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)

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.