U.S. player ratings from Tuesday’s big win over Belize

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Game grades from Tuesday’s 6-1 victory at Jeld-Wen Field against over-matched and eventually overrun Belize. Remember, it’s just Belize. (NOTE: when rating players against under-strength opposition, we have to be a little picky. They should be doing most everything right.) 

STARTERS

GK Nick Rimando (7): Didn’t need his hands for more than 20 minutes, but did have to be alert in keeping  a 23rd minute deflection from sneaking under the cross bar. Also contributed a wonderful, flying save in stoppage time. Mostly, Real Salt Lake’s No. 1 had the quiet night everyone expected.

RB Michael Parkhurst (5): No trouble defensively, but he just isn’t the man for these matches at right back, simply not comfortable pushing the attack and taking on defenders. Almost always chooses the nice, safe pass rather than something more aggressive or adventurous. A misplaced pass here and there, too.

CB Michael Orozco (7): Slipped and lost his mark once when Belize got its first shot directed toward Rimando and got turned once in the midfield, but was otherwise solid. Managed to be around the ball a lot on offensive set-pieces and got his reward with the fifth U.S. goal.

CB Clarence Goodson (7) Good about pushing aggressively into Belize’s half, even getting to within 30 yards of goal at times.  Helped set the aggressive, high line Klinsmann wants and his passing was assertive once again.

LB DaMarcus Beasley (7): Once again the U.S. veteran was easily the better outside back in terms of throwing himself into the attack, confidently moving into attacking spots along the flank. Very little to do on defense.

DM Kyle Beckerman (6): The more defensive-minded of the central pairing, as you would expect. But Beckerman did add some offensive dash to his usual bag of tricks at international level, like a couple of skillful through balls or the terrific, early cross for the second U.S. goal. Tended to pass to the right a lot, for some reason. (Perhaps by tactical design?)

CF Mix Diskerdud (5): Active in showing for passes and finding ways to be involved, usually playing a little higher than Beckerman in the alignment. While his positioning was nominally central, Diskerud tended to drift to the right, probably because Beasley was keeping more pressure on the U.S. left side than Parkhurst could along the right. Needs to tidy up the possession just a little.

RM Joe Corona (6): Played along the right in the U.S. 4-4-2. His ability to rise and head Torres’ early cross provided the rebound that led to an 11th minute U.S. goal. His crossing was zippy and generally accurate, although the young Liga MX attacker could have been more opportunistic on his shooting.

LM Jose Torres (5): Playing along the left, tucked away inside, the Tigres man was a little slow in arriving into the game, although it was his cross that initiated the first U.S. goal. Generally though, same old Torres, just not doing enough to stamp his imprint on the night. For instance, he needed to finish from right in front of goal in the first half. Clearly, Torres can make the passes that open up a defense – he just needs to try ‘em a little more often.

(MORE: A few takeaways from the United States’ win)

FW Landon Donovan (7): A lot of technical craft, combining, turning, crossing, mixing in a little flick here and there, always doing his part to keep Belize under constant pressure. Donovan worked the channels and drifted wide as needed while Wondolowski took up positions around the 6. Donovan made smart runs, rarely lost the ball, collected two assists and converted the highly dubious PK for a sixth U.S. goal.

FW Chris Wondolowski (8): The man who has struggled to match his past scoring numbers in MLS this year had a hat trick within 40 minutes, doing exactly what he needed to climb up the striking depth chart. The scoring surely had “Wondo” feeling good, for his hold-up play was confident and effective. Not as active in the second 45, but it’s hard to criticize a striker who hits for three.

SUBSTITUTES

Stuart Holden (7): Entered at halftime for Beckerman and needed just more than 10 minutes to score. Didn’t need even that long to get on the ball a lot; good anticipation in stepping into passing lanes. The central midfield shape was more a true 4-4-2 when the Bolton man came on, with he and Diskerud exchanging spots in the middle. That allowed Holden to find some spots near Belize goal. Another nice step in his long climb back.

Brek Shea (6): Entered in the 61st minute for Torres. Didn’t see a bunch of the ball as the U.S. attack continued to lean right. But generally, his direct style provides a nice change of pace, especially when he replaces someone like Torres, who is more chisel than hammer in his attacking movements.

Alejandro Bedoya (6): Entered in the 66th for Corona. Nearly got into the scoring within seconds of his introduction.

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.