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.

source: Getty ImagesSUBS

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.

Managerial change a slippery slope for West Brom

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Tony Pulis brought much needed stability to West Bromwich Albion before his tenure soured in a hurry.

When Pulis took over at the Hawthorns, West Brom had seen both Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine do little winning in abbreviated managerial stints. Mel won three of 17 matches in charge, while Irvine could only nab five in 22.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked ]

So there is little debating, even for those who West Brom fans who revel in the club’s former free-flowing ways, that Pulis had a productive time in charge from January 2015 right on through most of last season.

But Pulis was seemingly limited to setting a points total and then kicking his heels up once Premier League safety was reached.

While that sounds a bit laughable, the facts are that the Baggies finished 10th last season despite an impressive start that saw the club comfortably eighth for much of the season. However, West Brom won five points from its final 12 matches to finish 16 points behind a European place (including five shutout losses at home).

The Baggies finished 14th the previous season, Pulis’ first full year in charge, but collapsed again after hitting the rarefied air of 11th. That final stretch? Five losses and four draws including shutout losses at home to Norwich City, Watford, and West Ham.

In doing so, Pulis belied his own budgetary critiques by proving the Baggies had the talent to compete for something relatively special.

Pulis was good at getting his side to play with the fury of a relegation contender from Day One, but it was so clear the side was sated once safety was secure. It wouldn’t be callous to opine that the manager would’ve viewed the Europa League as a nuisance to his “never been relegated” reputation (an idea buttressed by West Brom’s performances in Cup competitions, where Pulis never advanced to a quarterfinal while losing to Reading, Norwich City, Derby County, Northampton Town, and, this season, Man City).

What West Brom does next will say a lot. If it’s as simple as a rehashing of the “never been relegated” deck with Sam Allardyce, well, that’s something. But the Baggies are in the tricky predicament of having to replace a relatively stable hand who was their first good hire in three tries, while also running with the knowledge that their players clearly are capable of so much better than 17th.

The names on the bettor’s lists show what’s expected of West Brom: gritty style from an island manager. Derek McInnes is the favorite, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill just ahead of Sam Allardyce. Alan Pardew is next, followed by Ronald Koeman (For what it’s worth, bookies are still milking money from gamblers by including Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at 20:1 or so).

West Brom is in its eighth-straight Premier League campaign. The firing will jostle an already rocking ship, but the Baggies have steady leadership in Jonny Evans, Ben Foster, Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, Gareth McAuley, and Craig Dawson. They have the wherewithal to achieve safety again, and can even look good in the process should a manager find the right way to use Salomon Rondon, Matty Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli, and others.

Who’s the right man for the job?

West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis

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Tony Pulis‘ reign over the Hawthorns is over, as West Bromwich Albion has fired the 59-year-old after just under three years in charge of the Premier League outfit.

Assistant coach Gary Megson takes over on an interim basis.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The Baggies have not won a game since August, and were belted 4-0 at home by Chelsea on Saturday to leave the club one point above the drop zone.

Overall, Pulis oversaw wins in just 36 of his 121 matches, losing 49, in what will go down as one of the least successful stints in his well-traveled career. Only three PL clubs have scored less than the Baggies’ nine goals.

Here’s the club statement:

“These decisions are never taken lightly but always in the interests of the Club.

“We are in a results business and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing.

“We would like to place on record our appreciation of Tony’s contribution and hard work during a period of transition for the Club which included a change of ownership. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Pulis will almost certainly be back on the touch line soon, as he hasn’t spent more than a few months out of work since 2002.

Pressure builds on Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz

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Borussia Dortmund has fallen to fifth in the Bundesliga table thanks to a trio of consecutive losses in league play, and suddenly there is loads of pressure on manager Peter Bosz.

The Dutchman came to Westfalenstadion after upper management pushed Thomas Tuchel out over the summer, and while he won seven of his first eight league matches in charge by a total goal differential of 21-2, things have come crashing down. The black & yellow have lost three in a row Bundesliga matches and four of their last five across all competitions, with their only win in that span coming over third-tier Magdenburg.

With fans feeling helpless over the departure of the wildly successful Tuchel that came as a result of a falling out between the German and his superiors, Bosz would always be on a short leash. He inherited a flawed squad, yet one that had achieved much under his predecessor, and immediate failures would naturally be lumped on the new man.

The most recent defeat, a 2-1 falter at Stuttgart, was a microcosm of Dortmund’s recent failures. The team conceded a comically poor goal five minutes into the match, worked hard to equalize just before the halftime break, and conceded again just after returning to the pitch. They controlled much of the match, but largely failed to capitalize.

The head man summed it up pretty well. “The defeat really hurts,” Bosz proclaimed after the final whistle. “We came here to win, so we’re very disappointed. When you see the goals we conceded, it borders on the ridiculous. It hurts because we actually put in a relatively good performance in the first half. The team performed well after conceding the early goal, only the final ball was lacking. The second half wasn’t as good. We need to keep going, we won’t give up.”

So what do the Dortmund executives do? Does Bosz get the benefit of the doubt based on performances? Or does he get blamed for the sudden dropoff in results? There is plenty of pressure given the team sits not only nine points back of Borussia Dortmund in league play, but is also third in a brutal Champions League group with almost no hope of recovery, and even threatens to miss out on a drop to Europa League play if they slip behind Cypriot club Apoel Nicosia, whom they find themselves level on points with.

Even if the club sticks with the Dutchman for now, his room for error has almost completely evaporated and it’s only mid-November. The next two matches will likely tell the tale, and it’s an uphill battle. Tottenham comes to Westfalenstadion on the backs of a disappointing defeat to North London foes Arsenal, followed by the home end of the Rivierderby against a Schalke side that sits second in the Bundesliga table, three points above Bosz and Dortmund.

Antonio Conte calls Tony Pulis a “really good manager”

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West Brom, after four straight defeats, sits 17th in the Premier League table, most recently suffering a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea.

Yet Blues boss Antonio Conte has offered his counterpart an olive branch, supporting his fellow Premier League manager at a time of panic.

With reports that Pulis could be fired this coming week – some say as early as Monday – the Baggies boss is under heaps of pressure, but Conte doesn’t believe he should be. “I must be honest, I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager,” Conte said, hoping those in charge don’t make decisions based on Sunday’s result.

“He has great experience and it’s always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game. But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against them.”

West Brom has lost four in a row in league play, and they haven’t picked up a win since August, and as The Guardian points out, they have the lowest average possession in the Premier League and have the second-lowest shots on target thus far. They registered just two shots on target against Chelsea, and held 39% possession, which is actually slightly above their average for the season.