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Player Ratings: How the US fared in brave defeat to Belgium

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The U.S. fell 2-1 to Belgium and crashed out of the World Cup in Salvador on Tuesday.

However, in true American fashion, they didn’t go down without a fight.

[ RELATED: Belgium 2-1 USA, after extra time ]

Belgium were pressing to go ahead throughout regulation but came up against an inspired Tim Howard in goal for the USA as they game finished 0-0 and went to extra time.

However Romelu Lukaku’s introduction changed the match as his run set up Kevin De Bruyne for the opener, then the Chelsea forward put the USA 2-0 up. Right at the start of the second half of extra time, teenager Julian Green scored on his competitive debut to set up a grandstand finish.

Belgium held on, just, to make the quarterfinals at the USA’s expense.

U.S. PLAYER RATINGS vs. BELGIUM 

Tim Howard – 10  – STAR MAN

A good early save from Divock Origi settled the U.S. down and the rest of the first half saw Howard hardly tested. After the break he tipped one over the bar from Mertens and made a good stop from Origi in the 70th minute. Howard then made another fine stop from Hazard. Belgium peppered him with shots time and time again. Did not deserve to be on the losing side and had no chance on either goal. Made 16 saves, the most in a World Cup game since 1966. Epic. One of the best goalkeeping displays in WC history.

Fabian Johnson – 6

Some great early runs from the right back that really put Belgium pressure but he pulled up injured, clutching his hamstring, and was replaced by Yedlin in the 30th minute. Disappointing end to his World Cup.

Omar Gonzalez – 6

Quite a few shaky moments early on as Belgium pressed and got in-behind the U.S. defense. Gonzo kept calm and headed plenty of balls out. In the second half looked very flat-footed when Hazard moved to the center but cleared so many balls. Overall, defended everything when he needed to.

Matt Besler – 6

Typical tough-tackling display from the SKC skipper as he tried to stop the growing threat of Belgium’s attack. Tremendous last-ditch tackle late on in regulation as he held the U.S. defense together. However, Besler was brushed aside by Lukaku for the go-ahead goal and he slipped at the crucial moment. Lukaku does that to defenders in the PL week in, week out.

DaMarcus Beasley – 6

A great goal-lime clearance in the first half saved the USA’s skin as the Belgium offense started to click into place. Assured and mature performance form the veteran but his crosses in the attacking-third let him down.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from US v Belgium ]
[ RELATEDTim Howard’s heroics not enough ]
[ RELATEDKlinsmann: U.S. gave everything they had ]

Alejandro Bedoya – 6

You can’t question his industry out wide, but Bedoya failed to get past his marker and whip balls in. However, he ran himself into the ground for the cause before being replaced by Julian Green.

Geoff Cameron – 7

Early on he provided great cover when Gonzalez was caught out and even came close to scoring from a corner with a glancing header. Sat in front of the back four and stopped Fellaini from getting on the ball, composed and comfortable despite an early yellow card. Dug deep and didn’t let the side down in Beckerman’s role.

Jermaine Jones – 6

Didn’t have a huge impact on proceedings but once again worked incredibly hard in midfield. Jones didn’t have many touches on the ball but tried to drive the team on in extra time. A wonderful World Cup from Jones.

Michael Bradley – 6

Wasteful in possession in the earlier stages, Bradley settled down as the game wore on and his surging runs gave Dempsey plenty of support. Always tried to play the difficult pass and get the U.S. on the front foot. Delicious chip for Green’s goal as Bradley’s quality shone through.

Graham Zusi – 4

A bad giveaway midway through the first half almost cost the U.S. dear and Zusi failed to impact the game. Replaced by Wondolowski with 20 minutes to go.

Clint Dempsey – 6

Had his work cut out up top on his own against Van Buyten and Kompany,but Dempsey battled hard and forced Courtois into a smart stop in the first half. Influenced the game more when he dropped deeper. Almost scored the equalizer to make it 2-2 deep into extra time but Courtois thwarted Dempsey and the U.S. at the death.

Substitutes

DeAndre Yedlin – 7

The 20-year-old came on at RB in the biggest game of his career so far and didn’t look out at place. In the second half he whipped in some great crosses and was a threat going forward. Wonderful future.

Chris Wondolowski – 6

Gave the U.S. a different dimension up top and held the ball up well to ease the pressure. However THAT miss in the final seconds of regulation will haunt him, even if it was flagged offside incorrectly.

Julian Green – 7

Only played for the final 15 minutes but became the youngest player to ever play for the U.S. at the World Cup, then the youngest to score with a wonderful finish. What a huge goal and a great moment for Green.

Watford “Behind The Badge” airs third installment; Catch up on Episode 2 here

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Catch up on Watford’s look “Behind The Badge” ahead of Sunday’s third episode of the four-part glimpse into one of the Premier League’s promoted sides.

