Brooks

USA 2-1 Ghana: United States Man of the Match rankings

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The United States played a heart-stopper against Ghana, and came out victorious 2-1.

It was a game of emotional ups and downs, early goals, devastating injuries, and young heroes.

I was only planning on doing a top-3 for Man of the Match, but there are no less than five deserving mentions, broken down into four segments.

Take a breath, enjoy the moment, and let’s hand out some prizes.

4. Tim Howard

The man who just earned his 100th cap for the United States was enormous in the first two-thirds of the game.  With Ghana looking to score late, the defense made more plays than Howard, but he was instrumental early as Ghana pressed, especially in the first half.

Howard is a man of continuity, and he didn’t shine, but he was essential in palming away Ghana early. Overall, he weathered 21 Ghanian shots, although only three were on target.  He made his biggest save on a powerful 31st-minute shot by Asamoah Gyan.

[ MORE: Brooks wins it late | Man of the Match | Injury update ]

3. Clint Dempsey

The man who scored the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history was enormous in Jozy Altidore’s absence. He was all over the field…up top, on the wing, down the middle, and everywhere in between.

Obviously the early moment was his finest, but for someone who absolutely broke his nose halfway through, Dempsey is the definition of toughness and determination. He went wire-to-wire in a match where so many others flamed out with exhaustion or injury.

2. Jermaine Jones/Kyle Beckerman

These two men weren’t very good going forward, giving the ball away too much, but once the US went early the instructions from Klinsmann were clear: defend, defend, defend. They were crucial in snuffing out Ghanian attacks before they became too dangerous, completing 9/12 tackles attempted.

Jones was also 6-of-8 in aerial duels, again proving how huge he was in his defensive roles. The German-born player had to cover for DaMarcus Beasley who was less than stellar on an island on the left, and even for Michael Bradley who struggled mightily above him in the advanced midfield.

This pair needs to get better in their advances forward, proving a bit too inaccurate, but defensively they were strong, and that was the most important after going ahead early.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

1. MAN OF THE MATCH: John Brooks

21 years old. One of the last men on the roster. A surprise selection. Thrust into the spotlight unexpectedly.

John Brooks is the perfect storyline, heading in the winner for the US in the 87th minute, and his celebration was a perfect example of why. He flat out couldn’t believe what had just happened.

Having decided to play for the United States over Germany, many people criticized his selection onto the roster over the much more experienced Clarence Goodson.  Brooks was thrown into the fire after an injury to Matt Besler, and in that kind of situation, many youngsters would crumble.  Not Brooks. His defending was brilliant both before and after he scored.

Brooks’s stats on the day: 2/2 tackling, 2 interceptions, 2 blocks, 7/7 clearances, 9/10 passing. That’s outstanding for a 21-year-old inexperienced kid.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s his Wikipedia page right after the final whistle:

source:

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.