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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.

Liverpool announces changes to Club World Cup squad

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Georginio Wijnaldum is healthy enough to make the trip to this week’s Club World Cup in Qatar, but there is no such good news for Dejan Lovren.

Liverpool released its 20-man traveling squad for the tournament on Sunday, omitting Lovren and three youth stars from the provisional roster.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Harvey Elliott, Rhian Brewster, and Curtis Jones will now be available for Tuesday’s League Cup quarterfinal against Aston Villa.

Liverpool will meet Monterrey on Wednesday in the Club World Cup semifinal, with the winner meeting either Flamengo or Al-Hilal on Saturday.

CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey advanced to the semi on Saturday, getting a world class strike from Leonel Vangioni in the 3-2 win.

Liga MX has never put a team in the Club World Cup Final.

Liverpool lost the 2005 CWC Final to Sao Paulo in Japan, one of three PL teams to contest the final. Chelsea lost in 2012 after Manchester United won the 2009 crown.

European sides have won 10 of the last 11 finals.

Watch Live: Wolves-Spurs, Manchester United-Everton

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Two absolute beauties kick off Sunday’s Premier League action, and your stream links for Man Utd-Everton and Wolves-Spurs are below.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs will hit the NBCSN airwaves at 9 a.m. ET when they tangle with beastly Wolves, who haven’t lost in league play since September.

Wolves enter the day seventh and Spurs eighth, but both can finish the day within a win of fourth place Chelsea.

[ STREAM: Wolves-Spurs | Man Utd-Everton ]

At the same time at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope to continue Manchester United’s good vibes against visitors Everton.

Solskjaer’s Red Devils can pull into fifth place with a win, closing to within two points of the Top Four. Everton enters the day two points clear of the drop zone, and would love to pull into 13th with a win.

Read previews of both games, as well as the 11:30 a.m. ET kick between Arsenal and Man City, here.

9 a.m. ET: Wolverhampton Wanderers v. Tottenham Hotspur — NBCSN [ STREAM ]
9 a.m. ET: Manchester United v. Everton — NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

LINEUPS

Wolves: Patricio, Saiss, Coady, Dendoncker, Jonny, Neves, Moutinho, Doherty, Jota, Traore, Jimenez.

Spurs: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Dier, Sissoko, Dele, Son, Lucas, Kane.


Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, James, Lingard, Rashford, Martial.

Everton: Pickford, Keane, Mina, Holgate, Digne, Coleman, Iwobi, Davies, Bernard, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.

Serie A roundup: Napoli falls to Parma in debut for Gattuso (video)

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Napoli’s last-minute loss to Parma in Gennaro Gattuso’s debut highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Napoli 1-2 Parma

Napoli remains in a dark place as Gennaro Gattuso debut with Gli Azzurri ended in a last-minute 2-1 loss to Parma.

The defeat marks eight consecutive games without a win in Serie A play for Napoli, who dismissed Carlo Ancelotti earlier this week despite punching a ticket in the last 16 of the Champions League after a win over Genk.

After their fifth loss of the season, Napoli are currently eighth on the table with 21 points, seven behind sixth-placed Atalanta and 17 behind league leaders Inter Milan.

 

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gervinho – experienced as anyone else in tightly-contested situations – received a simple pass from Dejan Kulusevski, carefully striking it into the back of the net inside the six-yard box. The 32-year-old Ivorian has five goals in Serie A this season, and Saturday’s was his most important yet. 

For Gattuso (and hopeful Napoli supporters), Saturday was the antithesis of dreamy start, but with time and a change of mentality the situation may change.

“I don’t believe in bad luck. Right now we’re not good mentally,” the 41-year-old manager said following the match. “The team is paying for the fact that it has not won (in the league) for 50 or more days.”

“The first 10 minutes also prove it,” he added. “It’s tough as are the whistles of the fans. There’s a lot of work to do.”

The home side recorded 33 shots throughout the night, but Parma proved to be more clinical, scoring at death and opening the scoresheet just four minutes in. In the 64th minute, Napoli were able to get one go their way, as Dreis Merten’s lofting cross with force was headed home by Arkadiusz Milik. 

Gattuso and his men will be tested once as they travel to Sassuolo in a weeks time, while Parma look to trim their four-point gap with Atalanta when they host Brescia.

Elsewhere
Brescia 3-0 Lecce
Genoa 0-1 Sampdoria

Hertha’s under-16s stop playing after alleged racist abuse

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin’s under-16 team stopped playing a game at regional rival Auerbach after its players were allegedly subjected to racist abuse from their opponents on Saturday.

The Bundesliga club says in a statement on its website that “several players from our team were racially abused by their opposing players.”

Hertha officials informed the referee of the alleged abuse and decided to stop playing in the 68th minute while leading 2-0 “because we as Hertha BSC condemn racism and discrimination in every form,” the club said.

[ MORE: Bundesliga wrap – Klinsmann gets 1st win ]

Hertha executive board member Paul Keuter called it “the only correct decision, not to continue with the game.”

On Twitter, the club said: “There are times when football doesn’t come first. Racism has no place in our society.”

Hertha under-23 player Jessic Ngankam said he was targeted with monkey chants and called an “ape” by an opposing player during his side’s fourth division game against Lokomotive Leipzig on Dec. 6.

“Insults are unfortunately an everyday occurrence in football, and I can put up with them. But racist abuse is a no-go,” the 19-year-old Ngankam told broadcaster MDR.

Both Hertha and Lokomotive condemned the alleged abuse.

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

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP