Runs end, positions swap as Everton beats Tottenham

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As Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard recently noted in an interview with FOX Soccer’s Leander Schaerlaekens, just because the Toffees weren’t putting up the same results as they had at the beginning of the season didn’t mean the team was playing poorly. For whatever reason, Everton had only posted one win in nine games ahead of today’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur (1-1-7), and while they certainly weren’t playing up to the standards that dealt Manchester United a loss to open the season, David Moyes’ team wasn’t falling apart.

Today, Everton proved Howard’s point, although it took some late theatrics to do it. With Howard’s countryman Clint Dempsey having pushed Spurs in front in the 76th minute, Everton approached stoppage time set to extend their winless run to five. Instead, Stephen Piennar headed the Toffees even on 90 minutes before Nikica Jelavic’s sixth goal of the season pulled off the miraculous. When Everton won 2-1, it was the third time this season they’ve come back to win after conceding the opening goal.

For Spurs, the result recalls problems Tottenham had holding leads at the start of the season, but on the road against a team that will contend for top four, it wasn’t a bad result. It snapped a four-match unbeaten run, but they aren’t the first team to have to reset after a visit to the blue half of Liverpool.

At the same time, it was points dropped against a direct competitor for a place in next year’s Champion League. Should Spurs finish one or two points behind Everton, this game should jump back to the forefront of Tottenham memories.

The result vaults Everton to the top of a three-team tie for fourth, goal difference slotting them above Tottenham and West Brom. Arsenal, two points back, will have a voice in the race, too, though after today’s comeback at Goodison, doubts about Everton’s staying power should begin to fade. After games against Spurs, United, Arsenal, and Manchester City, the Toffees have yet to lose to the teams expected to compete at the top of the table (2-0-2). With Stoke, West Ham, and Wigan on tap before a meeting with Chelsea on Dec. 30, Everton has a chance on consolidate their place among the league’s elite.

It may not have been pretty, but Everton found a way to get three points. Now four months into the season, we can start to believe this Everton team is for real, ready for their first run at Champions League since 2004-05.

Klinsmann blames Costa Rica loss on Mexico hangover

Jurgen Klinsmann

The United States lost their third straight match on home soil tonight, the first such losing streak since 1997.

Following an extra-time loss to Mexico on Saturday, the U.S. failed to compete in a friendly against Costa Rica, putting in another poor performance as the side continues to struggle.

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In his post match press conference, Jurgen Klinsmann said his team was still shaking off the loss against Mexico, and couldn’t recover in time for tonight’s game.

Yes, the United States’ match against Mexico went 120 minutes. Yes, it was a very tough game both physically and mentally. However, it’s time for Klinsmann to stop making excuses.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from the USMNT’s loss to Costa Rica ]

Of the starting XI against Costa Rica, only four started against Mexico. Of the six substitutes Klinsmann brought in today, only Bobby Wood played in the Mexico match, and for less than 25 minutes.

The problem isn’t that the U.S. lost tonight; it’s that they didn’t even show up. What Klinsmann needed to do was walk into his press conference and say, “We didn’t come to play tonight. We stunk. That can’t happen and we need to be better. It starts with me.”

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Howard’s return highlights poor performances from USMNT ]

Top teams don’t dwell on past results. Top teams rebound quickly and back up poor performances with strong performances. When a top team would have bounced back, the United States fell flat.

Clearly the argument is, well, the United States isn’t a top team. But isn’t that what Klinsmann was brought in to do? To help develop the USMNT into a top team? The least they could do is act like one, and that starts with the manager.

College Soccer Update: Tragedy strikes USC Upstate with horrible car accident

USC Upstate
USC Upstate
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No interviews today. No star players and programs. Just mourning.

USC Upstate lost four students earlier this week, two of them men’s soccer players, in an early morning car accident this weekend. A fifth was injured when the car they were driving in ran off the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.

James Campbell and Mills Sproul are the soccer players who’ve left the pitch for the final time.

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USC Upstate’s athletic department held a candelight vigil on Monday, and honored both players with online memorials.

From Campbell’s, entitled “James Campbell Was an Intense Player Whose Competitiveness Made Those Around Him Play Harder”:

While Kyle Juell and James attended different high schools, they played club soccer together. “James was intense and passionate on the field,” Juell said. “He was the kind of aggressive player you wanted as a teammate. He was fun and warm and full of life and he cared so much about his teammates.”

From Sproul’s, entitled “Mills Sproul Put the Needs of Others Before His Own and Was Accepting of All”:

Mills’ teammate Deon Rose said that Mills was like the brother he never had.

“The first time I met him, I knew that he was special,” Rose said. “Not because he asked me if we had beaches in Canada or how Canadians survived without Chick-fil-A, but because he had an unconditional love for everyone and everything.”

Our thoughts are with the USC Upstate team, and entire community. Rest in peace.

Three stars of the week

1. University of California Santa Barbara — The Gauchos leapt from “receiving votes” to No. 14 in the nation. The Gauchos have won five-straight, all in-state, by a combined score of 13-3.

2. Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia — The midfielder leads the nation in assists with 12, one coming in Tuesday’s upset of Penn State, a match in which he also scored his first of the year. The Mountaineers shocked PSU with a 3-0 home win in Morgantown.

3. Francis Atuahene and Colin McAtee, Michigan — The Ghanaian freshman is a lightning bolt, and keeps producing goals along with the redshirt senior McAtee, who hails from San Diego. The Wolverines beat Duquesne 3-0 on Tuesday.

Other notes

— Creighton dropped two of its 24 first place votes, one each to North Carolina and Stanford, but remains the No.1 men’s team in the nation.

— Wake Forest hasn’t allowed a goal in three matches, against quality competition in NC State, South Carolina and Boston College. There were stretches in the 2-0 win over South Carolina where they looked unbeatable.

— Speaking of the Demon Deacons, they’ll face dangerous UNC on Saturday in what will be a cracker.

— Also No. 1:Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Trinity of Texas (Women’s D-3), Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3).