PST USMNT Man of the Match: Michael Bradley

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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.”

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

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The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

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Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”