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


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.


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.


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.

Injuries leave host Russia limping ahead of World Cup

AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) With less than three months to go until the World Cup in Russia, the host nation’s players are dropping like flies.

A spate of knee injuries this year has left the Russians hurrying to find cover at the back and trying to replace a key attacking threat.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

First, center back Georgy Dzhikiya tore his knee ligaments during a friendly in January. The same happened to Viktor Vasin a month later. Russia’s defense was already thin, so those injuries prompted calls for the 35-year-old Berezutsky twins, Alexei and Vasily, to return from international retirement. They refused to do so.

Now coach Stanislav Cherchesov must also seek a replacement for Zenit St. Petersburg forward Alexander Kokorin, who tore his knee ligaments in the Europa League last week. That puts more responsibility on the shoulders of Fyodor Smolov, now likely to be Russia’s undisputed first-choice striker for the World Cup.

“We’re not complaining about anything,” Cherchesov said Thursday. “Fate is often testing us in various ways but we always try to be ready.”

The injuries mean Cherchesov will be forced to experiment during Friday’s friendly against Brazil and Tuesday’s game against France, both at home. Short-term medical issues have ruled three more fringe players out of those games.

Here’s a closer look at the issues facing Russia ahead of the World Cup:


If you had to pick one Russian striker for the World Cup, it might as well be Fyodor Smolov.

On track to be the Russian league’s top scorer for the third season in a row, Smolov has been working on his English skills as he eyes a move to the Premier League.

Smolov was linked with West Ham during the January transfer window but opted to stay with FC Krasnodar, saying he didn’t want to abandon his team as it battles for a spot in the Champions League next season.

With Kokorin almost certainly out of the picture for the World Cup, Russia’s backup options include Anton Zabolotny, who is still settling in at Zenit after a recent move from newly promoted FC Tosno. The 22-year-old Alexei Miranchuk can play as a forward, but is better in a deeper role.


Russian players tend to stay in their domestic league, but there’s one big exception in midfield – Denis Cheryshev.

The winger came through the Real Madrid youth system when his father was coaching there and is now at Villarreal, but frequent injuries have dented hopes he can add some spice to the national team.

Now he’s fit again and in the squad to face Brazil and France.

Elsewhere in the midfield, there are the promising and creative youngsters Roman Zobnin and Alexander Golovin, but Russia doesn’t currently have a dominant defensive midfielder.


Cherchesov has a reputation as a difficult coach to get along with, and Russian media have regularly reported fallings-out with various players.

One of those outside the squad is Igor Denisov, who last played for Russia in 2016. He has been playing well in a defensive midfield role this season for Lokomotiv Moscow, the team at the top of the Russian league standings. Denisov and Cherchesov clashed during the latter’s time as Dynamo Moscow coach.

Also absent from the squad is forward Artyom Dzyuba. A talented striker who has scored 11 goals in 22 games for Russia but has a reputation for being hot-headed, Dzyuba was deemed surplus to requirements at Zenit and sent on loan to Arsenal Tula. In three games there, he has scored three goals and set up two more to put himself back in the World Cup contention.


Russia’s soccer team hasn’t escaped the country’s doping scandals.

Defensive midfielder Ruslan Kambolov is under investigation by FIFA for a possible doping case revealed by Moscow laboratory documents, but hasn’t been suspended.

The team’s schedule was disrupted Wednesday by drug-testing, which took more than five hours and delayed training. On Thursday, the team said five more doping control officers turned up to take samples from the team.

Wilshere injured, could play in England’s second friendly

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

I have no idea what tendinopathy means, but Arsenal and England will be hoping it’s only a minor thing for Jack Wilshere.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

The resurgent Gunners midfielder is going to miss at least one of England’s friendlies this international break after suffering a knee injury in training.

“Jack just felt some tendinopathy in his knee but it’s nothing too serious,” Southgate said. “We decided to leave him back at base and see how he responds, and we hope to have him with us on Saturday.”

England is in Netherlands on Friday, and returns to London to host Italy at Wembley on Tuesday.

Arsenal doesn’t play until April 1 when it visits Stoke City.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.