U.S. vs. Turkey: Three things that could matter, come Brazil

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The United States isn’t ready of the World Cup, but on Sunday, the team showed it’s making progress. Improving on Tuesday’s performance against Azerbaijan, the U.S.’s execution going forward was better against a more talented foe, producing a 26th minute goal that flashed the best of Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson. With Clint Dempsey’s second half insurance, the U.S. went on to a 2-1 win over Turkey, it’s second in as many games of their pre-Brazil send-off series.

The returns, however, weren’t entirely positive. Though the attack improved, problems were revealed at in defense, while the team’s midfield arrangement proved ill-suited to protect an unsettled back four. While the U.S. didn’t get bogged down in front of its opponents’ defense (as it did against Azerbaijan), the team proved too willing to let its opposition move through theirs. The defense’s left side was a big problem.

Six days from now, the U.S. will get a chance to address those issues. For now, here are three things we learned about the team which could matter come Brazil.

1. Bradley looking more like a number 10 …

On Tuesday against Azerbaijan, the U.S.’s diamond midfield was a misnomer. Michael Bradley, ostensibly the team’s attacking midfielder, spent most of the batch behind his two carrileros. On Sunday, that changed, with the normally ranging Bradley almost restraining himself to stay higher in the defensive phase, offering an outlet out of the back.

The flip side of that: Bradley’s positioning allowed him to exert pressure higher up the field, something that paid off in the 21st minute when a turnover in Turkey’s half created a 3-on-2. On the U.S.’s opening goal, Bradley was coming from behind two of the opponent’s central midfielders. He wasn’t in front of them, as a would normally be with his club team.  When the defense turned, Fabian Johnson had his space, and the U.S. had its opening goal.

2. … it’s still unclear that’s the best way to use him.

Speaking to ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp at halftime, Klinsmann noted the diamond midfield left holder Jermaine Jones outnumbered when Turkey threw its highest midfielders into attack. Of course, that’s the sacrifice you make when you go with this midfield alignment. The U.S. either needs to get its wide midfielders (Graham Zusi and Brad Davis) back quicker a la a normal 4-3-1-2 or it needs to pull Bradley deeper. Regardless, it was too easy for Turkey to get numbers at Jones and, consequently, that weak left side of the defense.

On Sunday, the U.S. was able to generate as many chances as its opponents. Against Germany and Portugal, however, that’s unlikely to hold. These psuedo-diamonds are in fashion right now in U.S. soccer, but without players who can play deeper roles in the sides, the formation may leave a suspect defense overexposed.

3. The defense, particularly its left side, may be a weakness.

The wording of that header is a bit “no duh,” but on Sunday, the problems were particularly evident. Against a Turkey team that seemed to constantly go at Matt Besler and Timothy Chandler’s side, the U.S. appeared destined to give up a goal. Though Klinsmann almost got away with it, with his team only conceding near the final whistle, the U.S. coach learned a Besler-Chandler combination either needs help, needs to be avoided, or needs to improve.

This goes back to the criticisms of the midfield, above, but if we concentrate on the defense, it also raises questions about Chandler. Regarding Besler, we know he’s a solid but limited player who, while reliable, needs solid players around him at this level. After Sunday’s game, the question is whether Chandler (a.) can that player, and (b.) how often.

The performance brought back memories of his struggles last February in World Cup qualifying against Honduras. It also made DaMarcus Beasley, a natural midfielder, look more viable. To the eyes, an even per his résumé, Chandler seems like the more viable option. In practice, that may not be the case.

Sunday may have just been a bad day, and the level of competition Chandler faced was much higher than Beasley saw on Tuesday, but that 90th minute mistake should never happen. Being so far out of position on Turkey’s 61st minute chance may have been a problem, too. And those weren’t the only issues on the left side of the U.S.’s defense.

Wagner on Huddersfield Town’s 2-0 start: “This is unbelievable”

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Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner is glowing with the knowledge that his newly-promoted side is 2-0 in the Premier League.

Sunday’s win over Newcastle United was closer than an opening weekend win at Crystal Palace, with Aaron Mooy’s 18-yard beauty a moment the record crowd at The John Smith’s Stadium will remember for a very long time.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wagner, the one-time USMNT midfielder, pumped his fist for the home fans in a post-match salute, then waxed poetic about Mooy and the club.

