U.S. player ratings vs. Panama: Johannsson, Davis spark USA into life

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A win is a win, right?

That was the case for the United States on Tuesday, as they rallied late in the game to break Panama’s hearts by overturning a 2-1 deficit heading into stoppage time to win 3-2.

In doing so, as I’m sure you’re probably aware by now, the U.S. knocked Panama out of a playoff and gave Mexico a shot at redemption as they looked down and out. It was a night of high-drama across CONCACAF, and the USA were heavily involved even though they’d sealed their qualification last month.

(MORE: Mexico survives; tears for Panama; Honduras, Costa Rica and United States get results in regional World Cup qualifying)

Anyway, World Cup permutations to one side, Jurgen Klinsmann gave plenty of the U.S’s fringe players a chance to shine in Panama, with varying degree of success. Let’s see how they rated.

Brad Guzan (6) – Didn’t have a whole lot to do, but a few slip ups here and there. Have to think he could do better on Panama’s second goal after only pushing the ball back into danger. Can Guzan oust Howard? On this showing, the jury is still out.

Brad Evans (4) – Really struggled with the pace of the Panamanian attack, and was rightly substituted by Klinsi in the second half. A few forays forward didn’t detract from a difficult evening for the Seattle man.

Clarence Goodson (5) – The San Jose centerback skippered the U.S. when Altidore departed, but he was hardly a rock at the heart of team USA’s defense. A few lapses on the ball and guilty of losing his man on Panama’s second prove behind Besler and Gonzalez, Klinsmann needs more defensive cover.

Michael Orozco (6) – Another set piece goal from the Puebla man, but it was hardly a stellar display. Caught out for the second and looking a little shaky at time, his equalizer in the second half was an opportunistic finish. Much more comfortable in central defense than at full back.

source: Getty ImagesEdgar Castillo (5) – Again, another who was caught out for Panama’s second as he pushed up to high and also gave the ball away for the first goal. However, the Club Tijuana defender worked his but off all night long and was able to get up and down the flank to try and support the attack. Another defensive worry for the U.S. 

(MORE: Watch – Relive CONCACAF drama as USA hand Mexico World Cup lifeline)

Sacha Kljestan (7) –  The Anderlecht man delivered a typically tireless display in the middle, as he kept things ticking over nicely and tried to keep the U.S. playing despite Panama’s constant pressure. Solid display.

Mix Diskerud (6) – Tried ever so hard to stamp his authority on the game, but whether it was the final pass or making that decisive run forward, it just didn’t come off for Mix. The Rosenborg man has to keep improving between now and May to guarantee his spot on the plane.

Kyle Beckerman (5) – Despite another workmanlike display in front of the back four, I think Beckerman is getting a little found out at international level. Playing well in the Gold Cup is one thing, but dominating WC qualifiers on the road is extremely difficult and Real Salt Lake’s captain just gave the ball away too many times. And considering his main job is to protect the ball, that’s an issue.

Alejandro Bedoya (6) – Put in a shift, as always on the wing but found himself isolated for large swathes of the match. He was switched to right back and struggled to adapt, but being thrown in at the deep end like that isn’t easy. Seems as though Klinsmann is still undecided, as am I. Can’t fault his effort.

(MORE: The best night ever in CONCACAF qualifying? See how the drama unfolded on Twitter…)

Graham Zusi (6) –  Two goals in two World Cup qualifiers for Zusi, and the SKC man is looking sharp for the USMNT in front of goal. He rose like a salmon to bury Brad Davis’ cross and break Panama’s hearts in injury time. Zusi tried to get on the ball as much as possible but his defensive work out on the left flank needs work, as he exposed Castillo many times.

Jozy Altidore (6) – Captain for the night, Altidore led the line tirelessly with scraps to feed on for most of the game. Reminiscent of his form for Sunderland, the 23-year-old worked his socks off without much reward.

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Aron Johannsson (7) – Grabbed his first USMNT goal with a wonderful low strike in stoppage time, seems like the Icelandic-American is peeking at the right time for a World Cup callup.

Brad Davis (7) – Exactly what Klinsmann would’ve wanted from Houston’s stalwart, with David producing a pinpoint cross for Zusi’s late equalizer. Calm, composed and a dead ball specialist, Davis could be vital in the pressure cooker of the World Cup.

