Early take-aways from United States win over Guatemala

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KANSAS CITY — United States soccer team moved into final-round World Cup qualifying with a 3-1 win Tuesday over Guatemala in Kansas City. Here are some initial thoughts on the night as the United States’ drive toward its seventh consecutive World Cup (all of them since 1986) is now into its final push.

  • Advancing was always Job 1 on Tuesday, to get the result that propels them into the final six in regional World Cup qualifying. So, that’s a big check-plus. All the critical, comprehensive analysis can (and will) come later, because the second round was harder than most people expected. But for now, everyone can breathe a little. The United States will join Jamaica from this group in next year’s final stage.
  • Guatemala is out, obviously. They simply could not get the draw they came into Kansas City to get.
  • For all the face-twisting and teeth gnashing, the United States finished atop the group.
  • There were lots of good individual performances, as there rightly should have been against an outmanned bunch from Guatemala. Danny Williams and Michael Bradley performed well in the middle. Graham Zusi – those weren’t boos, they were yelling “Zuuus” for the hometown hero – added a lot on the outside, working well once again with right back Steve Cherundolo. And Clint Dempsey’s two goals speak for themselves; yes, they were tap-ins, but getting yourself in the right spots means a lot.
  • In the match that mattered, Bradley and Williams were the central midfield preferences for U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann. If we’re guessing, and unless Stuart Holden can get healthy and say something about it, that certainly is looking like the preferred central pairing for the final round and, if they make it, for Brazil 2014.
  • It must have been awfully frustrating in the late going for the Guatemalans, who had precious few chances on to gather themselves offensive and move forward over the last 20 minutes. That was credit to the U.S. ability to keep the ball, with Bradley orchestrating the drive to keep possession. Along with Williams, Dempsey and Cherundolo (and others, but those in particular), they kept the ball moving at a good pace – away from the tiring visitors, which was the important part.
  • All this high tech fitness stuff must be good for something. The United States clearly had more gas left in the tank after 65 or 70 minutes, when the Guatemalans wilted down to practically nothing. Even with the knowledge that they desperately needed goals, the visitors could do very little in terms of bothering the U.S. back line.
  • Lots of Americans – heck, lots of folks around the CONCACAF region – are celebrating this little dandy bit tonight: This was probably the last we’ll ever see of Carlos Ruiz in World Cup Qualifying. Truly, he may be the most infuriating player in the world.
  • No one on the field, on either side, has the sophistication to run the midfield like Bradley. His work throughout the match was tactically sound and technically adept, playing more offensively (slightly ahead of Williams) early, and then alongside in a more conventional 4-4-2 in the second half. And that third U.S. goal, all the way through, from the swell dummy to the delicate little chip over the goalkeeper, was top-class stuff.
  • In all honesty, it’s fair to begin asking if Carlos Bocanegra can play at this level anymore? He’s playing in the Spanish second division, and on a bad team at that. So, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the speed of the international game catches him sometimes unawares.
  • It certainly did on that first goal, when the U.S. back line was all over the place. The line was too high, Bocanegra and Cameron were too far apart and then the U.S. captain simply didn’t have the foot speed to catch … Ruiz? Ruiz is a lot of things, but “fast” isn’t one of them.
  • Klinsmann: “We didn’t need to take that first goal. The good thing was the response. We turned it right around.”

Bundesliga wrap: Alcacer, BVB stays hot; Lewandowski feasts again

Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP
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Borussia Dortmund moved to a league-best 20 points on Saturday, ensuring that we’ll have a table leader not named Bayern Munich when the calendar turns to November.

[ VIDEO: Mourinho reacts to taunting, skirmish ]


Stuttgart 0-4 Borussia Dortmund

It’s been a very good time to be a supporter or member of Borussia Dortmund, who leads the table after another convincing win.

Red-hot Paco Alcacer now has seven goals in four Bundesliga matches after scoring the third goal on Saturday, while Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, and Marvin Philipp also scored for the visitors.

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic returned to the fold for BVB, subbing into the match and providing an assist on Philipp’s 85th minute marker.

Schalke 0-2 Werder Bremen

Josh Sargent wasn’t on the bench for the visitors, but American teammate Weston McKennie did start for the hosts. McKennie covered the second-most ground in the contest, winning 14 tackles. He converted 19 of 24 passes and did not register a shot.

Unfortunately, the match wasn’t much to write home about for his side. Bremen got goals from Maximilian Egglestein on each side of halftime to grab another win on the young season.

Wolfsburg 1-3 Bayern Munich

Niko Kovac will be happy to get a decisive win after the international break, with James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski scoring in the win. Lewandowski’s brace included an absolute gift.

For Wolfsburg, USMNT center back John Brooks won tackles and completed 48 of his 53 passes, while Wout Weghorst scored its lone goal.

