United States national team player ratings vs. Panama

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GK Tim Howard (7): Just a night at the office for Jurgen Klinsmann’s first choice in goal, with only some routine catches and one punch to manage until stoppage time. Howard was quick off his line to stuff Luis Tejada, who sneaked in behind the U.S. in the 92nd minute.

RB Brad Evans (4): If Panama wasn’t so punchless in attack, this whole thing could look quite different. Because the Sounders man’s early defending went from splotchy in the first 15 minutes to downright exposed later in the half. Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron rushed over to help several times. Not much of a factor on the U.S. attack.

CB Omar Gonzalez (7): As mentioned, he provided lots of help for Evans and was solid and well-positioned. The Galaxy man did get caught unawares late on Tejada’s sneaky run behind the back line. Otherwise, confident and mistake-free in the tackles and aerial challenges.

CB Matt Besler (6): Usually the better passer of the U.S. center backs Tuesday. The Sporting KC defender was pushed a little once Panama brought on its second striker, and the communication with Gonzalez remains a work in progress. A little smaller than Gonzalez, he probably benefitted more from Blas Perez’s absence along Panama’s front line.

LB DaMarcus Beasley (6): Two inviting crosses early warned Panama that it would need to be alert, and that opened up space for Fabian Johnson and Dempsey.  All the defensive trouble came down the opposite side as Panama clearly had Evans targeted. His 70th minute dash was a lung buster, and Beasley was very nearly rewarded for it (but hit the post on Jozy Altidore’s nifty pass). One demerit for Beasley, whose late yellow card was silly; now he’ll miss next week’s match in Salt Lake City.

MF Geoff Cameron (8): Who saw this coming? What a breakout night from the guy who had such a tough night two weeks ago as a right back against Belgium. His tracking, tackling, defensive position and ability to cover plenty of ground were superb. How many times did he stretch those long legs in to nick something away? The communication with Michael Bradley appeared spotless as Cameron worked just in behind the U.S. midfield leader. Cameron’s early passing was way too loose, although he made up for some much of it with that awesome ball into Eddie Johnson for a second U.S. goal. Like Gonzalez, he was diligent in offering assistance for Evans. (Almost forgot: Cameron won the second ball and immediately pushed it to Bradley for the first U.S. goal.)

MF Michael Bradley (8): Is there a time when Michael Bradley is not in the right spot, on offense or defense? Probably … but it sure doesn’t happen very often. He is always an available outlet and almost always moves the ball along with a clarity of choice. (Someone check the stats, because he may not have given away a possession all night!). Bradley’s 22nd minute shot looked goal-bound, but hit Clint Dempsey, and the timing on runs into the 18 carried its usual effectiveness.

RW Eddie Johnson (7): The hometown hero looked surprising comfortable in his wide role as a winger or midfielder or something in between. There was a good variety to his game, one that mixed short passing with timely dribbling, a couple of crosses and mostly good choices. And the goal, of course! Johnson was not always in the best spots to help Evans, but what do we expect? The guy is a forward, after all.

MF Clint Dempsey (7): Worked his usual spots behind Jozy Altidore, combining wonderfully through the night with the U.S. striker and with Fabian Johnson on the left, too.  Panama never seemed to find the U.S. captain, who got on the ball in different spots and didn’t ever hit his “default,” which is to try doing too much on his own. Dempsey’s near-post run was critical in that first-half goal, by the way.

LW Fabian Johnson (6): Responded critically to a challenge from Klinsmann, who asked him to find more ways to get involved. That’s always like a Klinsmann “yellow card,” meaning the young midfielder was close to fumbling away his starting spot. Sure enough, Johnson crushed an early shot, but went high with it. His crossing wasn’t always the best, but he got into position with varied runs and was certainly laser-targeted with than left-footed cross to Altidore. His relationship and chemistry with Beasley happened fast, and it’s quite something.

FW Jozy Altidore (8): If the young U.S. striker can nail the balance he found Tuesday, with wonderful technical work, parlayed with smart decisions and lots of hard work, he’ll be an automatic choice for the United States for a long, long time. Altidore found a variety of ways to get involved, running at defenders here and there, working the combos in the 20- to 30-yard range and popping out wide just enough to be difficult to track. Other than scoring in his third consecutive match, the AZ striker probably should have won a 34th minute penalty kick, too.

Subs:

Brad Davis … late sub for Fabian Johnson

Joe Corona … late sub for Eddie Johnson

Stuart Holden … late sub for Altidore.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.