United States vs. Nigeria: Player ratings

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In the final match of the send-off series provided a familiar result. Coming off a 2-1 win over Turkey, the U.S. produced another 2-1 victory over Nigeria, giving up a late penalty along the way. Player-for-player, however, improved performances showed a team that’s one step closer to being ready for the World Cup.

This player grading scale is likely more volatile than most you’re used to, but in a performance that was marketable better than the last, it’s easier to differentiate where those improvements were with more leeway up or down.

Here are those player-for-player performances:

Starters

Tim Howard: 6

Howard didn’t have too many serious tests, but he worryingly spilled the ball a few times, thankfully to no harm.  A relatively routine day for his 100th cap.

Geoff Cameron: 7

The center-back pairing was very good, with the only dip in concentration coming the first five minutes out of the half. Cameron was in Besler’s shadow for much of the match, but he performed very solid.

Matt Besler: 8

The 27-year-old displayed every facet of his game and excelled at all.  We’re throwing out his tackle for the penalty (which was horrific) because he was in a no-win situation. Otherwise, he was outstanding in the air, and covered any Nigerian attacker who felt like streaking through the middle. He was especially solid on the break when the outside backs found themselves caught out of position (which they both did often), able to hold down the middle until help came back. A very promising match for Besler.

DaMarcus Beasley: 5

Both Beasley and Johnson found themselves out of position a few times after attacks broke down quicker than anticipated, but Beasley overall struggled. It’s nothing that should worry fans too much, but occasionally he found himself encroaching on teammates’ positions enough to disrupt them on the ball, and when he did get forward, his few shots were way off and his crosses found green shirts. Get em next time DMB.

Fabian Johnson: 6

Fabian also found himself out of position every so often, but his weren’t as egregious (aside from two in the first half where Bedoya defended well).

Kyle Beckerman: 8

Beckerman is one of the smartest players on the field, if not the smartest, and shows it time and time again with composed tackles that slice attacks off before they can build. His play is never heralded, since it’s work in the trenches, but he was essential to holding back Nigeria who had no options through the middle

Jermaine Jones: 7

In an interesting position given Klinsmann’s morphing formation, Jones was constantly at work, pinching centrally on defense and then moving very wide left in the attack.  He didn’t get into too many attacks, but he flowed well from the left to the middle, and in a formation that required a lot of running, Jones seemed to be at home with the freedom to stretch his legs.

Clint Dempsey: 8

Nobody can decide where Dempsey plays best – on the wing, or up front. Well, Klinsmann gave him freedom to roam both, and he was excellent. Drifting out wide when Jozy went high, and moving centrally when Altidore got sucked back, Clint did what he does best and that’s making runs on the break.

Michael Bradley: 9

Bradley was the anchor of the midfield triangle, and was brilliant doing so. He cut up the Nigeria midfield on the ball finding every open US player in a dangerous position, and on the back end he held down the middle in front of Beckerman and Jones. The middle of the pitch was owned by the US, and Bradley was the main reason why. After two mediocre performances from a key US player, this was the Bradley the Stars and Stripes need to advance in Brazil.

Ale Bedoya: 7

The Nantes winger shone at times and disappeared at others, but he did a great job covering for when Fabian Johnson was caught out, and he made some great runs in support of the attack. Bedoya needs to learn to be more efficient with his energy, often running all over the place as Klinsmann screamed his lungs out to position him properly, and it resulted in a tired Ale by the 60th minute. But while the tank had gas, he was a positive.

Jozy Altidore: 8

Nobody needed a goal more than Jozy, and he got 2, the second one an absolute howitzer.  With no more streaky, confidence-based player on the US squad than Jozy, he needed a game like today in the worst way.  He was great outside of the goals, even defending well when he was needed.  An absolute boost for the United States headed to Brazil.

Substitutes

Graham Zusi: 6

The first of Klinsmann’s subs put in a solid 30 minutes after coming on for Alejandro Bedoya.

Mix Diskerud: 7

The midfielder tossed in a number of outstanding balls up front on the break, and looks every bit a solid option for Klinsmann off the bench in Brazil.

