Three things that looked great for the United States vs. Germany … and three that didn’t

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We already talked about Jozy Altidore, our pick for Man of the Match. Past that, here are three things that looked great for the United States in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Germany .. and then three that, well, not so much …

(MORE: Man of the Match, Altidore)

Three that worked well …

Michael Bradley as the essential linchpin

It’s not enough at this point to say the team is better with Michael Bradley in the lineup. Everyone knows that. Let’s walk a step further and say this: The team just doesn’t work without Michael Bradley on the field.

The team just moves forward with such improved clarity and balance when he’s around. Bradley’s elemental movement and ability to direct others is absolutely essential. His touches are so clean. And when the United Sates loses possession, the pressure in  midfield arrives so much more reliably when Bradley partners with Jermaine Jones.

High pressure up the field

Remember two things about Sunday’s result. First, it was a friendly – and you know what we always say about reading too much into friendlies, one way or the other. And the other remark here is how Germany allowed the United States to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, sitting back and letting the United States get comfortable. (Well, with that, and with shaky marking, some ridiculous goalkeeping …)

Yes, it was hot Sunday in D.C.  But Klinsmann and Co. chose to ignore the conditions and pursue the usual tactical goal, pressuring up high up the field rather than yielding to the sultry afternoon and dropping into low pressure crouch as Germany did. It was a fairly bold call from Klinsmann, but it worked beautifully.

(MORE: Video of Germany’s ridiculous own goal Sunday)

Better individual stuff from attackers

We won’t write books about Fabian Johnson’s move into midfield, but it wasn’t bad, either. His timing on runs inside did leave the Germans confused at moments.

Graham Zusi had a far more effective match along the right, making good choices and crossing well from the right while still tracking reliably back to assist his inexperienced right back.

And then there’s Dempsey, who had a quiet first half. But how many times have we seen it now, where “Deuce” does seem to be having a sleepy evening – right up to the moment he puts one or two into goal?

And now three elements we need to talk about …

The outside back situation

Klinsmann made a change along the right with utility man Brad Evans taking his turn along the outside of the back line. The Seattle Sounder, a real thinking man’s player, had a solid first half defensively. Then again, he and left back DaMarcus Beasley needed something more assertive going forward. Yes, it’s nit-picky, but outside backs at this level have to press into the attack.

And then there’s Edgar Castillo, who replaced Beasley midway through the second half and got beat badly two or three times. So, there’s still plenty to talk about at both outside back spots.

Omar Gonzalez giving up a goal

The big LA Galaxy center back had a reasonable match all the way around, vocal, winning balls and generally finding good spots. But he lost his mark on Germany’s second goal, directly off a corner kick, furthering an alarming trend where Gonzalez momentarily drops concentration. Simply put, Gonzalez’s game will reach the next level when he holds strict concentration for 90 minutes, and not a second less.

Of course, Gonzalez wasn’t alone in flagging concentration during certain spells. Keep reading …

Two concerning periods of play

As positive as the response was to begin Sunday’s match – shaking off the stinker against Belgium and kicking off so confidently against Germany – the second half had a couple of concerning windows, where  “response” was seriously lacking. Klinsmann had warned his team to be particularly alert over the first 10 minutes, to look for a proud German team to put their big and talented boots on this game.

Sure enough, the Americans looked a bit fat and happy, a bit labored immediately after intermission. And Germany got back in the game.

Dempsey hit a couple of goals and order seemed restored in a 4-1 lead. Only, Klinsmann’s kids seemed to drop concentration again, this time at about 75 minutes, allowing the visitors to make things far from comfortable and leaving the Americans to do the “just hanging on” thing by the end.

(MORE: Goals galore, as the United States tops Germany, 4-3)

James stars for Bayern Munich in Bundesliga win at Schalke (video)

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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BERLIN (AP) James Rodriguez starred on his first Bundesliga start for Bayern Munich, scoring one goal and playing a role in the others for a 3-0 win at Schalke on Tuesday.’

