Americans Abroad review: Altidore shines, “Lex Luthor” wins it late

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With league play back in full swing and international breaks on the back burner for the moment, a number of Americans made their mark in play across the globe, but particularly in Europe.

Not as many Americans scored as we saw last week, but their teams continued to win and our boys were at the forefront of many.

In Premier League play, Jozy Altidore was on point as Sunderland picked up their first win of the season in the ever-important Tyne-Wear derby.  In a match that featured enough stripes to give anyone a headache, Altidore used his strength on multiple occasions to harass Newcastle and help his team.  He won the corner that led to their opening goal by warding off a defender, and he teed up Fabio Borini for the winner as time wound down.

What appeared a simple lay-off by Jozy to Borini was actually a brilliant bit of play.  Altidore caught the Newcastle defenders completely off-guard with the move, giving Borini ample space for the shot. It appeared that even the striker himself wasn’t aware of Borini’s presence until the last second, when he slammed on the brakes and set the ball up for the Italian to smash it home.

Tim Howard had a busy weekend in the Barclays Premier League.  The USMNT #1 shotstopper outdueled his international teammate Brad Guzan as Everton triumphed over Aston Villa 2-0, sending the Toffees up to fourth in the Premier League table. Howard was at the forefront of his team’s activity, saving a Christian Benteke penalty and denying the Belgian a host of other times during the match.

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Tim Howard saved a Christian Benteke penalty en route to Everton’s 2-0 win over Brad Guzan’s Aston Villa.

The 34-year-old then swapped his cleats for a headset, making his way to the broadcast booth where he paired up with Arlo White to commentate the Chelsea vs. Manchester City match for NBCSN.  It took the goalkeeper a few minutes to get comfortable behind the mic, but he performed nearly as admirably as he had on the pitch the day before. Arlo appropriately extended an open invitation for Howard to return, noting the excitement of the match was clearly due to the USMNT star’s presence.

Geoff Cameron started for Stoke City but the visitors couldn’t hang onto a 2-1 lead at Old Trafford as Stoke fell 3-2 thanks to Mexican international Javier Hernandez’s late winner.  Brek Shea did not make the matchday squad, strengthening his desire to go out on loan.

Over in Italy, Michael Bradley made an enormous stride towards returning to the starting lineup after returning from his ankle injury.  On as a 78th minute substitute, Bradley scored the winner for Roma with his first goal of the season as the Giallorossi stayed perfect through nine matches.

Maybe the greatest thing the goal brought this world is an absolutely outstanding new nickname for Bradley, dubbed by an Italian radio broadcaster calling the game.  Amid the broadcaster’s ear-piercing, high-pitched shrieks following Bradley’s goal, he refers to the American as “Lex Luthor.” If this doesn’t stick, I’m not sure what will.  Help us out USMNT fans, we here at ProSoccerTalk need to make this one permanent.

Under new manager Gertjan Verbeek, Timmy Chandler started at right-back and assisted FC Nurnberg’s only goal as they held Stuttgart to a draw and earned a valuable point on the road. The club was not able to get out of the relegation zone with the point earned but they gained ground on 15th-place Ausberg who fell to Bayer Leverkusen.  Chandler picked a good time to play well – USMNT assistant Andy Herzog was in attendence, could Timmy be on his way back?

Jermaine Jones could do nothing to stop Borussia Dortmund as his Schalke side fell 3-1 to the reigning Champions League runners up in the Rurh derby.  Jones was a 74th minute substitute, and he came on after all the scoring had taken place.

Red-hot Aron Johannsson didn’t score but his team AZ Alkmaar had a fruitful week of traveling. The youngster assisted Johan Berg Gudmannsson in their 1-1 with Shakhter Karagandy in during midweek Europa League play. AZ then defeated 5th-placed PEC Zwolle on the road in the Eredivisie 2-1.  The win put AZ into a tie for first place with Twente and Ajax.

Club Tijuana remained undefeated at home with their 0-0 draw against Tigres in Liga MX play. However, the sole point may not be enough to propel Tijuana to the postseason. Joe Corona, Edgar Castillo, and Paul Arriola all started for Club Tijuana, with Hercules Gomez coming on as a substitute.

DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco both started in Puebla’s 3-1 loss to Club America at Estadio Azteca.

Sasha Kleijstan needed just a single minute to net his first goal for Anderlecht in a 1-1 draw with table-toppers Standard Liege.  It’s a good bounceback from their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of PSG in the Champions League.

Timmy Chandler netted the winner for Rapid Vienna in the 88th minute as they beat Austria Vienna 1-0 in the Austrian Bundesliga.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.