U.S. player ratings from Tuesday’s big win over Belize

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Game grades from Tuesday’s 6-1 victory at Jeld-Wen Field against over-matched and eventually overrun Belize. Remember, it’s just Belize. (NOTE: when rating players against under-strength opposition, we have to be a little picky. They should be doing most everything right.) 

STARTERS

GK Nick Rimando (7): Didn’t need his hands for more than 20 minutes, but did have to be alert in keeping  a 23rd minute deflection from sneaking under the cross bar. Also contributed a wonderful, flying save in stoppage time. Mostly, Real Salt Lake’s No. 1 had the quiet night everyone expected.

RB Michael Parkhurst (5): No trouble defensively, but he just isn’t the man for these matches at right back, simply not comfortable pushing the attack and taking on defenders. Almost always chooses the nice, safe pass rather than something more aggressive or adventurous. A misplaced pass here and there, too.

CB Michael Orozco (7): Slipped and lost his mark once when Belize got its first shot directed toward Rimando and got turned once in the midfield, but was otherwise solid. Managed to be around the ball a lot on offensive set-pieces and got his reward with the fifth U.S. goal.

CB Clarence Goodson (7) Good about pushing aggressively into Belize’s half, even getting to within 30 yards of goal at times.  Helped set the aggressive, high line Klinsmann wants and his passing was assertive once again.

LB DaMarcus Beasley (7): Once again the U.S. veteran was easily the better outside back in terms of throwing himself into the attack, confidently moving into attacking spots along the flank. Very little to do on defense.

DM Kyle Beckerman (6): The more defensive-minded of the central pairing, as you would expect. But Beckerman did add some offensive dash to his usual bag of tricks at international level, like a couple of skillful through balls or the terrific, early cross for the second U.S. goal. Tended to pass to the right a lot, for some reason. (Perhaps by tactical design?)

CF Mix Diskerdud (5): Active in showing for passes and finding ways to be involved, usually playing a little higher than Beckerman in the alignment. While his positioning was nominally central, Diskerud tended to drift to the right, probably because Beasley was keeping more pressure on the U.S. left side than Parkhurst could along the right. Needs to tidy up the possession just a little.

RM Joe Corona (6): Played along the right in the U.S. 4-4-2. His ability to rise and head Torres’ early cross provided the rebound that led to an 11th minute U.S. goal. His crossing was zippy and generally accurate, although the young Liga MX attacker could have been more opportunistic on his shooting.

LM Jose Torres (5): Playing along the left, tucked away inside, the Tigres man was a little slow in arriving into the game, although it was his cross that initiated the first U.S. goal. Generally though, same old Torres, just not doing enough to stamp his imprint on the night. For instance, he needed to finish from right in front of goal in the first half. Clearly, Torres can make the passes that open up a defense – he just needs to try ‘em a little more often.

(MORE: A few takeaways from the United States’ win)

FW Landon Donovan (7): A lot of technical craft, combining, turning, crossing, mixing in a little flick here and there, always doing his part to keep Belize under constant pressure. Donovan worked the channels and drifted wide as needed while Wondolowski took up positions around the 6. Donovan made smart runs, rarely lost the ball, collected two assists and converted the highly dubious PK for a sixth U.S. goal.

FW Chris Wondolowski (8): The man who has struggled to match his past scoring numbers in MLS this year had a hat trick within 40 minutes, doing exactly what he needed to climb up the striking depth chart. The scoring surely had “Wondo” feeling good, for his hold-up play was confident and effective. Not as active in the second 45, but it’s hard to criticize a striker who hits for three.

SUBSTITUTES

Stuart Holden (7): Entered at halftime for Beckerman and needed just more than 10 minutes to score. Didn’t need even that long to get on the ball a lot; good anticipation in stepping into passing lanes. The central midfield shape was more a true 4-4-2 when the Bolton man came on, with he and Diskerud exchanging spots in the middle. That allowed Holden to find some spots near Belize goal. Another nice step in his long climb back.

Brek Shea (6): Entered in the 61st minute for Torres. Didn’t see a bunch of the ball as the U.S. attack continued to lean right. But generally, his direct style provides a nice change of pace, especially when he replaces someone like Torres, who is more chisel than hammer in his attacking movements.

Alejandro Bedoya (6): Entered in the 66th for Corona. Nearly got into the scoring within seconds of his introduction.

Mascherano still believes Neymar is “the future” of Barcelona

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The Neymar-to-PSG saga has escalated quickly, and signs of the Brazilian’s move to Paris are growing, but one Barcelona player remains confident that his compatriot will stay in Spain ahead of the new La Liga season.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

PSG has shown a willingness over recent days to meet Barca’s worldly $260 million transfer fee for the 25-year-old, while Neymar has reportedly alerted his teammates that he will in fact be heading to the Parc des Princes next month.

Veteran Barcelona midfielder/defender Javier Mascherano is one of the Blaugrana players that hopes Neymar will stick around and help anchor the La Liga giants for years to come despite a possible massive payday in store.

“Obviously he is young and I hope he’s here with Barcelona for many more years,” the Argentina defender said to ESPN.

“He is a really important player for the club. Because of his age, he’s the future of the club and we hope we can keep on counting on him.

“He’s accustomed to the pressure and people talking. There’s always going to be rumours and news around him.

“It’s really difficult to give advice. Firstly, I’m not anyone to be giving advice and secondly, I see him really happy here, really happy. [Barca] are a club that have made it possible for him to perform at his best. But after that, each person has to make their own decisions.”

If Neymar does bolt for Paris the complexion of the MSN-Barca attack changes drastically despite still boasting elite talents Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

[ MORE: Man United drops Man City in Houston “Manchester Derby” ]

Barca has done little in the transfer market this summer, only adding Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo of Benfica. The club continues to pursue Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho, however, the Reds recently rejected a bid of $93 million.

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Neymar reportedly tells Barca teammates he’s off to PSG ]

Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

Vertonghen: “We need to level up” like rest of PL contenders

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Tottenham put up a heck of a title fight in 2016/17 as the club attempted to chase down Premier League champions Chelsea, but Spurs have been inactive this summer as Mauricio Pochettino‘s group gears up for next month.

[ MORE: Striker Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

The London side finished second in the PL a season ago — a record-high for the club during the modern Premier League Era.

[ VIDEO: History of the North London Derby ]

However, Pochettino and Co. have made no moves in the transfer market this summer, while its competitors — Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. — have all made significant roster additions to bolster their lineups.

Defender Jan Vertonghen says that Spurs must compete with the rest of the PL’s elite in the transfer market if the club is to finally realize its goal of finishing atop England’s top flight.

“The way our rivals are strengthening this season, we need to be aware of that and we need to level up as well,” Vertonghen told ESPN FC.

“I’m not saying with new players, but we need to take our levels up and I think we can. I’m the oldest outfield player in the team and I feel very fit. The younger guys can improve even more. It can definitely be our year and we want it to be our year.

“Luckily we almost kept everyone from this year. Obviously the window is not closed yet but if we can keep these guys, we can do the same thing again. It’ll be a bit harder because we play at Wembley! [The pitch] is a lot bigger but the training pitches have already been adapted.

While Spurs certainly benefit from having one of the strongest young groups of players in England, the club’s lack of spending is a bit concerning, especially after its recent loss of Kyle Walker — who joined Manchester City for a record fee.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.