James, who switched from Real Madrid in the offseason, earned a penalty and then scored in the first half, before brilliantly setting up Arturo Vidal to wrap up the win in the second.

[ WATCH: Alex Morgan smashes USWNT goal ]

While the Colombian midfielder made his first league start for Bayern, American teenager Weston McKennie did likewise for the home team. Despite the efforts of the 19-year-old Texan midfielder – who covered more ground than any other player in the first half – Schalke had no answer to James’ individual brilliance.

“We created the goals very well, so we deserved to win,” said Bayern’s reserve goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, playing in place of Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer. Neuer has been ruled out until January with another hairline fracture of the metatarsal in his left foot.

The home side was first to have the ball in the net, but Amine Harit’s goal was ruled out as Bastian Oczipka was offside. Ulreich had done well with two saves beforehand.

Bayern got the penalty after referee Marco Fritz consulted his video assistant to see if Naldo had handled the ball when James cut it back. The Brazilian defender was going to ground but had his arms raised when the ball struck.

Protests by Schalke players had no effect and Robert Lewandowski duly converted from the spot.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

It got worse for the home side four minutes later, when Bayern scored after a Schalke throw-in. Thomas Mueller, Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso worked the ball to the unmarked James, who wrong-footed Ralf Faehrmann to score his first Bundesliga goal.

Mueller hit the post with a header from a cross by James after the break, before substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka went close at the other end.

Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco brought on Swiss forward Breel Embolo for McKennie with just over half an hour remaining.

Any hopes of an equalizer ended when James eluded two defenders and delivered a perfect ball for Vidal to strike with a volley to the top corner.

“Altogether there’s no denying that Bayern had a very good day. Then it’s hard for any team,” Schalke general manager Christian Heidel said.

WOLFSBURG FRUSTRATION, AUGSBURG ELATION

Fin Bartels’ second-half header earned Werder Bremen a 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg and denied Martin Schmidt a winning start as coach. Schmidt was appointed Monday when Wolfsburg fired Andries Jonker after the team had claimed just four points in its opening four games.

Michael Gregoritsch’s fourth-minute strike was enough for Augsburg to beat visiting Leipzig 1-0 for its third win from five games.

Two goals from Brazilian midfielder Raffael gave Borussia Moenchengladbach a 2-0 win at home over promoted Stuttgart.

USWNT rides brace from super sub Morgan to big win (video)

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
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Alex Morgan scored two goals, the second with gusto, as the United States women’s national team hammered New Zealand 5-0 at Nippert Stadium in a Tuesday night friendly.

After Cincinnati native Rose Lavelle made a 30-minute cameo in her return from injury, the USWNT poured forth with goals.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

Coming off the bench, Morgan scored within a minute of her second half introduction.

And then, after an electric dribble from Mallory Pugh, Morgan rang an aesthetically-pleasing rocket off the proverbial woodwork to make it 5-0.

Klopp’s reliance on top CB pair nothing new, but a problem

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When Jurgen Klopp was hired at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, he did something right away that would set the stage for BVB’s run back into Bundesliga power.

Klopp brought defender Neven Subotic with him from Mainz, and took Mats Hummels on loan from Bayern Munich.

The 19-year-old Subotic played 38 times for BVB that season, and Hummels played well on way to a permanent transfer.

[ MORE: Klopp left fuming at defending ]

Largely, Klopp seemed to “set it and forget it” with his center backs from that point forward: No big summer buys, and neither Subotic nor Hummels was headed anywhere.

That didn’t change until 2013-14, when Klopp bought Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen, adding Matthias Ginter the next season.

Klopp left BVB after a disappointing 2014-15, taking the job at Liverpool in October 2015.

He didn’t do much in January, but agreed to terms with Schalke center back Joel Matip in February and landed Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg in the summer. The Reds already had bought Dejan Lovren from Southampton in the Summer of 2014, and Klopp seemed set.

