US Man of the Match vs Scotland

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It was a sloppy match, one where nobody really stuck out in any way, good or bad.

It was hard to take a lot out of it, except that Scotland have much improved since being wrecked by the United States last May, and that our patchwork squad of reserves isn’t exactly used to playing together.

There weren’t many promising moments, and there were a few nervy moments at the back.  Otherwise, nothing disastrous and nothing excellent.

A snoozer, for lack of a better description.

Thus, deciding a Man of the Match is tall task.  However, this opens up a number of opportunities, including giving substitutes some consideration.  Here are some options:

Sacha Kljestan

In the middle of the US attack for the first 45 minutes, Kljestan was also the center of their creativity.  He found space and spread out the opportunities to his teammates.

However, Kljestan was a bit wild on the ball.  His first touches were awful, and it often let him down and caused a turnover of possession.

Tim Howard

He didn’t have to do much, but made one outstanding save and showed good communication and understanding with his back four.

Robert Snodgrass, who has shown free-kick prowess already this season with Norwich, blasted in a stunner that bent over the wall and screamed towards the top-right corner.  Howard was there and read it all the way for a spectacular save.

He also avoided collisions with his defenders when coming out to collect a corner, cross, or long ball, something that has proven to be a problem with goalkeepers at clubs and countries this season.

Jermaine Jones

Jones faded in the second half, but his possession play before the break was pretty good.  He didn’t shy away from the higher-risk, higher-reward pass which was nice to see.

He was accurate as well, showing a high level of focus, something which is occasionally his weakness.

Brek Shea/Aron Johannsson

The two substitutes on the list, the pair connected incredibly well and played with pace and creativity down the left-hand side.

Johannsson got a feed from Shea that he should have buried, but missed just inches right.  He also had a chance before that which nutmeged a defender but was saved well by David Marshall and somehow Jozy Altidore’s rebound attempt(s) weren’t able to be directed goalbound.

It’s a good performance from the two, and with so many others underwhelming on the day it could buy one or both a start against Austria.  It would be nice to see what the two can do with a full 90 to work with, or even 60.

Our pick:

I should probably say “my pick” because I guarantee if you poll our writers you may get five different answers, and I’m sure there are players not discussed here who some believe could have earned the award. Michael Bradley played solid and played some nice long balls early, and Alejandro Bedoya was creative in the first quarter of the match, just to name a few.

I will take the easy route and award it to Tim Howard for his outstanding save.  Everyone else on the list you could say “yea but…” and although Howard didn’t have too much to do, he came through every time.  Well done to the fill-in captain!

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.

WATCH: Pair of inspiring Academy videos from Men In Blazers

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Men In Blazers produced a pair of videos on two teens from rival academies that should give all young players a sense of gratitude and inspiration for their chances in American soccer.

New York City FC Academy center back Prince Amponsah and New York Red Bulls Academy destroyer Amadeo Chapru-Tate get the mini-doc treatment from Roger Bennett.

Amponsah comes from Ghana, and his family moved to the United States where their son found his way to the youth national team.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Chapru-Tate comes from Haiti, adopted by his parents after a three-year process. His first game saw him score an own goal, but that was not a sign of what’s to come for the 15-year-old.

Confederations Cup: Scenarios before final group matches

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Seven of eight nations remain alive for the knockout rounds after two-thirds of the group stage at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

Only New Zealand has been eliminated, though the underdogs aren’t the sort of nations who will quit ahead of its group finale against Portugal.

That’s one of two Saturday matches, along with Russia versus Mexico, with two more on the docket for Sunday when Germany meets Cameroon and Chile duels with Australia.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

We’ve seen zany finishes at the Confederations Cup before, as the U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil topped Italy 3-0 on the final day of group play in 2009 to send the Americans past Italy and into the knockout rounds despite a tournament-opening 3-1 loss to the Italians.

Group A

Draws will be enough to send Mexico and Portugal into the knockout rounds, with Mexico currently leading the group by virtue of a single goal scored (The two sides drew 2-2 in the opener).

We mentioned New Zealand’s status as a wild card, but hosts Russia will be under immense pressure against Mexico. The cynic will note that the tournament’s location could help the Russians beyond simple home-field advantage, while a bigger cynic may not that Mexico has been the beneficiary of plenty of officials’ whistles and non-whistles in recent years.

The safe bet is Portugal to win and Mexico to advance via draw or win.

Group B

No one’s safe, but Chile is feeling very good about its chances coming into Sunday’s match against Australia in Moscow. The Chileans battered Australia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and a draw would give them a place in the next round.

The Socceroos need a two-goal win to pass Chile and assure a spot in the next round. A one-goal win could also do the trick for Australia if Germany loses and Australia outscores the Germans (who currently hold a one-goal advantage).

Germany knows it’s result-and-in for them, while Cameroon faces the longest odds. Not only do the Africans need to upset the Germans, but they need a two-goal win and help. If Cameroon won by one, it would fail to pass Germany.