USMNT player grades vs. Turkey: Davis stands out, Chandler struggles out of position

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It’s time to hand out our grades for the US national team’s 2-1 victory over Turkey.

It was a big of an ugly match, but in a good way – from a neutral perspective – as shaky defense led to plenty of chances on goal.

Unfortunately, both teams also struggled to finish, as the scoreline could very well have been much higher.  Few players made glaring mistakes, but few players also played well enough to distance themselves from the median.

Let’s run through the starting lineup first, and then touch on the substitutes.

Tim Howard: 7

Howard had little to do at first. The United States defense was nervy throughout, but it mostly cleaned up its own messes.  However, Howard was solid and didn’t let any mental lapses by his defense affect his goalkeeping, and a number of times it appeared had the Turks gotten solid shots off, Howard had the goal covered anyways.

The only moment Howard was truly caught out was on Nuri Sahin’s 13th minute shot, but it hit the post and went wide.

Timmy Chandler: 5

Chandler looked a bit over his head in the left-back position. It’s odd that Klinsmann would even put him out of position in the first place, given that Fabian Johnson has proven capable on the left despite not being right-footed.  He ultimately gave away the ball that would lead to Turkey’s only goal late, forcing Brad Guzan out of goal on a one-on-one situation and causing defenders to slide onto the goal line.

Hopefully Klinsmann has learned to use Chandler in his natural position only, because mistakes like this would without a doubt be lethal in Brazil. Klinsmann shouldn’t be tinkering too much at this point, and hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of it.

Matt Besler: 6

Besler still has communication issues with the defense constantly changing around him, but overall he remains solid at the back. Nobody in the US defense had a particularly good match, and Besler only played 45 minutes but didn’t make any glaring mistakes.

Geoff Cameron: 6

Much the same as Besler, he is emerging as the best option for Klinsmann in the center of defense, but still has communication issues.  It’s imperative that Klinsmann instill an environment of consistency as soon as possible so the defense can play as a unit rather than four members.  Still, Cameron himself didn’t make any glaring mistakes, and hopefully the big picture improves going forward.

Fabian Johnson: 7

Johnson covered an incredible amount of ground today, and while the defense as a whole struggled, Johnson stood out going forward.  He was constantly in a positive position in the attacking half, and still managed to get back and cover for his fellow defenders after a spell in attack.  It’s beating a dead horse at this point, but like the others, Johnson can improve by communicating more and working together with his back line.  For a night when he picks up his first international goal, we’ll give him a pass for other small issues.

Jermaine Jones: 5

Jones was a constant source of turnovers, and while he remains an athletic and technically gifted option, it’s becoming more and more of a question whether he can handle the duties that fall to the man in back of the midfield diamond. Jones appeared to be frustrated at being shackled by Klinsmann’s tactics, and his playing style is much like Michael Bradley’s rather than the Kyle Beckerman mold that fits that position perfectly.  Jones never seems to shake the sentiment that he’s a red card waiting to happen, either, and it’s all fans can do to hope that doesn’t hurt the team in Brazil.

Graham Zusi: 6

Zusi put in his usual quota of quality crosses, something that US fans have gotten accustomed to.  Don’t. They’re fun to watch, and are incredibly important, as they give the formation yet another threat out wide. However, he also found himself bit by the finishing bug, and blasted into the side netting on a wonderful opportunity from a tight angle.  Zusi is the ideal player for Klinsmann’s formation, and he will be a lock going forward.

Brad Davis: 7.5

While it’s hard to give him an 8 given how much he seemed to drift in and out, Davis was the most effective midfielder the US had in the first half, and he also delivered some beautiful crosses in for the big Jozy Altidore to handle. Brad’s backtracking appeared worse than it really was thanks to Chandler struggling mightily one-on-one. His handball is whatever, that’s not an important talking point. With Ale Bedoya, Aron Johannsson, and Davis all vying for the starting wing position, Davis – like Bedoya last weekend – did his best to show Klinsmann he’s the right choice.

Michael Bradley: 7

While not as sloppy as against Azerbaijan, Bradley still has strides to make in the ball security category.  However, his brilliant flick to spring Fabian Johnson for the goal was superb, and had Fabian not gotten there Clint Dempsey was waiting in the wings to finish it.  Bradley is the most creative American on the pitch when he gets the license to roam as he pleases, and he has just that at the top of the diamond.  If he can clean up the rest of his game, Bradley will be a gamechanger for the US in Brazil. But you already knew that.

