Christen Press continues racking up goals as U.S. down Netherlands, 3-1

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Christen Press was a non-factor under Pia Sundhage, but under Tom Sermanni, she has six goals in seven games, her double in Den Haag leading the U.S. Women to an easy 3-1 victory over the Netherlands on Tuesday.

The match was never really a contest. Early intensity from the U.S. pushed the hosts onto their heels, making it nearly impossible for the Dutch to move through the middle of the field. Pressure from the likes of Press, Sydney Leroux, and Heather O’Reilly made life easier for midfielders Yael Averbuch and Julie Johnston, giving Sermanni few chances to judge the central defense pairing of Rachel Buehler and Becky Sauerbrunn. The Netherlands were only able to generate one half-chance before the match was out of reach.

For all their dominance, it look the U.S. 36 minutes to get on the board, though when they did, it was relatively simple. Leroux broke down the left side of the Netherlands defense before playing a square ball into the area for Tobin Heath. With the defense collapsing on Press, Heath had no trouble giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

Just before halftime, the U.S. doubled their lead when Dutch captain Daphne Koster failed to track Press’s run onto a Leroux touched a ball behind the Netherland’s defense. Goalkeeper Loes Geurts was left abandoned as Press was able to shoot from just inside the area, finishing another easy U.S. goal.

Fifteen minutes into the second, Press struck again – a clinical piece of finishing few in the U.S. striker pool would be able to replicate. After turning her defender with a dribble off her left foot, Press let go of a shot from just inside the right side of the area. Geurts was positioned well, but when the ball curled away from her outstretched right arm and dove toward the lower left hand corner, the Dutch keeper proved unable to defend the small far post window Press exploited for her double.

After the disappointment of giving up a 3-1 lead to Germany on Friday, Tuesday’s match turned out to be a stroll. The Dutch were outshot 19-5, with the U.S. putting nine shots on frame to their hosts’ two. Only a late defensive lapse allowed Manon Melis to ruin Ashlyn Harris’s clean sheet.

source: APBut as much as conceding late goals might be a concern, the takeaway from Tuesday’s game was another illustration of the U.S.’s enviable attacking depth. Sydney Leroux (right) terrorized a Dutch defense that came nowhere close to matching her speed and physicality. They seemed to resigned to bringing Leroux down late in the match – their last hopes of containing her. Tobin Heath looked sharp, particularly when taking defenders on one-on-one, while Heather O’Reilly again reminded Sermanni that she has a role in the debate between her, Megan Rapinoe, and others for starting spots.

And then there’s Christen Press, the former Stanford star who toiled outside the national team while staring in WPS and Sweden. It’s a story would be old and worn out if it weren’t for the paradox every goal Press adds to an already remarkable start. During the Olympic and (to a lesser extent) World Cup cycles, onlookers wondered why somebody with Press’s credentials wasn’t being called in. All the while people like myself would say “With Wambach, Morgan, Rodriguez and Leroux, where’s the room?”

Sermanni has made room. He did so by initially starting her at right midfield, but with Tuesday’s two-goal performance in a forward’s role (the second double of her international career), Press threw some gas on the fire: If we had to rank the U.S.’s forwards, where do you slot a 24-year-old whose scored six times in her first seven games?

Perhaps not that high, right now. Alex Morgan’s arguably the world’s best player. Abby Wambach has come back strong after a disappointing winter, and every time Leroux starts, she reminds us she’s the most physically gifted attacker in the squad.

But until Press slows down, we have to keep asking. And Sermanni has to keep testing: How good is Christen Press?

Matches like these are usually pretty meaningless, the competitive benefits of a down-cycle friendly negligible. But for a new coach looking to expand the narrow player pool used to compete for the last two major tournaments, matches like Tuesday’s in Den Haag are invaluable. How else can you uncover the Christen Presses of the world?

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.