Clint Dempsey & Jozy Altidore

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.

Ahead of huge top four showdowns, who are the title favorites?

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This weekend is massive. Huge. Monumental.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview ]

In terms of the Premier League title race having two games between all of the current top four means one thing: bedlam.

Following the Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) and Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) encounter, we should be provided with a much better idea of where the title is heading.

[ VIDEO: Man City-Tottenham preview

Then again, if Arsenal beat Leicester and Man City draw with Spurs, there will be just five points between all four teams. With 13 games to go this is tight and tense and the most open title race we’ve had in decades. It is also awesome.

[ MORE: Arsenal to play in 2016 MLS All-Star Game ] 

Let’s take a look at all four title contenders and try to see who has the best chance of winning this thing on May 15.


Leicester City
Current position: 1st (53 points)
Biggest plus: No pressure, they were meant to be relegated
Biggest negative: None of their current squad have ever been in this situation. How will they cope?
Key man: Jamie Vardy – A few off days in front of goal recently for the PL’s main man. If he regains his touch, the Foxes will win it.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Arsenal, Apr. 30 at Man United, May 15 at Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule (1 is weak, 10 is tough): 2/10 – The best of any of the title contenders, on paper, and no cup games.


Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 2nd (48 points)
Biggest plus: Mauricio Pochettino. He’s met every major challenge head on.
Biggest negative: Having the FA Cup and Europa League to contend with. Relatively small squad compared to the rest.
Key man: Harry Kane – If he can hit yet another purple patch, combined with Spurs’ solid defense, then that will be huge.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Man City, Mar. 5 vs. Arsenal, Apr. 9 vs. Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule: 3/10 – A very soft run-in for Spurs between now and the end of the season.


Arsenal
Current position: 3rd (48 points)
Biggest plus: They have the biggest squad and with Cech in goal their defense looks very settled.
Biggest negative: How many times have we been here before? Have to get over mental barrier, plus UCL and FA Cup to focus on too.
Key man: Alexis Sanchez – Hasn’t quite hit top form since returning from his hamstring injury. Can he hit top gear during crunch time?
3 key games: Feb. 14 vs. Leicester City, Mar. 5 vs. Tottenham, May 7 at Man City
Strength of remaining schedule: 6/10 – Probably the toughest out of all the contenders. Really need Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to pull through.


Manchester City
Current position: 4th (47 points)
Biggest plus: Strongest squad and Vincent Kompany should be returning soon. That, and wanting to send Pellegrini out on a high.
Biggest negative: Guardiola arriving means plenty of uncertainty. If Aguero or Kompany go down injured, title run could be over.
Key man: Vincent Kompany – City will always score goals with Aguero, Sterling, Silva and De Bruyne but they need Vinny back. Big time.
3 key games: Mar. 2 at Liverpool, Mar. 20 vs. Man United, May 7 vs. Arsenal
Strength of remaining schedule: 5/10 – Marginally easier than Arsenal’s because they play United and the Gunners at home. Still. Very tough.


 

Arsenal named as 2016 MLS All-Star Game opponent in San Jose

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Mesut Ozil (C) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal with his team mates Hector Bellerin (L) and Aaron Ramsey (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Arsenal is coming to San Jose, California.

On Thursday it was announced that the Premier League giants will take part in the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The decision to play against another PL opponent makes it the ninth time that’s happened and MLS’ best will have faced seven different PL clubs in Fulham, Chelsea, West Ham United, Everton, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal.

The venue for the 2016 ASG will be San Jose’s splendid, yet slightly compact, Avaya Stadium and the game will take place on July 28 at 9 p.m. ET.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Gunners fans in North America hoping to get tickets for the clash will have to act fast as the ‘Quakes home only holds 18,000 people, but there will be another chance to watch Arsenal play as they will face Chivas Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on July 31.

Safe to say Arsene Wenger won’t need to don his famous long padded jacket for matches in California this July…

As well as seeing Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud and more, the chance to watch young U.S. international Gedion Zelalem in action will excite many. That said, with the game coming late in July, plenty of Arsenal’s top stars may be on extended breaks due to their exertions for their national teams at the 2016 European Championships and the 2016 Copa America Centenario also being staged in North America.

VIDEO: Previewing the massive Man City vs. Tottenham encounter

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On the same day Arsenal host Leicester City in a clash between two title contenders (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the two other teams in the top two also meet on Sunday.

Your Valentine’s Day is officially sorted.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

On Sunday Manchester City welcome Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) to the Etihad Stadium as second-place Spurs sit just one point above fourth-place City. It could not be tighter at the top.

Earlier this season Spurs hammered an injury-hit City 4-1 at White Hart Lane and revenge will be sweet for Sergio Aguero and Co. as both teams are in serious contention to win the Premier League this season.

[ MORE: Preview – Arsenal vs. Leicester ]

In terms of their clashes at the Etihad, Spurs have not found it a happy hunting ground in recent years as they’ve lost four of their last five games away at City. Their last two defeats have been 6-0 and 4-1. Expect a tighter clash this time around as Harry Kane looks to keep his hot-streak going and City will aim to bounce back from their demoralizing, and potentially crucial, home defeat to Leicester last weekend.

So much on the line this Sunday. Click play on the video above to hear all the major headlines heading into this clash.

Mourinho to Man United: Key players to be sold? Locker room unrest, transfer gossip

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The papers are having a field day with the Jose Mourinho to Manchester United whispers.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

Several different outlets are reporting numerous pieces of gossip about Mourinho, 53, taking over at United this summer and now seems like a good time to round it all up and have a look at what is out there.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Here it goes…

[ REPORT: Mourinho tells friends he’s going to United


First up, the wages.

Okay, Louis Van Gaal, 64, still has a contract with the Red Devils through the 2016-17 season but many believe that barring a miraculous finish to the current campaign the Dutchman will be let go this summer. If that’s the case — and with United six points off the top four it certainly seems like another season of disappointment will play out — then El Confidencial is reporting that Mourinho will be handed a contract worth $20 million a year. That may seem like a lot, but actually it would be $9 million less a year than Manchester City is paying Pep Guardiola to be their boss. Interesting.

Juicy nugget number two: The Daily Mail states that Mourinho has already instructed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to sell Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. The midfield duo aren’t in Mourinho’s plans with the Portuguese coach selling Mata to United during his time in charge of Chelsea, while he doesn’t appear to be a fan of Belgian midfielder Fellaini either.

No. 3: The Daily Star reports that Mourinho will be handed $420 million to spend on new players and totally rebuild the under-performing squad. The same report claims Mourinho has his eye on Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Thomas Muller, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane to help restore United to past glories and add to his tally of three Premier League titles during five full seasons with Chelsea.

And finally, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, the Sun reports that United’s locker room is split over whether Mourinho arriving would be a good thing. Well, yeah, with a massive cull on the horizon if he does arrive, it’s not too difficult to understand that the general feeling among the players will be one of trepidation. However, the main issue seems to be where No. 2 Ryan Giggs will fit into Mourinho’s plans if he does get the job.

Again, take these reports with a pinch of salt but it’s certainly interesting to keep your ear to the ground and listen to all of the tidbits circling about Mourinho’s potential arrival at Old Trafford.