Player Ratings: Some good, some not so good in Chile’s 3-2 win over the U.S.

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A free-flowing January friendly in Chile started off well for the United States men’s national team before devolving into an all-too-familiar result: a blown lead.

While losing a second half lead or three isn’t the end of the world — the bevy of substitutions in friendlies provide lots of slop — allowing 9 goals and scoring zero over their last five second halves is a big concern for Jurgen Klinsmann.

[ MATCH RECAP: Chile 3-2 USMNT ]

Klinsmann opted for a 3-5-2 to start, a formation that provided some offense early and often but was anything but strong in the back. Let’s take a look at how each participant fared.

Starters (1-10, with 1-minnow, 5-average, 10-World Cup winner)

Nick Rimando – Made a couple of brilliant saves in the first half and had a heck of a time organizing his defense, but his work on the second Chilean goal was ugly. It’s easy to forget that Tim Howards don’t grow on trees. 5

Matt Besler – Beauty of an assist on Brek Shea’s early goal, and really calmed down in the latter stages. Couldn’t react on the first Chilean goal and, while you’d like to give a mulligan due to Jones’ newness at center back, Besler had some poor moments. 5

Jermaine Jones – Watching Jones play center back has a lot of Looney Tunes/Tasmanian Devil qualities to it. Jones lost his man on the first Chile goal and was out-jumped on what could’ve been a second (ruled out for offsides). Made some athletic plays as usual, but he may want to burn this match film. 5

Steve Birnbaum – Faded down the stretch but looked good for the better part of an hour, especially considering it was his first USMNT cap. Throw in doing a job in an unfamiliar formation and a decent scoring chance, and he was okay. 6

Brek Shea – He’s infuriating. Gifted with great size, pace, attacking instincts and a rocket for a left foot, Shea made Klinsmann look like a genius with his sixth minute goal. But he had a number of lackadaisical moments on-and-off the ball, and his petulant tackle late in the game could’ve easily landed him a red card. He didn’t show the defensive acumen to have, really, much defensive responsibility at all. 5

Mix Diskerud – His movement and assist on Jozy Altidore’s goal earned him a trip to high-five country, but there weren’t too many more standout moments for the New York City FC midfielder. There also weren’t glaring errors. 7

Clint Dempsey – His pace looked a touch slow , a bit like a veteran who hasn’t played since the MLS Cup Playoffs. Nothing too much to be worried about, as his link-up play with Altidore was good to see. 6

Michael Bradley – Klinsmann had him in a more comfortable, set back role, but the head coach must’ve smirked when Bradley lashed a shot off the cross bar in an advanced role late. 6

DeAndre Yedlin – Gave Chile nightmare moving forward, but also gave the opponents reason to be excited when was defended. Certainly wasn’t bad, though his raw nature shone through when he had a chance to score on a 1v1 in the first half. Was instrumental in the second U.S. goal, but also played a role in the second and third goals conceded. 6

Jozy Altidore – He continues to score goals with a USMNT jersey on, and Toronto FC fans should be plenty excited to see what the big man does in MLS. Made some strong, instinctive hold-up plays and the goal was super solid. Looked dead tired by the time he subbed out, and for about 20 minutes before that. 6

Bobby Wood – His poor club form was not fixed on Wednesday. Wood struggled to be a part of the play and may’ve made Yedlin’s missed cross look worse than it was by not going hard to the back post. Pulled after 45 minutes. 3

Subs

Lee Nguyen – Picked up a quick yellow and found the real estate pretty congested for most of his time on the pitch. Couldn’t put the game on his own terms, like we saw with New England this summer. 5

Chris Wondolowski – Flashed a good header across goal but the chances were limited by the time he subbed into the match. 5

Wil Trapp – Looked lost on Chile’s third goal and didn’t have a wondrous debut. That said, you can forgive jitters and ineffective play from an otherwise promising 22-year-old. 4

Gyasi Zardes – Like Trapp, he faced several, “This ain’t MLS” moments, but he looked more comfortable than the Crew midfielder. Created a dynamic chance late that almost fooled Herrera into giving up what would’ve been a huge equalizer. 5

Luiz back in Chelsea squad after being dropped by Conte

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David Luiz‘s pair of stints at Chelsea have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride of emotions — joyous highs and painful lows.

[ MORE: Pogba, Zlatan back form injuries; available this weekend ]

After returning to the club for a second time in the summer of 2016, Luiz instantly slotted into Antonio Conte‘s three-man backline and was a pivotal part of the Blues’ title-winning team last season.

Much like the second half of his first four seasons at Chelsea, Luiz’s second season (the second time around) has started so hotly. After playing eight of the first 10 games during Chelsea’s ongoing title defense, Luiz was unexpectedly dropped from the squad for the victory over Manchester United.

Now, two weeks later, Conte has announced that Luiz has rejoined the squad and is available for selection when his side visits West Brom on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) — quotes from the Guardian:

“David Luiz is in the squad, yes. [His exclusion] was a technical decision. When it’s a technical decision every player has to react well and accept my decision. It’s normal, this.

