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.

Money from Wembley replay will ‘support Rochdale for two or three years’

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.

Mourinho claiming injury crisis ahead of CL showdown

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The next three weeks will go a long way toward defining Jose Mourinho’s second season at Manchester United, with the Red Devils facing not only fellow top-four aspirers Chelsea and Liverpool, but also contesting their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Sevilla.

[ MORE: VAR provider admits incorrect graphic displayed on TV ]

Thus, it’s not exactly the most convenient time for the words “injury crisis” to rear their ugly heads yet again, but that’s the challenge Mourinho claims he faces ahead of Wednesday’s CL clash.

Paul Pogba missed Saturday’s FA Cup victory with a last-minute illness; Marcus Rashford is dealing with a leg injury and remains questionable, as are Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are all but officially out, according to Mourinho — quotes from ESPN.co.uk:

“I didn’t rest one single player so we had today every player available here. I didn’t rest anyone. I brought two kids that played on Friday 90 minutes [for the under-23s] because I don’t have another player, so we arrive at this crucial moment with some problems.”

“Can we recover some of them to Wednesday? I believe so. I think Rashford, Herrera, Valencia — I think they have a chance.

“Paul, I don’t know. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane, Zlatan — I don’t think they have any chance.”

Mourinho dealt with a similar rash of injuries very late on last season, as his side barreled its way into, and eventually won, the Europa League final, securing a place in the CL this season. With a top-four finish all but out of reach at the time, Mourinho opted to rest his bare-bones group of first-team regulars in Premier League action and prioritize Europe’s “other” competition.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

This time around, United sit second in the PL table, just four points clear of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, and the path to winning the CL will prove far more difficult than taking on the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht, Celta Vigo and Ajax.

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone