US men's national team player Michael Bradley runs with the ball during a World Cup preparation match against Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on May 27, 2014.    AFP PHOTO/JOSH EDELSON        (Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Player Ratings: See how the US players fared against Azerbaijan

32 Comments

The U.S. national team beat 2-0 Azerbaijan on Tuesday night in San Francisco thank to goals late on from Mikkel Diskerud and Aron Johannsson, with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann given plenty of food for thought.

Players such as Brad Davis and Alejandro Bedoya shone, while others struggled to impose themselves against a nation ranked 85th in the world.

How will the USMNT cope in Brazil?

[MORE: Diskerud, Johannsson come throughThree things | Subs shine]

With the first warm up game out of the way, it’s time to give each player a mark out of 10 for their performance as the countdown to Brazil looms large.

Here it goes…

USMNT player ratings vs. Azerbaijan

Tim Howard – 6

Barely called upon to make a save the entire match. Howard’s throws were exemplary and he captained the USA with his usual coolness. Standard. Shutout. Enough said.

Fabian Johnson – 6

Practically anonymous in the first half. Didn’t have much defending to do at right back but in the second period he bombed on well at times and supported Bedoya. Promising signs from the Hoffenheim defender.

Geoff Cameron – 7

Composed on the ball and showcased his ability to play raking passes to get the USMNT on the front foot, Cameron did his chances of starting at CB in Brazil no harm at all with this performance. Replaced at HT by Gonzalez after a job well done.

Matt Besler – 6

Committed as ever and positionally sound, Besler is a lock to start in Brazil and he looked settled alongside Cameron in the first half. Won headers and tidied up, a few stray passes early on will have annoyed him.

DaMarcus Beasley – 6

Tested defensively and coped with the pressure in the first half, Beasley made a few brief forays forward but had little impact offensively. Replaced at half time by Chandler.

Graham Zusi – 6

Great deliveries on set pieces and showed his quality on the ball whenever he got the chance. A 45 minute run out for the Floridian who showed some good touches in midfield.

Michael Bradley – 7

Used in an advanced midfield role at the point of the diamond, Bradley made some superb runs but still looked a little uneasy in having to integrate the attack from just behind the forwards. His positioning was good and his shot was blocked on the line that led to Diskerud’s game-winner.

Jermaine Jones – 6

Wasteful in possession at times, Jones stuck to his task just in front of the back four and plugged the gaps well. Worked hard to make himself available. He wasn’t tested defensively.

Alejandro Bedoya – 6

Some pacey bursts down the left flank caused Azerbaijan problems but his final pass needs some work. Switched over to the right flank in the second half and again worked hard. Good movement.

Chris Wondolowski – 6

After his last minute inclusion in the starting lineup due to Dempsey’s injury, Wondo could’ve scored twice in the opening 15 minutes. First he headed straight at the ‘keeper from five-yards out then he had another headed from a set piece well saved. Lively but replaced after 60 minutes by Johannsson.

Jozy Altidore – 7

Good hold up play which bodes well for the World Cup where he is likely to be isolated on his own for large periods of time. Altidore still looks to be lacking in confidence but is a real handful. Won the free kick that led to the games only goal.

SUBS

Omar Gonzalez – 6

Looked a little shaky after replacing Cameron at half time with his knee taped extravagantly. Wasn’t tested much. His fitness is still a huge question mark ahead of the World Cup.

Timmy Chandler – 6

One stray shot way over the bar and another which deflected just wide, he looked solid slotting in at left back. Chandler showed he is a good option in defense and is versatile.

Brad Davis – STAR MAN 8

Should have won a penalty kick just after coming on at half time but the referee bizarrely awarded a free kick. Davis looked lively cutting in from the left flank and caused plenty of problems. Proved he has an impact off the bench after delivering both set pieces which led to goals for Diskerud and Johannsson.

DeAndre Yedlin – 6

Had 30 minutes to show what he could do and showed he was solid defensively. A few rash challenges. Lets put that down to youthful exuberance, as the Seattle youngster wasn’t afraid to get stuck in.

Aron Johannsson – 7

Struggled to impact the game for the final 30 minutes after replacing Wondolowski but then popped up to score a great header. Job done.

Mix Diskerud – 7

Replaced Bedoya late on as the USA’s final sub, Diskerud pounced to scored his third goal for the U.S. to win this game. The Rosenborg midfielder proved he has a knack of changing games off the bench.

Xavi backs Dybala, Verratti to succeed at Barcelona over Pogba

TURIN, ITALY - JANUARY 24:  Paulo Dybala (R) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Paul Pogba during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Juventus Arena on January 24, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.

Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”

There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.

They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.

[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.

[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]

Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.

Vincent Kompany set to make Manchester City return this weekend

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Manchester, England.
Getty Images
1 Comment

Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.

City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.

We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.

Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.

Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.

[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]

With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

Leave a comment
  • CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
  • Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
  • Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches

Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.

[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]

For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”

Prediction

Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.