United States vs. Nigeria: Player ratings

25 Comments

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.

La Liga: Own goals help Barca stay perfect; Atleti, Real win

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Leave a comment

GIRONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona was helped by two own goals from Girona as it eased to a 3-0 win and kept its perfect record in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Barcelona increased its lead of the league to four points after Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 2-0 to leapfrog the Andalucian club into second place.

Barcelona went ahead at Montilivi Stadium when Girona defender Aday Benitez deflected Jordi Alba’s off-target shot back into his net.

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Aleix Vidal did more to help provoke a second goal three minutes after halftime, when Suarez deftly let Vidal’s dangerous short pass go through his legs, where it hit surprised goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and went into the net.

Suarez capped Barcelona’s sixth victory in as many league matches – to go with a victory over Juventus in the Champions League – when he was left all alone to take Sergi Roberto’s lobbed pass and beat Iraizoz.

It was a second goal in six matches for Suarez, who missed two matches because of a right knee injury.

The decision by Girona coach Pablo Machin to man-mark Lionel Messi with Pablo Maffeo succeeded in preventing the Barcelona star from adding to his best ever start to a Liga. Messi scored nine goals in the first five rounds.

“Messi worked for the team,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “I like the team spirit we are showing. We are mentally focused to get to work.”

Girona, which is playing in its first season in the topflight, was left in 15th place with just one win.

Barcelona visits Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League on Wednesday.


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Real Madrid turned to new midfielder Dani Ceballos to help it get back on the winning path in the Spanish league on Saturday.

The midfielder made the most of his first start for Zinedine Zidane’s team by scoring twice to lead a 2-1 victory at winless Alaves.

The win came three days after Madrid lost 1-0 at home to Ceballo’s former team, Real Betis. That slip combined with a pair of home draws left the defending champions trailing leader Barcelona.

Madrid cut the difference with Barcelona to four points before the pacesetter visited Girona later.

Ceballos struck in the 10th minute and restored the defending champions’ advantage two minutes before halftime.

Ceballos received a pass from Marco Asensio, fought through a tackle, and shot just inside the post for the opener.

Manu Garcia responded by ending Alaves’ long scoring drought. His powerful header from a cross by Munir El Haddadi was the Basque Country club’s first goal of the season.

But Ceballos put Madrid back in charge when he fired in a ball that goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco spilled when he collided with a teammate while defending a cross.

Alaves almost leveled late when substitute Alfonso Pedraza twice hit the woodwork.

Cristiano Ronaldo also hit the goal-frame twice in the second half as the Madrid forward seeks his first goal in the league after he was suspended for the first four rounds for pushing a referee.

Diego Costa watched as his soon-to-be teammates on Atletico Madrid dealt Sevilla a 2-0 defeat and leapfrogged the Andalucian side into second place.

Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco scored in the second half while Costa watched from the stands of the club’s new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Carrasco raced around Steven N’Zoni to reach a through pass from Luciano Vietto. Carrasco avoided sliding goalkeeper Sergio Rico and pushed the ball into the empty net.

The Belgium winger also started the attack that led to the second goal. Carrasco made a run into the area before crossing for Griezmann, who fought to keep control of the ball before he exchanged it with Filipe Luis and fired under Rico.

Sevilla fell to third, one point behind Atletico.

Atletico reached a deal with Chelsea this week for Costa to return to his former club.

Atletico will host Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Diego Rolan scored a double to help Malaga rally from a two-goal deficit in the final minutes and earn a 3-3 draw with visitors Athletic Bilbao.

Bilbao went ahead thanks to an early penalty converted by Aritz Aduriz before Rolan made it 1-1 for Malaga.

Inaki Williams then netted twice for Bilbao, but Malaga scored twice in the final 10 minutes to secure its first point of the season after it lost its first five matches.

MLS Snapshot: TFC lose late in NE; Shield celebration delayed

AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): All Toronto FC had to do to clinch the 2017 Supporters’ Shield on Saturday was beat the New England Revolution, a side that had suffered back-to-back defeats by a combined score of 10-1 and fired head coach Jay Heaps on Tuesday. Instead, because this is MLS we’re talking about, the Revolution were galvanized and full of fighting spirit backed their way into a 2-1 victory over TFC in a game that saw all three goals scored during a five-minute period beginning in the 82nd. The Shield celebration will have to wait at least another week, with TFC hosting the New York Red Bulls next Saturday. The chance to clinch and celebrate at home will almost have been worth it. Still, the gap between TFC (62 points) and second-place New York City FC remains 10 points with just three games to go (NYCFC have a game in hand). The Revs, meanwhile, are four points out of the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final playoff place, and have played two more games than the sixth-place Red Bulls.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

82′ — Nguyen wrong-foots Irwin with a lucky deflection — It’s been a long, turbulent season for the Revs, so they were probably owed this bit of good fortune (and quite a few more).

