Americans Abroad: Altidore scores first Sunderland goal, Tijuana grabs draw

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It has been a busy week for Americans playing across the globe so here, in our new series “Americans Abroad,” we break down the top performances by American players across the planet.

Across many countries from Eastern Europe to Central America, US soccer players are stamping their authority on the beautiful game.

So it’s time to check on how they’ve been doing.

All aboard the “Americans Abroad” express. First stop, England.

ENGLAND

On Saturday in England, plenty of US national team stars were in Premier League action with varying degrees of success. Tim Howard got his first shutout of the season in goal for Everton, as they battled to a 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion at Goodison Park. The USMNT ‘keeper made two good saves in the first half.

Over at Stoke, Geoff Cameron started in their 2-1 comeback win over Crystal Palace at the weekend. Cameron didn’t feature in the Potters 3-1 second round League Cup win over Walsall on Wednesday but fellow USMNT star Brek Shea did. The former FC Dallas winger got the start for Mark Hughes’ men but Shea was replaced at half time.

While Jozy Altidore cut a frustrated figure down on the South Coast of England on Saturday. Altidore’s Sunderland took an early lead at Southampton but the Black Cats let a late goal slip as they drew 1-1 at St. Mary’s. Altidore cut a forlorn figure up top for most of the game but he did get a chance in the second half, however Saints ‘keeper Artur Boruc came rushing out to thwart the US international as he wriggled free of Southampton’s defense.

But Altidore was feeling much better on Tuesday evening after sparking a remarkable comeback for the Mackems. League One side MK Dons were 2-0 up at the Stadium of Light with 12 minutes to go, but the 23-year-old forward scored his first goal for Sunderland with a composed finish. The Black Cats scored three more times before the final whistle to win 4-2.

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Despite making three saves, Guzan’s Villa went down to Liverpool.

The only USMNT player in the Premier League to taste defeat at the weekend was goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Aston Villa’s shot-stopper made three saves against Liverpool as the Villans went down 1-0.

In the Championship, Tim Ream was handed the start in a holding midfield role for Bolton during their 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers. Ream, 25, played for 62 minutes as the Trotters came up short against the favorites to win the Championship title.

Elsewhere in England’s second-tier, Birmingham’s utility man Jonathan Spector made his season debut after recovering from injury, but the Blues lost to Zak Whitbread’s Leicester City 3-2 in a great game at the King Power Stadium. Whitbread’s side are now up to second in the Championship and the former Norwich City defender was in action on Tuesday as the Foxes beat Carlisle 5-2 away from home in the League Cup. While Spector’s Birmingham beat Yeovil on penalties as the former Manchester United man played all 120 minutes.

Former Aston Villa right back Eric Lichaj put in a solid shift as Nottingham Forest drew 1-1 at Watford on Sunday. And rounding up the action in England, it wasn’t a happy week for Reading’s Danny Williams. The former FC Hoffenheim midfielder played the final nine minutes of the Royals 1-0 defeat to Blackpool on Saturday before starting the 6-0 humiliation from League One side Peterborough in the League Cup on Tuesday and getting a yellow card. Things can only improve for Williams.

EUROPE

In Germany, holding midfielder Jermaine Jones picked up a knock late on as Schalke lost 2-1 to Hannover 96 at the weekend and on Wednesday he was sent off in Schalke’s 3-2 win over PAOK as the German side made the Champions League group stage. Jones was sent off for a second yellow card in the 64th minute.

Back to the Bundesliga, recent USMNT callup John Anthony Brooks hobbled off with an injured thigh in the 23rd minute for Hertha Berlin but the capital club held on to beat Hamburg 1-0 and sit in fifth-place after promotion last season.

US national team star Fabian Johnson played at left back as Hoffenheim rallied to a 3-3 draw with Freiburg in a game that saw three red cards. Johnson’s side are still unbeaten and sit in eighth place.

While FC Nürnberg were defeated 2-0 by Bayern Munich as right back Timmy Chandler started for the first time this season. However Chandler failed to pick up Franck Ribery at the back post in the 70th minute as the Frenchman got the break through Munich were looking for.

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Bradley put in a solid display as Roma began with a win.

