PST USMNT Man of the Match: Michael Bradley

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The USMNT may have struggled against Brazil (falling 4-1 in Landover), but those hardships were not evenly shared throughout the team. Fabian Johnson continues to make national team fans forget his short-lived predecessor, while a familiar face continues to show he deeserves to be considered amongst the team’s “Big Two.”

For some time, that Big Two has been Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, but after an eye opening year in Serie A and consistently stellar performances since his re-integration into the national team, Michael Bradley’s begged the question: Who is Jurgen Klinsmann’s best player?

The question’s not as silly as it sounds. Dempsey deserves credit for everything he’s done for both club and country, but on Saturday against Scotland, Bradley showed he can drive a team in the absence of the USMNT’s biggest weapon. And even though Landon Donovan put in great performance in Jacksonville, he was off his game on Wednesday. Under Klinsmann (particularly during the strong run the team put in ahead of Brazil), the U.S. showed there’s some semblance of a life without Landon.

You can’t say the same about Bradley. In fact, it’s been the opposite, wit the U.S.’s recent success coming after Bradley settled in at Chievo. Club stability coincided with a return to the national team, when Bradley immediately reclaimed his spot in the midfield pecking order. It was only after the (still only) 24-year-old was integrated into Klinsmann’s plans that the U.S. started to resemble the hard working, pressing, possessing side the coach advertises.

More U.S.-Brazil: Trio to talkers after Wednesday’s friendly

Against Brazil, there wasn’t much pressing, and when the U.S. was possessing, it wasn’t for long. But Bradley’s quality still stood out. Along with Johnson, Bradley was one of the few States’ players competing at the same level as their counterparts. His confidence on the ball was evident as he tested Brazil’s defense with 30-yard probes, trying to find Herculez Gomez running behind Juan and Thiago Silva.

And Bradley had more than the long ball in this repertoire. On the U.S.’s only goal, he made the right read to get forward, play the ball to the line and utilize Johnson’s speed in the buildup to Gomez’s goal. It may have looked like an obvious play, but there are a lot of midfielders who could have unloaded (and probably put the ball into the stands). Given the goal Bradley scored against Scotland, he would have been forgiven for doing the same.

There weren’t many highlights on Wednesday, but the few times we saw fire from the U.S., Michael Bradley provided the spark. If he’s not the U.S.’s best player, the conversation at least needs to expand. The conversation’s no longer about “Big Two.” The U.S. has a “Big Three.”

Croatia smashes disheveled Argentina

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Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic have Croatia in the knockout rounds and Argentina on the verge of World Cup disaster.

Croatia scored a pair of second half goals, one aided by a Willy Caballero howler, in a 2-0 win in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.

Argentina will enter its final match against Nigeria on the outskirts of the knockout rounds regardless of how Nigeria-Iceland ends on Friday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Ivan Perisic forced a big save out of Wily Caballero for an early Croatia corner kick that came to nothing.

Messi had a chance stopped inside of 10 minutes, then started a play that Dejan Lovren blocked for a corner in the 13th.

Enzo Perez missed an open goal off a poor Croatia giveaway in the 30th minute.

There were a pair of fouls not out of place on a red card lowlight reel, one for each team, but neither resulting in a sending off.

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Croatia took the lead through Caballero’s gaffe and Rebic’s smash in the 54th.

Argentina nearly answered moments later. After a mazy Messi dribble, Argentina regained possession in the 64th minute, spearheaded by a Gonzalo Higuain run that led to a corner.

Croatia came close to making it 2-0, as Mario Mandzukic couldn’t turn a flick on frame and instead saw it glide into the outside of the goal.

Then Modric put the match to bed as the clock hit 80, an absolute beauty. Another huge defensive mistake allowed Mateo Kovacic to cue up Rakitic for the third.

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WATCH: Caballero blunder punished as Rebic rip puts Argentina on ropes

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Willy Caballero has made one of the bigger blunders in recent World Cup history.

His Argentina side needs at least a point from Thursday’s match-up with Croatia, and the match remained scoreless into halftime.

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But 10 minutes after the break, Caballero flubbed a clearance in a big way.

The Argentina goalkeeper then could only watch as Ante Rebic kept his composure to blast a side volley into the goal.

It was a fine finish, to be sure, but not possible without such a terrible gaffe.

Transfer rumor roundup: Chelsea in for Pjanic; Lozano to Juventus?

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Pro Soccer Talk examines some of Thursday’s top transfer stories, including a Premier League giant looking to add to its midfield.

[ MORE: Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Luis Suarez ]


Chelsea could be set to join Barcelona in the race for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, according to the Daily Mail.

The Blues and new manager Maurizio Sarri are said to be open to looking to Serie A to solve some of the team’s troubled areas, including in the center of the park to join France international N'Golo Kante.

Sarri is already said to be keen on signing Napoli star Dries Mertens, whom he has coached for several years at the Stadio San Paolo


Meanwhile, Juve has interest in a World Cup star, with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano attracting significant looks from around the world.

Lozano scored for El Tri in their 1-0 victory over Germany to open their 2018 World Cup campaign, and has become an instant star in the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.

PSV would reportedly be willing to complete a deal if the Serie A champions shell out over $40 million.


Sticking with Juve, Emre Can‘s move to the Turin side appears to be close to finalization.

Can is set to have a medical in Italy on Thursday, as the 24-year-old anticipates completing a five-year contract with the Serie A giants.


Finally, West Ham United is looking to add to its attacking options next season, and the club could be nearing a record move.

Lazio winger Felipe Anderson is reportedly set to come to the London Stadium in 2018/19 as the Hammers prepare a $46 million deal.

Anderson tallied four goals in 21 Serie A matches last season for the Biancocelesti.

RB Leipzig names Julian Nagelsmann future manager

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Julian Nagelsmann won’t take over at his new club until the 2019/20 season, but Red Bull Leipzig has put a lot of confidence in one of the youngest managers in global football.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s tally gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

On Thursday, the Bundesliga side announced the appointment of the Hoffenheim coach, who will continue in his current capacity for the upcoming 2018/19 German campaign.

Nagelsmann signs on with Leipzig until the conclusion of the 2022/23 season.

The 30-year-old has spent two seasons managing Hoffenheim, guiding the club to back-to-back top-four finishes in the Bundesliga.

Leipzig is currently without a manager ahead of the next season, so it remains unclear who will take over until Nagelsmann assumes his role in 2019.