United States national team player ratings vs. Panama

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GK Tim Howard (7): Just a night at the office for Jurgen Klinsmann’s first choice in goal, with only some routine catches and one punch to manage until stoppage time. Howard was quick off his line to stuff Luis Tejada, who sneaked in behind the U.S. in the 92nd minute.

RB Brad Evans (4): If Panama wasn’t so punchless in attack, this whole thing could look quite different. Because the Sounders man’s early defending went from splotchy in the first 15 minutes to downright exposed later in the half. Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron rushed over to help several times. Not much of a factor on the U.S. attack.

CB Omar Gonzalez (7): As mentioned, he provided lots of help for Evans and was solid and well-positioned. The Galaxy man did get caught unawares late on Tejada’s sneaky run behind the back line. Otherwise, confident and mistake-free in the tackles and aerial challenges.

CB Matt Besler (6): Usually the better passer of the U.S. center backs Tuesday. The Sporting KC defender was pushed a little once Panama brought on its second striker, and the communication with Gonzalez remains a work in progress. A little smaller than Gonzalez, he probably benefitted more from Blas Perez’s absence along Panama’s front line.

LB DaMarcus Beasley (6): Two inviting crosses early warned Panama that it would need to be alert, and that opened up space for Fabian Johnson and Dempsey.  All the defensive trouble came down the opposite side as Panama clearly had Evans targeted. His 70th minute dash was a lung buster, and Beasley was very nearly rewarded for it (but hit the post on Jozy Altidore’s nifty pass). One demerit for Beasley, whose late yellow card was silly; now he’ll miss next week’s match in Salt Lake City.

MF Geoff Cameron (8): Who saw this coming? What a breakout night from the guy who had such a tough night two weeks ago as a right back against Belgium. His tracking, tackling, defensive position and ability to cover plenty of ground were superb. How many times did he stretch those long legs in to nick something away? The communication with Michael Bradley appeared spotless as Cameron worked just in behind the U.S. midfield leader. Cameron’s early passing was way too loose, although he made up for some much of it with that awesome ball into Eddie Johnson for a second U.S. goal. Like Gonzalez, he was diligent in offering assistance for Evans. (Almost forgot: Cameron won the second ball and immediately pushed it to Bradley for the first U.S. goal.)

MF Michael Bradley (8): Is there a time when Michael Bradley is not in the right spot, on offense or defense? Probably … but it sure doesn’t happen very often. He is always an available outlet and almost always moves the ball along with a clarity of choice. (Someone check the stats, because he may not have given away a possession all night!). Bradley’s 22nd minute shot looked goal-bound, but hit Clint Dempsey, and the timing on runs into the 18 carried its usual effectiveness.

RW Eddie Johnson (7): The hometown hero looked surprising comfortable in his wide role as a winger or midfielder or something in between. There was a good variety to his game, one that mixed short passing with timely dribbling, a couple of crosses and mostly good choices. And the goal, of course! Johnson was not always in the best spots to help Evans, but what do we expect? The guy is a forward, after all.

MF Clint Dempsey (7): Worked his usual spots behind Jozy Altidore, combining wonderfully through the night with the U.S. striker and with Fabian Johnson on the left, too.  Panama never seemed to find the U.S. captain, who got on the ball in different spots and didn’t ever hit his “default,” which is to try doing too much on his own. Dempsey’s near-post run was critical in that first-half goal, by the way.

LW Fabian Johnson (6): Responded critically to a challenge from Klinsmann, who asked him to find more ways to get involved. That’s always like a Klinsmann “yellow card,” meaning the young midfielder was close to fumbling away his starting spot. Sure enough, Johnson crushed an early shot, but went high with it. His crossing wasn’t always the best, but he got into position with varied runs and was certainly laser-targeted with than left-footed cross to Altidore. His relationship and chemistry with Beasley happened fast, and it’s quite something.

FW Jozy Altidore (8): If the young U.S. striker can nail the balance he found Tuesday, with wonderful technical work, parlayed with smart decisions and lots of hard work, he’ll be an automatic choice for the United States for a long, long time. Altidore found a variety of ways to get involved, running at defenders here and there, working the combos in the 20- to 30-yard range and popping out wide just enough to be difficult to track. Other than scoring in his third consecutive match, the AZ striker probably should have won a 34th minute penalty kick, too.

