Herculez Gomez of the U.S. celebrates a goal against Brazil during an international friendly soccer match in Landover

PST USMNT Man of the Match: Michael Bradley


The USMNT may have struggled against Brazil (falling 4-1 in Landover), but those hardships were not evenly shared throughout the team. Fabian Johnson continues to make national team fans forget his short-lived predecessor, while a familiar face continues to show he deeserves to be considered amongst the team’s “Big Two.”

For some time, that Big Two has been Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, but after an eye opening year in Serie A and consistently stellar performances since his re-integration into the national team, Michael Bradley’s begged the question: Who is Jurgen Klinsmann’s best player?

The question’s not as silly as it sounds. Dempsey deserves credit for everything he’s done for both club and country, but on Saturday against Scotland, Bradley showed he can drive a team in the absence of the USMNT’s biggest weapon. And even though Landon Donovan put in great performance in Jacksonville, he was off his game on Wednesday. Under Klinsmann (particularly during the strong run the team put in ahead of Brazil), the U.S. showed there’s some semblance of a life without Landon.

You can’t say the same about Bradley. In fact, it’s been the opposite, wit the U.S.’s recent success coming after Bradley settled in at Chievo. Club stability coincided with a return to the national team, when Bradley immediately reclaimed his spot in the midfield pecking order. It was only after the (still only) 24-year-old was integrated into Klinsmann’s plans that the U.S. started to resemble the hard working, pressing, possessing side the coach advertises.

More U.S.-Brazil: Trio to talkers after Wednesday’s friendly

Against Brazil, there wasn’t much pressing, and when the U.S. was possessing, it wasn’t for long. But Bradley’s quality still stood out. Along with Johnson, Bradley was one of the few States’ players competing at the same level as their counterparts. His confidence on the ball was evident as he tested Brazil’s defense with 30-yard probes, trying to find Herculez Gomez running behind Juan and Thiago Silva.

And Bradley had more than the long ball in this repertoire. On the U.S.’s only goal, he made the right read to get forward, play the ball to the line and utilize Johnson’s speed in the buildup to Gomez’s goal. It may have looked like an obvious play, but there are a lot of midfielders who could have unloaded (and probably put the ball into the stands). Given the goal Bradley scored against Scotland, he would have been forgiven for doing the same.

There weren’t many highlights on Wednesday, but the few times we saw fire from the U.S., Michael Bradley provided the spark. If he’s not the U.S.’s best player, the conversation at least needs to expand. The conversation’s no longer about “Big Two.” The U.S. has a “Big Three.”

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Costa Rica v United Staes: Final - 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.

Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.

[ MORE: UCL Final in United States? ]

The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.

The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.

Get well soon, Lauren.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.