Terrence Boyd (6) – The young Rapid Vienna striker did well to set up Johannsson for his first U.S. goal and bullied Panama’s defense late on. Full of running and able to stretch the backline, great option off the bench.

COACH

Jurgen Klinsmann (7) – I was impressed with Klinsmann’s decision to shuffle his pack and give some others a chance to shine. He saw where the deficiencies are, defense, and figured out the likes of Boyd and Johannsson could be valuable off the bench. The German coach is also becoming a dab-hand at making subs, a great skill to have for any manager.

Roma slips in 3-1 derby loss to Lazio

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The Derby della Capitale went Lazio’s way, all but shattering any hopes Roma had of catching Juventus for the Scudetto as Keita Balde scored a brace in the 3-1 win.

Balde is absolutely on fire, with now five goals in his last two matches. His brace comes on the heels of a hat-trick in a 6-2 win over Palermo last time out.

The 22-year-old Senegalese international scored his first just 12 minutes in thanks to some horrid defending from Roma’s Emerson, and Balde cut the ball inside the near post to the surprise of Wojciech Szczesny. His second killed off the game in the 85th minute on the break, as Senad Lulic unselfishly gave it up to Balde on the 2-on-1 for an easy finish.

With Balde’s first the only score of the first half, Roma had momentarily pulled back level on a Daniele de Rossi penalty moments after the break, but it was Dusan Basta to provide the eventual winner just five minutes later. The goal was a bit generous, as his hit at the top of the box took a huge deflection off Federico Fazio and looped into the top corner.

Roma dominated possession throughout, but they were locked down, as Lazio matched them on the shot count despite finding themselves on the back foot for much of the game. Roma also saw Antonio Rudiger sent off in the dying minutes of the game for a very high boot that caught Lazio substitute Filip Djordjevic directly in the shin.

The loss paired with Rudiger’s impeding suspension means that Roma must now change its focus from looking ahead towards Juventus and instead over their shoulder. With a brutal run-in for Roma remaining, including games against AC Milan, Juventus, and Chievo Verona left on the schedule, they will be tested to hold their four-point lead over Napoli, who also has a game in hand.

Stream Live: Lukaku, Everton welcome title favorites Chelsea

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Everton hopes to have a better showing than the reverse fixture as welcome leaders Chelsea to Goodison Park live at 9:05 a.m. ET on CNBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Toffees fell 5-0 on their visit to Stamford Bridge in early November, part of a furious Chelsea run and the beginning of a poor run of form for the home side. Now, Everton is flying to finish the year, led by Romelu Lukaku, who is surrounded by rumors of a return from whence he came to Merseyside, from today’s opponents.

[ WATCH LIVE: Everton vs. Chelsea live online at NBCSports.com ]

Lukaku has 12 goals in his last 11 games, on absolute fire to the end of the campaign, only feeding the rumors. He heads the attack, with support from Enner Valencia who returns to selection after a short suspension last time out. Aaron Lennon, Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori are all injured with long-term problems, but Everton has no other issues.

For Chelsea, the Blues continue with the decorated back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, and Gary Cahill. Despite his positive performance last time out against Southampton, Cesc Fabregas is rotated back to the bench in favor of first-choice attacker Pedro, who supports Diego Costa along with Eden Hazard.

With the Blues four points clear at the top, this game represents one of the tougher fixtures remaining on their soft finish to the season. Chelsea has lost a whopping six of its last 10 trips to Goodison Park across all competitions.

LINEUPS

Everton: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Jagielka, Williams, Calvert-Lewin, Baines, Gueye, Davies, Barkley, Valencia, Lukaku.
Subs: Robles, Kenny, Pennington, Barry, Lookman, Mirallas, Kone.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard.
Subs: Begovic, Zouma, Ake, Chalobah, Fabregas, Willian, Batshuayi.

Stream Live: Man City can strengthen Top 4 spot at Middlesbrough

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A week after Manchester City struggled to finish on net, the torrid Gabriel Jesus returns to the lineup as the Citizens travel to Middlesbrough at 9:05 a.m. ET live online at NBCSports.com.

Jesus scored three goals in five Premier League appearances after arriving in the winter, but broke a bone in his foot and faced a long spell on the sidelines. He is back from injury and starts alongside Sergio Aguero in the City attack. Raheem Sterling drops to the bench as Pep Guardiola produces a flat 4-4-2 to fit both attackers in the formation.