The Hornets sit 11th, currently 7 points clear of relegation danger, and are giving fans a better idea of what’s been going on at Vicarage Road.

[ MORE: Behind the Badge archive

In an exclusive series, NBC Sports followed around the Hornets in a very similar fashion to HBO’s Hard Knocks which joins the preseason camp of one NFL team each summer.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining episodes on Watford, which you can watch on NBCSN and live online via NBCSports.com in the coming weeks, plus a link to watch episode one in full from last week.


First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Embedded above
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Follow @NicholasMendola

MLS Cup Final preview: Seattle, Toronto battle subzero temps for first Cup

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley walks off the field after a training session, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Toronto, for the MLS Cup soccer championship. Toronto hosts the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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  • First MLS Cup Final for both
  • Sounders all-time 7W-2L-2T
  • TFC joined in 2007, Seattle 2009

It’ll be in the high twenties (-1 Celsius) when Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders kick off the MLS Cup Final on Saturday night in Ontario (Kickoff is Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT).

Combine the visible breath and slight chance of snow with a BMO Field which has been relentlessly loud throughut TFC’s playoff run, and we have the makings of an all-timer.

[ MORE: PST’s MLS Cup roundtable ]

Toronto and Seattle met up at the same venue on July 2, the 1-1 draw perhaps a bit deflated by the absence of Clint Dempsey for Seattle and TFC’s American duo of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

Seattle superstar Nicolas Lodeiro wasn’t there, either, still weeks away from arriving from Boca Juniors.

This is the second MLS Cup Final at BMO Field, after Colorado defeated FC Dallas in 2010. TFC men Drew Moor and Clint Irwin were part of the championship-winning Rapids in that one.

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris greets fans who gathered to send off the team after MLS soccer training, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Tukwila, Wash. The Sounders were scheduled to travel to Toronto later Wednesday to prepare to face Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle’s Jordan Morris (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

[ MORE: PST’s Michael Bradley interview ]

Toronto will bring star power to go with a challenging formation; While accolades rightly go to Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco, the Reds’ 3-5-2 under Greg Vanney features versatile wide men in Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow.

Seattle is powered through Nicolas Lodeiro, the ex-Boca Juniors playmaker who has been nearly as effective as Giovinco (albeit with a smaller MLS sample size). Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the ex-TFC man, has been very good at the back, but can the Sounders’ back line handle Altidore and Giovinco?

The metronomes could be the difference. Bradley’s been good for TFC, but Osvaldo Alonso gave an MLS MVP caliber performance this season.

[ MORE: PST talks with Ozzie Alonso ]

What they’re saying

Toronto FC keeper Irwin on the weather: “It’s probably the most difficult part. As a field player, you can move around. You’re warmer, more active. At this point, there’s not much we can do other than bundle up, and I’ll stay moving back there.”

Seattle forward Jordan Morris on Lodeiro“The first thing Lodeiro said to me is, ‘When I get the ball, you just run.’ I think of him like a quarterback.”

Prediction

Look to the engine rooms here. Alonso is a handful and a magnificent passer of the ball. On his day, Bradley is even better. Will it be? Neither player will shirk from pressure. We’re thinking extra time after a 1-1 match. And Toronto’s depth and home field will propel it to a 2-1 win.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Manchester City

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Bacary Sagna of Manchester City clears the ball from Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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  • Man City leads all-time 53W-29D-28L
  • Leicester took 4 of 6 pts last season
  • MCFC won previous four

To cure what ails, Leicester City has to knock off one of the top contenders to its Premier League throne: Manchester City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBC and NBCSports.com).

There are some advantages for Leicester, though, as Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are suspended for their red cards picked up the loss to Chelsea. Pep Guardiola used Pablo Zabaleta next to Fernando in the UCL draw with Celtic, and looks set for the same come Saturday.

Leicester rested the majority of its starters in a 5-0 loss at Porto this week, following up a 2-1 setback at Sunderland that left the champs just two points ahead of the 18th and 19th placed clubs in the PL.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri on the task at hand: “I was waiting for a period like this. Now it’s important to react with a big effort together from the team. That is my focus now. We have to be focused on these matches until Christmas Day. We have to get points. We need points and we have to fight. This part of the season is our key moment. I think every match gives us an opportunity. We have to fight. I repeat, we have to fight.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola on Zabaleta’s positional change“But I think Pablo Zabaleta can play in the middle – he is very experienced and he can play there as he did very well against Celtic. I think in the last years of his career he’ll play more in the middle and it gives us another option.”

Prediction

As much as the injuries hurt Man City, there’s certain harm in the wounded unit that fell 3-1 to Chelsea. We believe the Foxes will strike, but Kelechi Iheanacho has proven more than a suitable fill-in for Aguero. Man City 2-1.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 15

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Week 15 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 15 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-3 Man City – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Swansea City 2-3 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-1 Everton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Man United 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Hull City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]