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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.

Kane: Wembley needs to be “our home” long before next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the UEFA Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and AS Monaco FC at Wembley Stadium on September 14, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Tottenham Hotspur have been — how should I say this? — less than stellar at Wembley Stadium this season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

In their three UEFA Champions League group-stage games played inside England’s national stadium, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side was thrashed by a vibrant Monaco side; blunted into apathy by Bayer Leverkusen; and victorious against last-place CSKA Moscow, but only after having already been knocked out of the competition.

Ahead of Thursday’s Europa League round-of-32 second leg against Belgian side Gent — which will be played at Wembley, as they will do for every European fixture this season — Spurs’ captain of the future, Harry Kane, has called upon the north London side to make themselves at home inside the 90,000-seat arena on the following counts: 1) they’ll be playing the entirety of the 2017-18 season there; 2) they’re a victory over League One side Millwall away from an FA Cup semifinal, at Wembley, this season — quotes from the Independent:

“If we get through the next round of the FA Cup it’s to Wembley, and we play at Wembley on Thursday. Hopefully we get through. We’ve got to try to make Wembley our home. We could be there next season, so we want to make it as good for us as possible, try to win as many games there as we can and get that confidence going. We could be playing there a few times yet this season.”

[ FA CUP QF: Chelsea-Man United; Spurs-Millwall; Arsenal-Lincoln ]

As for Spurs’ recent form, perhaps best described as indifference, Kane says that’s an issue which was raised during a series of meetings in which Pochettino and a handful of the young side’s more senior figures called for more “hunger” and “sharpness” from the opening kickoff — quotes from the Independent:

“We’ve been starting quite slow in games and it was just about bringing the desire and hunger back to the team, chasing balls down, running in behind. We did that great on Sunday. Sometimes we need that — we need a reminder of who we are and what we’re about. We had a couple of meetings between us and we were glad to go out and put that right.”

Rejuvenated and reinvented, Toure integral to Man City again

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: Yaya Toure of Manchester City speaks to Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City after being subtituted during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on January 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) It has been one of the great sights of English soccer in recent years, Yaya Toure picking up possession in central midfield for Manchester City, rampaging upfield and scattering opponents in his path.

Those days appear to have gone.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Toure is now found sitting in front of City’s defense, reading the game, dictating its tempo, picking off opposition passes, and starting attacks rather than finishing them.

His reinvention over the last three months as a holding midfielder — and one of Pep Guardiola‘s most integral players — is one of the stories of City’s season and has coincided with an upturn in the team’s fortunes. It’s as much a tale of the 33-year-old Toure’s enduring quality and hunger as circumstance and opportunism.

The former Ivory Coast captain started the season ostracized by Guardiola, who was unhappy at both Toure’s fitness levels and the criticism coming from the player’s outspoken agent, Dimitri Seluk.

Toure was even omitted from City’s squad for the Champions League group stage but he knuckled down, lost about 14 pounds, and waited for his chance. That came when one fellow midfielder (Fernandinho) was hit with a four-match ban and another (Ilkay Gundogan) sustained a season-ending knee injury.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

Toure, looking lean and fit, started a Premier League game against Watford on Dec. 14 and has played every match since, excelling as the team’s deep-lying midfielder and no longer the box-to-box player that City fans have been used to seeing.

Such is his change in status and importance that he was one of the few players rested by Guardiola for the FA Cup match at Huddersfield on Saturday ahead of City’s match against Monaco in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.

“He has been unbelievable since the game he came back,” City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said on Monday. “Last year, he wasn’t that sharp. Give him credit for coming back and doing very well.”

Guardiola has settled on a central-midfield trio of Toure, as the protector of the defense, and De Bruyne and David Silva as the playmakers, and it is proving an ideal mix. City has conceded only one goal in its last five games, and its previously shaky defense kept five clean sheets in its last six away games.

Toure has said he feels like a kid again under Guardiola.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

“He is so important for his personality,” Guardiola said on Monday of Toure. “He is part of the history of the club. He helped the club to be where it is. He is back with us and playing at a high level.”

Monaco will be a big test for Toure. The French league leader has scored more goals than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues this season, and is lethal on the counterattack thanks to ultra-fast transition play involving forwards Bernardo Silva, Kylian Mbappe, and Valere Germain.

