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.

Timbers sign Peruvian winger Andy Polo from Liga MX’s Morelia

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Timbers have acquired winger Andy Polo on loan from Liga MX club Monarcas Morelia for the upcoming season.

The 23-year-old native of Peru played in 25 matches last year for Morelia and made six starts with two goals.

He’s also World Cup-bound, having appeared in Peru’s two-legged playoff against New Zealand in November. Peru won 2-0 on aggregate. Overall, he’s appeared with the Peruvian national team 15 times since his senior debut in 2016.

“Andy is a versatile, young player who will add another element to our attack, and we believe that he has further upside to his development,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in a statement.

The Timbers used targeted allocation money and have a purchase option. Polo’s arrival is pending a physical and receipt of a visa.

He will occupy an international roster spot.

Can Man United still sign Sanchez without Mkhitaryan swap?

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The answer to the (first) titled question is, undoubtedly, yes.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

The latter question — the “will they?” — remains a relative unknown at this point, but if reports out of the UK are to be believed, Manchester United are just as likely to send $40 million (or so) Arsenal’s way in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, should Henrikh Mkhitaryan refuse the move by declining any contract offers from the Gunners.

[ MORE: Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies ]

The thinking, at least for the last few days since Man United somewhat unexpectedly entered the Sanchez sweepstakes, was that swapping the Armenian for the Chilean was the obvious — and, perhaps only — way forward. Call it special circumstances or an obvious audible, but that’s not necessarily the case — from the Guardian:

“It is understood that if Mkhitaryan does not leave Mourinho believes that, given the club’s robust finances, [Man United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward could still sanction a move for a player who would potentially vastly improve United.”

By the time Sanchez is signed, sealed and delivered, United will have also paid Sanchez and his agent, Fernando Felicevich, massive signing-on fees that could total another $30 million. No matter the order in which the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan saga plays out, United will come out ahead with a superior player at a massively discounted price — should Sanchez ultimately move to Old Trafford, of course.

Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies

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If the FA, English football’s governing body, is insistent upon testing video-assistant refereeing (VAR) as they have done in recent FA Cup and League Cup fixtures, Antonio Conte believes they should darn well use it.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Following his Chelsea side’s penalty-shootout victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, Conte was equal parts frustrated and confused by the fact that video-referee Mike Jones failed to prompt referee Graham Scott to consult the on-trial system on multiple occasions.

Most notably, Chelsea’s 92nd-minute (extra-time) penalty shout following Timm Klose‘s tackle on Willian. Scott, instead, booked the Brazilian for diving — one of three cards, all shown to Chelsea players, for simulation on the night — and that was that.

“If you watch the replay you see very clearly it is a penalty,” said Conte after the game — quotes from the BBC:

“I think that there was a penalty but not on [Alvaro] Morata — on Willian.

“With Willian, the referee heard what the other referee watched and decided to continue to play. If we want to try to use this new system, it is important for the referee to wait, especially in this incident that is not so clear.

“And then when the referee that is watching had a doubt, he has to call the referee to watch and he can make a decision. The referee on the pitch has to make the decision, not one off the pitch.

“We can improve it for sure but we need to try to take the best solution. The final decision is for the ref on the pitch. Otherwise, why is there this ref?

“The mistake wasn’t of the ref on the pitch but the person watching. When you see this, you have to call the referee.”

VAR was used in another third-round replay, on Tuesday, and helped to correctly rule Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho as being in an onside position when he scored his side’s second goal. While offside/onside calls are much clearer, cut-and-dry decisions to make — and with the aid of a natural stoppage in play — clearly much work lies ahead with regard to the process of determining whether the referee has made a “clear and obvious error,” which remains the threshold for using VAR, in instances of fouls/diving.

Copa QF: Messi misses PK, Barca’s 29-game unbeaten run ends

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MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Barcelona conceded late as its 29-match unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Messi failed from the spot in the 62nd minute, his shot brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Youngster Oscar Melendo netted the winner for the hosts in the 88th with his first goal as a professional.

“I have no words, I was looking forward to this first goal,” said the 20-year-old Melendo, who had come on as a substitute in the second half.

It was Espanyol’s first win against Barcelona at its RCDE Stadium.

The second leg of the Catalan derby is next week at Camp Nou.

Barcelona hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Aug. 16. It had won 23 of its last 29 matches in all competitions.

“We knew we would lose one day,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “The positive thing is that in a week we have a chance to rebound and advance.”

Messi had his chance from the spot after Sergi Roberto was fouled by Esteban Granero, but his low shot into the right corner was stopped as Diego Lopez dived to his left to tip the ball away.

It was a rare miss for Messi, who is having a stellar season and is the Spanish league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“The penalty save gave us the boost that we needed,” Melendo said. “We were playing too defensively.”

Melendo netted the winner with a low shot from the middle of the area after a well-timed pass by Marc Navarro.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not use all of the team’s regular starters, leaving players such as Luis Suarez on the bench.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the 76th after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit by an object thrown by fans behind his goal.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was replaced in the second half because of a foot injury.