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USMNT continues progression into CONCACAF Nations League

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We’re closing in on ten months with Gregg Berhalter in charge of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and despite all of the results in that time span, give credit to Berhalter for one thing. He’s sticking to his plan.

Berhalter and a young USMNT (with an average age of just 25) open up the CONCACAF Nations League on Friday by hosting Cuba in Washington D.C. at 7:00 p.m. Based on the roster he called up, Berhalter plans to continue drilling his tactical and playing style ideas into his players heads until it becomes second nature. 20 players from the now-25-man squad were in his September camp and per U.S. Soccer, 24 of the 25 players have seen time for the USMNT this calendar year.

[READ: Pulisic details his journey so far]

While the Nations League is a competitive match on paper, there isn’t a whole lot that the U.S. can take away from a game against Cuba at home. All fans and the USMNT coaching staff would see individual performances and how the team performed at executing a gameplan.

It’s this gameplan, along with some of the young stars taking part, that will be most interesting to watch.

With Steffan starting again in goal, Cuba should provide more space or at least a better chance for the USMNT to play out of the box and start the buildup play early. From there, we can see players like Matt Miazga grow some confidence with good passes out of the back into the midfield or the long diagonal pass to the wingers in space.

It’s unclear whether Berhalter will start Bradley, his preferred No. 6, or save him for the game against Canada at his home stadium, BMO Field, on Tuesday. If not, it could be another cap for Jackson Yueill to show off his range of passing and keep the ball moving from side to side.

Speaking of wingers from before, it’s been a roller coaster of a last few months for Tyler Boyd. He completed his one-time switch to join the USMNT, started a few games and even scored in the early Gold Cup match against Guyana. But then he lost his national team starting spot to Jordan Morris, who’s had a terrific second half of the MLS season with Seattle, and Boyd has also struggled with his new club, Besiktas. He has just one start in all competitions since the beginning of September. He didn’t even make it off the bench in Besiktas’ 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the UEFA Europa League last week.

And yet, Berhalter has committed to Boyd and is willing to call him in, whether he’s in form or not. So the match against Cuba could be another chance for Boyd to show what he’s all about.

Somewhat similarly is Christian Pulisic. Everyone has watched as he started the season well but has found playing time hard to get. Even so, when he’s played he’s had an impact, as was seen last weekend in his 15-minute substitute appearance for Chelsea when he set up a goal. Clearly, even if he’s out of form, he is still the best attacking talent the USMNT has and will always be given a chance by Berhalter.

Lastly, there’s the striker position. It was announced earlier that with Jozy Altidore out injured again – missing his second straight USMNT camp, though last time was not injury related – 19-year-old forward Joshua Sargent would start up top against Cuba. This could be a changing of the guard, with Sargent preferred over Gyasi Zardes as Altidore’s backup with the USMNT. Or, it could have been the plan all along to play Sargent against Cuba and Zardes against Canada. We’ll see.

In any case, with Sargent getting starts for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, the Cuba match could be his chance to become a household name for many. It’s his first senior international game in a competitive tournament, and his hold up play, the way he reads the game and ability to play off the back shoulder of the centerbacks could lead to a goal or two on the night.

Ultimately, Friday’s test with Cuba will be a study in how this squad continues to absorb and understand Berhalter’s style of play, as he looks to prepare his team ultimately for the start of World Cup qualifying in September 2020.

VIDEO: Breaking down some celebrated Premier League derbies

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The kickoffs aren’t coming back soon, so we’re finding solace in anticipating the biggest matches on the Premier League calendar.

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Certain rivalries are circled on the fixture list when it arrives each summer, the sort of games that seem to level the playing field regardless of the gulf in class.

Is Arsenal struggling? No better way to bounce back than Spurs.

Liverpool sliding a bit? It’ll snap back to form when Everton hits Anfield.

PST lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright has prepped up for several of these derbies over the years, and here’s a cheat sheet for those new and a tasty summation for those missing their hated foes.

Liverpool-Manchester City

Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool-Everton

Manchester City-Manchester United

Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur

Bournemouth’s Howe takes voluntary pay cut, first PL manager to do so

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Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is the first Premier League manager to take a pay cut due to the coronavirus suspension.

