Eric Lichaj

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His name is Gunner: Lichaj gets his dog despite no hat trick

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Oh, the magic of the Cup…

Eric Lichaj‘s greatest wish in life — to welcome a brand new member, of the canine variety, into his family — has finally come true.

[ MORE: Wenger says no approaches for Alexis Sanchez… yet ]

After scoring a brace (including this stunning volley from the edge of the box — WATCH HERE) in Nottingham Forest’s 4-2 victory over Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday, Lichaj told the post-game television interviewer, “My wife told me that if I score a hat trick this year, I can get a dog. … I was trying to get the penalty, but Vaughany (David Vaughan) told me politely to go away.”

On Monday, the entire footballing world — from fans of Forest, to fans of other clubs and even teammates — got behind the cause and helped Lichaj promote the #getericadog hashtag.

It worked. (Look away, Arsenal fans, for the newest member of the Lichaj family is named… Gunner. Yes, really.)

Relax, it was just banter.

FA Cup Roundup: Forest stuns Arsenal, Spurs roll, West Ham held

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League One side Shrewsbury Town impressed against West Ham, Spurs rode Harry Kane to victory, and a weak Arsenal lineup slumped to an embarrassing defeat on the road as the FA Cup third round continued on Sunday.

In the early game, West Ham had almost nothing going forward against the League One opposition, with Shrewsbury out-possessing the Hammers 56%-44% at home and they out-shot their Premier League opponents 9-4. Joe Hart was forced to make a pair of saves within a minute near the end of the first half while wearing a baseball cap to keep the game scoreless in what proved to be the best two chances of the game.

City Ground was the site of the day’s biggest upset as Nottingham Forest downed Arsenal 4-2 thanks to a pair of goals from American international Eric Lichaj. He struck first 20 minutes in when the defender snuck behind the entire defensive pack on a lateral set-piece and headed home right on the doorstep to put Notthingham Forest 1-0 up.

[ VIDEO: USMNT defender Eric Lichaj scores brilliant volley against Arsenal ]

The Gunners responded almost immediately as Per Mertesacker capitalized on the scramble after a Theo Walcott free-kick hit the post via the head of Rob Holding, but it would’t hold. Lichaj struck again just before halftime in absolutely stunning fashion with a wonderful volley into the top corner for a 2-1 lead. Forest would add some insurance past the hour mark as Rob Holding fouled Matthew Cash in the penalty area and dangerous 18-year-old Ben Brereton deservedly converted from the spot, sending David Ospina the wrong way.

Arsenal held 70% possession throughout the match, but the weak side that included Mathieu Debuchy, Mohamed Elneny, Reiss Nelson, and Theo Walcott managed just two shots on target until the 79th minute when Danny Welbeck pulled out a consolation, but again it didn’t last as Mathieu Debuchy fouled Armand Traore in the area and Kieran Dowell roofed it despite slipping. On the other end, Forest looked the side with more cutting edge as Brereton and his supporting cast looked far more dangerous against Holding and Mertesacker. They were reduced to 10 men with a minute left in regulation after Joe Worrall was given a second yellow for a bad foul, but they held on strong.

And finally, it took Tottenham an hour to break through, but Spurs eased by AFC Wimbledon 3-0 on a quickfire double from – who else – Harry Kane. The England star scored in the 63rd minute and again in the 65th minute to put Spurs well in front. Defender Jan Vertonghen put the game away six minutes later to put Spurs three-up. Kane started next to new signing Fernando Llorente, but the Spaniard struggled to have an effect on the game.

VIDEO: USMNT veteran Lichaj scores beautiful volley vs. Arsenal

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Eric Lichaj already had one goal to his name in the FA Cup match against Arsenal. By a defender’s standards, that was already surprising.

It wasn’t enough for the American.

Lichaj deposited an absolutely stunning volley into the top corner of the net to give Nottingham Forest a 2-1 halftime lead over Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger helplessly watching from the stands amid a touchline ban.

A cross into the box by Ben Osborne meant for the head of the dangerous Ben Brereton was cleared by a pair of Arsenal defenders, but only to the top of the box. There, Lichaj collected the clear by chesting the ball to himself and volleying it before it hit the ground. He hit the ball spectacularly, looping it over the defense and leaving goalkeeper David Ospina crumbling to his ankles.

