Americans Abroad: Tim Howard stays unbeaten, Aron Johannsson scores again

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The Americans Abroad have had a busy time since we last caught up with them, as league play and cup competitions are coming thick and fast after the international break.

From Tel Aviv to Tijuana, Norway to Italy, let’s take a gander across the globe at American soccer players making a name for themselves… and their country.

(MORE: Americans Abroad – Full Archive)

Plenty of US stars shone brightly over the last week, as you’re about to find out.

Let’s get to it.

ENGLAND

On Saturday Tim Howard secured yet another shutout for Everton, as the Toffees beat Chelsea 1-0. The USMNT goalkeeper made six saves, and despite a couple of shaky moments early on, Howard’s side held on for their first win of the season and remain unbeaten.

Up in Sunderland, it wasn’t such a happy afternoon for Jozy Altidore, as the U.S. forward was involved in the pivotal moment during a 3-1 loss to Arsenal. In the second half Altidore shrugged off Bacary Sagna and slotted the ball home to score what he thought was his first PL goal as a Mackem… not so fast Jozy.

Referee Martin Atkinson robbed Jozy of a 70th minute goal, by instead awarding a free kick when he should have played advantage, much to the annoyance of the former AZ Alkmaar forward.

Sunderland are without a win this campaign and sit bottom of the PL standings.

Staying in England’s top-flight, Geoff Cameron played superbly at right back as the Potters held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke are up to seventh in the table, but it could’ve been better as Cameron whipped in a great ball just after half time that nobody finished off.

(MORE: Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher; a partnership Sunderland are relying on)

Just down the M6 to Birmingham, and it was another frustrating afternoon for American goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The reigning Villa Player of the Year made six stops to try and thwart Newcastle, but Guzan was helpless as the Magpies won 2-1 following defensive mishaps from Villa. The loss marked a third-straight defeat for Guzan and Aston Villa, they sit in 16th.

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Jozy Altidore had a goal disallowed as Sunderland’s struggle continued.

Down in the Championship it was an extremely busy week for the Americans.

On Saturday, Nottingham Forest right back Eric Lichaj put in a solid outing as Forest beat Barnsley 3-2, to move back into third spot. And on Tuesday night Forest were in action again, as they drew 2-2 with Middlesbrough. Lichaj was at fault for Kei Kamara’s opening goal, but set up a late equalizer to make amends.

Tim Ream played the first 60-minutes in midfield and then switched to a defensive role for the the final 30 minutes in the Trotters 1-0 loss to Leeds United on Saturday. Then, the former New York Red Bulls defender went the full 90 in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Derby County, assisting on Chris Eagles’ goal just before half time. Bolton still remain bottom and winless after seven games.

(MORE: Brek Shea, the painter, nearing Stoke City return)

There were three other Americans playing down in England’s second-tier, as Jonathan Spector‘s Birmingham lost 1-0 to QPR on Saturday, before being hammered 3-0 by Burnley on Tuesday. Zak Whitbread played for Leicester City on Tuesday as they beat Blackburn 2-1.

But things are going better for Danny Williams at Reading, as the former Hoffenheim man played the full 90 minutes in his first start for the Royals in a 0-0 draw with Brighton on Saturday. Then, on Wednesday night, Williams provided the key assist as Reading beat Leeds United 1-0 with a last-gasp winner from Adam Le Fondre.

EUROPE

Now switching over to the European continent, on Saturday Icelandic-American forward Aron Johannsson continued his good start to the season with another goal. The 21-year-old scored a penalty-kick in a 3-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles, the spot kick was his third of the season so far and overall Johannsson put in a lively display up front.

Following his callup to the U.S. national team for the recent World Cup qualifiers, Johannsson now has four goals in his first six Eredivisie games of the season. And Johannsson also started for AZ in their 1-0 Europa League win away at Maccabi Haifa on Thursday.

No doubt Jurgen Klinsmann will be keeping a close eye on the promising striker over the coming months.

In Belgium, Sacha Kljestan has had a mixed week following league success and UEFA Champions League disappointment. On Saturday Kljestan scored in Anderlecht’s 5-0 win over Mechelen, keeping up his terrific record this season with four goals in five league games. Yet on Tuesday night, the Brussels club came unstuck away at Portuguese side Benfica in their Champions League opener. Kljestan’s men lost 2-0, and the former Chivas USA star was booked to compound a frustrating night in Lisbon.

Over in the Bundesliga, Fabian Johnson‘s Hoffenheim beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1, as the left-sided player was involved in the home teams opening goal.

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A bad night for Kljestan, who was booked late on in Anderlecht’s 2-0 defeat to Benfica in the Champions League.

Forgotten man Timmy Chandler created FC Nürnberg’s opener from right back with some inventive play, but the USMNT defender was culpable as they dropped a late equalizer to newly-promoted Braunschweig and remain winless after five games.

(MORE: Is Danny Williams re-inserting himself into the U.S. national team conversation?)

Up in Norway, Mix Diskerud played the full 90 in Rosenborg’s shock 1-0 loss at Tromso. It was the Troll Kids first defeat in 16 games and they are now just two points ahead at the top of the table, with seven games to go.  Elsewhere in Norway, goalkeeper Steve Clark and Hønefoss lost yet again as they continue to struggle at the wrong end of the table. The Michigan born star made one save as his side dropped a late1-0 decision to IK Start.

