Player Ratings: How players fared in Netherlands-Argentina

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The 2014 World Cup finals are set: Germany v. Argentina in what should be a clash of the highest order.

On Wednesday it was Argentina who booked their place in the finals after 120 minutes of scoreless action with the Netherlands was settled in a penalty shootout.

Both managers made changes to their teams entering the match with Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella replacing the injured Angel di Maria with Enzo Perez and swapping left-back Jose Basanta for Marcos Rojo and Dutch manager Louis van Gaal bringing on Nigel de Jong in the place of Memphis Depay.

Here’s how each player from the Netherlands-Argentina fared on a scale of 1 to 10.

ARGENTINA PLAYER RATINGS  

Sergio Romero – 9

With the exception of a few key punches, Romero had very little to do in regulation and extra time but came up huge in penalties, saving shots from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder.

Marcos Rojo – 7

After serving a suspension against Costa Rica, Rojo inserted himself beautifully into the Argentine defense, working particularly well with Martin Demichelis in shutting down Arjen Robben.

Martin Demichelis – 8

A different player on the international level, Demichelis has established a fantastic partnership with Ezequiel Garay and was rock-solid for 120 minutes.

Ezequiel Garay – 8

Nearly scored a 25th minute header and was a constant nuisance to Robin van Persie.

Pablo Zabaleta – 8 

Alongside Philip Lahm, Zabaleta has proven himself the best right-back in the world. Made a handful of fantastic sliding tackles while proving himself a nuisance overlapping on the wing.

Javier Mascherano – 9 STAR MAN

Best match of his career. Mascherano was everywhere on Wednesday, dropping into the back four to help defend and driving the midfield forward on the attack. His most impressive feat came in the first minute of injury time when his slide tackle on Robben saved a surefire goal. He then duplicated the tackle in the 96th minute. Sensational.

Lucas Biglia – 5

Despite putting in a furious shift, Biglia didn’t see much of the ball and arguably had his smallest impact of the tournament.

Enzo Perez – 6

Did decent in the place of Di Maria with a few notable overlaps and link-ups but faded throughout the match.

Ezequiel Lavezzi – 7

Strong match for Lavezzi, who found plenty of space down the right side and was arguably Argentina’s most creative attacker moving forward.

Gonzalo Higuain – 5

Got caught dropping deep to pick up balls and did well to hold up the play but stymied his side from going forward by doing. Couldn’t establish a link with Messi but did come close to scoring, putting his effort on the wrong side of the side netting. Frustrating.

Lionel Messi – 4

A shocking performance from Messi, nowhere near his standard or where he needs to be if he’s to guide his country to glory. Looked frustrated, lost dribbles and didn’t seem bothered by the fact that he wasn’t seeing enough of the ball.

Substitutes

Rodrigo Palacio – N/A

On for Perez in the 81st, Palacio was lively and came closest to scoring with a header that Jasper Cillessen did well to save.

Maxi Rodgriguez – N/A

Came on for Lavezzi with 20 minutes left and saw little of the ball but did convert the final penalty to seal Argentina’s spot in the final.

Sergio Aguero – 5

An 81st minute substitute for Higuain, Aguero was too slow dispatching the one chance he saw. Clearly still injured, he’s a shadow of his former self but did manage to convert his penalty.

NETHERLANDS PLAYER RATINGS 

Jasper Cillessen – 7

Enjoyed some confident saves and showed some nice foot-skills in regulation but could’ve done better in the shootout, missing Garay’s and Rodriguez’s efforts when he should’ve done better.

Dirk Kuyt – 7

Typical Kuyt. Nothing special but hard-working and dependable. Even dispossessed Messi a few times and took his spot kick well.

Ron Vlaar – 8

Like Mascherano, this was the best performance of Vlaar’s life. Yes, he missed his penalty but he should’ve never been shooting in the first place. During regulation and extra time, Vlaar was a beast, putting in a number of brilliant sliding tackles on Messi.

Stefan De Vrij – 7

Enjoyed a few big tackles and kept the back five tight, De Vrij has made a name for himself in this tournament.

Bruno Martins Indi – 3

A poor game from the big man, who found himself caught out of position a number of times and subbed out at half time.

Daley Blind – 6

Found it difficult containing Zabaleta, Perez and Lavezzi early on but settled in late in the match when it counted.

Georgino Wijnaldum – 5

It was a big ask for this young player, especially to play inside the park opposed to his preferred winger position. Did ok at times but too often gave the ball away needlessly in the offensive third.

Wesley Sneijder – 6

An inconsistent match from Sneijder, who looked dangerous at times and lost at others. A disappointing end to a great World Cup.

Nigel De Jong – 7

Despite returning from injury De Jong put in a typical yeoman-like shift for Van Gaal, leaving it all on the pitch. It’s never pretty but it’s so effective.

Arjen Robben – 6

Quiet and subdued early on but found a way through in the 91st and 96th minutes only to see his shot blocked by Mascherano. Looked lively and likely to score in extra time when everyone else’s tongue was wagging. Spot kick was well taken sealed a fantastic cup for Robben.

Robin Van Persie – 4

Brutal match for Van Persie. Clearly affected by the flu he’s had over the last few days, the striker wasn’t helped out by Van Gaal’s setup that required him to drop deep to pick up balls in the midfield. Arguably shouldn’t have started.

Substitutes

Daryl Janmaat – 6

In for Martins Indi at halftime, Janmaat was unspectacular but solid in disrupting the link between Messi and Higuain/Aguero.

Jordy Claise – 8

Brilliant in possession coming on for De Jong. Settled the midfield and had the Dutch playing their best football. An orchestrator for the future.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar – N/A

Barely touched the ball after coming on in the 96th minute.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.