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


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.


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.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: NYCFC come back vs. NE; FCD, POR stalemate

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Ismael Tajouri scored two goals and Sean Johnson had five saves to help New York City FC play the New England Revolution to a 2-2 draw Saturday.

The 23-year-old Tajouri, who has appeared in four MLS games, has three goals in the last two matches while filling in for the injured David Villa.

Yangel Herrera threaded a pass between two defenders to Tajouri, who turned and blasted a rising left-footer into the net to cap the scoring in the 76th minute.

Diego Fagundez bent a shot from well outside the box off the post to give New England (1-1-1) a 1-0 lead in the 11th. Tajouri tied it early in the second half, first-timing a cross from Saad Abdul-Salaam past a diving Matt Turner from near the penalty spot and Juan Agudelo’s header in the 63rd put the Revolution back in front. Cristian Penilla played a perfect cross from the left side to Agudelo who finished from the top of the 6-yard box.

NYCFC (4-0-0) is off to its best start in history and has won a franchise-record five in a row, dating to the 2017 playoffs.

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Roland Lamah scored his third goal in two games and Jimmy Maurer had a career-high five saves in FC Dallas’ 1-1 tie with the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

Lamah, who had two goals and an assists in FC Dallas’ 3-0 win over Seattle on Sunday, opened the scoring in the 36th minute. Jacori Hayes evaded two defenders and then tapped it to Lamah, who rolled a left-footer past a diving Jake Gleeson into the net from the top of the penalty arc.

Sebastian Blanco side-netted a left-footer from the top of the box to tie it in the 47th.

FC Dallas (1-0-2) is unbeaten in its last nine home matches.

Lawrence Olum, who was shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior in the 44th minute, drew a red for a hand ball in the 75th for Portland (0-2-1).

Report: PSG pressing Conte to leave Chelsea this summer

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First, Paris Saint-Germain (reportedly) wanted Mauricio Pochettino; then it was (reportedly) Diego Simeone; now it’s Antonio Conte who’s (you guessed it — reportedly) been targeted for, and pitched, an exit from Chelsea this summer.

[ MORE: Conte, Pirlo could spearhead Italy managerial team ]

According to a report from the Guardian, PSG executives have held talks with Conte’s agent in recent days and/or weeks, as the winners of four of the last five Ligue 1 titles prepare to move on from current manager Unai Emery this summer.

The belief in the French capital is that Conte, who’s made no bones about his frustrations at Chelsea dating back to last summer, would be a far more realistic target for that reason. According to the report, PSG are willing to offer Conte an annual salary in the neighborhood of $14 million. The Italian is currently paid nearly $13.5 million per year at Chelsea.

Conte has been at odds with the Chelsea hierarchy, largely, over the lack of funds made available to him to rebuild the squad in the transfer market.

“I have great ambition but I don’t have money for Chelsea. The club knows very well what is my idea, what is my ambition. That is very clear. When you decide to work with this type of coach, you must understand that you take a coach with great ambition. Not a loser but a winner. And that ambition must always be shared.”

[ MORE: Man City, Man United reportedly chasing Neymar ]

Talks are said to have been “positive” between Conte’s representative and PSG.

PSG’s motivation to fire Emery stems from the Spaniard’s failure to impress in European competition — two round-of-16 exits from the Champions League, one either side of the massive spending spree of last summer which resulted in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe moving to the Parc des Princes.

Int’l friendlies: Sweden fall to Chile; Canada win Herdman’s debut

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A roundup of Saturday’s (less-than-stellar) slate of international friendlies…

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Sweden 1-2 Chile

Sweden, who’ll be at the 2018 World Cup, fell 1-0 behind Chile, who won’t be joining them in Russia, when Arturo Vidal hit a simply stunning, off-balance volley into the upper-90 from the edge of the box in the 22nd minute. Ola Toivonen brought Sweden back to 1-1 just a minute later, but Marcos Bolados broke Blagult hearts in the 90th minute, when he pounced on a bouncing rebound and hammered the ball into an open net.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

Northern Ireland 2-1 South Korea

Speaking of World Cup-bound sides falling to those who failed to qualify themselves, South Korea went ahead away to Northern Ireland after just seven minutes, but watched helplessly as Kwon Chang-Hoon’s opening goal slipped away from the Taeguk Warriors.

Min-Jae Kim scored a mostly unavoidable own goal in the 20th minute, and Paul Smyth slipped through a sea of South Korean defenders to fire home a wonderful winner in the 86th minute.

Canada 1-0 New Zealand

Among the national teams not currently preparing for this summer’s tournament, but instead building toward qualification in 2022, there’s Canada, who knocked off New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, to begin the John Herdman era with a victory on Saturday.

Tosaint Ricketts scored the game’s only goal, a 54th-minute volley from the Toronto FC forward, courtesy of a long, searching ball out of the back from defender Dejan Jakovic.

Herdman took over the Canadian men’s post in January, when he stepped down as head coach of the women’s team, which he led to two straight appearances in each the World Cup and Olympics during eight years on the job.

