Down to the Wire: With the window nearing its close, who will beat the clock?

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With just three hours remaining in the January transfer window, it’s a race to the finish for many teams to try and secure the players they desire for the final half of the season.

The top clubs appear to be very quiet as we approach the moment of truth, but with 10 clubs within nine points of each other, the bottom half of the table has been a flurry today, and to no surprise, the pickings have gotten a bit slim.

As we race towards the home stretch, let’s take a look at who could make a play just before the deadline.

After all, that’s what Deadline Day is all about, right?

Lee Cattermole to Stoke City:

An on-again, off-again rumor, Stoke haven’t given up the fight just yet. Known for his crunching tackles, many are joking (with a hint of truth) that Cattermole would be a perfect fit for Stoke’s physical style.

Originally said to be nearing completion with Sunderland having accepted a bid for the midfielder (pictured, left), his current club is now insisting that the deal is dead.  And yet it won’t go away…

According to Sky’s Rob Dorsett, Cattermole’s agent has arrived at the Stoke City training ground.  We’ll see where it goes. I can’t imagine Sunderland would be too happy with that news. Chances of completion: 4/10

John Heitinga to Fulham:

The furious attempt by Shad Khan, Alistair Mackintosh, and Rene Meulensteen to keep their club up is far from over, with deals for Kostas Mitroglou and Lewis Holtby already done and dusted.

The Cottagers have conceded a Premier League-high 50 goals this year, 10 more than anyone else in the league.  With that in mind, the club’s focus has now shifted to shoring up that back line.

With a serious need at left-back, Fulham first looked to Swansea’s Neil Taylor with a pair of bids, but amid reports that the defender’s wife has gone into labor today (typical Deadline Day!), the 24-year-old is apparently staying with Michael Laudrup.

Now, Fulham have turned their attention to the Everton central defender. Heitinga won the Toffees Player of the Year award as recently as the 2011/2012, but has been shoved aside by Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, leaving the 30-year-old with just a single Premier League appearance this year

With Fulham out of domestic loan slots (you get 2, and they have Holtby and Darren Bent), the transfer would have to be a purchase of his contract, most likely on a free.  Sky Sports are reporting he is having a medical at Fulham. From the sound of things, it’s a pretty likely possibility.  Chances of completion: 7/10

source: AP
With his name in the papers for years, could the 22-year-old Blackpool winger finally be headed to the Premier League?

Thomas Ince to Crystal Palace:

The Tom Ince Deadline Day Tour looks to have found a conclusion at Crystal Palace. This one has been in the reports for most of the day, but the longer these deals linger without confirmation, the more likely they are to have a twisted ending.

Slowly, news is trickling out that the move is nearing completion, with the Blackpool Gazette reporting that striker Stephen Dobbie will be sacrificed in the other direction to Blackpool.

Ince was rumored to be in contact with numerous Premier League clubs in the past week, and it would appear Crystal Palace are the winners. A very likely deal at this point, on a loan with a £1 million fee. Chances of completion: 8/10.

Jonathan Pitroipa to Stoke City:

It seems that Stoke aren’t finished, even if Lee Cattermole falls through.  Sky Sports is reporting another target for Mark Hughes – Rennes striker Jonathan Pitroipa.

The striker market is beginning to dwindle, and Cardiff City, West Ham United, and other bottom-half clubs have missed out on key striker targets.  So Hughes has targeted the 27-year-old Burkina Faso international for the job.  French paper L’Equipe is reporting a loan deal with an option to buy has been agreed upon, but nobody else has taken that leap yet.

Unfortunately, his numbers are a bit ugly – no goals and four assists in 20 appearances (16 starts) – but he’s been playing mostly on the right wing. Also, that’s what happens when you wait until three hours left in the transfer window. Chance of completion: 5/10.

Ross McCormack to anybody:

With news that all hell has broken loose at Leeds United – they’ve shockingly sacked manager Brian McDermott on the heels of an Italian takeover – will anybody make a play for former Cardiff City striker Ross McCormack?  The 27-year-old told Sky he was “gutted” by the news.

Ok, with 3 hours left that’s probably not likely, but hey, it’s Deadline Day. You never know! Right on cue, Sky reports SIX (!!) clubs have contacted Leeds about McCormack. Buckle up… Chances of completion: 2/10.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

[ MORE: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.