[ MORE: League Cup Weds. wrap ]

Lovren improved a lot with Matip next to him, and Klavan made just 15 appearances for the Reds last season. The Reds went hard at Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk, but failed to get him for any number of reasons. Still, Klopp figured his quartet, including young Joe Gomez in a pinch, would be just fine this season.

And maybe they will be, but there are daunting signs for the Reds in the first couple months of the season. Klopp has used Matip in eight matches, tied for the most on the team with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. He’s used Lovren six times, and Klavan four.

Liverpool’s record by CB pair (admittedly a tiny sample size):

Matip-Lovren: 3W-2D
Matip-Klavan: 1W-1D-1L
Gomez-Klavan: 1L (today)

The center backs, sans Matip and Lovren, especially hurt the Reds in the 2-0 loss to Leicester on Tuesday. All three moments of Leicester threat in this highlight package find either Klavan or Gomez cooked or out-of-place.

Look, a lot of teams are going to be hurt when using their second-choice CB pair, and many won’t be bothered by Liverpool’s exit from the League Cup. Furthermore, it’s not like anyone has been mistaking Lovren and Matip for Puyol and Pique.

But look at every English team in Europe, including the ones with far fewer defensive frailties heading into this summer than Liverpool.

Chelsea bought Antonio Rudiger.

Everton added Michael Keane.

Manchester United bought Victor Lindelof.

Spurs bought Davinson Sánchez and Juan Foyth.

Arsenal didn’t buy anyone besides Alexandre Lacazette, while Man City bought full backs and has received plenty of criticism for failing to add to its center back corps of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Eliaquim Mangala.

Liverpool? They sold Mamadou Sakho.

It’s problematic, yes, and it can’t be fixed until January. The question is whether Klopp sees a need to spend in the winter window. As illustrated above, he loves to ride his horses, even if Lovren and Matip aren’t quite Hummels and Subotic.

Think of what’s ailed Liverpool in recent seasons: Are some of those flops against lesser Premier League teams changed with more rest for their top pair or a better option for the mix?

League Cup Weds. preview: Top teams mind the underdogs

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The giant killers aim their arrows at Premier League foes on Wednesday in the final five matches of the League Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: League Cup Tues. wrap ]


Arsenal vs. Doncaster Rovers

March 29, 1902 — Doncaster beat Arsenal 1-0. In the century-plus since, Arsenal has won five and drawn once with Doncaster.

Pretty safe to say the in-form Gunners’ and their back-ups will run through the Rovers, though as the old cliche goes, “That’s why they play the games.”

Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest

For a long time, this was a Premier League fixture each season. Now Chelsea welcomes the Championship’s Forest for the third time since 1999.

Everton vs. Sunderland

The Toffees could badly use a nice win after its Europa League beatdown in Italy and a series of tough results against Premier League giants.

Enter Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Aiden McGeady, Jack Rodwell, and James Vaughn in a Sunderland squad with plenty of experience playing at Goodison Park (The Black Cats have two further players, Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway, on loan from Everton). USMNT youngster Lynden Gooch could get a starting run versus PL opposition.

Manchester United vs. Burton Albion

The visitors surprised United by forcing an FA Cup replay in 2006, and the Red Devils repaid them with a 5-0 lashing. Burton was in the Conference then, and have risen dramatically in the last few seasons and surprised by surviving a Championship campaign in 2016-17. This one won’t be close, but it’ll be better than 5-0 for Nigel Clough’s Brewers.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City

Tony Pulis has been able to stymy a lot of teams, but Man City isn’t one of them. West Brom boasts 11-straight wins over the Baggies, the last of which have been by multiple goals. West Brom’s last draw vs. City was Boxing Day 2011. Its last win? Sept. 22, 2010 in the League Cup. Can the Hawthorns be the venue for a surprise?