Guatemala v United States

U.S. player ratings from Friday’s win over Gautemala

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Game grades from Friday night’s 6-0 win over a young Guatemalan side. Remember, it’s just Guatemala. The Americans begin Gold Cup play Tuesday in Portland against Belize.

STARTERS

GK Nick Rimando (5): Some real issue communicating with the men in front of him. There were two instances in each half where information being exchanged with teammates just wasn’t good enough, and it nearly put the United States in trouble. Otherwise not asked to make many saves. Good work with his feet, if occasionally a little too casual.

RB Michael Parkhurst (5): Very slow to move into the attack. If Parkhurst cannot help drive the attack from the back against a young Guetamalan side (read: not very good), what chance will he have against much better opposition? First cross was at the 52nd minute (and it was a well-shaped one.)

CB Oguchi Onyewu (6): Strong defending and clearing, but sometimes leaden and overly safe with his passing.  A little variety here and there will be needed against the Gold Cup opponents ahead, who are sure to pack the back. Along with Goodson, there was some occasional trouble locating Guatemala’s one striker, Minor Lopez, in the game’s early minutes.

CB Clarence Goodson (7) Tried to move ball forward with more urgency than his central partner, although not with consistently great results. Got over quickly to support Beasley, allowing the U.S. left side to push the attack from their side. Deserved the fifth U.S. goal as he is usually dangerous on set pieces when appearing internationally.

LB DaMarcus Beasley (8): Perhaps the best U.S. player in the first 45, combining well with Edgar Castillo, supplying good crosses through a keen sense of when to spring forward. And it’s nice that Beasley, aiming for his fourth World Cup, still has the legs to get there.

DM Kyle Beckerman (6): Handled the ball a lot (as you expect at that spot) and managed to almost always do something positive with it, although not at the high tempo the guys would later in that position. Gave lots of protection to his center backs. Should have scored in 21st minute, but fanned on a point-blank shot.

(MORE: What we learned from Friday’s victory in San Diego)

CM Jose Torres (5): Stationed slightly higher than Beckerman as a linking central midfielder, as Michael Bradley does these days.  But he was no Michael Bradley, just too casual or sloppy with the ball. This has the look of another opportunity that has come and gone for him, as he didn’t impress the way the second half central mid subs certainly did.

CM Joe Corona (5): He was either an early victim of an overly clogged midfield or he was the reason for it. Stationed behind Herculez Gomez in the original 4-2-3-1, he wasn’t involved and drifted unhelpfully close to the holding men behind him. Found a little more joy when he switched with Donovan, moving out to the right.

RW Landon Donovan (8): Surprisingly rickety in the first 10 minutes, most evident in two early give-aways. (Dare we even say “nervous?”) But he settled down and turned positively alive with movement and ideas when switched to a dual forward role alongside Gomez. By the second half, he was among the best U.S. men – which he should be, of course. I mean, it’s Landon Donovan! Forced a penalty kick, converted it, finished well on Holden’s arrangement and set up another goal.

LW Edgar Castillo (7): Was a primary reason the U.S. left side (along with Beasley) was significantly more dangerous than the right.  His first touches weren’t always tip top, but Castillo did manage some tidy work in tight spaces here and there and was aggressive in attacking desire. Worked inside frequently, able to do so because of Beasley’s ability to work the wing.

CF Herculez Gomez (7): Sixth goal for the United States (Friday’s opener) was typical Gomez stuff, staying with the play through diligent effort, circulating his run and finding himself alone at the far post to calmly put away the goal. After the switch into a 4-4-2, saw more of the ball and always provided an outlet, usually working the right side. He’s definitely got goals in him for the coming Gold Cup.

SUBSTITUTES

Stuart Holden (8): Entered at halftime for Beckerman. Good variety of midfield passing, short, long, diagonal, forward, switching passes, etc. A couple of really swell passes to open up the defense, like the chipped beauty into Donovan for a goal. A highly productive 45 minutes for one of the most-watched U.S. men of the night.

Mix Diskerud (7): Entered at halftime for Torres. Good work in partnering with Holden in the middle of the 4-4-2. Lots of technical work done at the high tempo that Jurgen Kinsmann wants. Only nit-pick is tackling that could have been better.

Chris Wondolowski (6): Entered the 59th for Gomez. Found himself unopposed with the ball at his feet when Donovan’s sly pass bounced around 18 yards from goal, then finished with confident perfection for first U.S. goal.

Brek Shea (7): Entered in the 59th for Castillo. Lots of good bursts down the left helped keep the Guatemalan defense in trouble once Klinsmann made lots of changes at the hour mark. Looked like a man determined to get back into Klinsmann’s good graces. Only nitpick was some inconsistency in shooting and crossing, although he certainly made plenty of opportunities for himself to do so.

Alejandro Bedoya (5): Entered in the 59th for Corona. Popped up in the right spot for the last U.S. goal, but not much else. A shell of what Shea was on the other side, with imprecise touches and generally not enough mark on a game that was tilting heavily toward the visitors defensive end.

Will Bruin (5): Entered in the 73rd for Donovan. Got into a couple of good spots near goal but couldn’t quite finish the movement.

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.