Lichaj earlier in the match had put Forest 1-0 up 20 minutes in when he headed home a free-kick. The 29-year-old expertly snuck in behind the entire defensive pack and used the 2-man Arsenal wall to play himself onside. Kieran Dowell sent in the free-kick, and Lichaj crashed the ball into the back of the net despite a heavy challenge by Ospina.

The goal was good enough to get Lichaj trending on Twitter worldwide.

The pair of goals on the day up Lichaj’s goal tally to three on the season for Forest, coming into today with just one on the campaign so far. It’s also one more than he has for the US national team in his 13 caps for his country. He goes for the hat-trick in the second half as Forest looks to hold off what will surely be plenty of pressure from the Gunners. Nottingham Forest has conceded 42 goals in Championship play so far, just two less than the most in the league.

USMNT player ratings: Youth drives the bus

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Player ratings from the U.S. national team’s exhibition clash with Portugal, the reigning European champions, and the first game of a very long four years as the USMNT rebuilds from the ground up with two eyes toward the 2022 World Cup…

[ VIDEO: McKennie scores on his USMNT debut… and a Horvath howler ]

GK — Ethan Horvath: 3 — Hit the above link to see Horvath’s calamitous howler. That ain’t a great way to begin your bid to take over the no. 1 shirt from Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Subbed off at halftime, which was the plan before kickoff, hopefully Hovath’s confidence isn’t too badly damaged without the chance to redeem himself immediately.

RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 6 — The best thing that can be said of Yedlin is this: you know what you’re going to get from him every time he steps on the field these days, and that’s something you couldn’t always say of the 24-year-old. He’s a constant presence and performer, and should have the right back spot locked down for much of the next two World Cup cycles.

CB — Matt Miazga: 6.5 — The best part of Miazga’s game is how quickly he reads, and reacts to, dangerous situations. There’s no one in the player pool who defends on the front foot as much as Miazga. As such, he’ll always require a partner who’s a brilliant emergency defender, which is hardly the strength of John Brooks, given his size and lack of recovery speed.

CB — John Brooks: 6.5 — Seeing Brooks on the field after three months out with a thigh injury only served as a reminder that his presence might have made a massive difference last month — not that they shouldn’t have been able to qualify without him, mind you. According to recently departed head coach Bruce Arena, Brooks and Miazga could have very well been the starting duo in Russia; with any luck, the same will be true of Qatar in four years’ time.

LB — Eric Lichaj: 5.5 — While Lichaj is somehow, against all odds, still only 28 years old, he’ll be 32 years old when the next World Cup begins. If he’s called into the next two or three USMNT camps, we’ll take serious the possibility he’s an option in the medium- to short-term. Until then, he’s starting at left back simply because someone has to.

[ RECAP: USMNT draw Portugal in first game of 2022 WC cycle ]

CM — Danny Williams: 7 — With the leash cut all the way off of Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta ahead of him, Williams had but one job against Portugal: protect the backline when the youngsters’ press is broken. It happened on a few occasions, and Williams put out the majority of those fires. It’s a trio that lacks a true playmaker — the sexy factor, if you will — but proved highly functional for the 84 minutes they shared the field.

RM — Tyler Adams: 6 — Adams, uh, struggled in the first half (see passing chart, at right — that’s a whole lot of red arrows). He started the second half of his USMNT debut much brighter, though, as he got on the end of Danny Williams’ cross to the back post and forced Beto to make a spectacular, sprawling save. Adams is still a player with a “permanent position,” thus an important period of his development lies directly ahead. In 2017, we saw him play at least one game at all three levels wide on the right, in central midfield, and the based of the midfield.

CM — Weston McKennie: 8 — The 19-year-old Schalke midfielder 1) scored a goal on his debut; 2) smashed the crossbar with a header from close range; and, most importantly, 3) provided a bit of renewed excitement around the USMNT. McKennie and Acosta proved a formidable central midfield pairing, capable of pressing high up the field and pushing the tempo. Where they struggled, however, was in unlocking further advanced attackers into the final third. That will, in theory, come with time and repetition — two things the USMNT has in abundance over the next 18-30 months.

