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Player ratings: USMNT’s World Cup dreams are dead

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The U.S. national team has been eliminated from contention for the 2018 World Cup. It’s a dark night in the history of American soccer, one that will surely cost this sport in this country a healthy heaping of momentum.

These are the men, along with Bruce Arena, Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati, who will bear the brunt of the backlash over the coming days, weeks, months and years…

[ MORE: Three things we learned | Arena: “No excuses. We failed.” ]

GK — Tim Howard: 2 — We’ve known all along that Howard would be 39 when the next World Cup rolls around, yet very little has been done to usher in his replacement. Even Brad Guzan, admittedly largely through fault of his own, has been cast aside in favor of a 36-, 37- and now 38-year-old Howard. He showed his age like never before in the first half.

RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 5 — Yedlin was the USMNT’s lone danger man in the first half, as he bombed forward and caused problem’s for T&T, but the final ball was ultimately lacking in quality. His goal-line clearance early in the second half kept the score 2-1.

CB — Omar Gonzalez: 3 — His early own goal aside, Gonzalez was a colossal disaster for the second straight game. Geoff Cameron clearly wasn’t fit enough to go in either of these two games, and while that’s understandable, it’s equally frightening to consider Gonzalez will be one minor injury away from starting games with such consequence.

CB — Matt Besler: 4 — Here’s a snippet of what I wrote about Besler on Friday: Didn’t struggle as badly as Gonzalez, mostly because he’s more accustomed to playing in open space, but playing alongside Gonzalez really highlights his most problematic deficiency: a minor lack of pace and athleticism. Yup.

LB — Jorge Villafaña: 5 — Hey, now we’ve got almost five full years to find the left back of the future.

[ RECAP: USMNT eliminated from World Cup contention ]

CM — Michael Bradley: 5 — No man can play the entire central midfield on his own, but here we are, asking Bradley to do it again and again and again.

CM — Paul Arriola: 5 — Arriola’s role in this midfield is to win second balls, and harass and harry when he fails to win second balls. He did neither in this game, and he was understandably sacrificed at halftime.

CM — Darlington Nagbe: 4 —It was Nagbe who was criminally out of position in the build-up to T&T’s second goal, giving Alvin Jones an uncontested 30-yard buffer in midfield. Nagbe’s inclusion as a central midfielder is warranted when the USMNT has plenty of meaningful possession, but in a game like this one where it’s disjointed and all about the second ball, he’s kind of just… out there.

CM — Christian Pulisic: 6 — His early second-half goal brought the USMNT back into the game, but that was it from the wonderkid on Tuesday. T&T forced him deeper and deeper — often times 20 and 30 and 40 yards inside his own half — just to get on the ball. There’s not a whole lot he’s going to do for you back there.

[ VIDEO: Gonzalez’s early own goal | Howard caught napping ]

FW — Jozy Altidore: 4 — Pulisic being forced deeper and deeper has a knock-on effect for Altidore, who then must drop deeper and deeper to find the ball himself. He’s a playmaker and a good link in the hole, but what’s there to link inside the center circle when your no. 10 is far deeper himself?

FW — Bobby Wood: 4 — Just as there’s a knock-on effect between Pulisic and Altidore, there also exists one between Altidore and Wood, who relies on Altidore circulating the ball in dangerous areas to make his own channel runs useful. Without that meaningful possession and passing from Altidore, Wood is left to do a whole lot of standing around.

SUB — Clint Dempsey: 5.5 — Dempsey was less a tactical change, and more a “please just go make something happen” halftime sub. He took up unexpected spots in the final third, which caused a few problems, and hit the post with 15 minutes to go, but that was about it.

SUB —Kellyn Acosta: 5 — Brought on for Villafaña, Acosta essentially played alongside Bradley and left the defense in a back-three setup. Why Dax McCarty, the man who so successfully partnered Bradley late in the game on Friday, wasn’t brought on instead is known by Arena and only Arena.

SUB —Benny Feilhaber: N/A — Brought on six minutes from the end of regular time, Feilhaber had insufficient time to make an impact.

Klopp: Liverpool “not 500 miles away” from Man City’s standard

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Jurgen Klopp remains bullish on his Liverpool’s credentials as one of the Premier League’s top-four sides title challengers this season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

While everyone else might be writing off the Reds due to their propensity for defensive disasters on an every-game basis, Klopp refuses to concede that a gap of “500 miles” exists between his side and Manchester City, the early-days runaway leaders of the 2017-18 season — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t compare City with us, but I think everyone can see we are not 500 miles away. But they fly. It was a very decisive day when we lost 5-0. Dealing with a 5-0 defeat is not the easiest thing. We didn’t lose confidence but we were not that fluent afterwards and it was not like we could close our eyes and finish [thinking about it]. They did exactly the opposite. I saw the Stoke goals, you see the shot from Fernandinho and you think, ‘If it works, it works even like this.’ They are a fantastic team and we don’t have to compare, but it starts so early again with us having to apologize for the season so far because one team is flying.”

“Their way of football I would say is not something we are too far away from but to be as clinical as they have been so far? We weren’t.

“That’s the thing. We are still in the race, not with City in the moment because they have I don’t how many points, and I don’t say already that we should only fight for a top-four place. Performance-wise we are a team that should be there but now we have to get the results.”

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

All due respect to Klopp and Liverpool, the league table says City currently have 25 points (having played one game more), while Liverpool have 13. That’s not a difference of 500 points, but taking into account not only results but performances, it might as well be.

Ligue 1: Falcao, Balde score to keep Monaco close to PSG

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PARIS (AP) French champion Monaco got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against Caen on Saturday.

Monaco lost three and drew one of its previous four games in all competitions. But coach Leonardo Jardim’s side was largely in control against a Caen side that started brightly and faded after Keita Balde’s opening goal and first for Monaco.

“It was important to win, to get a bit of confidence back,” Jardim said. “We’ve been working hard and the players were very serious today.”

Captain Radamel Falcao scored his league-leading 13th from the penalty spot in the 59th, confidently sending goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way.

The win moved second-place Monaco within three points of Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more. Unbeaten PSG is away at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Falcao’s partnership with teen star Kylian Mbappe was crucial to Monaco’s charge to the league title and the Champions League semifinals last season. Mbappe left to join PSG in a high-profile move — as did several other key players — but Falcao’s new partnership with the unselfish Balde looks a promising one.

“We’ve lost a few players and we need a bit of time, it’s been a bit difficult for us,” Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic said. “I hope we can stay at the top of the table and that the young players can shine. We have a lot of quality here.”

Balde has been sharp in his handful of appearances since joining from Lazio in the offseason, but mainly as a link player and a provider.

This time, the Senegal forward finished off the move as he ran onto Thomas Lemar’s perfectly weighted pass into his path, cut across a defender on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

Lemar almost created another goal when his corner was headed against the crossbar by Brazilian defender Jemerson late in the first half.

Falcao put the game beyond doubt from the spot after Slovenian midfielder Jan Repas fouled attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.


After a tricky start to his tenure at Nantes, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has turned things around.

Nantes beat Guingamp 2-1 at home to move up to third place, extending Ranieri’s unbeaten run to eight matches after losing the first two.

Nantes, which scored through defender Chidozie Awaziem and midfielder Abdoulaye Toure, is just two points behind Monaco.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.