Howe joins Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake, first team technical director Richard Hughes, and assistant manager Jason Tindall in taking “significant, voluntary” pay cuts.

Howe is the longest-serving manager in the PL. He started with Bournemouth’s academy in 1994 and spent just a few short seasons away from home (Portsmouth and Swindon Town) during his playing career.

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The club has also furloughed employees throughout the organization. From a Bournemouth statement:

There is no script for moments like this. No tactics and no set plays to find a winning formula. But as a board we are continually looking at ways to ensure the future of the club and our employees is protected when the season returns.

We have also advised a number of staff across all areas of the club that they will be temporarily furloughed, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

These measures have been taken to safeguard the financial stability of the club during what is such an uncertain period, not only in football but for businesses in all industries across the world.

Surely Howe won’t be the last during this uncertain time for clubs and businesses all over the world.

Ex-Marseille president first coronavirus-related death in Senegal

Pape Diouf
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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, died Tuesday in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus. It was the West African country’s first COVID-19-related death, according to the health ministry. He was 68.

Diouf, who was president of Marseille from 2005-09, had been treated since Saturday in intensive care in Dakar, health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said.

Senegal President Macky Sall wrote on his official Twitter account that he had followed Diouf’s health closely after he was admitted for treatment.

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“I pay tribute to this great figure in sport,” Sall wrote. “I pay tribute to the medical staff at Fann Hospital who spared no effort to save him.”

Relatives said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the West Africa region.

In its most recent count, Senegal has reported 190 cases of the coronavirus, with 45 of those having recovered.

Diouf was a charismatic and popular leader who was close to the fans and players at Marseille, the only French team to win the European club title.

“Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseille people and (is) one of the great architects of the club,” Marseille wrote under a photo of Diouf.

Shortly before his time at the club ended, Diouf signed Didier Deschamps as the new coach and Deschamps won the French league title and League Cup in his first season in charge. It was Marseille’s first league title in 18 years.

Deschamps, who coached France to World Cup success two years ago, described Diouf as “a man of convictions, a spirited man, passionate about football” adding that his “sudden and brutal death deeply saddens me.”

“I could measure his popularity, which was immense with the Marseille people whose hearts he had won,” Deschamps said on L’Equipe’s website.

The French soccer league called Diouf’s death “a moment of immense sadness for French soccer.”

Diouf was born in Chad to Senegalese parents. After arriving in Marseille at the age of 18, he became a sports journalist and then a players’ agent.

Diouf was not afraid to take risks in signing unheralded players, such as the diminutive Mathieu Valbuena from third-tier side Libourne in 2006 when he was 21.

The 1.67-meter (5 feet, 5 inches) Valbuena went on to prove Diouf right, and all the doubters wrong, playing 52 times for France.

“A great man with a great heart,” Valbuena said. “We were hypnotized by his speeches, he had a lot of charisma.”

Diouf was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal in 2012, one of the country’s highest honors.

Pugmire reported from Paris. AP reporter Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

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

Report: Griezmann plus cash could finally get Neymar back to Barcelona

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Neymar’s long-rumored return to Barcelona hasn’t quite reached the point of exhaustion, but it’s close.

A new report has said Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain may be coming to terms with what’s been a fairly obvious swap deal for some time.

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According to Sky Sports, PSG would send Neymar to Barcelona in return for French hero Antoine Griezmann and money.

The $167 million price tag attached to Neymar is significantly more than the $110 million on Griezmann, and there’s no doubt the former is more of a gamechanger at this point on their careers.

While Neymar gets both the #whenhealthy and #whenavailable tags to his rep, he’s scored 18 times with 10 assists in 22 matches across all competitions this year.

Before the full phrase ‘Ligue 1’ exits your lips, he’s scored against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic, Galatasaray, Liverpool, Anderlecht, and Red Star Belgrade in his three seasons with PSG.

Griezmann is a full year older than Neymar and, while one of the world’s elite attackers, he’s a step below the Brazilian’s tier. He’s also said to want to keep finding his way at Barca, with Gerard Pique and others ready to lend support.