Elsewhere
Eintracht Frankfurt 7-1 Fortuna Dusseldorf — RECAP
Augsburg 0-0 RB Leipzig
Nurmberg 1-3 Hoffenheim
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Mainz — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 8 6 2 0 27 8 19 4-0-0 2-2-0 20
 Werder Bremen 8 5 2 1 15 8 7 2-2-0 3-0-1 17
 Bayern Munich 8 5 1 2 15 9 6 2-1-1 3-0-1 16
 RB Leipzig 8 4 3 1 16 9 7 3-1-0 1-2-1 15
 Mönchengladbach 7 4 2 1 15 9 6 3-0-0 1-2-1 14
 Hertha BSC Berlin 7 4 2 1 12 7 5 3-0-0 1-2-1 14
 Eintracht Frankfurt 8 4 1 3 19 12 7 2-1-1 2-0-2 13
 1899 Hoffenheim 8 3 1 4 14 13 1 1-1-2 2-0-2 10
 FC Augsburg 8 2 3 3 14 13 1 1-2-1 1-1-2 9
 FSV Mainz 05 7 2 3 2 4 4 0 2-2-0 0-1-2 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 8 2 3 3 11 14 -3 1-2-2 1-1-1 9
 SC Freiburg 7 2 2 3 9 13 -4 1-2-1 1-0-2 8
 Bayer Leverkusen 8 2 2 4 9 15 -6 1-1-2 1-1-2 8
 1. FC Nürnberg 8 2 2 4 8 19 -11 2-1-1 0-1-3 8
 Hannover 96 8 1 3 4 10 16 -6 1-1-1 0-2-3 6
 FC Schalke 04 8 2 0 6 5 11 -6 1-0-3 1-0-3 6
 VfB Stuttgart 8 1 2 5 6 17 -11 1-1-2 0-1-3 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 8 1 2 5 6 18 -12 1-0-3 0-2-2 5

What we learned from Saturday’s Premier League games

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Eight games took place in the Premier League on Saturday as Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool secured wins, while a dramatic draw between Chelsea and Manchester United took center stage.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

All of that means that Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea remain unbeaten and this is just the third time in history that three teams are without a defeat throughout the opening nine weeks of a season.

Below is a look at the key takeaways from another frantic day across the PL.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights


Mourinho should loosen Man United’s shackles

Manchester United have been at their best this season when they’re in desperation mode. That was the case at Chelsea on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho’s men fought their way back into the game in the second half and Anthony Martial finished superbly twice to put them 2-1 up. Of course, United conceded twice from set piece situations as Paul Pogba lost his man Antonio Rudiger for the first and a lofted second ball into the box in the 96th minute eventually saw Ross Barkley equalize. That will annoy Mourinho but what will please him is that he was rewarded for starting with an attacking lineup with Pogba, Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford all in the starting XI. United pinned Chelsea back in the second half and the hard-working displays of Rashford and Martial out wide stopped Chelsea’s full backs from joining the attack.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned | Mourinho reacts to draw ]

The main takeaway from this draw at Chelsea is that perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem at United. Mourinho was set to be sacked two weeks ago and we will never know if that dramatic 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle saved his job. What we do know is that the fact United were disappointed to not grab all three points at Chelsea shows they’re moving in the right direction. Will Mourinho now set up his team in a more attacking system from here on out? Let’s not push it now, but the signs are promising that they can get back on track.


Tottenham win ugly once again

Spurs have been far from scintillating this season but after their 1-0 win at West Ham, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have ground out four wins on the spin and have now won seven of their opening nine games of the campaign. For a team missing Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose from their starting lineup at West Ham, that’s not bad. Hugo Lloris denied Marko Arnautovic on three occasions in the second half in a feisty London derby as two squad players delivered on the key moment. Moussa Sissoko did well on the right and crossed for Erik Lamela to nod home what turned out to be the game-winner. Harry Kane wasn’t at his best but he didn’t need to be as Spurs dug deep to grab another ugly win. It hasn’t been pretty from Tottenham so far but they’re two points behind leaders Man City and given the issues surrounding their stadium delay and not strengthening the squad this summer, this is probably the best start to the season Spurs could have put together. With Eriksen back fit and Dele Alli close behind him, Tottenham need two big wins in the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven to keep their season on track.


Man City’s embarrassment of riches runs riot

Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho were all on target on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s Man City smashed Burnley 5-0. Yes, Burnley were poor. But this was like watching vintage City from last season, as shellackings of minnows happened time and time again. Mahrez and Fernandinho scored sublime goals, while Sane and Silva finished off flowing City moves. With Kevin De Bruyne making his long-awaited return from injury as a second half sub, plus Raheem Sterling was left on the bench and Guardiola had the luxury of giving David Silva and Aguero rests in the second half.

