Jamaican joy, U.S. despair: Points on the match

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So now we know: the difference makers for the United States … well, they make a difference.

No Landon Donovan? That one stung Friday night in Kingston. A Clint Dempsey that could not possibly have been at “Full Dempsey,” given his three-month removal from competitive soccer? That one was always going to leave a bruise, too.

But the killer was no Michael Bradley in midfield. Oh, how that one put a deathly chokehold on the U.S. attack and ability to hold the ball.

The United States was an absolute mess between the defenders and the front line. None of the three in there (Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu nor Jermaine Jones) will remember the U.S.-Jamaica match fondly.

Nor will U.S. fans, for that matter.

I know this is not what U.S. fans want to hear. They get their Uncle Sam hats on and the “Don’t Tread on Me” t-shirts, and they don’t want to hear that sometimes, in some situations, ties are OK. But here goes …

Believe me, sometimes ties are OK.

Case in point, when you crawl out of Jamaica on the business end of a 2-1 Red Striping. It was a deserved score line, too; Jamaica was the better team. For darn sure in midfield.

We’ll come back later and talk about how much trouble the U.S. qualifying might suddenly be in. (Hint: some, but things are hardly dire.)

For now, let’s go over some talking points from the first Jamaican win ever over the United States. (Yes, the Reggae Boyz record against their Yankee regional rival is now 1-18-10.):

  • A U.S. back line already missing some experience got scary-young when Steve Cherundolo was ruled out due to a calf strain. So the back line, right to left was Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson. Considering the piecemeal look of it, the back line was not the problem at all. All in all, the rear guard held up admirably. Now, about that midfield …
  • Jurgen Klinsmann arranged a 4-3-1-2, with Dempsey behind two strikers. Trouble is, neither Jones nor Edu could solve the problems in there. They couldn’t deal with Jamaica’s pressure, couldn’t find the outlets, couldn’t find the little seems. It wasn’t all their fault, however. …
  • Parkhurst and Johnson, given their international inexperience, were never going to supply the wide threat. So things were painfully jammed up through the middle. With no outlets wide, Jamaica could target Jones and Edu. And they did. It usually broke down there. When Dempsey did find the ball, things were still too narrow.
  • Beckerman was OK in his role – until the moment he got behind the play, lunged in, committed a foul and set up Jamaica’s first goal. He usually plays the position exceptionally, like a man who understands his limits to the inch. But foot speed is always the point of contention with Beckerman, and it stung him this time.
  • Outside of that first-half goal (which squeezed through the wall – something that should never happen) and Luton Shelton’s fantastic second-half free kick, Tim Howard had little to do.
  • Despite the goal from Dempsey after just 36 seconds, the United States never established midfield possession. In the 44th moment – finally! – the Americans found some patience and possession. It ended with Dempsey being denied from close range. And … yeah, that was about it. From there, the only U.S. opportunities came in the last 15, desperate minutes. And those were half chances at that.
  • Aside from the flagging possession, Klinsmann’s side never created enough drive through the midfield to even create a few restarts that would allow Goodson and Cameron to come forward. In the area of “drive through the midfield,” that’s Bradley’s game. He knows just when to play safe and when to seize more initiative. That’s harder than you think.

(More to come on the blog … so check back)

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET