Player ratings from Man United v. Chelsea

Leave a comment

Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday to blow the Premier League title race wide-open.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Chelsea’s lead atop the PL table has now been cut to four points, while United have given their chances of finishing in the top four a big boost.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here are the marks out of 10 for each player in what turned out to be a very comfortable win for United.

Manchester United

David De Gea – 6 – Hardly had anything to do, distribution was good.

Antonio Valencia – 6 – Played further forward due to Herrera marking Hazard. Cool head on the ball.

Eric Bailly – 7 – Did well to keep Costa out and always looked mobile enough to cut off Hazard when he cut inside.

Marcos Rojo – 8 – Shackled Diego Costa well as the battle threatened to boil over.

Matteo Darmian – 7 – Solid display at left back from the Italian who is taking his chance.

Ander Herrera – 8 – Had Hazard in his back pocket, plus grabbed a goal and an assist.

Paul Pogba – 7 – Much more disciplined display from Pogba who made a great tackle in the first half on Hazard.

Maroaune Fellaini – 6 – Did a great defensive job but didn’t get chance to do much in attack. Steady.

Ashley Young – 6 – Did plenty of dirty work and was solid defensively. Stopped Chelsea’s full backs playing.

Jesse Lingard – 6 – Perfect foil for Rashford as he chased Chelsea’s defense down and was always on hand to link up.

Marcus Rashford – 9 – Splendid display as he finished superbly for the first, then ran Chelsea’s defense ragged.

Michael Carrick on for Jesse Lingard – 6
Zlatan Ibrahimovic on for Marcus Rashford – 5
Fosu-Mensah on for Ashley Young – 5


Asmir Begovic – 5 – Positioning could have been better on the first goal but not much he could do about the second.

Kurt Zouma – 5 – Shaky on the ball and looked like a man thrust into the starting lineup at the last minute due to Alonso’s injury.

David Luiz – 5 – Let Rashford go for United’s first goal and was out-muscled by the youngster time and time again. Tough afternoon.

Gary Cahill – 6 – Tried to help Chelsea’s backline together but it didn’t work.

Victor Moses – 4 – Hauled off in the second half after Conte switched him from the left flank to the right.

N'Golo Kante – 6 – Kept battling hard but had little impact on the game with Paul Pogba matching up well in the battle.

Nemanja Matic – 5  – Subbed out for a more attacking option. A decent display but not much more.

Cesar Azpilicueta – 6 – Kept trying to push forward whenever he could from wing-back but looks much more comfortable at center back.

Pedro – 4 – Wasteful in the final third and couldn’t get on the end of a chance at the back post.

Eden Hazard – 5 – So often the go-to guy for Conte but Herrera shackled him and his flashes of quality were all too rare.

Diego Costa – 5 – Lost the physical battle to Rojo and never had a sniff at goal. Shackled.

Cesc Fabregas on for Victor Moses – 5
Willian on for Nemanja Matic- 5
Ruben Loftus-Cheek on for Kurt Zouma – 5

Key newcomers for USMNT friendly

Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

While the excitement potential is high amongst big club USMNT call-ups like PSG’s Tim Weah and Everton’s Antonee Robinson, there are several other relative newcomers who are facing a more acute focus.

So yes, of course, we’re most excited to see the young guns fire away, but a few others will be under the microscope for different reasons.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

Paraguay is leaving some big names behind — Dario Lezcano, Jesus Medina, Edgar Benítez — but won’t be using as “B” or “C” of a squad as the USMNT. Key defenders Junior Alonso (Lille) and Gustavo Gomez (AC Milan) will be staring down the U.S. attack, while Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron will try his luck against the Yanks’ backs.

  1. The goalkeepers — With full respect to Bill Hamid and his five caps, the trio of backstops who could play against Paraguay are unknown entities on the senior international level. There are reasons to be excited about Alex Bono (Toronto FC) and Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew) going against Los Guaraníes — and Hamid, too — and standing behind a young and untested group of center backs should give plenty of chances to make a name for whoever is chosen (If Sarachan is more “woke” this go-round, it’ll be multiple keepers).
  2. Andriya Novakovich — The Telstar striker is checking all the boxes: 6-foot-4, productive on the youth level, and now succeeding overseas. The 21-year-old has 17 goals on loan from Reading in the Dutch second tier. While that’s far from a “Woah” figure considering the top-tier in the Netherlands isn’t exactly a defensive hot bed, it’s intriguing for Tuesday in North Carolina.
  3. Rubio Rubin — We’re hopeful Sarachan goes with a 4-4-2, which would allow both Rubin and Novakovich to get runs next to Bobby Wood. Rubin is seeing some time at Liga MX side Club Tijuana after his European adventure stalled following a hot start for Utrecht. He had an assist in CONCACAF Champions League play against Red Bulls this month.
  4. Tyler Adams — Speaking of that match, the Red Bulls got a goal from Adams. It’s fair to say he’s got the chance to be as special a player as Schalke youngster Weston McKennie (and would apparently like to join his USMNT teammate overseas). Adams and McKennie together could legit be an engine room for years. Will that begin on Tuesday?
  5. Cameron Carter-Vickers — The 20-year-old center back has shown resilience in England. His hot start to life at Sheffield United, on loan from Tottenham, cooled enough to have him sent back to North London, but Carter-Vickers has rebounded to become a key part of Ipswich Town’s back line. With 22-year-old Matt Miazga the only clear center back on the roster and older than him, CCV can quiet a lot of doubters.
  6. Kenny Saief — This guy has excited at nearly every turn since bursting onto the scene with Gent via the Israeli national team, and an injury cost him some momentum with the USMNT. Now healthy and on loan with Anderlecht, the same side which refined the fire of Sacha Kljestan, the once-capped Florida-born man is as intriguing as ever.

