Donovan grabs 50th goal as United States routs Guatemala 6-0

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Landon Donovan grabbed a career-defining mark and Chris Wondolowski added his first career international score as the United States picked apart a rebuilding Guatemalan squad 6-0 in San Diego.

The United States dominated possession and never felt pressured at the back as the USMNT looked fluid in their friendly serving as a Gold Cup warmup.

Donovan started the match and picked up a brace, the first marking his 50th career international goal for the United States, becoming the first American man to reach the half-century mark.

The match began very narrow-minded as Guatemala funneled the United States through the middle, much like a number of teams tried during the hexagonal round the last few months. There was plenty of passing through the midfield but the U.S. found it difficult to break down the numerous Guatemala defense early on.

It finally opened up before halftime, and the U.S. sent a number of dangerous balls into the box before a Jose Torres ball missed the lunging foot of Joe Corona, but fell right to Herculez Gomez who banged it home from very close range for the 1-0 lead.

(MORE: U.S. player ratings from the night)

Donovan, who had a relatively quiet start to the match, began to make noise in the second half. He became the target of many attacks, moving into more of a central role up front, and he was clearly pushed in the six-yard box during a series of play to earn a penalty.

Donovan immediately picked up the ball and held it, getting confirmation from the touchline he could take it before a cool, easy chip right down the middle for his milestone goal.

The 30-year-old then set up the third goal with a brilliant run from the middle third down through to the top of the box before he attempted to slot through Stuart Holden. The ball deflected off a Guatemalan defender and fell right at the feet of Chris Wondolowski, who pressed it past Ricardo Jerez for his first career international goal for the U.S. in 12 caps.

(MORE: What we learned from Friday’s U.S. win in San Diego)

Donovan grabbed his second when Mix Diskerud and Stuart Holden played the ball forward and Holden’s beautiful chip cross found Landon in the middle of the box for an easy finish to make it 4-0.

Clarence Goodson continued the goal flood, connecting on a ping-pong corner chance in the 85th minute with a right-footed blast just under the bar. Alejandro Bedoya capped the nightmare evening for Guatemala meeting a low cross from Stuart Holden with a fine finish in the 88th.

To be fair, the opposition barely offered a bit of quality, but a number of USMNT players impressed on the night. In the second half, the pair of Holden and Diskerud in the midfield completely controlled the pace of play, not only quarterbacking the United States attack but also putting a halt to any Guatemalan pressure before it was able to build. The pair were a big reason why the U.S. finished the night with over 65% of possession.

The United States back line hardly put a foot wrong when tested, with the central pair Oguchi Onyewu and Goodson pairing wonderfully in the middle. Captain DaMarcus Beasley was a force down the left, providing plenty in the attack as well as becoming a brick wall at the back.

Brek Shea made an immediate impact on his 60th minute introduction, providing a number of dangerous crosses as well as trying a shot or two as well. He isn’t in the Gold Cup squad, but it’s nice to see him get some quality minutes with the squad ahead of the next round of hexagonal matches.

The USMNT completed 90% of their 657 passes, something Klinsmann has stressed his entire tenure with the United States, and that precise passing led to 23 total shots, 11 of which were on target. On the other end, Guatemala just offered five shots on goal, none of which ended up on target.

While the competition wasn’t close to threatening, the solid performance all around is a promising sight before the Gold Cup where a lack of silverware would be considered by many as a bit of a failure.

Rodgers excuses Maddison’s behavior after England departure

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Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison made headlines for the wrong reasons after he was pictured last week watching the England match at the Czech Republic from a casino.

Despite the negative attention from Maddison’s decision to watch the game at that venue, he has the backing of his club manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The kid went away with the international team and took ill while he was away,” Rodgers said, via the Guardian. “He wanted to stay and hopefully be ready for the second game. But the England medical staff – which I can understand, as he had flu and they didn’t want that to spread to his teammates – decided it’s best for him to leave the camp. So he leaves, gets some tablets with our guys at the club, then he feels better.

“He watched the game at home on his own on the Friday and then goes out at half-time – probably he’ll make better decisions in his life but he went to a casino on his own to sit and watch the second half by a poker table. The suggestions are he left England purposelessly and then goes to a casino but that’s totally not the case at all. But his eyes have been opened now to the wider world in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight he’s made a mistake.”

Considering all that went on during England’s international break, from the poor performance in Prague to the horrible racism endured in Bulgaria, this is a bit of a silly scandal. To be honest, as long as Maddison is taking care of his body and himself, why does it matter if he was at a casino, or a pub, or anywhere?

However, there’s no denying that the optics look bad. Folks didn’t know that he arrived to England camp with the flu, or a flu-like illness at least, and the England medical staff are right to send him away to make sure no one else gets sick. He may have been feeling better by Friday and wanted to get out of the house. I think we’ve all been there after being sick for a few days.

The most important lesson for Maddison is to learn that his actions, out of context, can be misunderstood. In terms of soccer, after Ross Barkley’s performance for England, Maddison will have to prove in his club form that he should still have a place in the England team for the near future. There’s only two more international dates left before the 2020 Euros, so time is running out for Maddison to make an impact to Southgate.

 

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

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Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.

USWNT star Rapinoe, boxer Shields win sportswomen of year

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Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and boxer Claressa Shields have been honored as Sportswomen of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

They won in the team and individual categories, the awards coming at the foundation’s 40th annual Salute to Women in Sports.

Rapinoe led the U.S. to victory at the World Cup in France and earned the FIFA Player of the Year award. Shields is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and middleweight champion.

Sheila Johnson, part-owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and recent WNBA champion Mystics, won the Billie Jean King Leadership Award. Marta Vieira da Silva, star of the Brazilian national soccer team, won the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.

Rapinoe thanked her teammates Wednesday night and lauded Marta, a six-time FIFA Player of the Year, calling the Brazilian the greatest of all time and an “absolute hero in our sport.”

John Burke, president of the Trek Bicycle company, received the inaugural Champion for Equality Award.

MNUFC’s Opara wins MLS Defender of the Year

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For the second time in three seasons, Ike Opara has been named MLS Defender of the Year, this time as the foundational piece of Minnesota United’s much-improved defense.

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Opara becomes just the fourth player to win multiple Defender of the Year awards, joining Carlos Bocanegra (2002, 2003), Robin Fraser (1999, 2004) and Chad Marshall, the only three-time winner (2008, 2009, 2014) in MLS history. Opara won the award going away, nearly doubling the percentage of votes received by second-place Walker Zimmerman.

Defender of the Year Player % Club % Media % Final %
Ike Opara  25.75% 27.27% 44.88% 32.64%
Walker Zimmerman 20.40% 17.17% 12.20% 16.59%
Miles Robinson 19.40% 13.13% 15.75% 16.09%
Maxime Chanot 1.67% 16.16% 4.33% 7.39%
Eddie Segura 4.35% 9.09% 5.91% 6.45%
Aaron Long 2.34% 5.05% 1.97% 3.12%

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This time last year, the 30-year-old was a member of one of the league’s stingiest defensive units as a member of Sporting Kansas City. Following a contract dispute with Sporting, Opara was traded to Minnesota in exchange for $900,000 of targeted allocation money, plus an additional $100,000 after Minnesota qualified for the playoffs for the first time since joining MLS.