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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.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger retiring ]

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?

Bundesliga: Gladbach go top in style; Unbeaten Wolfsburg 2nd

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Saturday’s Bundesliga action opened the door wide for a new Top Two in Germany’s top flight, and both Sunday opportunists waltzed right through to a fine seat during the international break.

[ MORE: Bundesliga wrap — Saturday ]

ICYMI Saturday, Bayern lost at home to Hoffenheim but several chasers drew matches to leave the Top Five all with 4W-2D-1L records.

That meant huge opportunity for ‘Gladbach and Wolfsburg.

Borussia Monchengladbach 5-1 Augsburg

The hosts embraced their chance early, scoring in the third minute and building a 3-0 lead before the quarter-hour mark.

Alassane Plea had a goal and two assists, while Patrick Hermann had two goals and an assist in the win. Marcus Thuram and Breel Embolo also scored,

Plea’s goal was assisted by industry and comedy.

Wolfsburg 1-0 Union Berlin

So the lone remaining unbeaten team in the Bundesliga entered a home match knowing their weekend ceiling was second, and needed better than an hour to find its breakthrough.

Wout Weghorst continued his fine run as Wolfsburg’s new and improved Bas Dost with a 69th minute goal to push the club a point ahead of five teams on 14 points.

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-2 Werder Bremen

Eintracht’s many sales and fixtures are catching up to it.

Sebastian Rode’s 55th minute equalizer looked like a much-needed goal to pull a point at home, an Andre Silva soon scored to make three points a possibility.

But the lead would last only three minutes, as Milot Rashica scored in stoppage to earn a point for the visitors.

Davy Klaassen had given Bremen a lead, and USMNT teen Josh Sargent played 72 minutes.

Elsewhere

Hertha Berlin 3-1 Fortuna Dusseldorf — Friday
Freiburg 2-2 Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 RB Leipzig — Saturday
Paderborn 1-2 Mainz — Saturday
Schalke 1-1 Koln — Saturday

Bundesliga wrap: Lewandowski’s Bayern keeps rolling, Leipzig stays top

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Week 5 of the Bundesliga season looked a lot like so many others since Robert Lewandowski arrived in the country from Lech Poznan in 2010.

He scored, and his team won.

[ MORE: Man City hangs 8 on Watford ]

It wasn’t enough to put Bayern Munich atop the league, as the Bavarian side also saw RB Leipzig get a win and could sit third once Lewandowski’s first German team, Borussia Dortmund, plays on Sunday.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Koln

Robert Lewandowski is humming along, scoring two more goals to give him nine in Bayern’s first five matches of the Bundesliga season. The 31-year-old Polish superstar scored at midweek in the Champions League, and has scored in all seven matches he’s played since being skunked in the DFL SuperCup loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic also scored for Bayern, who will finish the weekend no lower than third on the table. A 59th minute red card to Koln’s Kingsley Ehizibue came with Bayern already leading 2-0, so it was a bit snoozy in terms of drama at the Allianz Arena.

Werder Bremen 0-3 RB Leipzig

A 64th minute red card to Konrad Laimer couldn’t slow down the table leaders, as Leipzig added a goal after going down to 10-men in the win.

Willi Orban and Marcelo Saracchi scored for the visitors, and Marcel Sabitzer scored a terrific free kick in the win.

American teenager Josh Sargent started and played 80 minutes for the hosts, covering 9.63 kilometers and getting a lone shot on goal.

Elsewhere
Schalke 2-1 Mainz — Friday
Freiburg 1-1 Augsburg
Hertha Berlin 2-1 Paderborn
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Union Berlin
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Borussia Dortmund — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 5 4 1 0 13 3 10 1-1-0 3-0-0 13
 Bayern Munich 5 3 2 0 16 4 12 2-1-0 1-1-0 11
 SC Freiburg 5 3 1 1 11 4 7 1-1-1 2-0-0 10
 FC Schalke 04 5 3 1 1 10 5 5 2-0-1 1-1-0 10
 Bayer Leverkusen 5 3 1 1 8 7 1 2-1-0 1-0-1 10
 Borussia Dortmund 4 3 0 1 13 5 8 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 4 2 2 0 7 3 4 1-1-0 1-1-0 8
 Mönchengladbach 4 2 1 1 5 4 1 0-1-1 2-0-0 7
 Eintracht Frankfurt 4 2 0 2 5 5 0 2-0-0 0-0-2 6
 Werder Bremen 5 2 0 3 8 12 -4 1-0-2 1-0-1 6
 FC Augsburg 5 1 2 2 7 11 -4 1-1-0 0-1-2 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 4 1 1 2 6 7 -1 0-1-1 1-0-1 4
 1899 Hoffenheim 4 1 1 2 3 6 -3 1-0-1 0-1-1 4
 1. FC Union Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 10 -5 1-0-2 0-1-1 4
 Hertha BSC Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 11 -6 1-0-1 0-1-2 4
 1. FC Köln 5 1 0 4 4 11 -7 0-0-2 1-0-2 3
 FSV Mainz 05 5 1 0 4 5 15 -10 1-0-1 0-0-3 3
 SC Paderborn 5 0 1 4 6 14 -8 0-0-2 0-1-2 1

Bundesliga wrap: Wagner’s Schalke shine; RB Leipzig hang onto 1st

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The Bundesliga’s leaders remain RB Leipzig after four match days, and Schalke continues to surprise under new boss David Wagner.

