JACKSONVILLE, FL - JUNE 07: Midfielder Michael Bradley #4 of the United States dribbles during the international friendly match against Nigeria at EverBank Field on June 7, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida.

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.

Brazil will play Colombia in friendly for air crash victims

CHAPECO, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 03:  A fan pays tribute to the players of Brazilian team Chapecoense Real at the club's Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, on December 03, 2016. The players were killed in a plane accident in the Colombian mountains. Players of the Chapecoense team were among the 77 people on board the doomed flight that crashed into mountains in northwestern Colombia. Officials said just six people were thought to have survived, including three of the players. Chapecoense had risen from obscurity to make it to the Copa Sudamericana finals scheduled for Wednesday against Atletico Nacional of Colombia.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil will play Colombia in a friendly match at the end of January to help victims of the air crash that killed most of the players, staff and directors of soccer club Chapecoense last week.

Spokesman Douglas Lunardi also said on Monday that the Brazilian football confederation will donate about $ 1.5 million to Chapecoense.

Nineteen of Chapecoense’s players were killed in the crash just outside Medellin, Colombia, as the Brazilian team headed to the first of two matches against Colombian club Atletico Nacional to determine the champion of the Copa Sudamericana – Latin America’s No. 2 club tournament.

[ MORE: U.S. Soccer’s Player of Year finalists ]

Earlier, South America’s football confederation Conmebol officially gave the title of the 2016 edition to Chapecoense, as Atletico Nacional requested.

Lunardi said the venue will be decided by Chapecoense directors and that all the ticket office revenues will go to the families of the victims. The most obvious choices, he said, are the historic Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro and Chapecoense’s Arena Conda.

“The decision will be between making that tribute at home or get a bigger revenue for the victims,” Lunardi told The Associated Press. “We will let them take their time to make that decision.”

Maracana has a capacity of 78,000 and has hosted two World Cup finals as well as the opening ceremony of the last Olympic Games in August.

Arena Conda is a 22,000-seater. It hosted a memorial service on Saturday for 50 of the 71 victims.

Chapeco, the city of the club impacted by the tragedy, has 200,000 residents and sits about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) south of Rio.

In a press conference in Chapeco, Chapecoense’s president Ivan Tozzo said the club will decide the venue for the match in the next few days. He also said that the donation from the confederation will help cover the expenses for the memorial services.

UEFA Champions League preview: Arsenal in Basel, Man City hosts Celtic

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City takes on Stuart Armstrong of Celtic during the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic FC and Manchester City FC at Celtic Park on September 28, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
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The final week of group stage matches in this season’s UEFA Champions League are upon us, and only a pair of berths remain in Tuesday’s groups.

Those are in Group B, where Napoli, Benfica, and Besiktas enter the day a point a part. Only Dynamo Kyiv has been eliminated, and they’ll host a Besiktas side which is in the catbird seat. If the Turkish side wins, it will finish above either Napoli or Benfica.

Benfica is at home to its Italian rivals, with both sides on 8 points. And they’ll each head to the knockout rounds of Besiktas (7 points) fails to earn a result.

[ MORE: U.S. Soccer’s Player of Year finalists ]

As for our Premier League contestants, Arsenal looks pretty locked into the second seed in Group A. Trailing PSG after a 2-2 draw in London, the Gunners head to Switzerland to face Basel. Arsenal needs to better PSG’s result against visiting Ludogorets Razgrad.

Manchester City hosts Celtic knowing it’s already clinched second place in Group C and cannot catch leaders Barcelona. Expect youth.

In Group D, things are also settled with Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich 1-2 regardless of what happens in their match in Germany. Atleti is the only team which can finish the group stage 6-0. The last team to achieve that 2014-15 Real Madrid, who swept Basel, Liverpool, and Ludogorets Razgrad.

Tuesday’s UCL schedule
PSG vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Barcelona vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid
Manchester City vs. Celtic
Basel vs. Arsenal
Benfica vs. Napoli
PSV Eindhoven vs. Rostov
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Besiktas

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Everton’s Bolasie needs ACL surgery, will miss AFCON

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United reacts as Yannick Bolasie of Everton is given treatment during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on December 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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This is a big blow to Everton, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yannick Bolasie is set for a long spell on the sidelines after suffering an ACL injury in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

The 27-year-old attacker has played in every match for the Toffees, and is an electric attacking threat. He has one goal and four assists in PL play this season, after nabbing five and four for Palace last season.

[ PL: Grading the superstars’ seasons ]

A $32 million buy from Crystal Palace, Bolasie will miss the Africa Cup of Nations next month and likely send the Toffees into the transfer market.

Manager Ronald Koeman has made no secret of his Memphis Depay admiration, and this could tip Everton’s hand.

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Aubameyang raises transfer eyebrows in midst of otherworldy season

LISBON, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 18: Pierre Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund in action at the warm up during the UEFA Champions League match between SC Sporting and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Jose Alvalade on October 18, 2016 in Lisbon, Lisboa. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
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Game changer, season changer, title changer.

It’s hard to find a phrase that would overstate what it would mean if a club could pry Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the hands of Borussia Dortmund.

Aubameyang raised eyebrows Monday with his non-dismissal of a transfer possibility. It wasn’t quite a “come and get me”, but the door is certainly open.

[ MORE: U.S. Soccer’s Player of Year finalists ]

“I don’t know if I will stay. I just think about playing good football right now. I want to give my best and win titles. I just think about the sport and nothing else.”

If you don’t pay a lot of attention to the Bundesliga, it might be easy to overlook Aubameyang. But the season he’s having with BVB’s wealth of playmaking midfielders is overwhelming. Give him less than a yard, and he’s all set.

Throw in the UEFA Champions League, and “Auba” has 18 goals in 18 matches. In the Bundesliga, he has a 4-goal night at Hamburg but also goals against Bayern and Hertha. Aubameyang has two braces, and has only been held off the score sheet three times (BVB is 1D-2L in those contests).

Put plainly, no one is doing what he’s doing right now.

Top Five leagues, 2016-17 goals (matches)

  1. Aubameyang, BVB — 15 (12)
  2. Edinson Cavani, PSG — 14 (14)
  3. Anthony Modeste, Koln — 12 (13)
  4. Mauro Icardi, Inter Milan — 12 (14)
  5. Eden Dzeko, Roma — 12 (15)
  6. Alexandre Lacazette — 11 (11)
  7. Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal — 11 (14)
  8. Diego Costa, Chelsea — 11 (14)
  9. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid — 10 (11)
  10. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City — 10 (12)
  11. Andrea Belotti, Torino — 10 (13)
  12. Lionel Messi, Barcelona — 9 (9)
  13. Luis Suarez, Barcelona — 9 (12)
  14. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich — 9 (13)
  15. Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo — 9 (13)
  16. Ciro Immobile, Lazio — 9 (15)
  17. Alassane Plea, Nice — 9 (16)

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