Toure will be tasked with stopping them from getting at City’s backline, and that’s no easy job. The games in which he struggled since his return have been the losses to Liverpool and Everton, who played a high-energy and up-tempo style.

Monaco will be a level up from that.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

“As a spectator, it is so nice to watch them. I am really impressed how good they are; physically strong, the full backs play like wingers, the wingers play like attacking midfielders … a complete team,” Guardiola said on Monday, describing their attackers as “killers in the box.”

Yet these are exactly the sort of games in which Guardiola will lean on the experienced Toure, a Champions League winner under the Spanish coach at Barcelona in 2009.

In those days, he also played as a holding midfielder and it is in that position that he’s set to end his career.

“I judge players on whether they are able to go to Anfield, Old Trafford, the Nou Camp, or Madrid or Turin and if they are able to react,” Guardiola has said. “There is no doubt about Yaya with that.”

Brazilian footballer in tears after racist chants in Serbia

Partizan Belgrade's Brazilian player Everton Luiz, centre left, leaves the field accompanying by goalkeeper Filip Kljajic, during a Serbian championship match between Rad and Partizan, in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Luiz was in tears after suffering persistent racist chants during his team's 1-0 victory against Rad in the Serbian premiership. The Brazilian, who joined Partizan from the Swiss league in 2016, received monkey chants and other abuse, including a racist banner on the stands where Rad fans were standing. (AP Photo/Miroslav Todorovic)
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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Partizan Belgrade midfielder Everton Luiz was in tears after persistent racist chants during his team’s victory over Rad in the Serbian league.

The Brazilian, who joined Partizan last year, played through monkey chants and other abuse, including a racist banner in the stands where Rad fans were standing.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

The banner was removed after intervention from the referee.

There were scuffles between the players after the match on Sunday, when Partizan won 1-0, after Everton Luiz showed the middle finger to the Rad supporters.

Wiping away tears, Luiz said he “faced racist abuse during the entire match.”

[ MORE: Wenger “didn’t really enjoy” Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Sutton ]

Serbian fans are notorious for racist outbursts against black players. Rad supporters are known for their nationalist ultra-right behavior.

On Monday, the Serbian Football Association suspended Rad’s stadium in Belgrade until further notice because of the fans’ behavior.

Wenger “didn’t really enjoy” Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Sutton

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 20:  Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal looks on from the bench before the Emirates FA Cup fifth round match between Sutton United and Arsenal on February 20, 2017 in Sutton, Greater London.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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One might imagine that Arsene Wenger doesn’t enjoy too terribly much these days, especially when it comes to matters regarding his employment as Arsenal manager, a post he’s held for the last 7,456 days.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

From the constant reports and rumblings that his time at Arsenal is coming to an end, to falling all the way out of the Premier League title race, to being absolutely demolished in the UEFA Champions League last week, the 2016-17 season has looked quite similar to those of recent years.

On Monday, the Gunners knocked off fifth-division side Sutton United in the fifth round of the FA Cup, a triumph which was beamed out for the entire world to witness on television. Surely the 67-year-old would have immensely enjoyed that, right? Sadly, it was anything but enjoyable for Wenger, according to his post-game comments — quotes from the BBC:

“We did the job. It is very different, I must say, on this kind of pitch. It was not an easy game at all. We have to give them credit because every error we made, they took advantage of on this pitch. They played very well.

“It is basically division five, and when I arrived here 20 years ago in division five, they were not as fit physically as they were today. They were organized and had a huge desire. If we were not mentally prepared, we would not have gone through today.

“I don’t really enjoy tonight, because we absolutely had to do the job and it is tricky. It is important for the confidence of the players. At Bayern we were 1-1, and then in the second half it all went wrong, so at halftime today at 1-0 up it was not finished.”

On the one hand, Wenger has a point: there’s very little to be gained by the “bigger” sides in Cup clashes versus opposition the size of Sutton — if you win, that’s great, but you were “supposed” to; if you lose, that’s … well, a much greater embarrassment than losing 5-1 to Bayern Munich.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

On the other hand, that kind of potential embarrassment (should the prospects of winning a third FA Cup in four seasons doesn’t do it for them) should have been all the motivation the Gunners needed, and … well, they were far from dominant in this one.

Elsewhere in the FA Cup

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield Town 0-0 Manchester City
Middlesbrough 3-2 Oxford United
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea RECAP
Fulham 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur RECAP
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Manchester United RECAP | REACTION