Come September, the Canucks will be competing in the CONCACAF Nations League, a 34-team tournament featuring all but the six nations to have competed in the Hexagonal of World Cup qualifying. The top 10 finishing sides will qualify for the 2019 Gold Cup, alongside the Hex combatants. Canada will face the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, followed by Dominica in October, Saint Kitts and Nevis in November, and finally French Guiana in March 2019.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

Israel 1-2 Romania
Togo 2-2 Ivory Coast
Georgia 4-0 Lithuania
Zambia 0-2 South Africa
Kenya 2-2 Comoros
Kosovo 1-0 Madagascar
Armenia 0-0 Estonia

Beyond the glitz, France has problems to solve before World Cup

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PARIS (AP) France’s attacking soccer can be compared to an All-Star basketball game: showy moves, flashy individual skill and outstanding finishing.

Up front France boasts Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, two of the world’s three most expensive players, and the 2016 European Championship’s top scorer in Antoine Griezmann.

When everything comes together, it’s a joy to watch but, behind the glitz, France has significant problems to resolve before its World Cup campaign begins on June 16.

As Euro 2016 runner-up, France will rightly be considered among the favorites in Russia. But rivals will marvel at the ease with which Colombia pierced France’s feeble defense and overran its tentative midfield on Friday. Trailing 2-0, Colombia rallied to win 3-2 in a tactical master class of positional switches and pressing which flummoxed France coach Didier Deschamps.

France showed similar frailties against World Cup winner Germany in November, twice squandering the lead in a 2-2 draw. Both times, France fluffed chances because of some complacent finishing – trying to score highlight-reel goals – and was then ruthlessly punished.

It is particularly worrying for Deschamps, who places high importance on tactical discipline, commitment, leadership and risk-free defending. Those were hallmarks of France’s triumphant teams at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 tournaments – with the combative midfielder Deschamps as captain – but they were missing against Colombia on Friday.

“We have to do more in terms of attitude, energy and playing with more heart,” France captain Hugo Lloris said. “We have to give more.”

In adding that Colombia “maybe has less talent but is a real team” Lloris highlighted the glossy veneer and soft underbelly of his side.

Striker Olivier Giroud criticized a lack of “aggression and determination,” adding it was important to understand why France was missing such “crucial values.”

Deschamps has another friendly, away to Russia on Tuesday, before he names his 23-man World Cup squad. He will then have three matches left to iron out evident flaws in his side, including a lack of leadership, lapses of concentration in defense, and a misplaced sense of superiority when dominating games.

“When things are going well, we’re capable of doing very good things. When things get tense we’re a lot more vulnerable,” Deschamps said. “It’s also a question of character, perhaps we are too self-satisfied and the highest level doesn’t forgive that.”

France’s second-half capitulation against Colombia was not just tactical; it was also because Les Bleus had no leader to spark a response.

France’s long-standing captain is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. While there is no doubt over Lloris’ position as No. 1 – the Tottenham goalie is among the most consistent in the Premier League and has nearly 100 international caps – his position on the field works against him in communicating with his team.

Lloris has long been considered too soft-spoken and lacking enough of a vocal presence. Deschamps complained his side lacked aggression against Colombia, and he may question why he’s sticking with Lloris as captain when he is anything but aggressive, both in his body language and communication.

France plays such scintillating attacking football that its defenders must sometimes be tempted to put their feet up and admire it. Unfortunately, at times they seem to do just that.

Deschamps is still trying to decide on his best center back pairing: Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane alongside either Barcelona’s Samuel Umiti or Arsenal’s 50-cap veteran Laurent Koscielny. He went with Varane and Umtiti against Colombia and it was thoroughly unconvincing.

Forward Luis Muriel regularly got behind Varane, and Umtiti clumsily gave away a late penalty, from which Colombia made it 3-2.

But bringing Koscielny back in won’t solve everything, either. While he is a fine reader of the game, and one of the best ball-playing center halves around, Koscielny has a habit of giving away penalties and his man-marking can be poor.

Right backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Pavard are attack-minded but so are left backs Layvin Kurzawa and Lucas Digne. Against Colombia, Sidibe and Digne raced forward almost at will, leaving gaping holes behind them for Colombia to exploit.

With N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, the last position Deschamps should worry about is midfield.

However, Pogba has fallen out of favor at Manchester United and looks out of form. Against Colombia, Deschamps paired Kante and Matuidi as holding midfielders in a 4-4-2 formation, but they were at times completely overrun when Colombia countered on the break.

A 4-3-3 formation – Kante holding with Pogba and Matuidi either side – appears to offer more protection. But Pogba’s tactical indiscipline means he often drifts out of position and, while he’s among the world’s most expensive players, Deschamps may be better off using him as a substitute.

Instead, Deschamps could opt for a 4-3-3 with Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso, who is far more disciplined and a crisp passer with a good eye for goal. He scored 14 for Lyon last season, including long-range strikes, and has found the net several times for Bayern. Tuesday’s match against Russia could prove important for Pogba’s chances of starting France’s World Cup opener against Australia.