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.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.

Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho scores thunderbolt for Brazil

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Brazil topped Uruguay 4-1 to move on the verge of World Cup qualification, but there was much more to the first half of this match than meets the eye.

Uruguay went ahead 1-0 on a 9th-minute penalty won and scored by Edinson Cavani, and for a moment it seemed like the home side might find its way to pull within a point of Brazil at the top of the CONMEBOL standings. That would not last very long.

[ MORE: Full roundup of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action ]

Just 10 minutes later, a bad giveaway near the midfield stripe saw Neymar casually feed Paulinho a good 50 yards from goal. The former Spurs man took matters into his own hands, charging forward and unleashing a vicious strike that continued to rise until it ripped the chords in the top-right corner.

 

Not only was the goal a sight to behold, it was an important moment in the match. Brazil was back level at 1-1, and Paulinho would be on his way to an eventual hat-trick with a pair in the second half. Neymar scored once as well to complete the 4-1 final scoreline, and the three points for Brazil saw them remain perfect in the World Cup qualifying round as they march seven clear of Uruguay at the top of the standings.

For Paulinho, the hat-trick brings him to four goals in the World Cup qualifying round, adding to his score in the 3-0 win over Argentina. They also mark an important moment for the Chinese Super League, where Paulinho now plays, having moved from Spurs in July of 2015. Some national team coaches have left players on the outside of the squad for moving to leagues such as the Chinese League or Major League Soccer, but Paulinho has clearly been an asset to Brazil despite his club situation. In fact, in China, Paulinho has scored four goals in his four league matches for Guangzhou Evergrande this season plus another in the Asian Champions League, leaving him in top goalscoring form coming into this international break, something which has clearly translated directly to international play.

The 28-year-old had lost his place in the national team squad in 2014, going over two years without a single international appearance, but has been a mainstay in the Brazilian side during this World Cup qualification cycle.

Dele Alli banned three European games for straight red card

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Spurs may be out of the Europa League this season, but should they end up qualifying for the Champions League next season, they will start the campaign short-handed.

Tottenham will be without midfielder Dele Alli for the first half of the group stage after his horrifying tackle on Brecht Dejaegere of KAA Gent in their 2-2 draw which saw Spurs out of the competition on aggregate in the Round of 32.

Alli went to ground on the 39th-minute challenge, and made contact on high up on Dejaegere’s leg with both his studs, finishing with a scissior-whip motion. It was a blatant red card, and now UEFA’s disciplinary committee has handed down the three-match ban. Straight-red cards for violent conduct only carry a minimum penalty of one match in UEFA tournament play, but the disciplinary committee clearly thought a longer punishment was necessary, with the ability to sentence anyone up to five matches.

The straight red was the first of Alli’s professional career. Alli apologized to Dejaejere after the match, according to the Gent midfielder. He’s since scored in four straight matches, and when asked on Sunday if that moment was still in his mind, he said, “I’m never going to say sorry for wanting to win or trying as hard as I can but things happen and you have to learn from them.”

Spurs currently sit in second place in the Premier League table with 59 points and look to be in a strong position for Champions League qualification, with a seven-point cushion on fifth-placed Manchester United.