Takeaways from the United States’ win over Belize

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Remember what we said about a match against Guatemala a few nights back? How you could tell just a smidge about attacking players against these over-matched bunch of tourney misfits, but very little about defensive players?

Well, same deal.

I am fairly certain the United States could have handled business against tiny Belize with me in the midfield. That said … here are a few things we can gain from Tuesday’s lopsided match at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland:

Artificial turf is better than temporary grass: At the risk of picking this old scab until it starts bleeding again, this game came and went without much comment about the surface. So, in the future, why not just play on the doggone stuff rather than spending $200,000 to create an inferior and potentially injurious playing surface, a la Seattle last month? Just sayin’.

You have any concerns over the U.S. starting selections? You shouldn’t: Don’t read too much into Jurgen Klinsmann’s lineup selections. The United States will play almost certainly play four matches over the next two weeks. Most likely, Klinsmann’s team will play in five or six, landing in the July 28 final in Chicago.

Four nights from now they’ll be on the field once again, this time against Cuba. Three nights after that they’ll be up against Costa Rica. And they’ll be traveling in between each stop.

So if Stuart Holden or Herculez Gomez or Oguchi Onyewu wasn’t in the starting 11, relax. The lineup wasn’t just about Tuesday’s match against the weakest team in the group, it was designed with a nod toward six matches over 20 days.

No, Klinsmann doesn’t have Chris Wondolowski over Herculez Gomez in the big picture ordering. And he clearly values Holden. Check back after the starting 11 is announced against Cuba and the Costa Rica.

(MORE: U.S. player ratings from the win in Portland)

Mix Diskerud is “cap tied:” The Norwegian-born man, who played so extensively for Caleb Porter’s under-23 team last year, had already pledged his allegiance to the United States. But this makes it official, and that’s important, if only symbolically.

Parkhurst lost his man: Landon Donovan committed the foul that led to Belize’s goal – still cannot believe I am writing the words “Belize’s goal” – but he was chasing the play from behind. Why? Because Jose Torres wasn’t, and the action was happening in the area where Torres should have been patrolling.

But that wasn’t the worst violation, because it was Michael Parkhurst who fell asleep as Belize scored on an uncontested header, a real no-no if the United States wants to win against better teams.

Defensive inattention and set-piece marking that turns into a fiasco? Those is hardly the way to beat a path into a World Cup roster spot.

Wondo’s hat trick: You know, the next time someone in a U.S. shirt has a hat trick, let’s hope he gets his name spelled correctly on the doggone jersey. I mean, seriously?

This was the first U.S. hat trick in more than a year. Donovan had one last may against Scotland.

Growing Liga MX influence: Four starters (Michael Orozco, Jose Torres, DaMarcus Beasley and Joe Corona) earn their wages in Mexico. Even though this is the U.S. “B” team, that’s a significant development. Liga MX is a more technical association, something Klinsmann clearly values over the more physical style seen in most European leagues.

VIDEO: Portugal lead Iran at HT; Spain 1-1 Morocco

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We’re through the first 45 minutes of Monday’s Group B finales at the 2018 World Cup, and things are happening. A quick rundown…

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos combined to commit a disastrous gaffe at midfield, resulting in a goal for Khalid Boutaib in the 14th minute. At this point, Spain would have finished second, behind Portugal, and headed to the far more difficult side of the knockout bracket.

Five minutes later, it was Iniesta who, with a little help from some slightly lesser geniuses, unlocked the Moroccan defense to set up Isco for an emphatic finish. La Furia Roja moved back to the top of the group, on goals scored.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

In the afternoon’s other game, Portugal and Iran appeared destined for a 0-0 scoreline at halftime, until Ricardo Quaresma unleashed a stunning, outside-of-the-foot curler from outside the box to beat the goalkeeper and put Portugal ahead — both on the day, and in the table. As things currently stand, Portugal would win the group and Spain would finish second.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 4

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In the fourth episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England players have been preparing for their next match in an unusual way, Argentina has a huge meltdown, and more.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

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

Atlanta leads way with six All-Star Fan XI selections

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It may be hard to believe with all the World Cup festivities going on, but the Major League Soccer season is nearly halfway over.

[ MORE: Toronto FC’s 2018 has been far from their cup-winning 2017 ]

And that means it’s almost All-Star time.

The MLS All-Stars will continue their recent tradition of facing a European superpower in August, with Juventus being welcomed to the United States in early August.

But, which players from MLS will we see in action?

Last season’s expansion sweetheart Atlanta United leads the way in the fan voting with six players from the Eastern Conference side voted into the Fan XI, including attackers Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender/captain Michael Parkhurst also made the team from Atlanta.

In all, only five clubs were represented based on the Fan XI, with the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman, Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri each rounding out the squad.


Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)

Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)

Forwards: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge)

Saudi Arabia steals late win over Egypt in Group A finale

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Saudi Arabia pulled off a late 2-1 win against Egypt on Monday in their Group A finale, as the two nations ended their 2018 World Cup run in the group stage.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Salem Al Sawsari scored in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to give the Saudis a late winner in the match, as the attacker struck the post in the dying moments before the ball crossed the line.

The Pharaohs took the lead in the 22nd minute, after a tremendous run from Mohamed Salah and lob over the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper.

Salah has two goals at the World Cup for Egypt, who were already eliminated heading into Monday’s match.

Saudi Arabia was granted a chance to equalize prior to halftime, however, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary brilliantly stopped Hattan Bahebri’s penalty kick in the 41st minute to preserve the Egypt advantage.

El Hadary became the oldest player in World Cup history to appear in a match at the age of 45.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The Egypt keeper wasn’t as lucky the second time around though, with Salmon Al Faraj converting a penalty kick in the 51st minute.

Saudi Arabia finishes group play in third place on three points, while Egypt goes winless in its three matches.