[ WATCH LIVE: Middlesbrough vs. Man City live online at NBCSports.com ]

City is also now forced to play with Willy Caballero in goal after Claudio Bravo was injured in the Manchester derby. On the bench to back up the goalkeeper is 21-year-old Manchester City youth product Angus Gunn.

For Middlesbrough, they were forced into a change as Fabio comes into the lineup in place of the injured Daniel Ayala who drops out with an ankle problem. Gaston Ramierz was reportedly available for selection after missing the win over Sunderland due to suspension, but he does not appear in the lineup or on the bench.

Boro has served as City’s boogey team in the past, without a win in their first 14 Premier League meetings, but they have turned that around, with wins in four of their last seven against Boro.

LINEUPS

Middlesbrough: Guzan, Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, De Roon, Forshaw, Downing, Stuani, Negredo.
Subs: 
Dimi, Bernardo, Barragan, Fischer, Traore, Bamford, Gestede.

Man City: Caballero, Kompany, Kolarov, Otamendi, Clichy, Navas, Fernandinho, Garcia, De Bruyne, Jesus, Aguero.
Subs: 
Gunn, Sagna, Zabaleta, Fernando, Sterling, Nolito Sané.

Man United 1-1 Swansea: Sigurdsson rescues a point for Swans

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Swansea City went controversially behind, but they always remained a threat, and Gylfi Sigurdsson was again the man to pull them from the cold, dark waters.

Wayne Rooney had bagged a highly controversial penalty at the stroke of halftime, but Sigurdsson delivered his specialty: a beautiful curling free-kick with 11 minutes to go as Swansea grabbed a point and doomed the home side to yet another single point at Old Trafford.

Swansea began with much of the early possession, with Manchester United sloppy on the ball. The home side, which has been struck by countless injuries of late, was forced into yet another early change as Luke Shaw was unable to make it out of the opening 10 minutes with an ankle injury, replaced by Antonio Valencia.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A furious chance for the Swans saw Fernando Llorente shake free of Eric Bailly and force a good save from David De Gea on 14 minutes. Down the other end two minutes later, Jesse Lingard timed a run well and received a brilliant ball from Anthony Martial, but he couldn’t bag the opener, with Lukasz Fabianski there to smother the ball.

On the half-hour mark, Martial burst into the box and took it on himself, cutting across three defenders to find space and firing on net but it was right at Fabianski who held on nervously.

Just before halftime, United found the breakthrough as Marcus Rashford went down near the endline on a challenge from Fabianski. The decision was poor, as Rashford dove amid hardly any contact from Fabianski off his line, but with the referee in a poor position to see the magnitude of the challenge, he pointed to the spot after a long deliberation. Wayne Rooney, who had been mostly invisible in the first 45 minutes, buried the chance from the spot with the final kick of the first half.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Rooney nearly had a second just minutes after the halftime break, but his effort on the empty left side of the net thumped into the back of Martial and harmlessly away. United then suffered yet another injury to its defense, with the reliable Eric Bailly unable to continue after whacking the back of Llorente’s leg.

Injuries were a concern for both sides throughout the contest. Swansea had just brought on Jefferson Montero, who has been plagued by hamstring problems all season. Montero was on the pitch just five minutes before pulling up after a physical contest between he and Antonio Valencia, forced back off the pitch and needed a stretcher to reach the tunnel. Martin Olsson came on, and was immediately thumped in the air full tilt by Ashley Young, but thankfully Olsson could continue despite the heavy clatter to his ribs.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Swansea fired a warning shot at the Red Devils on the break as Jordon Ayew cut back for Gylfi Sigurdsson, but he thumped the ball acres over the bar. That was a harbinger of things to come, as Ayew was fouled on the edge of the penalty area, and Sigurdsson stepped up to conjur the ball into the back of the net, with David de Gea failing to even produce an attempt at a save.

The visitors nearly snagged the win in six minutes of stoppage time, on a free-kick from Sigurdsson yet again, which he lofted into the box, and with Llorente’s defender Daley Blind falling to the turf, the Swans striker was completely free, but he bungled the wide-open chance and saw it harmlessly into the arms of De Gea.

The point for United only moves them within a point of the top four, failing to snag the chance to jump Manchester City, who have yet to play today. For Swansea, they fail to pull out of the relegation zone, still sitting two points below Hull City despite owning a slightly better goal differential.