Omar Gonzalez: 5

His small amount of time on the field led to a penalty, and he made Besler look bad in the process. A yucky few minutes for the struggling LA Galaxy defender.

Chris Wondolowski, Timmy Chandler: N/A

Weren’t on the pitch enough to get a good bead on, Chandler made one good run on the ball and created a chance on his better left side, while Wondo flubbed one tough chance in the box.

Luis Enrique leaves with feeling of mission accomplished

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique leaves Barcelona with no regrets and the feeling of mission accomplished.

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The coach capped his three-year stint with the Catalan club by winning the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

Now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time off after three “intense” seasons, and let the club move on under fresh leadership.

“There is no sadness at all, just happiness,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the one who decided to stop, and I think that it was a wonderful decision for me, for the players and for the team as well. The intensity of this profession demands maximum dedication every single day and there is a natural wear out.”

He said players always need new challenges and will benefit from a change in leadership, and the club will certainly keep winning despite his departure.

After missing out on the league this season, the Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s second title of the campaign to go along with the Spanish Super Cup, but Luis Enrique has won nearly everything since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014. The former midfielder led Barcelona to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2015. He also managed the league-Copa double in 2016, and also won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2015.

He said he was “proud” to have helped Barcelona fans celebrate so many accomplishments during his time at the helm.

“If someone had told me when I arrived that I would have the opportunity to help my team win nine titles out of 13 that we played, I’d say that these would be good numbers,” he said. “It would have been nice to have won La Liga and contended for the Champions League title this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe that the fans recognized the effort and the sacrifice of all the players throughout the season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make them happy.”

Luis Enrique said he was also lucky to have had the chance to coach a player like Lionel Messi.

“He is extraordinary, extraterrestrial,” Luis Enrique said about the Argentina forward, who scored the team’s first goal on Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Messi at his best, performing at the highest level. He is the very best, without a doubt.”

Neymar and Paco Alcacer also scored at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to help Barcelona win its third straight Copa del Rey title, and 29th all-time.

Luis Enrique celebrated with his seven-year-old daughter by his side, waving his winner’s trophy and singing the club’s anthem in front of the Barcelona fans who traveled to Madrid.

Barcelona is expected to announce this week that its new coach will be Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao a few days ago.

Luis Enrique’s future remains up in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, really. I’m open to every possibility, including changing sports,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said, with a smile on his face. “I do know that I’m very competitive and it’s been like this since I was born. Right now I’m looking forward to the opportunity of enjoying my friends and my family.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Report: Reus could miss six months after sustaining knee damage

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Marco Reus missed much of the 2016/17 season with injuries, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker had that unfortunate spell continue on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U-20 World Cup ]

The 27-year-old exited the club’s DFB Pokal final win against Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime after suffering a knee injury.

According to German outlet Bild, Reus will miss at least six months as he rehabs and prepares to make a comeback.

Despite the bad news for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s men captured the title behind goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Day 9: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U20 World Cup

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Five teams booked their place in the knockout phase at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Sunday, including Tab Ramos and the U.S. after the Americans picked up a valuable point to finish atop Group F.

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USMNT U-20s 1-1 Saudi Arabia

An unbeaten record in group play has Ramos and Co. moving on to the Round of 16, where the U.S. will meet New Zealand. Brooks Lennon inked his name on the scoresheet for the first time at this month’s World Cup just prior to halftime, before Abdulelah Alamri equalized with almost a quarter hour left to play.

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador

A draw was all Senegal needed to ensure it would continue its run at the World Cup, while Ecuador fell short of a final 16 bid after only managing two draws during Group F play.

New Zealand 0-2 France

With nine goals for and none conceded during Group E play, France remains one of the heavy hitters at the conclusion of the group phase. Les Bleus received a strong contribution from Bastia winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who netted twice in the first half.

Honduras 2-0 Vietnam

Honduras scored twice in the final 14 minutes-plus added time but neither nation reaches the Round of 16 with Sunday’s result.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

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The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”