Subs:

Brad Davis … late sub for Fabian Johnson

Joe Corona … late sub for Eddie Johnson

Stuart Holden … late sub for Altidore.

Wenger: I’ll decide my future in September

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Arsene Wenger, former manager of Arsenal for more than 20 years, is famous for many things. One is either his indicative nature, or ability to show prudence when making decisions, depending on how you see it.

Wenger has been without a job for the first time in more than two decades, and he’s been taking his time deciding on what his future will be. There no doubt have been plenty of offers for him, whether to be a club coach, national team coach or a media pundit on any number of television networks across the globe.

[READ: Salah named to UEFA POY shortlist]

“I decided not to decide,” Wenger said in an interview with Corse Matin while on vacation in Corsica  “I was intoxicated (with soccer) so long that I made a promise to make no decision until September.”

In a follow-up question about whether he would go into another field, such as politics, Wenger rejected that, so it appears he still sees his future in soccer. But in the meantime, he’s been busy playing sports and relaxing by the ocean.

“Yes, (it’s been) very good,” Wenger said of his time off, “even better than I thought. When you have been as busy as I have been, you always fear a little emptiness.

“But I quickly organized myself in this new stage of my life, I do a lot of sport, here I eat with my friends, copiously, I talk a lot too, I can stay for hours watching the horizon, I read all day, at the moment a book by Philip Roth, I Married a Communist.”

In the question and answer, Wenger also backed former Arsenal star Thierry Henry to take over at Bordeaux, as has been rumored, though he warned he wasn’t sure if Henry was truly ready to sacrifice everything to be a manager.

“Yes, he wants to do it, he is intelligent and he has the qualities,” Wenger said. “The existential question that we always ask ourselves is whether we are ready to sacrifice our life for the coaching profession.”

Salah, Ronaldo and Modric on UEFA Player of Year shortlist

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Mohamed Salah‘s magical season for Liverpool could help him usurp what had been a hegemony at the top of UEFA’s yearly awards.

[READ: Morata admits to struggles in Conte’s system]

Salah, along with former teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric were all nominated for UEFA’s Player of the Year award. Salah led Liverpool to an improbable run to the Champions League final, scoring 10 goals and dishing out five assists in 13 Champions League matches.

Ronaldo of course won his third-straight Champions League title last season and fifth overall while leading all goalscorers in the competition for the sixth-straight season. And Modric, starring for Real Madrid along with Ronaldo before the latter left for Juventus, won his third-straight title and led Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.

Here’s the rest of the top 10. The Men’s Player of the Year, along with Women’s Player of the Year and Champions League Best XI will be announced on August 30. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have combined to win the last four awards.

4. Antoine Griezmann (Atlético & France) – 72 points
5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina) – 55 points
6. Kylian Mbappé (Paris & France) – 43 points
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium) – 28 points
8. Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid & France) – 23 points
9. Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium) – 15 points
10. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain) – 12 points

Morata admits difficult adapting to Conte’s system last season

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Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.

If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.

Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.

[READ: Bale powers Real Madrid to win]

“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.

“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”

Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.

With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.

Tottenham to host first Champions League fixture at Wembley

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What seemed like a given was finally made official on Monday. Tottenham will host its first UEFA Champions League match at Wembley Stadium.

[READ: D.C. United wins fourth in a row]

The club announced that its first Champions League match, set to be held on either September 18/19 or October 2/3, will be held at England’s national stadium, as safety concerns have kept the new White Hart Lane from opening on time. The draw for the Champions League group stage will be held on August 30, following the conclusion of the Playoff Round, which is set to get underway this week.

Tottenham has already moved upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Cardiff City to Wembley Stadium, but the venue for Tottenham’s highly-anticipated home match against Manchester City on October 28 has yet to be determined.

Due to the stadium delays, Tottenham can also apply to the FA to play their League Cup match in September on the road, regardless of the draw.