Atop the Premier League table with 23 points from their opening nine games of the season there’s a sense that the best is still to come from City. That is a scary thought for not only the rest of the Premier League but also for Europe.


Delight for Cardiff; misery for Fulham, Newcastle

Cardiff City are off and running back in the Premier League as Neil Warnock‘s men beat Fulham 4-2 in the Welsh Capital. A six-goal thriller explains the defensive issues both teams have but Cardiff scored as many goals on Saturday as they had in their previous eight games back in the top-flight. As for Fulham, they have the leakiest defense in the PL with 25 conceded and Slavia Jokanovic’s seat just got a little hotter with the Cottagers having just one win on the board so far this season.

Newcastle would love to have a win on the board so far but that’s not the case for Rafael Benitez’s team who have become just the fourth team in English top-flight history to lose their first five home league games of the season. Newcastle sit bottom of the PL and were booed off by their fans after losing 1-0 against Brighton at St James’ Park. With owner Mike Ashley watching on, tensions are high on Tyneside with the home fans enraged that more money wasn’t spent in the summer after Benitez guided the Magpies to a tenth place finish last season. Right now, Newcastle and Fulham look likely to battle it out with Cardiff and Huddersfield to stay out of the three relegation places. That is a desperate situation for a massive club in Newcastle and a newly-promoted club in Fulham who spent a record amount on new players over the summer.


Trouble is never too far away from Mourinho

To be fair to Mourinho he wasn’t the instigator here at all. Seriously.

Marco Ianni, Chelsea’s second assistant coach, will be lucky to not escape a touchline ban as he celebrated in front of Mourinho and Man United’s bench, punched the air in delight and let Barkley’s last-gasp equalizer get the better of him.

Speaking after the game, Mourinho revealed that Maurizio Sarri and Ianni had apologized and he accepted it.

“Bad education,” Mourinho said of Ianni’s actions. “But I also made mistakes in football matches and I will make more. So when after the game he came to me to apologize, I accepted his apology and nothing more to say.”

For once, Mourinho was in the right as Sarri admitted his assistant had made “a big mistake” and the matter would be dealt with internally. Of course, the emotion of a late equalizer has got to us all but the melee around the tunnel at Stamford Bridge could have been even uglier than it already was.

Salah helps off-kilter Liverpool snap skid

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  • Terriers outshoot Reds 12-11
  • Liverpool moves second
  • Terriers 19th with three points

Xherdan Shaqiri set up Mohamed Salah for the match’s lone goal as Liverpool beat Huddersfield Town 1-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.

The Reds stay level on points with leaders Man City, while Huddersfield Town is ahead of only Newcastle United on the table.

Liverpool was winless in its last four matches, with draws against Man City and Chelsea and losses to Napoli and Chelsea.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

A sleepy match snapped to life off the boot of Salah, who scored a trademark goal by dragging a shot across goal and inside the far post.

Joe Gomez picked out Xherdan Shaqiri, who played Salah down the right side for a finish beyond the reach of Jonas Lossl.

And that got Huddersfield moving, and the match moved up-and-down the pitch in fitting David Wagner vs. Jurgen Klopp fashion.

Jonathan Hogg hit the bar with a shot, and Phillip Billing nearly whipped a deep free kick on target, though Alisson Becker may’ve had his post covered well anyway.

Michael Oliver somehow resisted shouts for a seemingly clear handball on James Milner.

The first half stated without much danger, but Laurent Depoitre headed a ball for Alisson to save in the 55th.

The Terriers were actually pretty wasteful, with Steve Mounie missing a point blank chance in the 82nd.

Salah forced a save out of Lossl following a slick turn two minutes from time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sarri sorry after Chelsea assistant taunts Mourinho

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Maurizio Sarri hadn’t seen what set off the skirmish between Jose Mourinho and his staff, but he knew enough to say it was wrong.

[ VIDEO: Mourinho reacts to taunting, skirmish ]

Sarri assistant Marco Ianni took the opportunity of Ross Barkley‘s late equalizer to celebrate directly in Jose Mourinho’s face and then taunt him on the way back.

Fortunately for us all, Mourinho didn’t notice Ianni’s first swipe, or you can be sure it wouldn’t have gotten to the second (for better or worse for Mou).

Chelsea kept its unbeaten season alive with the 2-2 draw at home, but many questions for Sarri were about his assistant. From the BBC:

“Sincerely I have not seen {what happened] but I have spoken with Jose then I have spoken with a member of staff because I think we were on the wrong side so I have dealt with it immediately. … If I speak to a member of staff and am very hard [with him] I cannot come here and tell everything because then I am not credible with the staff.”

Fair enough. I wonder what punishments Sarri deals out: Does he ask offenders to take up his in-game habit of chewing on cigarettes? Do they have to run errands for him? Something tells me it’s amusing.

Also, I’m neither sorry nor Sarri for the headline. Take victories where you find them. Carpe headline.