U.S. player ratings from Friday’s win over Gautemala

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Game grades from Friday night’s 6-0 win over a young Guatemalan side. Remember, it’s just Guatemala. The Americans begin Gold Cup play Tuesday in Portland against Belize.

STARTERS

GK Nick Rimando (5): Some real issue communicating with the men in front of him. There were two instances in each half where information being exchanged with teammates just wasn’t good enough, and it nearly put the United States in trouble. Otherwise not asked to make many saves. Good work with his feet, if occasionally a little too casual.

RB Michael Parkhurst (5): Very slow to move into the attack. If Parkhurst cannot help drive the attack from the back against a young Guetamalan side (read: not very good), what chance will he have against much better opposition? First cross was at the 52nd minute (and it was a well-shaped one.)

CB Oguchi Onyewu (6): Strong defending and clearing, but sometimes leaden and overly safe with his passing.  A little variety here and there will be needed against the Gold Cup opponents ahead, who are sure to pack the back. Along with Goodson, there was some occasional trouble locating Guatemala’s one striker, Minor Lopez, in the game’s early minutes.

CB Clarence Goodson (7) Tried to move ball forward with more urgency than his central partner, although not with consistently great results. Got over quickly to support Beasley, allowing the U.S. left side to push the attack from their side. Deserved the fifth U.S. goal as he is usually dangerous on set pieces when appearing internationally.

LB DaMarcus Beasley (8): Perhaps the best U.S. player in the first 45, combining well with Edgar Castillo, supplying good crosses through a keen sense of when to spring forward. And it’s nice that Beasley, aiming for his fourth World Cup, still has the legs to get there.

DM Kyle Beckerman (6): Handled the ball a lot (as you expect at that spot) and managed to almost always do something positive with it, although not at the high tempo the guys would later in that position. Gave lots of protection to his center backs. Should have scored in 21st minute, but fanned on a point-blank shot.

(MORE: What we learned from Friday’s victory in San Diego)

CM Jose Torres (5): Stationed slightly higher than Beckerman as a linking central midfielder, as Michael Bradley does these days.  But he was no Michael Bradley, just too casual or sloppy with the ball. This has the look of another opportunity that has come and gone for him, as he didn’t impress the way the second half central mid subs certainly did.

CM Joe Corona (5): He was either an early victim of an overly clogged midfield or he was the reason for it. Stationed behind Herculez Gomez in the original 4-2-3-1, he wasn’t involved and drifted unhelpfully close to the holding men behind him. Found a little more joy when he switched with Donovan, moving out to the right.

RW Landon Donovan (8): Surprisingly rickety in the first 10 minutes, most evident in two early give-aways. (Dare we even say “nervous?”) But he settled down and turned positively alive with movement and ideas when switched to a dual forward role alongside Gomez. By the second half, he was among the best U.S. men – which he should be, of course. I mean, it’s Landon Donovan! Forced a penalty kick, converted it, finished well on Holden’s arrangement and set up another goal.

LW Edgar Castillo (7): Was a primary reason the U.S. left side (along with Beasley) was significantly more dangerous than the right.  His first touches weren’t always tip top, but Castillo did manage some tidy work in tight spaces here and there and was aggressive in attacking desire. Worked inside frequently, able to do so because of Beasley’s ability to work the wing.

CF Herculez Gomez (7): Sixth goal for the United States (Friday’s opener) was typical Gomez stuff, staying with the play through diligent effort, circulating his run and finding himself alone at the far post to calmly put away the goal. After the switch into a 4-4-2, saw more of the ball and always provided an outlet, usually working the right side. He’s definitely got goals in him for the coming Gold Cup.

SUBSTITUTES

Stuart Holden (8): Entered at halftime for Beckerman. Good variety of midfield passing, short, long, diagonal, forward, switching passes, etc. A couple of really swell passes to open up the defense, like the chipped beauty into Donovan for a goal. A highly productive 45 minutes for one of the most-watched U.S. men of the night.

Mix Diskerud (7): Entered at halftime for Torres. Good work in partnering with Holden in the middle of the 4-4-2. Lots of technical work done at the high tempo that Jurgen Kinsmann wants. Only nit-pick is tackling that could have been better.

Chris Wondolowski (6): Entered the 59th for Gomez. Found himself unopposed with the ball at his feet when Donovan’s sly pass bounced around 18 yards from goal, then finished with confident perfection for first U.S. goal.

Brek Shea (7): Entered in the 59th for Castillo. Lots of good bursts down the left helped keep the Guatemalan defense in trouble once Klinsmann made lots of changes at the hour mark. Looked like a man determined to get back into Klinsmann’s good graces. Only nitpick was some inconsistency in shooting and crossing, although he certainly made plenty of opportunities for himself to do so.

Alejandro Bedoya (5): Entered in the 59th for Corona. Popped up in the right spot for the last U.S. goal, but not much else. A shell of what Shea was on the other side, with imprecise touches and generally not enough mark on a game that was tilting heavily toward the visitors defensive end.

Will Bruin (5): Entered in the 73rd for Donovan. Got into a couple of good spots near goal but couldn’t quite finish the movement.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.