What went wrong in Saturday’s U.S. win over South Korea

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  • Movement back to front needs sharpening

For a center back the game is all about “stop and distribute.” Omar Gonzalez is generally OK at the “stop,” the occasion switch-off notwithstanding. But the “distribute” continues to be a work in progress for the big U.S. center back and presumed starter in Brazil.

His passing accuracy is OK, but his choices with ball and speed in moving possession into midfielders was problematic Saturday. Even allowing for opening game rustiness, Gonzalez (pictured) needed to do better against the well-organized Koreans, and if he can’t sharpen the product coming out of the back before this summer, there’s a goal out there for Ghana, Germany or Portugal. (They’ll all be well organized, too.)

Considering the slim margins ahead in the Group of You Know What, that can’t happen. Not if the U.S. wants to play beyond that first round.

One of South Korea’s best opportunities of Saturday’s first half came as the United States began struggling to work the ball smoothly out of the back, about 15 minutes in. At one point, Gonzalez’s ill-advised pass into a midfielder under pressure was stripped away, leaving the U.S. back line and goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a problem to deal with.

(MORE: United States opens year with 2-0 win over South Korea)

South Korea couldn’t turn it into a goal. Germany probably will. Portugal and Ghana might very well, too.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. Just a few minutes later, a sloppy pass from fellow U.S. center back Matt Besler gave South Korea a second opportunity within a small window.

Midfielder Brad Davis, starting along the left in the 4-4-2, also gave the ball away in bad spots here and there.

And holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman, whose best work with the ball usually comes in the attacking end, when he releases passes quickly, sometimes gets overly cautious when turning with the ball in his own end. The result is an attack that labors a bit through the midfield, as it did at times Saturday.

  • Brad Evans does OK. Again.

Say this for U.S. defender Brad Evans: he delivers very predictable results.

That means solid defending and an honest effort … but not much of a contribution on the attacking end. In a match at home against a middle class foe like Saturday’s, it’s fair to expect the outside backs to get forward a little more often, to impose themselves a little more along the flanks, adding pressure by adding numbers to the attack.

And when they do, the crosses need to be zippy and purposeful, which doesn’t always happen with Evans.

(MORE: What went right in the U.S. win over South Korea)

He still looks like the starting right back of the moment, but that is somewhat by default. Unless the Seattle man (who plays midfielder for his team, remember) can deliver something with a little more authority, his position will be ripe for picking off.

(Although not by DeAndre Yedlin, as the Seattle Sounders ‘debuting international reminded us with a few “rookie” moments in late-game backup duty Saturday that he still has a long way to go.)

Bottom line for Evans: he’s probably done enough to warrant a place on the 23-man roster; if he wants to start in Brazil, however, he may need to do more.

  • Mix Diskerud still not quite there

The door is open for Mix Diskerud, but the young U.S. midfielder still cannot quite command a midfield the way an international should.

He’s young, just 23, so there’s still plenty of time.  But his inability to be just a little better as a conduit, or to deliver a few more penetrating balls in the attacking third means Jurgen Klinsmann may still be looking in the months ahead for trusty a two-way midfielder to back up Michael Bradley.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga