Tim Howard on his stunning display vs. Arsenal, Everton’s good form, tough draw for USA

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LONDON — After pulling off a string of fine saves for Everton against Arsenal on Sunday, U.S. national team ‘keeper Tim Howard reminded us just how good he really is.

Minus the beard.

Howard, 34, shaved that beauty off before the match against the Gunners and made three stunning stops, two while racing quickly off his line in the first half and the other a remarkable reaction save from Aaron Ramsey’s close-range volley after the break.

He was in inspired form and only Mesut Ozil’s close-range tap in the 80th minute spoiled Howard’s shutout but his team then went straight up the other end to equalize and grab the Toffees a deserved point.

I caught up with Tim after the game in the tunnel on Sunday, he looked about 10 years younger without the beard might I add, and we spoke about his display, Everton’s terrific start to the season and how he rates the World Cup draw the USMNT were handed on Friday.

Over to Howard.

On playing as a ‘sweeper-keeper’ to make saves in the first half:

It was something we worked on [coming off his line fast]. The boys had to get to the edge of the box when Arsenal possessed, so I needed to be sharp of my line knowing that balls can get played through.

source: Getty Images
The beard has gone… but the magic of Howard remained as he delivered a top class performance.

On what’s going through his mind when strikers are coming in on goal:

I’m just trying to close the distance. You have got to get at their feet and the sooner you go down, the more space you leave for them to lift it over, so you have to close the distance as close as you can.

On Everton’s superb comeback after conceding late on:

I was just looking for a reaction and I think we got that, which was a huge positive. There wasn’t much time left, there’s never a good time to concede but I thought that was a really bad time to concede because it didn’t allow us to pick ourselves back up off the floor. But credit to us, we did that and Gerry takes his goal really well. Then Rom sets one up and maybe if he hits the target with it, it’s a different story. I thought we showed a great reaction.

On how Everton can improve going forward:

That’s the one thing, as well as we played in the first half for the possession we had we didn’t create enough chances. I think nearly at the halfway point, that’s something we’re looking to get better at. We defended really well, we’ve shown that with the clean sheets that we’ve kept. We’ve got in the attacking third a bunch of times but now we have to try and finish off our chances.

On if the draw was a fair result:

I think so, they probably had more clear cut chances. It looked like a 0-0 for a very long time. They wouldn’t think so, but for us we’re happy.

source: Getty Images
Howard rushed off his line to great effect in the first half to thwart Arsenal’s offense.

On Everton’s impressive defensive unit frustrating Arsenal:

We did a really good job. The goal we conceded was not like us at all. A ball over the top and then second and third defending, normally that’s our bread and butter. It happens. Arsenal threaten you in front so it opens up space behind but I’m very happy with the guys. No question.

On Gerard Delofeu’s equalizing goal…

Gerry’s got a bit, he’s shown that in the games. He’s done really, really well and he’s a difference maker. We saw him standing on the touchline and we were looking for him to come on and give us something and he did really well.

On tough World Cup draw for the USA…

It’s a tough draw for us. I think we’re gonna, without question, go there and stand in the middle of the ring and give as good as we get. It’s going to be difficult. But looking across the board, I won’t tell you which group, but I think one group is pretty easy. Other than that they are very difficult groups.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia