At halftime: Early defensive mistake haunts US against Portugal, but 1-0 deficit by no means a mountain – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the game:  The game started exactly the opposite of the US’s first game against Ghana, as Portugal struck first on a gift of a goal.

The US slowly built itself into the game, and by the 10th minute they were relatively on top, with Portugal content to defend and counter.

Portugal put together a few solid, dangerous counters, but the United States will be happy with how they found spaces in the Portuguese defense. Unfortunately, their accurasy passing or shooting was not exactly up to snuff, but they outpassed the Seleção over the course of the 45 minutes.

There’s much work to be done for the United States, but after the early goal, they are by no means out of this match.  A draw will be a positive result (somewhat), but they’re still definitely looking for the win.

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Goals:

5′ – A gut-punching moment for the United States, as a simple clear for Geoff Cameron gets flubbed and falls directly to Nani at the back end of the attack, and he pokes home easily.

Other key moments:

13′ – Fabian Johnson earns a free kick in a dangerous position atop the Portuguese box, and Clint Dempsey hits a venomous strike that skims just over the crossbar.

16′ – Portugal was forced to make an early change, as they lost another striker in Helder Postiga to injury. With Hugo Almeida down with injury after the first game, Eder was the man to come in.

18′ – The US – to no surprise – looked most dangerous from set pieces. A corner from Graham Zusi fell to Dempsey at the far post who tried a chip that again grazed just over the crossbar.

24′ – Again the US came close. Jermaine Jones picked out Michael Bradley trailing the play, and his shot from well out – again – skimmed just over.

28′ – The United States remained the more dangerous side in the past 15 minutes, and a Michael Bradley shot slow-rolled past a diving Beto, but also just past the post. Again close for the US.

39′ – Water break! The first ever?

42′ – Kyle Beckerman missed a tackle in the Portugal half, and Ronaldo broke with numbers. Nani’s howitzer was saved well by Tim Howard.

45′ – TIM HOWARD. The post stopped a first-time shot from Nani, and the follow-up from Eder looked destined to loop into the corner. However, Howard scampered over and got his fingertips to it, keeping the game at 1-0.

LINEUPS:

United States – Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey.

Portugal – Beto; Bruno Alves, Pereira, A. Almeida, Costa; Veloso, Meireles, Mourinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga (Eder 16′).

Goals: Nani 5′

Key players:

  • Clint Dempsey – The man to replace Jozy Altidore at the front, Dempsey was by far the most dangerous American attacker.
  • Fabian Johnson – The US right-back bombed down the right flank on numerous occasions, and was often in space. He received 25 passes from teammates, many of which led to positive buildups.
  • Joao Moutinho – 34 of 37 passing, and he was the clear creative force for Portugal in their midfield. He’s struggled defensively, however, completing just one of four tackles. The US may look to run at him on their attacks.

Numbers to know:

  • 9 – The number of shots the US took at Beto’s goal, more than they had all game against Ghana. Portugal had nine as well.
  • 31 – The number of attacking-third passes the US completed after the 10th minute.  Portugal had just 26.
  • 3 – Ronaldo’s touches in the Portuguese attacking third.

Questions for the second half:

  • Can the US find a way through the porous Portugal defense? There were some clear spaces in Portugal’s back four.  The US hasn’t made it all the way through just yet, but they came agonizingly close on a number of occasions.
  • Can the United States stand up to the Portuguese counter? After their goal, Portugal looked like they would be the most dangerous on the counter. Tim Howard made a few stunning saves to keep the game at 1-0, meaning the US will need to deal with the break better. It could be something they will need to risk going forward if they don’t get a goal early in the second half.

Impact defender Ciman hopes to extend MLS stay past 2018

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While he may not be one of the household names in Major League Soccer in terms of popularity, Laurent Ciman has easily become one of the league’s top defenders since coming to North America.

[ MORE: Sounders in firm control of West final after leg 1 victory ]

The Montreal Impact center back arrived on the MLS scene back in 2015, and has spent the last three seasons with the Canadian side.

In that span, Ciman has not only allowed those within the MLS ranks, but also with his native Belgium, to which he has earned various call ups to the national team recently. He is also on track to make the Red Devils squad ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

The 32-year-old has plans to remain with the Impact past 2018, when his contract expires, and Ciman says he hopes the club’s next manager — Remi Garde — will be able to assemble a quick turn around.

“My projects are based in the MLS. I have a year left with Montreal, and my goal is to extend my contract in North America after that,” said Ciman.

“Last season was disappointing, but I hope the new coach will give new momentum to the team.”

The Impact missed the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2017 after the team lost nine of its last 10 regular season matches.

VIDEO: Celtic’s 1st minute goal breaches PSG

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Celtic still have hope of advancing to the UEFA Europa League, but have a new feather in its cap regardless of whether they hold their table advantage on Anderlecht.

Moussa Dembele became the first UEFA Champions League player to score against Paris Saint-Germain, when he side-footed a first minute corner kick off PSG backstop Alphonse Aréola.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Neymar would score just eight minutes later to level the score at the Parc des Princes, but Celtic had its moment and PSG is no longer unbreached despite entering the match with 17 goals scored, conceding zero.

2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist revealed

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The 2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist is up, and fan voting counts.

Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Christian Pulisic are among the nominees for Men’s Player of the Year. Philadelphia Union’s Jamaican backstop, Andre Blake, is also on the list along with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and others.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

The Female Player of the Year is predictably American-heavy, with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz, Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, and Tobin Heath competing with a trio of international players.

Tim Howard is the only American up for Male Goalkeeper of the Year, though Blake is again in the running. The female side has American backstops Adrianna Franch, Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, Jane Campbell, and Nicole Barnhart.

The full ballot, including Best XI, coaches, referees, and goals, is up for your votes here.

UCL: Chelsea advances vs. 10-man Qarabag (video)

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  • Chelsea into knockout rounds
  • Willian draws two penalties, scores two more
  • Hazard, Fabregas score

Willian scored two goals from the run of play and drew a pair of penalties in Azerbaijan, as Chelsea beat 10-man Qarabag 4-0 on Wednesday.

His second goal was a fantastic thump from atop the arc, and further iced the result in the 85th minute.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Qarabag hung tough for the first 20 minutes, but saw its odds of getting a point take a hit with a penalty and red card.

Rashad Sadygov made contact with Willian inside the 18, and Portuguese referee Manuel de Sousa awarded a penalty. That was understandable, but surprisingly he produced his red card to send Qarabag down a man.

Eden Hazard converted his low penalty, wrong footing keeper Ibrahim Sehic, and Chelsea took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

Willian would score a goal of his own in the 36th, part of a terrific team goal with Hazard and Pedro.

The Blues were largely content to let Qarabag have the ball early in the second half, but resumed control around the hour mark and Sehic made an outstanding stop on Hazard before substitute Alvaro Morata dragged a shot wide of the far post.

Willian drew a second penalty in the 71st minute, as Maksim Medvedev tugged on the Brazilian’s jersey on a dribble into the 18. Yellow card for this foul.

Cesc Fabregas scored but two Chelsea players infringed on the 18 thanks to the shooter’s stuttering — and stopping — PK. He finished the second as well as the first. 3-0.

Willian added the fourth with a vicious strike five minutes from the end of scheduled play.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]