James and Co., stay healthy and fit, Everton look set to be a handful and a half for bottom-half sides like West Brom. They will have to wait another week for their first points — and their first goal. Everton 2-0 West Brom.


How to watch Everton – West Brom stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock