USA 1-0 Honduras: Who is Man of the Match?

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With the United States grabbing all three points in Salt Lake City, it’s almost certain they will qualify for the World Cup.

With Jurgen Klinsmann’s men atop the group, it’s at this point we start talking about the magic number for qualification, which sits at 7 (6 to go in on goal differential).  That is the combination of points that the United States can get plus what Honduras drop for the U.S. to qualify.

We’ll break this one down hockey style (but backwards), as we hand out the three stars:

1 star: Clint Dempsey

Clint played his usual role, finding himself in the right place at the right time for chances to finish.  Unfortunately, Dempsey failed to finish multiple chances, a number of which with his head.  He put one early wide, had a diving header he put right at the goalkeeper, and fired over from close range another time.  I give Dempsey credit for being in the spot to finish chances, but he couldn’t get the job done.

2 stars: Graham Zusi

Zusi had a so-so first half, putting in a great corner early and connecting on a cross or two, but also gave the ball away a number of times and his lack of pace showed.  In the second half, however, Zusi was outstanding.  He found some pace, and the Florida native proved venomous from both set pieces and wide play.  The first half was sketchy, but it was mostly due to Honduras funneling the United States into the middle, aware of their dangerous play from out wide.  If/when Landon Donovan returns, he’ll take Zusi’s place, but while Donovan remains solely with the L.A. Galaxy, it’s Zusi’s spot and he’s taking full advantage.

3 stars, Man of the Match: Fabian Johnson

Johnson has cemented himself as the clear first-choice left-back tonight, proving valuable on both ends of the ball.  He allowed virtually nothing on the defensive end, completely shutting down the left side.  On the attack, Johnson has both a slicing ability to cross the ball as well as precision passing.  His wonderful ball to Jozy Altidore set up the goal, and fittingly enough it came on the back end of a ball from Zusi.  He makes smart runs up front, all while not leaving his backside completely uncovered.  The Honduras defense specifically played to minimize the United States chances from out wide, and Johnson still made it happen. Beasley has played well too, but it’s becoming more clear Fabian has to continue to start.

Honorable mention: Jozy Altidore

I was worried that, as the game went on, the old Jozy Altidore was going to make a return.  Having scored three goals in three matches, the confidence should be high, but Jozy’s psyche is fragile, and as the minutes dragged on with a petty few touches, he seemed to become frustrated and whiny.  There were balls he didn’t chase because they weren’t perfect. The goal was a wonderful bit of finishing, but taking into account the match as a whole Jozy played a bit like a drama queen.

Why PSG’s Alexis, Neymar pursuit fits in a (relatively) smart space

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Paris Saint-Germain’s run of four Ligue 1 titles ended last season, a campaign which also saw exciting league-winners Monaco go two rounds further into the UEFA Champions League.

Monaco looks set for a step back this season, with Bernardo Silva off to Man City and Tiemoue Bakayoko signing for Chelsea. Kylian Mbappe could join Monaco’s list of departures, and reports say Man City had a bid accepted for Benjamin Mendy.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

While Monaco is loading up on young talent again, PSG clearly sees its chance to surge back into the title seat and Les Parisiens may just make themselves European favorites as well if they can pry Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Neymar from Barcelona.

That would be a South American trident nearly as potent as the one Neymar current shares with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and the Brazilian would not be second or third fiddle.

PSG has so far been relatively quiet this summer, with the addition of Dani Alves the lone new buy. Aside from money, how was Alves lured to Paris over Man City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola? The idea of a reunion with Neymar and several Brazilian mates — Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura — may’ve been enough and surely that conversation would’ve happened between the two Barca stars.

The French side has to make a big chance at some point soon, unless they’ve been able to unload their money bags and actually buy a fountain of youth. Thiago Motta is 34, Blaise Matuidi 30, Silva 32, and Edinson Cavani 30.

It’s calculated aggression from PSG to splash cash in hopes of rivaling Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barca in pursuit of the UCL title. The Neymar move weakens one of those rivals. If Marco Verratti isn’t part of a swap deal, the signings of Sanchez and Neymar would meet the Italian star’s ambitions well up the road.

De Boer: West Brom was out to injure Palace star Zaha

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No shrinking violet, new Crystal Palace boss Frank De Boer was left fuming at West Bromwich Albion players following the PL Asia Trophy third place match on Saturday in Hong Kong.

While the focus could’ve been on Luka Milivojevic‘s gorgeous free kick (watch here), De Boer couldn’t get past the hard fouls aimed at his key attacker.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

West Brom gave away the free kick that led to the aforementioned goal by chopping down Zaha, and the foul was not an isolated incident.

From the BBC:

“They were looking for him, to injure him,” said De Boer.

“He’s one of the exciting players in the league. I don’t want to think he’d be out for two weeks or months.”

De Boer is no stranger to rough play, so this is not coming from a soft place. We doubt it’s going to change anything from Tony Pulis‘ men, though.

Chelsea hammers Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing (video)

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Chelsea struck twice early and Michy Batshuayi put the cherry on top as the Premier League champions cruised past Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing on Saturday.

The Blues started a lineup they’d use on any occasion in the PL, while Arsenal had unproven prospects Cohen Bramall and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the XI.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

Willian‘s quick goal put the Blues up 1-0 at the Bird’s Nest, and Batshuayi scored the second and third. Both were pretty classy, especially the second.

Marcos Alonso did the lion’s share of the work to produce the second chance for Batshuayi, who is threatening to carry over his fine late season form to this campaign. What a smash.

Coutinho rocket helps LFC to PL Asia Trophy (video)

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Goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool come back from an early deficit to win the PL Asia Trophy on Saturday in Hong Kong.

Islam Slimani gave Leicester City an early lead in front of a heavy pro-Liverpool crowd at Hong Kong Stadium, but Coutinho delivered the goods on both goals in a 2-1 win.

The tournament win is Liverpool’s first in its second trip to the PL Asia Trophy Final.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

First he crossed for Salah to head home, and then he scored the above goal by cutting in from the left and lashing a shot past a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.

We’ve seen this one before from Coutinho, just not on this particular continent. The Brazilian remains a Barcelona target, but looks prepared for the season in whatever land he sets foot.