Over in Serie A the season finally started as Michael Bradley put in a typically tidy display as Roma beat newly-promoted Livorno 2-0 on Sunday. While across the Alps in France, Alejandro Bedoya played in an unfamiliar role for Nantes in their narrow 2-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain. The US winger played as a wing back for his new French side and almost scored with a bullet header.

Up in Holland, Aron Johannsson goal-streak was snapped at five games as AZ Alkmaar lost to rivals FC Utrecht 2-0. Elsewhere in the lowlands, Sacha Kjlestan’s Anderlecht battered Charleroi 5-2 with the Seton Hall product grabbing two assists to help the Brussels club claim their fourth-straight win. In Norway Gold Cup star Mikkel Diskerud came off the bench late on to help Rosenborg to a 3-2 win as they stayed top of the Tippeligaen by beating Sandnes Ulf. Babajide Ogunbiyi bagged his first career Superliga goal as Viborg beat Esbjerg 3-1 at home, Viborg now sit fifth in the Danish top-flight.

Another American in Denmark, Conor O’Brien, thought he had scored but his effort for struggling FC Nordsjælland was saved superbly by Odense’s ‘keeper in a fourth straight defeat for O’Brien’s side. Staying in Scandinavia, Steve Clark made four saves as Hønefoss beat Sarpsborg 3-1, the US ‘keeper made a mistake that lead to Sarpsborg’s goal but he made a sprawling stop late on to make up for it.

In the Swedish second division Portland Timbers loanee Michael Nanchoff and fellow American Zurab Tsiskaridze both featured twice in four days as Jonkopings grabbed two draws. Nanchoff scored the opener in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against fellow American Matt Pyzdrowski in goal for Angelholm. Then on Wednesday Nanchoff played another full 90 as Jonkopings drew 1-1 with Ostersunds FK, while Tsiskaridze came on in the 65th minute.

MEXICO

Down in Mexico, plenty of US internationals took to the field over the weekend.

On Sunday right back Michael Orozco Fiscal scored his first goal for Puebla, but they lost 2-1 to Cruz Azul in a close game. Fiscal’s header gave his side a first half lead but they couldn’t hold back La Maquina.

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USMNT defender Fiscal scored but Puebla couldn’t grab all there points.

USMNT left back DaMarcus Beasley also played for Puebla out on the left and showed his new defensive instincts as they tried to grind out a draw. Puebla are 12th after seven games in the Liga MX campaign.

Earlier in the weekend, Jose Torres suffered with Tigres on Saturday as Chiapas rallied to snatch a 2-2 draw late on in the Estadio Universitario. Torres kept the play ticking over nicely in midfield as Tigres led 2-0 at the half but a late capitulation saw them drop two points.

On Friday night Club Tijuana’s large US contingent drew 1-1 with Santos Laguna as Edgar Castillo played the full 90. Castillo was involved throughout and played a role in the equalizer for the border side. Another American, Paul Arriola, came on at half time to play out wide on the right and had a few decent efforts on target that forced Santos ‘keeper Oswaldo Sánchez to make some fine stops. Greg Garza and Joe Corona didn’t make it off the bench and Tijuana have now grabbed eight points from their six games so far in Liga MX action.

REST OF THE WORLD

In Israel Bryan Gerzicich played the full 90 minutes as Hapoel Tel Aviv opened their season with a 0-0 draw against Bnei Sakhnin. The Californian native was making his debut for the Hapeol after signing from Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

Out east in Russia, Eugene Starikov started and played 62 minutes as Tom Tomsk blew a halftime lead against CSKA Moscow, losing 2-1 in the Stadion Trud. Tomsk have started off the season with six straight defeats.

Zlatan posts comeback vow; Mata nears return

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One of the more unique personalities in the sports world, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has released comments and a leggy photo following news that he’ll need ACL and PCL surgery.

The Swedish star was injured in stoppage time of Manchester United’s UEFA Europa League quarterfinal win over Anderlecht, and tests revealed the injury was serious.

Ibrahimovic, 35, had not signed his contract extension with United, but it seemed more likely as time wore on. He finishes his first season with 28 goals and 10 assists, an unfettered success in his Premier League bow.

Despite the severe nature of his injury, Ibrahimovic vowed to return by posting a picture of his massive, uncovered legs in front of a fireplace (See full Instagram message at bottom).

“One thing is for sure, I decide when it’s time to stop and nothing else. Giving up is not an option. See you soon.”