“I like to speak about the team and the next game that we have to pay attention to. This is the most important thing, not speaking about a single player. I repeat: I don’t like to speak about a single player.”

Pogba, Zlatan, Rojo return from injuries for Man Utd-Newcastle

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The only saving grace when it comes to injuries is that, eventually (usually), players recover from them and return to the team.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Power Rankings — who comes out on top? ]

It’s been a long seven months for the soccer world to be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic (torn ACL on April 20), just as it’s been a painfully long 10 weeks for Manchester United fans following Paul Pogba‘s hamstring injury on Sept. 12. Man United have dropped eight points during the latter’s absence and now coincidentally sit eight points behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

A bit of good news on this Friday: United manager Jose Mourinho announced today that the dynamic duo, along with defender Marcos Rojo (knee ligament damage on April 20) have returned to full fitness and will be available for selection during Saturday’s home clash with Newcastle United (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) — quotes from ManUtd.com:

“The players that stayed here and [were] recovering from injuries, even the ones that are recovering from big injuries, they are ready to play — Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.”

“[Ibrahimovic] made a full recovery. Now you cannot expect him to be ready to play 90 minutes or to be ready to play consecutive matches like he did all his career.

“Now he needs time to be back to his level, his fitness, his confidence, his sharpness, his everything. But, from the clinical point of view, to be good and ready is fantastic.”

2018 World Cup Power Rankings — 7 months B.W.C.

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209 days — that’s how long the world is still being made to wait for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup. It’s close, in that all 32 berths have been secured, but still so far, in that the draw is still two weeks away.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2018 World Cup coverage | USMNT | Premier League ]

Perhaps then, and only then, will it begin to feel really real.

According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-Wright, Nicholas Mendola, Kyle Bonn, Matt Reed, Dan Karell and yours truly — four clear-cut favorites for the semifinals have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, followed by another six or eight sides with one half of their squad firing on all cylinders but some serious kinks to work out elsewhere.

[ MORE: Round 1 of the WC power rankings | Round 2 ]

Finally, the latest edition of PST’s 2018 World Cup Power Rankings, now featuring all 32 teams qualified for Russia…

Team Points Best Worst
1 (1) Germany 189 1 2
2 (2) Brazil 188 1 3
3 (4) Spain 177 3 5
4 (3) France 176 3 5
5 (8) Argentina 158 4 10
6 (5) Belgium 156 4 10
7 (7) Portugal 153 6 10
8 (11) England 150 5 12
9 (6) Uruguay 141 6 14
10 (9) Colombia 140 7 12
11 (10) Mexico 129 8 14
12 (12) Poland 125 10 14
13 (20) Croatia 118 7 20
14 (17) Switzerland 115 12 16
15 (NR) Sweden 92 16 19
16 (NR) Denmark 86 13 23
17 (NR) Serbia 83 9 28
18 (NR) Peru 80 15 25
19 (15) Iceland 79 15 24
20 (16) Japan 71 16 27
21 (NR) Egypt 66 18 27
22 (NR) South Korea 64 13 32
23 (NR) Senegal 63 17 26
24 (18) Nigeria 58 15 27
25 (19) Costa Rica 57 14 29
26 (NR) Morocco 48 18 29
27 (NR) Australia 45 22 30
28 (NR) Russia 36 20 32
29 (NR) Iran 34 22 31
30 (NR) Tunisia 30 23 31
31 (NR) Panama 19 28 32
32 (NR) Saudi Arabia 9 31 32

Zidane anxiously awaiting goals from Ronaldo

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MADRID (AP) For Zinedine Zidane, the Madrid derby on Saturday is just what Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema need to break their scoring slump.

The Real Madrid forwards have been struggling in the Spanish league, with just two goals between them.

Ronaldo, while striking six times in the Champions League, has tallied only one in seven Liga appearances.

Benzema is having an even tougher time, with just two in 12 matches across all competitions.

“It’s true that this is not normal, but they just need to keep training and keep trying as they have been doing,” Zidane says.

“You don’t need to tell Karim and Cristiano that they should train more, it’s something they do. They will go out on the pitch and score, I am sure of it.”

Over his career, Ronaldo has thrived against Real’s crosstown rival, Atletico. He holds the record for the Spanish capital derby with 21 goals.

Benzema’s performances, however, have not been as impressive, with three goals in his last 14 league matches against Atletico.

Zidane says Ronaldo and Benzema focused on recovering their scoring form last week during the international break, when they stayed at the club instead of joining their national sides.

“We have been working on it,” he said. “What I want is that my players, my forwards, play well, and tomorrow is a good match for them to keep trying.”

Their scoring droughts have contributed to Real’s irregular season.

Real is in third place and level on points with Atletico, which is fourth after having trouble winning at its new Wanda Metropolitan Stadium.

Both sides need a victory to keep pace with leader Barcelona, which visits Leganes hours earlier.

If Barcelona wins, Madrid and Atletico will be staring at an 11-point gap by kickoff.