Clint Dempsey: 6.5

Dempsey found himself in plenty of attacking areas and in gobs of space, but was overshadowed by Jozy Altidore in this match. While that’s not exactly a bad thing, he didn’t necessarily take his few chances to heart either.  His goal was silly – a straight-up gift – which he acknowledged with a hearty chuckle after putting the ball in the back of the net.  He displayed an incredible double-touch to get past a defender, but couldn’t get back into a shooting area. Dempsey is an important player, and while he looked bright at times, the US may need a little more from him in the coming days. His play, however, has that feel of a player just starting to heat up…

source: Getty Images
Jozy Altidore found spaces well and unlocked the Turkish defense, but struggled to finish confidently.

Jozy Altidore: 7

Altidore did exactly what he’s done for Sunderland all Premier League season: get into excellent areas, find space, unlock teammates, and body down defenders, only to fail at the final moment.  He was by far the best attacking option the US had throughout the match, but just couldn’t find the finishing touch.  It’s imperative we give Altidore credit where credit is due, as he played exceptionally well, but he has to score for the US to be successful – and for his own confidence – in Brazil.

Altidore hasn’t gotten many breaks either, as the referee ruled out an obvious Altidore goal for an incredibly soft foul.  But he also blew numerous other chances at their vital moments, and after so much hard work it’s a shame he remains goalless for club or country since December 4th.

Substitutes:

Brad Guzan: 7

Guzan faced much more action than Tim Howard, and he was up to the task.  The Turkish attack wasn’t exactly launching missiles into his top corners, but he was still equal to everything he faced until the penalty.  He looked somewhat anchored down on the penalty stop, picking the correct side but not getting all the way to the post, but it was a quality penalty.

Kyle Beckerman: 6

Beckerman doesn’t do anything flashy, but he’s not supposed to in that position.  He holds the back of the diamond down with expert skill, and covers for his defenders so well nobody even notices he’s doing it.  Still, with Turkey pressing towards the end, Beckerman wasn’t exactly throwing his body on the line either (nor, frankly, should he just before the World Cup). A solid performance but nothing that stands out.

John Brooks: 5.5

Brooks came on at halftime for Besler, and he continued the back line theme. There was little teamwork, and although the penalty can’t be blamed on him whatsoever, he didn’t do much to prove he’s on the level of Cameron or Besler and multiple times he lost his mark in the box.  Brooks, like a few of the other defenders, is lucky Turkey didn’t have their shooting boots on.

DeAndre Yedlin: 6

He didn’t do much in the half-hour he was on the pitch, and Turkey gained a presence on possession after he entered.

Julian Green: 6

Green still appears to be a little nervous, and he’s not fully confident on the ball either.  He had a very tough task in front of him while receiving a long ball from the back, and just touched too hard bringing it down in the box for his best chance.  At this point it’s hard to see him getting much time in Brazil, but it’s possible Klinsmann gives him a full 90 against Nigeria to try and bring out his confidence and show the fans what he’s capable of.  We still don’t have a very good bead on his abilities at this point.

Pochettino: “Challenge is to keep going” ahead of North London Derby

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Mauricio Pochettino was thrilled to see Tottenham Hotspur’s title push continue with a win over in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Spurs won 1-0 on a beautiful Christian Eriksen goal from distance, moving back to within four points of Premier League leading Chelsea.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-1 Spurs ]

Pochettino’s men didn’t stop fighting for the winner despite relentless fight from the home side, with improving mettle on display this season.

“Unbelievable. Very good performance. I think second half we played much better than in the first half. It was difficult in the first half for us to move the ball and find the space but we changed the shape at half time and it was more fluid, we started to find the space and started to push Palace deeper and deeper.”

After two tough London Derbies — Spurs fell 4-2 to Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal — Tottenham now has the big one: a visit from Arsenal in the North London Derby.

“It was good to get the three points and be alive in the race for the title. The challenge is to keep going. It is always better to win but it is true [the Arsenal game] is a big derby, perhaps the last at White Hart Lane and I think it will be an exciting game.”