Season strugglers: Some ignominious PL performances

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tuesday found us breaking ties on our “Most Impactful Premier League Summer Buys” rankings by digging through some advanced statistics sites.

In doing so, something struck us: We rarely if ever check out which players are faring the worst when it comes to those next level numbers.

Ah, the international break: Good for off-the-wall posts.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back]

At the risk of kicking a player while he’s down, here are some negative numbers that stand out from the pack.

Of the 358 players who’ve played at least 10 Premier League matches, Joe Hart is having the worst season of the bunch according to Squawka. That’s a bit misleading due to how the site’s metrics operate, considering eight of the bottom 20 players are goalkeepers (and several, like Jonas Lossl and Jordan Pickford, are having outstanding campaigns).

So the unfortunate honor goes to Swansea defender Martin Olsson, who edges James McClean of West Brom for the infamy. Since the site does heap numbers on players by action accumulated, perhaps it’s better to single out the per-game and per-90 strugglers. Olsson and McClean are still very much near the bottom, but surprisingly Yannick Bolasie is the worst per game, and Swansea’s Wayne Routledge is having the least effective season per 90 minutes.

As for WhoScored, its metrics are hammering forwards, with Lys Mousset, Andre Gray, and Benik Afobe at the back of the back (ahead of McClean, again, who is a multi-site struggler).

These stats aren’t perfect, of course, and I like the idea of having McClean on my squad. But there are some other odds stats in the pack.

 These players might want to pass their next opportunity to the keeper. Of players with 10 or more shot attempts this season, Adam Lallana (11), Renato Sanches (12), Lewis Cook (14), and Dale Stephens (15) have failed to put a single shot on target.

— Of the 81 players who’ve tried their luck 30 times or more, these are the worst accuracy rates

— For perspective, Harry Kane has put 56 percent of his league-leading 162 shots on target, while second place man Mohamed Salah is 61 percent of 118.

— Defensive errors also can be increased significantly by the times a player is put under pressure by his team, which is why goalkeepers are high on Squawka’s list. Take them out, and you get a list with Spurs’ Eric Dier up top. Two of his six errors have led to goals against Tottenham, with Zanka (Huddersfield Town), Alfie Mawson (Swans), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), and Shane Duffy (Brighton) next with four errors.

Xabi Alonso denies Spanish accusations of tax fraud

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The list of players pursued by Spanish authorities crying tax fraud is starting to resemble a pretty good team,

Call it The Longest Yard: La Liga.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro support Morata ]

Xabi Alonso is being accused of not paying taxes on his image rights while a player at Real Madrid, joining Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo as World XI-caliber players who’ve faced legal troubles in Spain.

Jose Mourinho even had to travel to Spain earlier this season to face accusations from a Spanish court. Those found guilty have found punishment other than jail time.

Alonso denies any wrongdoing, according to Sky Sports:

Prosecutors say he defrauded the Spanish state of £1.75m between 2010 and 2012 and called for the same sentence to be applied to Alonso’s financial advisor Ivan Zaldua Azcuenaga and the administrator of consultancy shell company, Ignasi Maestre Casanova.

Iraq hosts friendly tournament after 3-decade FIFA ban

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
Leave a comment

BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq is hosting a friendly soccer tournament this week, with Syria and Qatar.

It comes just days after FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq hosting international competitions.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

An Iraq-Qatar match is to start Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra.

FIFA lifted the ban on Monday for Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil, considered to be the safest in Iraq – but not the capital, Baghdad, which still sees frequent militant attacks.

Iraq’s minister of youth and sports, Abdul-Hussein Abtan, congratulated the Iraqi people following FIFA’s move and said it would change how Iraq is viewed in the region and beyond.

While the ban was in place, Iraq was still able to host friendly games and tournaments.