84′ — Hasler gets on the end of Bradley’s ball for 1-1 — It’s been a long, turbulent season for the Revs, and they’ve grown used to unfortunate breaks like this.

87′ — Kamara rises up, heads home the winner — It’s been a long, turbulent season for the Revs, one without nearly enough alley-oops to Kamara.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Lee Nguyen

Goalscorers: Nguyen (82′), Hasler (84′), Kamara (87′)

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC, HOU play to 1-1 draw… in Connecticut

Photo credit: New York City FC / @NYCFC
1 Comment

The game in 100 words (or less more): New York City FC entered the weekend having dropped just 12 points (two losses, three draws) at home all season. That, of course, is their record within the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, the third-year MLS club’s temporary home for the foreseeable future. In truth, it was a minor miracle NYCFC hadn’t been forced from their home in the Bronx before Saturday’s clash with the Houston Dynamo, which ended a 1-1 draw at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. Attendance suffered, rightfully so. With the Yankees scheduled to play a make-up game Monday night, NYCFC were made to work out alternative stadium arrangements due to the amount of time required to convert Yankee Stadium into a baseball field once again. Anyway, Maxi Moralez and Mauro Manotas scored the goals, each inside the game’s opening 16 minutes. The point does very little for NYCFC (52 points), who remain 10 points off the pace of Eastern Conference- and Supporters’ Shield-leading Toronto FC, and just four points clear of third-place Chicago Fire; Houston (39) are buoyed a bit more, as they move ahead of Real Salt Lake for the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff place (for the time being).

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Moralez rises up, heads NYCFC ahead — Chances are, when the shortest player on the field scores from a header, somebody missed their marking assignment.

16′ — Manotas beats Johnson off the quick FK — Chances are, when the opponent scores from a quick free kick, somebody fell asleep and wasn’t paying attention.

89′ — Deric protects the upper-90 to preserve a point — Jack Harrison probably thought he’d beaten Tyler Deric into the upper-90, but the Dynamo goalkeeper kept his side level with a stunning Save of the Week nominee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tyler Deric

Goalscorers: Moralez (6′), Manotas (16′)

PL Sunday preview: Newcastle shoot for top-4 place at Brighton

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures offers up a meeting of two newly promoted sides in the only game of the day.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Goals galore on a wild Saturday ]

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Newcastle United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Newcastle’s return to the PL had all the makings of another spectacular flame-out and an immediate return to the Championship — owner Mike Ashley promised manager Rafa Benitez a busy summer of signings, but that never materialized; Benitez’s discontent was widely reported, some going so far as to say he had considered stepping down; the Magpies lost their first two games of the season, failing to score in either — until Jamaal Lascelles decided he was having no more of it.

Lascelles, Newcastle’s 23-year-old captain and star center back, has helped Benitez’s boys to three straight victories, in which they’ve conceded just one goal (in last week’s 2-1 victory over Stoke City), has united a group of players which seemed headed for self-destruction just four short weeks ago. The key, according to Lascelles, is accountability evenly shared by every player in the dressing room.

[ MORE: Pochettino — “I am in love with Harry Kane” ]

“A couple of seasons back, we’d go a goal down or concede a goal and heads would drop,” Lascelles said. “We’d be looking at each other like, ‘who’s going to step up?’ But everyone steps up, the 11 of us. This group of boys are excellent, we just keep going.”

Three points on Sunday would see Newcastle leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, two sides level on 11 points and presently fighting over fourth place, to finish the weekend in the PL’s final Champions League place (after six of 38 games, of course).

[ MORE: Mourinho bewildered by sending-off; Man United beat Southampton ]

As for Brighton, returning home to Falmer Stadium is a welcome development after losing twice at Bournemouth (first in the PL, then in the League Cup) in the span of four days. In charge of Brighton is another former Newcastle manager, Chris Hughton, who guided his new club to promotion from the Championship last season (just as he did for Newcastle in 2010). Brighton held the league lead heading into the season’s final days before the Seagulls faltered and Newcastle pounced, but Hughton says there isn’t any ill will onto which to be held.

“There shouldn’t be, because they deserved it,” Hughton said. “We had opportunities in the last three games to clinch the title and we weren’t good enough at that particular moment to do that. All credit goes to Newcastle for doing it and certainly there’s no revenge. We are up against a good team that’s in good form at the moment.”

INJURIES: Brighton — OUT: Steve Sidwell (back), Sam Baldock (calf), Beram Kayal (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Izzy Brown (hamstring) | Newcastle — OUT: Aleksandar Mitrovic (suspended), Paul Dummett (hamstring), Florian Lejeune (ankle), Karl Darlow (ankle)