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Player ratings from USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Mexico

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The U.S. national team secured itself a massive point away to Mexico, inside Estadio Azteca, Sunday night, with many thanks to a handful of standout defensive performances, and a legend-securing performance from its captain.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

GK — Brad Guzan: 5/10 — With Mexico putting just one shot on target all night, Guzan didn’t make a single save. Someone else may have done better on the goal, but it’s a tough one to fault the goalkeeper for when so many things went wrong in front of him.

CB — Tim Ream: 6/10 — Of the three center backs chosen by Bruce Arena, Ream was challenged the least as the majority of Mexico’s advances came down the right side of defense. When called upon, though, Ream was solid, and was rarely isolated and hardly put a foot wrong.

CB — Geoff Cameron: 8/10 — On every occasion that emergency defending was required, it was Cameron who made the last-man clearance, interception or tackle all night long. Playing in the middle of three center backs really suits his strengths — passing out of the back, recovery runs, and one-on-one challenges — and covers up any shortcomings as an aerial dueler.

CB — Omar Gonzalez: 7/10 — Someone had to dominate the air as Mexico opted to play long diagonal balls into and around the USMNT penalty area, and Gonzalez was up to the task. Again, it’s a three-man unit which puts everyone into their own best possible role.

LM — DaMarcus Beasley: 5/10 — It should be said, Beasley retired from international soccer in 2014, played a farewell game in 2015, and was called upon to start the qualifier away to Mexico in 2017. Any shortcomings are hardly a Beasley problem. That said, he got beat pretty badly on Carlos Vela’s goal.

RM — DeAndre Yedlin: 5/10 — Matching up one on one with Irving Lozano is a challenge few full backs in the world would relish, and Yedlin struggled a fair bit early on before recovering nicely, even if with little impact, to last all 90 minutes.

[ WATCH: Bradley stunning chip beats the GK from 40 yards ]

CM — Michael Bradley: 9/10 — From the goal, to the near-god-status-sealing goal, to his breaking up of play in the middle of the field, Bradley was far and away the Yanks’ best player. It’s amazing the kind of performances he’s capable of putting forth with a willing and able runner alongside him in midfield.

CM — Kellyn Acosta: 6/10 — Plain and simple, Acosta makes Bradley, the USMNT’s most polarizing and important player, better. He was perfectly cast by Arena as someone who can cover acres and excel at playing runners into space on the counter. That said, it was his failure to take a chance-killing yellow that allowed the sequence which led to Mexico’s goal to continue.

LW — Christian Pulisic: 6/10 — It was Pulisic’s first “big game” for the USMNT, and his performance was mostly what you’d expect from an 18-year-old in a setting like Azteca: largely invisible with a handful of bright individual moments sprinkled throughout. The counter-attacking game doesn’t quite suit a player of Pulisic’s skill, so we’ll chalk it up as a learning experience.

RW — Paul Arriola: 6/10 — Though deployed as an “attacker,” Arriola’s real purpose in this one was provide defensive cover in front of DeAndre Yedlin, and the Club Tijuana man did just that through 45 minutes. His legs were all but gone in the second half, though, and he last just 20 more minutes.

FW — Bobby Wood: 5/10 — Reason for Wood’s inclusion was clear: he offers the speed you need when sitting deep and looking for chances to counter. Those moments rarely presented themselves, though, and he ended up the least involved player on the field.

[ RECAP: Resolute USMNT earns its point at Azteca ]

Sub — Darlington Nagbe: 4/10 — The only player who saw the field and truly struggled, Nagbe entered a frenetic, back-and-forth game at a really difficult time (64th minute, just as both sides were kissing discipline goodbye and engaging in an end-to-end affair. There are reasons, but it was easily Nagbe’s worst showing in a USMNT kit.

Sub — Jozy Altidore: 5/10 — Seven touches after coming on as a 79th-minute substitute, and just one pass completed. It was a key pass, though, and led to Pulisic finding a bit of open space and firing wide in the 89th minute.

Sub — Graham Zusi: N/A — 92nd-minute sub, brought on solely to run the clock down in stoppage time.

Head coach — Bruce Arena: 10/10 — The kind of gameplan and in-game management the USMNT has been missing since the summer of 2011, and maybe longer.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday