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.

VIDEO: Pair of Arsenal goals have it 2-0 at half

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Goals from Shkrodan Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez at the Emirates Stadium have given Arsenal a 2-0 halftime lead in the North London Derby.

[ STREAM: Second half live ]

Alexandre Lacazette cut a chance well wide and high of the bar in the first five minutes, while Spurs’ Harry Kane forced Petr Cech into a sixth minute save.

There were chances at both ends and a frenetic pace of play as the match approached the 20-minute mark, with Hector Bellerin‘s inviting cross unanswered by Arsenal.

Mustafi provided the derby breakthrough at the back post off a sweeping free kick to boost the Gunners into a 37th minute advantage.

And Alexis used great work from a lively Hector Bellerin to make it 2-0.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Tottenham in North London derby

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This is it.

The Premier League returns with a bang following the two week international break as Arsenal host Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Arsenal haven’t won any of their last six games in the Premier League against Tottenham, while Spurs are three places and four points above the Gunners in the PL table.

In team news Arsenal start with Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette up top, with Shkodran Mustafi returning from injury.

Tottenham have Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane fit to play after recovering from injury.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac; Ozil, Sanchez; Lacazette. Subs: Ospina; Mertesacker, Wilshere, Iwobi, Welbeck, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Sanchez, Dier, Vertonghen; Trippier, Dembele, Sissoko, Davies; Eriksen, Alli; Kane. Subs: Vorm; Foyth, Aurier, Winks, Walker-Peters, Son, Llorente

MLS attendance up, TV ratings lag as US mulls future

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer’s attendance is up and fan interest is booming, even if television broadcasts are far less popular and some young Americans would rather play in Europe.

[ MORE: Caleb Porter out as Portland Timbers head coach ]

MLS averaged 22,000 in attendance for the first time in its history this season, ranked among the top seven leagues in the world. The league is set to add a second Los Angeles franchise next year, announce two expansion cities next month and at some point finalize David Beckham’s long-pending Miami club.

But viewers averaged under 300,000 for nationally televised regular-season matches, fewer than the average for a New York Yankees game on their regional sports network. Several top young Americans, such as Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, have chosen to forego the MLS to play in Germany and test their mettle in a more demanding environment.

And worst of all, the United States – whose roster was filled with MLS stars – failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup, ending a streak of seven straight appearances in soccer’s showcase.

“We need to use this failure as a wakeup call for everyone associated with the sport at all levels to ensure that we have the right processes and mechanisms and development programs and leadership and governance in place to learn from this missed opportunity to ensure that it never happens again,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said this week. “Part of the maturation of becoming a soccer nation is recognizing that qualifying for the World Cup is not a birthright. It’s something you need to earn, and we are unfortunately in the company of some great soccer nations, like Italy and Holland and Ghana and Chile – Copa champions – that have also not qualified.”

MLS playoffs resume next week after the international break with the first leg of Conference Championships. Columbus – whose owners are threatening to move to Austin, Texas, in 2019 – hosts Toronto, while Houston is home against Seattle.

“MLS and soccer in the United States have made great advances in many areas. But its promoters have found that the abundance of existing legacy sports leagues that have the highest quality of athletes on the planet creates a ceiling on professional soccer in the United States,” said Marc Ganis, president of the consulting firm SportsCorp. “It has not, and perhaps never, will supplant any of the major legacy sports unless and until the quality of play and players increases significantly and the U.S. men’s team in particular is more competitive and, in fact, wins some of the major international tournaments.”

Momentum of playoff runs was interrupted because of World Cup qualifying, and the culmination of the league’s season competes for attention with the NFL and college football among the wider American sports audience.

“Long-term demographic things like CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and stuff with the NFL says maybe there is a long slow decline around some of that, but when you’re starting from where they’re starting, that’s going to take a generation,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “We’ll grow because most of the immigration to the U.S. is from soccer-playing countries and the country is going to grow.”

Launched with 10 teams in 1996, two years after the U.S. hosted the World Cup, MLS expanded to 12 but cut back to 10 after the 2001 season. There has been steady growth since expansion started in 2004. Next year’s total will be 23, already well over the norm for a first division, and the league is planning to settle at 28.

Infrastructure could not be more different than in the early days. The league has 14 soccer specific stadiums, two more renovated for the sport and one built with both the NFL and soccer in mind. Three more soccer stadiums are under construction.

