PST USMNT Man of the Match: Eddie Johnson (2.0)

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The unveiling of Eddie Johnson 2.0 already received some of our love, but when one man is the difference between crisis and reprieve, he deserves some spotlight all to himself. Consider this his curtain call – for the one man on the team that deserves to take a bow.

That he earned that bow playing out of position makes Johnson’s contributions even more remarkable. When U.S. Soccer tweeted the starting lineups, it seemed unlikely Johnson would start on the left (as their formation implied). But there he was, starting the match in front of Carlos Bocanegra, with the opening moments casting Johnson in a role more suited for Sounder teammate Steve Zakuani than a center forward.

In time, it became apparent Johnson’s role was a unique one. He played high on the left, was often targeted as an outlet or on crosses. Still, asked to comeback and help in midfield (and spend some time on the right, when he switched with Graham Zusi), Johnson was playing a role few would have thought him suited to pull off.

Perhaps it’s only right that Johnson’s return to the national team would require him to reinvent himself, if only for one night. Johnson’s spent the MLS season rebuilding a career that was on the brink of ending after he failed to land a job with Puebla this offseason. The Sounders pulled him back from that brink, gave him a starting spot on one of Major League Soccer’s most talented team, and provided him with a platform to reclaim the prestige he’d lost during four years languishing at Fulham.

They also gave him a chance to ease into the player he’s become – a player that’s better than the one that left Kansas City after the 2007 season. First it was just a matter of getting him healthy, Johnson having been injured against Santos Laguna before the season even started. Then it was finding his niche in the team. After that, the goals came. That’s also when Seattle started to round out his game. The hold up play improved. So did the work rate. So did the awareness of what he needed to be within the context of the team. Now, Johnson is as good an all-around striker as you’ll find in Major League Soccer.

Tonight, in what must be the most fulfilling night of his career, Johnson regained the one thing that was missing: Prestige. He’d lost is somewhere on the bench at Craven Cottage but found it in an unlikely play: On a cricket ground in St. John’s, Antigua. He proved himself willing, adaptable, and able to provide the goals the U.S. has so desperately lacked, and for one night, all of the people who had slotted EJ in as Brain McBride’s successor were proven right. Scoring in the 20th and 91st minutes, Johnson all of a sudden looks like the best scoring option in the pool.

Is it too much to suggest that, over the course of 90 minutes, with two bullets into the lower right hand corner of Molvin James’ goal, Eddie Johnson has changed the fate of the national team? Yes, but only slightly. It’s more accurate to say he prevented the program from careening off course, veering from this winding, uncertain trail they’ve starting climbing in wake of Bob Bradley. With his double, Johnson’s kept Klinsmann’s on course, even if the path gets rockier with every step.

No other forward at Klinsmann’s disposal is as likely to score those goals. Without them, the U.S. would have been plunged off their trail straight into an identify crisis, whether they qualified for The Hex or not.

Is the U.S. the type of team that gets drawn by Antigua and Barbuda? Thanks to Eddie Johnson, the answer is still now.

Klopp: Liverpool “not 500 miles away” from Man City’s standard

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Jurgen Klopp remains bullish on his Liverpool’s credentials as one of the Premier League’s top-four sides title challengers this season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

While everyone else might be writing off the Reds due to their propensity for defensive disasters on an every-game basis, Klopp refuses to concede that a gap of “500 miles” exists between his side and Manchester City, the early-days runaway leaders of the 2017-18 season — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t compare City with us, but I think everyone can see we are not 500 miles away. But they fly. It was a very decisive day when we lost 5-0. Dealing with a 5-0 defeat is not the easiest thing. We didn’t lose confidence but we were not that fluent afterwards and it was not like we could close our eyes and finish [thinking about it]. They did exactly the opposite. I saw the Stoke goals, you see the shot from Fernandinho and you think, ‘If it works, it works even like this.’ They are a fantastic team and we don’t have to compare, but it starts so early again with us having to apologize for the season so far because one team is flying.”

“Their way of football I would say is not something we are too far away from but to be as clinical as they have been so far? We weren’t.

“That’s the thing. We are still in the race, not with City in the moment because they have I don’t how many points, and I don’t say already that we should only fight for a top-four place. Performance-wise we are a team that should be there but now we have to get the results.”

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

All due respect to Klopp and Liverpool, the league table says City currently have 25 points (having played one game more), while Liverpool have 13. That’s not a difference of 500 points, but taking into account not only results but performances, it might as well be.

Ligue 1: Falcao, Balde score to keep Monaco close to PSG

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PARIS (AP) French champion Monaco got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against Caen on Saturday.

Monaco lost three and drew one of its previous four games in all competitions. But coach Leonardo Jardim’s side was largely in control against a Caen side that started brightly and faded after Keita Balde’s opening goal and first for Monaco.

“It was important to win, to get a bit of confidence back,” Jardim said. “We’ve been working hard and the players were very serious today.”

Captain Radamel Falcao scored his league-leading 13th from the penalty spot in the 59th, confidently sending goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way.

The win moved second-place Monaco within three points of Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more. Unbeaten PSG is away at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Falcao’s partnership with teen star Kylian Mbappe was crucial to Monaco’s charge to the league title and the Champions League semifinals last season. Mbappe left to join PSG in a high-profile move — as did several other key players — but Falcao’s new partnership with the unselfish Balde looks a promising one.

“We’ve lost a few players and we need a bit of time, it’s been a bit difficult for us,” Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic said. “I hope we can stay at the top of the table and that the young players can shine. We have a lot of quality here.”

Balde has been sharp in his handful of appearances since joining from Lazio in the offseason, but mainly as a link player and a provider.

This time, the Senegal forward finished off the move as he ran onto Thomas Lemar’s perfectly weighted pass into his path, cut across a defender on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

Lemar almost created another goal when his corner was headed against the crossbar by Brazilian defender Jemerson late in the first half.

Falcao put the game beyond doubt from the spot after Slovenian midfielder Jan Repas fouled attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.


After a tricky start to his tenure at Nantes, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has turned things around.

Nantes beat Guingamp 2-1 at home to move up to third place, extending Ranieri’s unbeaten run to eight matches after losing the first two.

Nantes, which scored through defender Chidozie Awaziem and midfielder Abdoulaye Toure, is just two points behind Monaco.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

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.

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La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.