We’re ready for it. Spurs will be favored to pick up all three points, but all bets are off when it comes to the NLD. That’s especially true considering the ticking Top Four clock for Arsenal and the title fight for Spurs.

Palace 0-1 Spurs: Eriksen saves the day

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  • Sakho stretchered off
  • Eriksen rescues title hope
  • Spurs four back of Chelsea

Palace made them work for it.

Tottenham Hotspur didn’t exactly sends chills down the spine of Chelsea with its performance, but Spurs found a way past tricky and in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday at Selhurst Park.

Christian Eriksen‘s pretty goal sealed the three points for Spurs, who have five matches to chase down four points from the Blues.

Palace sits 12th, seven points clear of 18th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Two in-forms started with confidence, Harry Kane lashing wide of the frame for Spurs and Wilfried Zaha driving Palace on the right wing.

Another in-form Eagles attacker, Christian Benteke, did well to create space and hit a low shot that forced Hugo Lloris to ground.

Victor Wanyama was on yellow when he slid to intercept Andros Townsend, taking the Englishman to the turf. Jon Moss gave Wanyama a harsh warning, but did not produce the red card.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min were called upon soon after the break to liven up Spurs attack.

The substitution that stood to shake up the match was Palace center back Mamadou Sakho, who was hurt with about 40 minutes to play.

Eriksen stung a shot across goal for the eventual winner, a rare moment of class from a three-match day that didn’t quite fit the standard of the Premier League.

Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City: Only an own goal

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  • Chances at a premium
  • Monreal forces Huth own goal
  • Arsenal moves sixth
  • Foxes six clear of drop

Nacho Monreal‘s desperate shot ricocheted off Robert Huth‘s chest and gave Arsenal a 1-0 win over Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Entertainment value wasn’t high over the course of the match, as Arsenal had trouble piercing Leicester’s congested back four.

Arsenal is now three points back of Manchester United and four behind Man City before Thursday’s Manchester Derby.

Leicester is six points clear of 18th and has played one less game than most of the teams chasing them.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal had most of the ball to start the match, but needed to make the first big stop. Petr Cech kept the match goalless when he flew to stop a left-footed whip from Riyad Mahrez.

At the other end, Mesut Ozil set up Theo Walcott for a chance that prodded a solid save from Kasper Schmeichel.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Wilfried Ndidi was again a monster in the middle third for Leicester, arguably the main reason the Foxes have rebounded from their relegation plight.

Arsenal had a chance pushed away from danger by Robert Huth after Alexis Sanchez misjudged his time on the ball in front of goal in the 56th minute.

Schmeichel then dove to slap away a deflected Francis Coquelin shot.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Laurent Koscielny went down in pain after landing awkwardly in the 79th minute, leaving a gap in space that Shinji Okazaki would’ve exploited were it not for a block from Gabriel Paulista.

Leicester’s Yohan Benalouane should’ve seen red with 10 minutes to play following a leaping boot to the back of Olivier Giroud, but only a foul was given.

Ndidi made a sliding intervention on Mesut Ozil in the 85th minute, another terrific bit of work from the Nigerian.

That’s when Huth’s unlucky moment lifted Arsenal to the lead.

Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland: Derby honors and a bit of life

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  • Boro’s first PL win since Dec. 17
  • Smoggies move within six of 17th
  • Sunderland on verge of relegation

Marten De Roon snared Middlesbrough new hope at safety and a derby win as Boro scored early to complete a season sweep of Tees-Wear Derby rivals Sunderland on Wednesday.

The 1-0 win means Sunderland is 12 points back of 17th place Hull City with five matches to play. Hull has four matches left.

For Boro, it’s six points back of Hull but a devastating run-in that includes Man City, Chelsea, Southampton, and Liverpool.

The win was USMNT backstop Brad Guzan‘s second of the Premier League season, the first coming in the reverse fixture.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

De Roon tilted the Tees-Wear Derby to Boro’s side with an opening goal that could signal the end of Sunderland’s slim safety hopes.

Stewart Downing tempted 2-0 with a hard low shot that Jordan Pickford did very well to save with a leg.

Sunderland did find a bit of danger when Didier N’Dong forced Brad Guzan into a save, but Billy Jones nodded over the frame.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]