Average attendance is up 60 percent from 13,756 in 2000, boosted this year by 48,200 for Atlanta in its opening season. MLS trails only the Germany’s Bundesliga, England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Mexico’s Liga MX, the Chinese Super League and Serie A, with Italy’s first division ahead by only 22,177 to 22,106.

But that has not translated yet into big television ratings.

ESPN averaged 272,000 for 30 telecasts this regular season on ESPN and ESPN2, and Fox averaged 236,000 for 33 broadcasts on FS1 and Fox. In addition, Univision is averaging 250,000 viewers for its Spanish-language MLS telecasts.

But the Premier League attracts a larger audience, averaging 422,000 on NBC, NBCSN and CNBC, even though many matches are on weekend mornings.

“We’re not the Premier League,” Garber said, pointing out last year’s MLS Cup drew 1.4 million viewers on Fox. “The fact that we’re able to generate ratings growth across all of our partners here and in Canada, and dramatic growth in Canada, is a positive. So we actually, we and our partners, feel pretty darn good.”

Player payroll has increased as MLS keeps adding what it calls Targeted Allocation Money. While several older American players have returned to MLS from Europe, many of the teens viewed as the future of the U.S. national team have gone abroad as they emerge from the MLS youth academies, which have been mandated by the league since 2007 and produced more than 250 players with first-team MLS contracts.

Pulisic, at 19 already the leading American star, left Hershey, Pennsylvania, to sign with Borussia Dortmund at age 16, able because of his grandfather’s Croatian citizenship to play in Europe before he turned 18. McKennie left FC Dallas’ academy when he turned 18, signed with Schalke and scored in his U.S. debut this week.

“I didn’t want to become one of those guys that started in MLS and said, man, I wonder if I could have made it to Europe,” McKennie said. “I wanted to spread my wings and see what I could do over here.”

Forward Josh Sargent decided against Sporting Kansas City and is waiting until he turns 18 in February to sign with Werder Bremen.

“I think I’ve just always wanted since I was a little kid to play in Europe,” he said.

Tyler Adams, who also made his U.S. debut this week, played his first MLS game with the New York Red Bulls last year at age 17 and became a regular this season. Garber says “Tyler Adams probably is playing more minutes today for the Red Bulls than he would if he was not in Major League Soccer.”

Adams is happy but thinking ahead.

“Obviously a goal of mine is to play Champions League one day, and obviously the MLS is working its way to becoming one of the top leagues in the world,” he said. “Maybe one day I find myself in Europe. You never know.”

Sometimes big contracts only stall a career. Matt Miazga left the Red Bulls to sign with Chelsea in January 2016, saw little playing time and didn’t get in games regularly until late that autumn during a loan to the Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.

“If your only desire is to go to Europe, there are flights leaving every hour on the hour from JFK and LAX and everywhere in between,” said retired American defender Alexi Lalas, now a Fox analyst. “But getting to a place in Europe where you are making good money, where you are playing consistently, where you are learning, where you are valued as a player and as an American player, where you are able to adapt and adjust and live in the other 22 1/2 hours that we often don’t talk about, that’s whole `nother story, and there’s not a lot of flights leaving that have that on the other end.”

With the U.S. soccer community in turmoil following the World Cup failure, some have called for MLS to guarantee playing time for young Americans.

“Our coaches universally believed that that was not the best way to ensure we had the highest-possible product quality to be able to have competitive games and to drive the growth of our fan base,” Garber said.

AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.

Bartra error emphasizes Dortmund’s latest Bundesliga woes

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Christian Pulisic sat out Friday’s 2-1 Dortmund defeat against Stuttgart. Coincidence? Perhaps.

However, the club’s struggles are apparent as Dortmund’s winless run extended to four matches and their gap from Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich could be up to nine points by the end of the weekend.

[ MORE: Chris Coleman steps down from Wales, expected to take Sunderland job ]

BVB was without several of its top talents for the match, including U.S. Men’s National Team star Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it’s Dortmund’s defending that continues to be the side’s biggest issue.

Stuttgart struck after five minutes when Chadrac Akolo broke the deadlock off of an embarrassing blunder by Marc Bartra and the Dortmund defense.

Bartra attempted a routine back pass to goalkeeper Roman Burki during the early moments of the match, but his ball back proved to be way too strong and deflected off of Burki and into the path of Stuttgart forward Akolo (video below).

Dortmund atoned for the former Barcelona man’s mistake just prior to halftime when Maximilian Philipp equalized, but it took just six minutes into the second stanza for Josip Brekalo to restore the Stuttgart advantage.