One of United’s locker room leaders is backing him. Ander Herrera told a Swedish outlet that Ibrahimovic spoke to the team and wished them luck with the rest of the season.

“But he did not say much, really. He wished us only good luck with the rest of the season. He has an incredible mentality and a great physique, I have never seen such a good football body.”

I don’t think anyone doubts that Ibrahimovic will come back and play at a high level, but a starring role in the Premier League is a big ask. Because of that, will he be more motivated to reprove himself with United and less motivated to test out MLS or another league?

There is some good news for United, as Juan Mata says he hopes to be back with the team soon.

PL title & FA Cup in sight, Conte says Chelsea still rebuilding

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Antonio Conte might be just seven games away from guiding Chelsea to a Premier League and FA Cup double this season, but the Blues’ first-year Italian manager insists his squad is nowhere near being a finished product.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking after Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, Conte insisted that the team he inherited last summer, after a disastrous 10th-place finish in the PL, is “in a period of transition” and that “[they] need time” as the club moves on from an accomplished, foundational generation — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I think that now at Chelsea we are in a period of transition. In this season, we have lost (Branislav) Ivanovic, (John Obi) Mikel and next season we lose John Terry.

“We are talking about players who wrote the history of this club. They won a lot. Now we have to find the right substitutes for these players and then work to put these players at the same level.

“I think that in the period with Carlo (Ancelotti) — and Carlo is the best Italian coach, I have great respect for him — he arrived at Chelsea when they had a really strong squad. Now we are building. We are building something important. We need time.”

[ MORE: Kante takes home PFA Player of the Year | Dele wins Young Player ]

Conte is doing two things with the above comments: 1) he’s tempering expectations for next season, when Chelsea will be back in the UEFA Champions League and automatically expected to repeat as PL champions — not to mention, taking a bit of pressure off in these final two months of the 2016-17 season; and, 2) pointing out just how impressive his work to date has been, the fact he’s potentially seven games away from lifting two trophies in seven days’ time next month.

Ligue 1: Mbappe, Falcao fire Monaco top again

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PARIS (AP) Strikers Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe continued their fine form with a goal each to help Monaco secure a 2-1 win at Lyon and reclaim top spot in the French league on Sunday.

Monaco moves above defending champion Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference, with Monaco having played a game less. PSG has four games left.

“It wasn’t easy and it was a big win for us tonight,” Monaco center half Andrea Raggi said. “We all play for each other and it’s now or never.”

It has been an astonishing season for Monaco, which has now scored 143 goals in all competitions and remains on course for the treble. Monaco faces PSG in the French Cup semifinals next Wednesday.

Falcao and Mbappe scored in midweek when Monaco beat German side Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal to reach the last four 6-3 on aggregate.

Lyon also did well in Europe, going through on penalty kicks away to Turkish club Besiktas to reach the last four in the Europa League.

Falcao and the 18-year-old Mbappe have combined for 51 goals.

Falcao put Monaco ahead in the 36th minute with a header from close range – his 28th goal of the season – and Mbappe made it 2-0 just before halftime with a trademark surging run and cool finish for his 23rd.

“I just try and give my best whenever I play,” said Mbappe, who has recently been called into the France team. “I wasn’t playing much at the start of the season, so I’m still quite fresh and I hope I can help us win the remaining games.”

PSG beat Montpellier 2-0 at home on Saturday with Edinson Cavani scoring his 31st league goal of the season and 44th overall.

Nice has already guaranteed third place and a spot in the qualifying round for next season’s Champions League.

But with four games remaining, it is six points behind Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. Nice hosts PSG next Sunday.

Striker Corentin Jean gave mid-table Toulouse the lead in the 57th minute. Midfielder Valentin Eysseric continued his fine form with the equalizer three minutes later.

The game was briefly halted early in the first half after a group of Saint-Etienne supporters forced themselves into the stadium.

The match was supposed to be played behind closed doors as a punishment for unruly supporters during Saint-Etienne’s local derby against Lyon.

After a brief delay for police to remove the fans, Slovakia striker Robert Beric put the home side ahead in the 39th and center half Edson Mexer leveled just before the break.

Saint-Etienne is in seventh place, while Rennes is ninth.