From the BBC:

“It was top-class quality for the goal, Premier League quality and that is why Mooy is playing in this league. The atmosphere was incredible today, the support was Premier League quality. First Premier League game at home, a win and clean sheet.”

“We are Huddersfield Town, nobody should forget this. We got promoted at Wembley but we have started the season with two wins and six points. This is unbelievable. Everybody has invested so much and I am happy for them.”

The mark of a decent club is outperforming expectations and picking up wins regardless of luck. Town probably wasn’t three goals better than Palace, and it failed to outchance a lifeless Newcastle United team but remains unbeaten to start life in the Premier League.

And these six points could stand up as a difference in whether Town are fighting a relegation battle or planning for next season before this one’s through.

Borussia Dortmund boy wonder the next big thing?

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Remember the name: Youssoufa Moukoko.

The 12-year-old has scored eight goals in three games for Borussia Dortmund’s U-17 side to start the season and scored four goals against Viktoria Cologne in a 6-1 win on Saturday.

Originally from Cameroon, Moukoko joined Dortmund from St Pauli in 2016 and starred for BVB’s U-15 team last season, scoring 33 goals.

Take a look at the video below to see Moukoko in all his glory.

Maybe we have a new star youngster to talk about with Karamoko Dembele stealing the show for the past 12 months.

Huddersfield Town 1-0 Newcastle United: Mooy magic tops Magpies

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  • Town starts PL life 2-0
  • Newcastle 0-2
  • Mooy scores on lone attempt

In a game with very few chances, Aaron Mooy made his count as Huddersfield Town topped Newcastle United 1-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday.

A match between two promoted sides looked very much like a second-tier affair aside from Mooy’s moment of brilliance just after halftime.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A boisterous stadium greeted the teams, and Town’s support was at full throat only to see Newcastle get the first chance when Dwight Gayle played Ayoze Perez into the 18 and saw the Spaniard’s shot blocked.

Town’s Elias Kachunga cut Chancel Mbemba with a high challenge, but it failed to see a card unlike two similar sending offs in the league on Saturday.

A series of sloppy plays by Newcastle allowed Aaron Mooy to test Rob Elliot, but he didn’t get enough on his low attempt to best the diving keeper.

Town remained the better money for an opener, and Tom Ince laced a hard shot at Elliot off a Christian Atsu turnover well into Newcastle’s end.

Matt Richie nearly opened the scoring against the run of play in the 16th minute when he thumped a far post effort that Jonas Lossl pushed wide for a corner.

The Magpies settled into the match, though, and had the better of the play for the final 15-20 minutes of the first half.

A terrible giveaway from Mikel Merino allowed Town a prime chance to take the lead, but Chancel Mbemba made a terrific sliding tackle inside his 18 and the Magpies handled a pair of corners.

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[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Town took the lead in the 50th minute through Mooy, who worked a perfect 1-2 with Kachunga to curl home inside the far post from the paint of the 18-yard box.

That spurred Rafa Benitez to insert new signing Joselu for Gayle.

Quality chances remained at a premium when Merino played a long diagonal ball into the box for Javier Manquillo, but Lossl collected the pass back into the fray.

Atsu and Joselu traded passes before Lossl tipped Joselu’s low shot out for a corner. Ciaran Clark headed the ensuing corner to Perez who, alone in front of goal, blazed over the bar.

Joselu flicked another header into Lossl’s arms in the 84th minute.

Stream Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

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A rivalry which has escalated in recent years rears its ferocious head when Tottenham hosts Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Spurs vs. Chelsea ]

Spurs boast a steely midfield with Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele, and Eric Dier behind the skillful Christian Eriksen.

As for Chelsea, Alvaro Morata moves into the starting lineup following a strong substitute’s performance in last week’s loss to Burnley.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Dele, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Walker-Peters, Wimmer, Winks, Sissoko, Son, Janssen.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Alonso, Luiz, Rudiger, Kante, Bakayoko, Moses, Willian, Morata. Subs: Caballero, Musonda, Kenedy, Pedro, Batshuayi, Tomori, Scott.