El Salvador v United States - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Which US national team stars saw their stock rise after Gold Cup glory?


Following the 1-0 win over Panama in Sunday’s Gold Cup final, plenty of USMNT players will pleased with their contribution over the past month.

Six games in searing temperatures, at packed out stadiums, facing energy-sapping opposition will have taken its toll on plenty of the USA’s stars.

But after a well-deserved break, a few Yanks in particular will be all smiles with Gold Cup medals around their neck.

We are going to leave Landon Donovan out of this conversation because, well, quite frankly he should never be in it in the first place.

And some may disagree with this, but Chris Wondolowski doesn’t make the cut. We already knew he could score against poor opposition but he showed he still can’t do it against the better teams after his display in the quarterfinal.

(MORE: Top five takeaways as USA clinch Gold Cup in style)

Back to Donovan, in my opinion he would be on the plane to Brazil and involved in the upcoming qualifiers in a heartbeat. And after his MVP showing during the Gold Cup, plenty more will assume Donovan’s place in the US squad is rubber stamped, for now.

However there were some players who shone almost as brightly as Donovan, as Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad triumphed. Let’s see who.

1. Kyle Beckerman

He cleaned up the space in front of the USA’s central defenders with consummate ease throughout the tournament. Real Salt Lake’s captain doesn’t do anything spectacularly well and you can’t really rave about him, as readers on this blog have pointed out to me in the past. But he keeps things ticking over nicely, does a tremendous job of shutting off the oppositions passing lanes and is calmness personified in the heat of the battle. Every team needs a man like him. Barcelona have Sergio Busquets, Real Madrid have Xabi Alonso and if one of the first choice midfielders is injured, the USA would be fine with Beckerman patrolling in front of the back four. True professional and a great tournament.

2. Mix Diskerud

Not too many people had seen Diskerud play before this Gold Cup, apart from that stunning goal vs. Russsia, and now they want to see more. The Norwegian-American was known for his vast range of passing and delicate interplay, but we saw a real grit and determination from him. Especially in the final. Diskerud must have been disappointed to be left out of the starting lineup but when Holden went off injured, he came on and solidified the midfield with a ruthless shift of tackles and clever probing. Panama’s midfielder never got a chance to settle on the ball. This tournament did Diskerud no harm at all.

3. Clarence Goodson

Signing for the San Jose Earthquakes on the eve of the tournament, US fans were pleased to see Goodson heading back to MLS. And now they’ll be even more excited after the dominate displays he put in. The former Brondby captain was calm and assured on the ball but matched every challenge thrown at him. Plus his two exquisite long range balls to help set up goals in the USA’s win over Honduras were sublime. Goodson, Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez? Now it’s a tough decision.

4. Eddie Johnson

After being added to the squad for the knockout rounds, EJ came up big, twice, as the US downed El Salvador and then Hondruas. 2-1 up and struggling to get that vital third goal against El Salvador against the partisan crowd in Baltimore, EJ came off the bench and scored with his first touch. Then he struck early to settle US nerves against Honduras in Dallas. So often the man for the big occasion, Johnson must now be second on the depth chart after Jozy Altidore for the central strikers role. A job well done.

5. Brek Shea

This may raise some eyebrows, but Shea needed this tournament, big time. You have to remember he wasn’t even on the roster but after Josh Gatt’s injury, Klinsmann kept Shea around and the rest is history. His goal won the Gold Cup after his first touch as a sub in the final, it wasn’t a classic but they all count. But whenever he came onto the pitch he added pace, whipped in some great balls and was a huge nuisance. It was a glimpse of the old Shea, which is something we haven’t seen for a while. However, I think we’ll be seeing plenty more of him for the national team in the coming months.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms

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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

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Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

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The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

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Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

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The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.