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.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.

Paulinho has silenced his critics at Barcelona

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MADRID (AP) Brazil midfielder Paulinho wasn’t greeted with the warmest of welcomes when he arrived in Barcelona.

Fans made it clear they were not too thrilled to see the club spend 40 million euros ($48 million) on a defensive midfielder who was playing in the Chinese league.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

They were expecting a blockbuster signing after Neymar’s departure and ended up getting a player they knew very little about.

Paulinho didn’t have any links to the club’s youth academy and his style apparently didn’t suit the team’s traditional ball-possession game.

A video of Paulinho struggling to juggle the ball during his presentation at Camp Nou Stadium didn’t help, going viral and igniting even more criticism against the player and the club.

But things have changed quickly in favor of the low-key, hard-working Brazilian.

After five Spanish league games, Paulinho has done enough to mollify the critics.

He has two goals, including a late winner against Getafe last weekend, and showed some of the prowess that led him to success in Brazil and made him an indisputable starter for his national team.

He thrived after coming off the bench in his first four matches, and eventually earned a start on Tuesday against Eibar.

“I’m happy with how things have gone for me,” Paulinho said. “I’m glad that I’m playing well, it helps me get adapted to the club. I’m playing alongside some great players and they have all been supporting me a lot.”

The 29-year-old Paulinho has added versatility to the midfield. He is solid as a defensive midfielder but also excels with attacking runs that often surprise defenders.

That’s how he scored the decisive goal in the 2-1 win against Getafe, making a run between defenders and entering the area to fire a firm shot into the far corner. His second goal was a header in a 6-1 rout of Eibar.

“He will end up being a cheap signing,” Brazil teammate and former Barcelona player Dani Alves said.

Paulinho has a lot more presence in the area than some of the team’s other midfielders, including Ivan Rakitic and even Andres Iniesta.

It was this that made Paulinho a key player in the Corinthians team that won Club World Cup in 2012. His success with the Brazilian club prompted a move in 2013 to Tottenham, where he disappointed in his two seasons before moving to Guangzhou Evergrande.

Paulinho, who signed a four-year contract with Barcelona, said he had regained his confidence while playing in China. And his good performances with Brazil also helped.

“He gives us a lot of versatility. He can help us in many different ways,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Barcelona’s next game is on Saturday at Girona. The Catalan club has won its first five Spanish league games and has a two-point lead over second-place Sevilla.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Follow Tales Azzoni on http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Sargent, Carleton headline U.S. Under-17 World Cup squad

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Josh Sargent has decided his professional future lies in Germany. But first, he’ll be going next month to India with 20 other teammates.

Sargent headlines head coach John Hackworth’s 21-man U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team squad for the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India. The World Cup takes place from October 6-28.

Joining Sargent are Atlanta United prospects Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin and Justin Garces as well as New York City FC Homegrown signing James Sands, who recently made his first team debut.

The squad also features a handful of players based abroad, including Philadelphia, Penn. native Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos of Benfica, Ajax’s Sergino Dest and New York native Timothy Weah, who currently plays with Paris Saint-Germain.

The U.S. was drawn in Group A with host India, Colombia and Ghana. The U.S. U-17s begin the tournament in the opening game on October 6 against India, before facing Ghana on October 9 and Colombia on October 12.

In the press release, U.S. Soccer said that all U.S. U-17 games will be broadcast live on FS2 and UNIVERSO.

Here’s a look at the U.S. U-17 World Cup squad.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (S.L. Benfica; Philadelphia, Penn.), Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC; Miami, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (6): Sergiño Dest (Ajax; Almere-stad, Netherlands), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls; Montclair, N.J.), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.), James Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC; Greenwich, Conn.), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers, Fort Wayne, Ind.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): George Acosta (North Carolina FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club; Southlake, Texas), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC; Locust Grove, Ga.), Indiana Vassilev (Unattached; Savannah, Ga.)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton Ont.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Jacobo Reyes (C.F. Monterrey; Houston, Texas), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), Joshua Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Rosedale, N.Y.)

MLS at Week 29: NYCFC looks to clinch vs. Houston, Atlanta hosts Impact

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Five weeks remain in the MLS regular season, and the playoff picture in both conferences are still quite murky despite time running out ahead of the postseason.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

While the playoff situation in the Western Conference likely won’t be settled until the final week or two, another team in the East can lock up a spot in the postseason this weekend with a victory.

New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo

New York City FC has struggled a bit as of late with injuries and are also winless in their last two matches, but Patrick Vieira’s side has the opportunity to clinch its place in the East playoffs and potentially draw one step closer to locking up the second seed.

Vieira’s boys have scored just two goals in their last three outings (1-1-1 in that span), but the good news for NYCFC is that David Villa is expected to return to the starting XI on Saturday. MLS’ leading goalscorer has racked up an impressive 19 goals this season, and the Spaniard looks on pace to capture another MLS MVP award in 2017.

They’ll face the Dynamo in a “home” match in Hartford, Connecticut after the game was moved from Yankee Stadium due to a stadium conflict with the Yankees. The fixture still bodes well though for NYCFC, as the Dynamo boast one of the worst road records in MLS this season, at 1-9-5.


Atlanta United vs. Montreal Impact

Tata Martino’s side continues to benefit from playing at their new venue, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Atlanta will have the opportunity to put on another show on Sunday against the Impact.

Atlanta has leapt all the way up to fourth in the Eastern Conference and could potentially go third this weekend with a victory. Over the team’s last four matches, Atlanta has scored an astounding 17 goals, putting the rest of MLS on watch over the club’s potent attack.

For the Impact, they are in desperate need of a victory after picking up three points against Toronto on Wednesday. Mauro Biello’s side is on the outside looking in with five matches remaining, and the Impact are still three points behind the New York Red Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East.


Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders

Even if the Claret and Cobalt don’t qualify for the playoffs, Mike Petke has done a really special coaching job this season in Salt Lake City. RSL holds the final playoff spot out West for the time being, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve risen in the table given their form.

Since July 4, RSL is unbeaten in nine of its 11 matches, including six victories during that span. Unfortunately for Petke and Co., they have to play the Sounders this weekend — who haven’t lost June 17 at NYCFC.

The Sounders have drawn four in a row, but their unbeaten streak has extended to an MLS-best 13 matches as of late, putting them within a point of the Western Conference lead.


Here’s a look at the full rundown of the weekend’s action around MLS.

Saturday

New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo — 3 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET
D.C. United vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire — 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. FC Dallas — 8 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders — 9:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids — 10 p.m. ET

Sunday

Sporting KC vs. LA Galaxy — 2 p.m. ET
Atlanta United vs. Montreal Impact — 5 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. Orlando City — 8 p.m. ET