Ukraine beat the U.S. 2-0, as the nation switched their attention from potential war to soccer.

Ukraine 2-0 USA: Disjointed U.S. display sees fired up Ukraine prevail


The U.S. national team fell to Ukraine 2-0 in Cyprus on Wednesday, as goals in either half from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic inflicted defeat on Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.

Throughout the game the USA’s makeshift backline looked off the pace and Ukraine could have won by a more comfortable scoreline, with only Alejandro Bedoya and Jozy Altidore having half chances to score for the U.S. in a much brighter second half display.

In the first half Yarmaleko was found by Denys Garmash after a long ball over the top caught out U.S. central defenders John Brooks and Oguchi Onyewu as Ukraine took a 12th minute lead. Several other good chances fell the way of Ukraine, but it wasn’t until Devic’s strike in the 67th minute that the Eastern Europeans were out of sight. The U.S. did not look like dragging themselves back into the game, as Aron Johannsson’s volley was cleared off the line as the USMNT were easily shutout.

That said, it was only the USA’s third defeat in 19 games, as Klinsmann will have learned an awful lot from his squad as the build up to this summer’s World Cup continues.

(MORE: Three things we learned in USA’s defeat to Ukraine)

In an eerily silent Antonis Papadopoulos stadium in Cyprus, the U.S. started cautiously as Ukraine were fired up and ready to go.

And it took just 12 minutes for the “home” side to take the lead, as a defensive mix up saw Brooks play Ukraine midfielder Garmash onside and after his initial shot was saved, the ball fell to Yarmolenko to slot home easily and give Ukraine a 1-0 lead.

The U.S. backline looked shaky throughout a dominant first half from Ukraine, as time and time again dangerous balls saw the Eastern European side cause all kinds of problems for defenders Onyewu and Brooks.

In the 29th minute Yarmolenko got in behind Castillo at left back and surged towards the U.S. goal but took a little to long to settle himself before dragging his effort wide of Howard’s far post. Geoff Cameron was making some long runs from right back and delivered some inviting crosses in a timid first half from Klinsmann’s side. The only chance of real note for the U.S. came in the 40th minute as a corner was headed towards goal but Cameron couldn’t direct his effort on target.

(MORE: Emotional, poignant U.S. vs. Ukraine game reveals defiant Ukrainian spirit, as war looms)

After the interval the U.S. looked much better, as Kljestan clipped in a delightful ball that was knocked down to Bedoya at the back post and the Nantes midfielder rifled a volley towards goal which was heroically blocked by Ukraine. In the 50th minute Altidore then headed just over as a cross from the right saw the Sunderland man climb highest but failing to direct his effort on target.

That good start to the second half pepped up Klinsmann’s men as Bedoya fizzed an effort just wide and Clint Dempsey was thwarted by Ukraine ‘keeper Pyatov when clean through. Midway through the half Klinsmann made his first changes of the game, as Johannsson and Brek Shea came off the bench to try and add some extra attacking impetus as time was running out.

Just as the U.S. were beginning to dominate, another long ball over the top found substitute Devic who had his first effort brilliantly saved by Howard but the rebound was calmly tucked home to put Ukraine 2-0 ahead. Shea made some decent runs as he tried to get the U.S. back in the match after coming off the bench, but Yarmolenko almost scored his second and Ukraine’s third of the match with a cheeky lob from distance that Howard stumbled and then palmed clear. That chance came after another mishap from young U.S. defender Brooks as the German-American didn’t have a stellar outing.

The remainder of the game saw Klinsmann throw in some of his squad players, but the U.S. didn’t create any chances as they lost to Ukraine in a valuable learning experience before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.


United States: Howard; Cameron, Onyewu, Brooks, Castillo (Shea, 64); Jones (Williams, 81), Kljestan (Johannsson, 64); Bedoya (Boyd, 90), Dempsey, Johnson; Altidore (Agudelo, 86)

Ukraine: Pyatov; Khacheridi, Shevchuk, Kucher, Fedetskiy; Tymoshchuk, Yarmolenko (Morozyuk, 90), Rotan (Edmar, 78), Konoplyanka (Gusev, 66), Garmash (Bezus, 46); Zozulya (Devic, 64)

Goals: Yarmolenko (12′), Devic (67′)

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT
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The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Ozil, Coquelin: Arsenal can win the title this season

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal FC
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I suppose, in theory, that any Premier League club that fields a team could win the league title for a given season, so the above headline could have been written in reference to any one of 20 teams a few short weeks ago.

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Fast forward eight rounds of fixtures to the present day, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer with every passing week that it’s a three-horse race — Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, who currently sit 1-2-3 atop the league — for the 2015-16 Premier League title.

So — and stick with me for just a second — why not Arsenal? [The crowd gasps loudly] Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin believe the Gunners have what it takes to win the title this year, so why doesn’t anyone else?

Ozil and Coquelin, on Arsenal’s progression to title contenders — quotes from the Guardian:

Ozil: “We have a great team with many world-class players. Our goal is to win the Premier League and I think that this season it’s possible to do it, if we all stay healthy. But the season is long.”

Ozil: “I didn’t expect [Bayern Munich] to beat Dortmund 5-1. Their recent results show they are simply in great shape … But our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100 percent, then we can beat Bayern.

“We are playing at home. Although we have respect for them, we don’t have any fear. We know how to score goals against Bayern and we can be successful. It will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”

Coquelin: “We proved a lot of people wrong. Inside the dressing room we knew we could do good things this season. We knew we could be contenders, but obviously we have to be consistent.

“We are getting stronger against the big teams. We beat City last season, now United. It’s all about consistency. The league is getting tougher, so we need to be getting results every week … We knew we had to put it right after Olympiakos and that’s what we’ve done.”

Coquelin is absolutely right — no one expected Arsenal to throttle Man United the way they did on Sunday. The Gunners acquitted themselves quite well, though it should be mentioned that Louis Van Gaal set up United to fail miserably with the immobile midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger against a quick, dynamic Arsenal unit.

[ MORE: “Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings ]

That’s not meant to take anything away from Arsenal’s scintillating performance, because they did exactly what they should be doing against a poorly planned side — that’s not always been the case for Arsenal against top teams. The Gunners will play hosts to Man City on Dec. 19; perhaps we’ll better be able to dub them contenders or pretenders based their showing that day.