Paderborn 1-5 Schalke

One-time “next big thing” Amine Harit scored twice to join goals from Salif Sane, Suat Serder, and Ahmed Kutucu as Schalke overcame an early concession to clobber the hosts at Benteler-Arena.

USMNT youngster Weston McKennie came off the bench to get in on the action for David Wagner’s men, trading a 1-2 with Everton loanee Jonjoe Kenny en route to Harit’s first of the night.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule  ]

RB Leipzig 1-1 Bayern Munich

Robert Lewandowski’s third minute goal leant the early goings of this one an aire of predictability, but Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig rallied behind a first half stoppage time penalty to keep the top spot on the table, one ahead of BVB and Freiburg. Bayern remains two points back of the leaders.

Union Berlin 1-2 Werder Bremen

Davy Klaassen and Niclas Fullkrug score early in each half as Bremen improved to 2-2 on the season.

USMNT teen Josh Sargent was a 68th minute sub for the visitors, but only had four touches while completing all three of his passes as the visitors defended for the win. He was credited with 31 runs over his 22 minutes.

Elsewhere
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-1 Wolfsburg — Friday
Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Bayer Leverkusen — Saturday
Koln 0-1 Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Mainz 2-1 Hertha Berlin — Saturday
Augsburg 2-1 Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Hoffenheim 0-3 Freiburg — Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 4 3 1 0 10 3 7 1-1-0 2-0-0 10
 Borussia Dortmund 4 3 0 1 13 5 8 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
 SC Freiburg 4 3 0 1 10 3 7 1-0-1 2-0-0 9
 Bayern Munich 4 2 2 0 12 4 8 1-1-0 1-1-0 8
 VfL Wolfsburg 4 2 2 0 7 3 4 1-1-0 1-1-0 8
 FC Schalke 04 4 2 1 1 8 4 4 1-0-1 1-1-0 7
 Mönchengladbach 4 2 1 1 5 4 1 0-1-1 2-0-0 7
 Bayer Leverkusen 4 2 1 1 6 7 -1 1-1-0 1-0-1 7
 Eintracht Frankfurt 4 2 0 2 5 5 0 2-0-0 0-0-2 6
 Werder Bremen 4 2 0 2 8 9 -1 1-0-1 1-0-1 6
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 4 1 1 2 6 7 -1 0-1-1 1-0-1 4
 1. FC Union Berlin 4 1 1 2 5 8 -3 1-0-2 0-1-0 4
 1899 Hoffenheim 4 1 1 2 3 6 -3 1-0-1 0-1-1 4
 FC Augsburg 4 1 1 2 6 10 -4 1-1-0 0-0-2 4
 1. FC Köln 4 1 0 3 4 7 -3 0-0-2 1-0-1 3
 FSV Mainz 05 4 1 0 3 4 13 -9 1-0-1 0-0-2 3
 SC Paderborn 4 0 1 3 5 12 -7 0-0-2 0-1-1 1
 Hertha BSC Berlin 4 0 1 3 3 10 -7 0-0-1 0-1-2 1

USMNT’s Sargent could start this weekend for club

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Josh Sargent could be reaping the rewards of Werder Bremen’s injury crisis.

Ahead of this Saturday’s match at Union Berlin, Werder Bremen is looking at having no less than nine first-team players out injured, including captain Niklas Moisander. While Moisander is a centerback, injuries up top has given Sargent another chance to make his second start of the season.

[READ: Rooney on what could have helped his time with England NT]

“(Yuya) Osako and Sargent have already completed a jet lag program with their national teams and are therefore in good shape for Saturday,” Werder Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt said in a press conference. “It’s a lot of fun to find different solutions with the guys and to puzzle them a bit (about who will start).”

At just 19-years old, Sargent is quickly learning the rigors of playing club football in Europe while representing a national team across the pond. It’s unclear exactly what Werder’s jet lag program consists of, but Sargent has just four days from Tuesday through Saturday to adjust seven time zones between St. Louis and Germany (central European time). Normally, it’s recommended to take one day for as many time zones to adjust, but of course these days there’s sleep methods and other ways to quickly adjust your body clock.

Sargent made his first start of the club season on September 1, scoring in his side’s 3-2 win over lowly Augsburg. It was an incredible display of skill, beating the offside trap, controlling a long-ball over the top, and then chipping the goalkeeper before slotting home into an empty net.

That goal alone should have secured Sargent another start, but the injury woes across the squad won’t hurt either. Plus, the more – and better – he plays, his teammates may have a tough time getting back into the squad.