What we learned from Wednesday’s stunning United States comeback win in Sarajevo

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The United States had one bad half Wednesday in Sarajevo – and then one that was just this side of stunning.

Even though it was just a friendly, the take-aways are important for Jurgen Klinsmann’s group, the confidence generated from a stirring comeback and from knowing that a difference making striker (Jozy Altidore, of course) is still on the case.

Here is what else we learned from Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The summer of Jozy Altidore lives on:

More on the fabulously in-form U.S. striker later at PST. But do know this: with Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, all backed by the shrewd, timely passing of Michael Bradley, there is reason to be excited about the United States’ attack next year in Brazil.

Klinsmann gets the tactical change right:

I suppose some might suggest that Joachim Low phoned in that useful U.S. tactical change at halftime, right? Because Klinsmann doesn’t know  his tactics, right? That was all his assistant’s work previously at Germany, right?

Clearly, that’s silly. Klinsmann’s forte is innovation and man management, but it’s not like he doesn’t know how many players to put on the field. The switch from a 4-3-3 into the 4-4-2 at halftime was critical Wednesday, getting Eddie Johnson into a far more comfortable spot. (Can we agree that he’s not a winger now? Please.)

That, along with Altidore’s ongoing sharp movement, unsettled the Bosnian back line. Yes, the home team’s substitutions made for diminished opposition, but credit the United States for taking advantage, and credit the tactical tweak for much of it.

(MORE: Jozy Altidore hat trick steers U.S. to comeback win)

Two successful U.S. debuts:

Center back John Brooks made his U.S. debut, just days after making his Bundesliga debut. Some week, eh?

The 20-year-old German American wasn’t perfect, relaxing momentarily late against Edin Dzeko and paying the price for it on Bosnia’s third goal. And the communication with Geoff Cameron was understandably shaky. But Brooks was otherwise dominant in the air and fine with the ball at his feet. Again, far from perfect, but promising for the youngster.

Iceland-raised striker Aron Johannsson had an active 30 minutes, demonstrating why the United States was excited about his switch. His energy was useful, his movement produced two good looks at goal and Johannsson’s passing was usually sharp.

Michael Bradley’s has a fabulous soccer brain:

But we knew that, didn’t we? Once again, we see that Bradley has a such a great instinct and feel for the game, knowing just when to play safe and when to lean in for something more assertive. Wonderfully weighted balls created two of the goals Wednesday.

The streak lives, for whatever that means: I have a sneaking suspicion that Klinsmann was secretly happy the United States took a punch in the nose in the first half Wednesday. Because Klinsmann has indicated the team’s 11-game winning streak was something of a tin man, a run built almost entirely at home, and all almost entirely against CONCACAF sides that are middling or worse.

Wednesday’s opponent was another level, and the United States needed a half to “get it.” Credit the team for finding the next level and overcoming a good team, one that is headed to the World Cup – the very type of team the United States will need to get by next year in Brazil.

As we always note, it’s just a friendly. But in this case, given the way it played out – a rally on the road from a two-goal deficit – you could argue that Wednesday’s achievement was one of the best moments of a highly profitable summer.

This is why Klinsmann needed a mix of young and old:

The United States was overrun in the midfield and exposed for some naiveté at times in the back in Sarajevo. I know there were some calls for running more of the young guys out there, but this is exactly why Klinsmann needed a young-old blend. Can you imagine what the result might have looked like if guys like Altidore, Bradley and Tim Howard weren’t around to provide some guidance and stability out there?

Left back remains a trouble spot:

You know how Edgar Castillo recently reminded us that he’s probably more effective as a left-sided midfielder than a defender?

And remember how DaMarcus Beasley keeps reminding us that he’s stretched as a defender, and therefore probably better as a midfielder?

Well, doggone if Fabian Johnson may not be better as a midfielder than a left back. Which would be OK … if only there was a solid solution for U.S. left back.

Johnson tends to make things happen when he gets into the opposition half — in a good way. Unfortunately, he can tend to make things happen in his own end — in not such a good way.

Spurs’ Alli wins PFA Young Player award for 2nd straight season

Photo credit: Tottenham Hotspur / Twitter: @SpursOfficial
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Dele Alli joined Wayne Rooney on Sunday as the only repeat or back-to-back winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award winners since the turn of the century.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Alli showed in 2016-17 — much like his Tottenham Hotspur teammate and 2014-15 Young Player of the year winner Harry Kane — that he’s much more than a one-season wonder, improving upon 2015-16’s goal and assist numbers (10 and 9) with a 16-goal, 5-assist season this time around.

Alli was signed by Tottenham for a fee just north of $6 million in 2015. Recent rumors have linked the 21-year-old with a move to join the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, for a transfer fee well over 10 times what Spurs paid to MK Dons.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

Between Alli and Kane, Spurs players have won the last three Young Player of the Year awards, and five of the last six (Gareth Bale in 2012-13; Kyle Walker in 2011-12). Only Eden Harzard could break up Spurs’ stranglehold on the award, in 2013-14.