Serie A: Napoli waste chance to go 2nd; Juve win big (again)

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MILAN (AP) Arkadiusz Milik scored his first goal since his lengthy injury layoff but it wasn’t enough to prevent Napoli from drawing 2-2 at Sassuolo on Sunday and missing the chance to move second in Serie A.

Milik scored two minutes after coming off the bench to rescue a point for Napoli and move it to within one point of second-placed Roma, which visits bottom club Pescara on Monday.

Second spot in Serie A secures automatic entry into the Champions League group stage, while the team that finishes third has to go through a playoff.

“The road to second spot has got more difficult, we have to hope our rivals slip up,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We have a point more than last season, even though we played in the Champions League, even though we lost (Gonzalo) Higuain at the beginning of the season and Milik for four months, so I think the team has had an extraordinary season until now.”

After an even first half, Napoli broke the deadlock seven minutes after the break thanks to a rare header from Dries Mertens. It was the diminutive Belgian’s 22nd league goal of the season – as many as he had scored in total in his three previous seasons at Napoli.

However, Napoli gifted Sassuolo the equalizer seven minutes later as Marek Hamsik’s terrible headed backpass to Pepe Reina was intercepted by Domenico Berardi, who fired home from close range.

Mertens almost immediately restored his side’s lead but saw his free kick come off the crossbar, while Lorenzo Insigne’s effort also hit the inside of the post for Napoli.

Sassuolo took the lead 10 minutes from time following a superb save from Reina to deny former Napoli hero Paolo Cannavaro, but Antonino Ragusa hooked the ball back in from the byline for Luca Mazzitelli to drive into the bottom right corner.

Milik was brought on in the 82nd and immediately leveled. Jose Callejon’s corner was knocked down by Raul Albiol and the Poland international spun to fire in from close range for his first goal since he was injured on World Cup duty in October.

AC Milan missed a penalty as the new era at the famous Italian club continued without a win.

Milan drew 2-2 at city rival Inter Milan last weekend in the first match since the $800 million takeover of Milan by Chinese-led Rossoneri Sport Luxembourg ended Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year reign.

Sunday’s defeat saw Milan remain in the last qualifying spot for the Europa League, two points above Inter.

“If we relate everything to the result, it didn’t go well but I shouldn’t do that,” Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said. “We created 15 chances, it’s difficult to create more in Serie A.”

Empoli took a surprise lead five minutes from halftime when Levan Mchedlidze headed in a corner.

Milan should have leveled shortly before the hour, after Lukasz Skorupski pushed over Mario Pasalic, but the Empoli goalkeeper made up for his error by keeping out Suso’s penalty and then parrying a follow-up effort from Gianluca Lapadula.

Empoli doubled its lead in the 67th when Massimo Maccarone nodded on the ball for Mame Thiam to score his first goal in Italian football.

Lapadula reduced the deficit five minutes later, curling into the bottom corner and Milan had a good chance to level when it was awarded an indirect free kick six yards out from goal after Skorupski got the ball, put it down and picked it back up again.

However, with all the Empoli players on the line, Milan couldn’t equalize.

Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma kept his side in the match with a fantastic one-handed save to deny Maccarone and it almost proved decisive as Lucas Ocampos volleyed off the crossbar at the other end.

Keita Balde Diao notched a five-minute hat trick as Lazio crushed Palermo to move back into fourth in Serie A.

Ciro Immobile scored two in as many minutes to put Lazio 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, before Keita’s quickfire treble – including a penalty – ensured the match was all but over with less than half an hour played.

Lazio relaxed and Palermo threatened an unexpected comeback with two goals from Andrea Rispoli in five minutes at the start of the second half.

But Luca Crecco extended Lazio’s lead in the final minute with his first ever senior goal.

Juventus continued its march to an unprecedented sixth successive Serie A title by routing Genoa 4-0 to move 11 points clear of Roma.

Ezequiel Munoz scored an own-goal in the 17th and magnificent strikes from Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic put the hosts 3-0 up at the break. Leonardo Bonucci scored another stunning goal in the 64th after sprinting forward from inside his own half. Juventus also hit the woodwork three times.

Crotone kept its faint hopes of survival alive with a surprise 2-1 win at Sampdoria.

The result left it five points behind 17th-placed Empoli and safety with five matches remaining.

Elsewhere, Torino won 3-1 at Chievo Verona, while Udinese beat Cagliari 2-1.