Player ratings are to soccer what box scores always were to baseball: the essential starting point from which to launch most discussion.
Here are Travis Clark’s player ratings last night from Top Drawer Soccer.
These can be tricky, and here’s a good reason why: What do you give U.S. center backs Perry Kitchen and Ike Opara? On the one hand, Thursday’s night at LP Field finished in a shutout, with very little for goalkeeper Bill Hamid to do. Still, Opara was had once by Michael Chang, who was Cuba’s only danger man in the attacking third. Kitchen also had his iffy moments with Chang.
The night didn’t demand better from them, but matches ahead certainly will. So I’d say the “6” for both U.S. central defenders, above average but not by much, was spot-on.
Clark saw just a little more in Freddy Adu’s night than I did. Adu’s free kicks and corner kicks were sharp (certainly better than some of Mix Diskerud’s efforts from the corner arch.) But he was a little tame in the run of play. I’m not saying Adu played poorly, not by any stretch. I just suspect there’s more ahead, and that he might have done a little more to cut up a Cuban defense that offered all the resistance of mushy fruit.
I also thought Diskerud’s passing and possession in midfield easily mitigated those underwhelming corner kicks. Clark assigned a “6,” mostly nicking the U.S. midfielder due to those sloppy restarts.I might have gone a notch higher.
Clark, who has monitored the U.S. under-23s as well as anyone in U.S. media, far as I can tell, raved about Joe Corona. Who could argue that? It was a night of quality linking play and even higher-quality finishing.
Here are Soccer America’s rankings for the compare-and-contrast thing.
Former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has been hired by Chinese club Hebei China Fortune as the Chinese top flight adds another big name manager. He joins just three months after stepping down as manager of Manchester City in favor of Pep Guardiola.
The Chilean will match up with former Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who currently heads current league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande, in his first game in charge on September 10. Evergrande sits 15 points adrift of Hebei in the table. Sven-Göran Eriksson also manages in the league, in charge of Guangzhou R&F.
Pellegrini inherits a squad that includes Ezequiel Lavezzi plus former Premier Leaguers Stephane M’bia, Gervinho, and Gael Kakuta. The club currently sits in fifth in the league table out of 16 teams, with seven matches remaining in the season.
Following Pellegrini’s departure from City, the 62-year-old said he wished to remain in the Premier League, but also that he would retire if he did not receive an offer that interested him.
Pellegrini replaces former Everton midfielder Li Tie, who worked previously under Marcelo Lippi at Evergrande before being hired as Hebei manager a year ago. Tie was in hot water after criticizing the Chinese national team selection process and travel planning in early July.
Toni Kroos hit just his second goal for Real Madrid in the last calendar year, but it was a big one as it lifted Los Blancos over Celta Vigo in a 2-1 win at the Bernabeau.
Goals from Alvaro Morata and Fabian Orellana had cancelled out before Kroos struck a powerful, low effort in off the post in the 81st minute for the win. The move began with a stellar challenge from Casemiro to dispossess Pape Diop, sending Real Madrid moving the other way.
While Real Madrid earned its second win of the season in two matches, cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid struggled again, failing to score in a 0-0 draw with Leganes, the club’s second draw of the year as they sit on just two points. Atletico held 63% of the possession, worked eight corners, and managed 10 shots, but only three of them were on target.
Leganes goalkeeper Serantes was stellar, while Fernando Torres missed a huge chance towards the end of the match as his header off a cross from Filipe Luis went straight into the keeper’s arms. Manager Diego Simeone chose to be upbeat after the game, saying, “I’m happy with the work done. We generate chances and others don’t against us. We need to finish.”
Around the rest of La Liga, Real Sociedad went on the road and beat Osasuna 2-0 behind a goal from Juanmi and a late own goal. Valencia still has not picked up a point this season after its second loss, a 1-0 result at Eibar where Pedro Leon missed a penalty but struck home on the rebound.
Sami Khedira hasn’t found the field much since moving to Juventus two summers ago, but when he does, he has a striker’s eye.
The German bagged his eighth goal for Juventus in just his 28th appearance as the Italian giants went on the road and defeated Lazio 1-0.
A poor clear attempt by Lucas Biglia saw Paulo Dybala’s lofted ball over the top fall to Khedira, and he skittered the ball across the face of goal into the far corner. The win is the second of the year for Juventus after they took down Fiorentina in their opening match.
There was a goal-fest at Stadio San Paolo as Napoli defeated AC Milan 4-2 braces from Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon. Milik’s came in the first-half, with the opener in 18th minute, a lucky bounce as Dries Mertens’ shot clattered off the post and fell in Milik’s lap. He doubled Napoli’s lead in the 33rd minute with a beautiful header into the far corner, out-jumping Juraj Kucka.
The second half saw a flurry of action. A pair of goals four minutes apart saw Milan tie things up as M’baye Niang and Suso brought them level. Then, the yellow cards came flying. As a result, Kucka and Niang were both sent off for second cautions. Jose Callejon took advantage, bagging his first in the 74th and doubling his tally in stoppage time in a ridiculous bit of play that saw Alessio Romagnoli try to swat Mertens’ cross away from the goal line…yes, as in with his hands.
It’s a wonder Romagnoli wasn’t sent off for his actions. Napoli
Hope Solo’s USWNT suspension did not predicate she take time off from her club team the Seattle Reign, but that is exactly what she will be doing.
The 35-year-old goalkeeper will be taking a leave of absence from playing all forms of soccer, the Reign announced. They did not say how long she will be gone.
The club signed 21-year-old Andi Tostanoski as a replacement for Solo on the roster – Tostanoski’s third one-game replacement contract with the Reign. 26-year-old Haley Kopmeyer was given the start in today’s match against the Portland Thorns.
Many believe Solo’s international career could be over after U.S. Soccer reportedly terminated her contract. Despite that, club soccer was still immediately available to her. Even though U.S. Soccer pays her club salary as part of her USWNT deal, that portion of her contract was not terminated, according to reports.
Solo was suspended from international play for six months just two days ago mainly for comments she made following the USWNT loss to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals. However, it was clear from statements on both sides that an accumulation of actions, both in the public and private eye, had contributed to her eventual punishment.
Despite her controversial actions and personality, Solo has unquestionably remained the best goalkeeper in women’s international soccer, and has been that was for a number of years. She holds the world records in international appearances, wins, and shutouts for goalkeepers in women’s soccer.