El Clasico: Messi scores 499, 500; Barca, Madrid level on points

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After 31 (and 32, respectively) games played, three points were all that separated Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table in La Liga.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

After another 90 scintillating, pulsating, thrilling, plot-twisting minutes of El Clasico on Sunday, there’s not a single thing to separate the two sides (other than Barca’s current tiebreaker on head-to-head meetings, and Madrid’s game in hand). This time, it was Lionel Messi who outshone Cristiano Ronaldo in the meeting of the world’s brightest stars, the former scoring twice and reaching the 500-goal mark in his Barcelona career (all competitions).

Casemiro opened the scoring with a tap-in into an empty net in the 28th minute. Marcelo floated a ball to the back post, where Sergio Ramos made clean contact but came up with nothing but hit nothing but woodwork. Fortunately for Los Blancos, the ball ricocheted off the post, bounced across the face of goal and found the Brazilian midfielder all by his lonesome.

The lead was short-lived, though, as a bloodied Messi scored yet another of his patented Messi goals just five minutes later. With two touches atop Madrid’s penalty area, he slalomed past and beat three defenders before applying the cool finish past Keylor Navas with that magical left foot of his.

Following the halftime break, the balance of play tipped in Barca’s favor. Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez went oh so close to putting the visitors ahead either side of the hour mark, but Navas produced a pair of stunning saves that’ll (perhaps) go a long way toward silencing his increasingly vocal critics.

[ MORE: Griezmann scores no. 25 as Atleti win to hold onto 3rd ]

There was absolutely nothing the Costa Rican no. 1 could do about Rakitic’s 73rd-minute strike, though. Cutting inside onto his left foot, the Croatian caressed and curled the ball toward the far post, where it made a hard right turn at the last possible second and nestled itself into the

Already up a goal, the game appeared to swing totally in Barca’s favor just four minutes later. Sergio Ramos, the most Sergio Ramos player to ever Sergio Ramos, went lunging in, with two sets of studs exposed, on Messi. He was rightly shown a straight red card.

Another pair of plot twists were still to come, though, as James Rodriguez got on the end of Marcelo’s cross and slammed the first-time finish past Marc Andre ter Stegen with four minutes of regular time remaining.

Then, with all of 13 seconds remaining in stoppage time, that man — the undisputed best player in the world and the greatest of all time — broke Madridista hearts once again. Sergi Roberto started the sequence all the way back in midfield, and Jordi Alba supplied the cross to the top of the box, and Messi drove that same left foot through the ball to beat Navas for the last-kick winner. The shirt-off-held-aloft celebration was simply salt in the wound.

MLS Snapshot: Larin outduels Villa in Orlando’s win over NYCFC

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The game in 100 words (or less): I’ve been saying it since the preseason: Cyle Larin is going to Europe, and it wont be long before MLS’s best young striker since… ever(?) makes the jump across the Atlantic Ocean. Canada’s greatest-ever hope for international soccer relevance bagged a brace (31st and 51st minutes) on Sunday, bringing his 2017 season total to six goals (37 for his career, which is just over two full seasons old), as Orlando City SC narrowly edged New York City FC, 2-1 at Yankee Stadium. He’s also scored nine goals in seven career games against NYCFC. Larin wasn’t the only star striker on display, and the scoresheet, though, as David Villa provided NYCFC’s lone goal of the game which made the final 15 minutes mighty interesting. If not for Joe Bendik’s stunning, point-blank save in stoppage time, Villa would have drawn NYCFC level and stolen a point.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

31′ — Larin finishes from close range for 1-0 — Scott Sutter provided the cross into the box, and Lain found space between two defenders for the easy finish.

51′ — Larin brushes off Wallace, heads home for 2-0 — Larin versus an opposing winger (Rodney Wallace on this occasion) is a mismatch that Orlando will look to exploit every single time. 9 times out of 10, it’ll end up like this.

74′ — Villa finishes a brilliant set-piece routine — Maxi Moralez couldn’t have hit a better ball into the box, and we couldn’t have expected any better finish from Villa.

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Man of the match: Cyle Larin

Goalscorers: Larin (31′, 51′), Villa (74′)

LIVE: Real Madrid host Barcelona in El Clasico

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Let’s go.

Real Madrid host Barcelona at 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday in the final installment of El Clasico this season in La Liga.

[ LIVE: Follow El Clasico, here ] 

With Barca three points behind their bitter rivals who top the La Liga standings and also have a game in hand with six weeks to go, nothing but a win will do for Luis Enrqiue’s men.

All of the talk before this game has been about the absence of Neymar as Barca have decided to not put the Brazilian forward in their squad after they appealed his three-game ban but have yet to hear back on his suspension.

Aside from that bizarre situation, it’s been a mixed week for the Spanish giants in the UEFA Champions League.

Barca were knocked out by Juventus at the quarterfinal stage, while Real Madrid got by Bayern Munich in an exhausting clash at the Santiago Bernabeu which required extra time to set up a semifinal tie against Atletico Madrid.

The stars will come out to play as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will collide.