Down in Denmark, Babajide Ogunbiyi was the hero for Viborg as he scored the winner against AGF Aarhus. Ogunbiyi also played superbly at the back, as his side held on for the 1-0 after his goal.

Over in France, Alejandro Bedoya put in yet another tireless display as Nantes beat Sochaux 1-0 at home. The attacker started off brightly and continued that throughout the game before being subbed late on. The Canaries are now seventh in Ligue 1.

In Austria, Terrence Boyd scored his fourth goal in five games as Rapid Vienna hammered FC Wacker Innsbruck 4-0. But in the Europa League on Thursday, Boyd was on the bench and came on for the final 27 minutes, as Rapid lost 1-0 to FC Thun.

MEXICO

Apart from Club Tijuana’s plethora of American players, another US star is making a name for himself in Liga MX. Former US U-20 international Alonso Hernandez helped Monterrey beat Puebla 1-0 on Tuesday, as the 19-year-old set up the goal with a dazzling run.

Keep an eye on this guy.

On Saturday Tigres UANL beat Cruz Azul 1-0, with US midfielder Jose Torres playing the entire game in what was a fiery contest between the Liga MX rivals. Tigres played most of the second half with 10 men but Torres’ side held on for the three points, with the midfielder showing off his creative skills throughout.

Onto the Xolo’s, and Club Tijuana drew 2-2 with CD Guadalajara on Sunday, but the big story was regarding Edgar Castillo, who left the game with an injury late on. Other Americans Paul Arriola and Greg Garza came on as subs for the Northern Mexican side, while surprisingly USMNT midfielder Joe Corona was once again an unused sub.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Puebla’s US duo DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco Fiscal both played in a 1-1 tie with Toluca. And Puebla looked like snatching all three points until the last minute when Toluca’s ‘keeper scored from the penalty spot, you read that right, to equalize late on.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.

McKennie, Adams, Miazga in top tier of US Soccer player pool

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CHESTER, Pa. (AP) Midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams have played their way onto the top tier of the U.S. player pool along with defender Matt Miazga, according to interim coach Dave Sarachan, who says the trio would receive strong consideration for a World Cup roster if the Americans were headed to Russia in June.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

With the U.S. rebuilding following its failure to qualify for the tournament, Sarachan will continue to rely on youth for upcoming exhibitions against Bolivia, Ireland and France.

Veterans such as Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley could have a role either in friendlies this autumn or when competitive matches resume in the summer of 2019.

“I do think those guys, some of them, will factor in, in terms of the Gold Cup, in terms of the next round of qualifying,” Sarachan said Wednesday. “I think it would be important to bring some of those veterans guys back.”

Dempsey, who turned 35 last month, is tied with Landon Donovan for the U.S. record of 57 international goals.

“The older guys, they’re valuable in the succession of everything, to mentor, to show these young guys what it really takes and what it is to be a part of the national team,” Sarachan said. “But as far as that goes, you know, sometimes a tie is all right, right? Share the spoils.”

Christian Pulisic, the Americans’ 19-year-old star midfielder, will be on the roster for the May 28 match against Bolivia in the Philadelphia suburbs. Pulisic, who is from Hershey, Pennsylvania, has not played for the national team since the 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago in October that eliminated the U.S. from World Cup contention.

While U.S. training starts May 21, Pulisic will report late so he can remain with Borussia Dortmund for a postseason exhibition at LAFC on May 22.

“He was pretty gutted after that game,” Sarachan said of the loss in Trinidad. “There’s a lot of demands of a guy like Christian. He’s being pulled in a lot of different directions. There’s still some speculation – this didn’t come from him directly – but I know that there’s some speculation that maybe he’ll move from Dortmund. So I know there’s a lot going on. And I’m trying to be helpful in the process to allow him a little wiggle room in terms of the national team now.”

Josh Sargent, the 18-year-old forward who joined Werder Bremen this year, also will be on the roster. The U.S. plays at Ireland on June 2 and at France on June 9, and Sarachan said many Europe-based players may skip the Bolivia match.

Sarachan was the top assistant to Bruce Arena, who quit after the U.S. failed to qualify. Sarachan would like to be considered for the job going forward, but new U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro plans to first hire a general manager for the men’s national team, a new position.

“I would only be guessing at this point if it’s someone in place before or after the World Cup,” Sarachan said of the GM.

The 63-year-old Sarachan coached Cornell from 1988-97 and the Chicago Fire from 2002-07. He does not consider himself to be an interim coach.

“I don’t like that term personally. I hate using the word interim,” he said. “I’m the men’s national soccer coach until they tell me I’m not. I’m not naive to think that I’m a slam-dunk candidate or not. I try not to even think through that other than at some point I have to figure out my next move if it’s not going to be this.”

Since World Cup elimination, the U.S. has played a road draw at Portugal and home ties against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Paraguay. Sarachan has given national team debuts to nine players, including Adams, McKennie, defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, forward Andrija Novakovich and midfielder Tim Weah – son of former FIFA Player of the Year and current Liberia President George Weah.

“I feel since November, when you could arguably say it was rock bottom in terms of U.S. soccer and the perception of it, I’d like to think that there’s a little more hope, a little more hope with the program, the direction we’re going, with the exciting young talent that’s emerging,” he said. “And that makes me feel proud, because I think the work kind of speaks for itself at this point, meaning young guys are getting great minutes.”