CM — Kellyn Acosta: 6.5 — Acosta and McKennie had very similar games to one another, with the obvious exception of McKennie’s goal and near-goal. Given that Acosta is three years McKennie’s senior, you’d have hoped to see a bit more connectivity from his side of the field. Alas, no such luck in this one.

LM — Juan Agudelo: 5.5 — The good: in his 59 minutes on the field, Agudelo misplaces just three passes. The bad: not a single one of his 15 completed passes was played in the forward direction (in fact, not a single one of his 18 attempted passes was played forward). He’s already a tough fit on the wing further forward; playing the 24-year-old (yes, really) even deeper seems an impossible exercise to assess.

[ MORE: Brooks-Miazga the center-back partnership of the future ]

FW — C.J. Sapong: 5.5 — With the midfield set up to create turnovers and chances on the counter, Sapong’s physical presence and accompanying hold-up play was hardly a perfect fit, but he made the most of his very limited opportunities.

Sub — Bill Hamid: 6 — Only forced to make two saves — both routine — in his 45 minutes on the field, Hamid managed to avoid hurting his stock.

Sub — Cameron Carter-Vickers: 5 — While Miazga’s strength is the speed with which he reads the game, the polar opposite must be said for Carter-Vickers, thus he’s not terribly suited to play alongside Miazga. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see them play together.

Portugal 1-1 USMNT: New era begins

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  • USMNT returns after World Cup debacle
  • McKennie, CCV, Adams earn 1st caps
  • McKennie scores from Sapong assist

Weston McKennie’s goal on debut was the highlight of a disjointed but encouraging 1-1 draw for the United states men’s national team in Portugal on Tuesday.

The match was the United States’ first since its historic loss in Trinidad and Tobago last month, and interim boss Dave Sarachan oversaw a young and spirited effort.

Vitorino Antunes leveled for the Portuguese before halftime, a significant error from American backstop Ethan Horvath.

[ WATCH: McKennie goal, Horvath howler ]

CJ Sapong and Kellyn Acosta took early attempts for the U.S., and Portugal was forced into a 10th minute sub when Pepe was injured.

The first 10 minutes were understandably frantic with two clubs with any fine tuning together, and Eric Lichaj bailed out an indecisive Ethan Horvath in the early goings.

DeAndre Yedlin had a few shaky moments at right back thanks to RB Leipzig forward Bruma.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ]

The Yanks had a promising move flutter when Tyler Adams couldn’t get full muster on a cut back from CJ Sapong. Beto made the save.

That’s when the Americans went ahead following a center circle interception by Acosta. Sapong raced down the left and side-footed a pass for McKennie, who worked a defender before beating Beto to the near post. Slick stuff.

[ RELATED: PST talks with McKennie ]

Horvath had been inactive before a massive error in the 31st minute. A knuckling shot dipped between his legs and trickled past John Brooks’ sliding clearance. 1-1.

The keeper made a nice collection of a Bruno Fernandes blast in the 35th minute, as this attempt didn’t dip enough. And he’d be called on for another save off a bad giveaway in the 39th.

Brooks hammered a header into the goal off a Kellyn Acosta set piece, but a foul on Miazga pulled the marker off the board before it got there.

Subs at the break: Bill Hamid for Horvath, and Cameron Carter-Vickers for Brooks. Portugal inserted Joao Mario for Fernandes.

Williams’ left-footed cross deflected to Adams, whose header saw a terrific save by Beto.

The ensuing corner saw McKennie head off the bar, and the rebound was cleared before Miazga could attempt a follow-up.

It was still 1-1 in the 59th minute, when Lynden Gooch and Jorge Villafana entered the fray for an ineffective Juan Agudelo and solid Eric Lichaj.

Man City’s Bernardo Silva stripped McKennie in a dangerous place to force Hamid into a fingertip save on Gonçalo Paciência, and Portugal couldn’t convert on the ensuing corner kick.

Carter-Vickers almost maneuvered a free kick home in the 72nd minute, but Beto’s karate kick save led to another corner.