What we learned from Sunday’s U.S. quarterfinal Gold Cup win over El Salvador

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  • Joe Corona may be lapping Jose Torres before our eyes:

Joe Corona and Jose Torres had strong matches Sunday, horizontal bookends of the wide areas in the United States attack. But in the end, who had the greater bottom line impact?

Once again, it was Corona, who moved aggressively into a goal-scoring spot, found a ball off Landon Donovan’s nifty footwork and proceeded to pinpoint a meaningful shot into the left corner of El Salvador’s goal.

Torres was adept in possession, as usual, and his switching balls in particular proved highly effective as a sharp U.S. attack found one opportunity after another in Sunday’s quarterfinal. But the knock on Torres internationally has always been his lack of final product. Jurgen Klinsmann has urged him to put all that abundant technical savvy to better use, to find more ways to grab the game, to create more, to shoot more, to take on defenders with further frequency, etc.

In other words, exactly what Corona has done this tournament.

(MORE: Game report — Landon Donovan’s goal, three assists lead U.S. past El Salvador)

When the serious roster allocation begins in the U.S. coaches’ minds, they’ll look at the two creators and quite possibly decide there is room on the 23-man U.S. roster for just one of them. We might be seeing Corona pull ahead in the race. Torres, after all, has had his chances.

  • A highly entertaining match – and what that means in the bigger picture:  

We can analyze the heck out of Sunday’s highly entertaining match, but this part needs no dissecting: it was an absolute delight to watch, a real plum for Fox to place into the big boy network spotlight. Play was tough but still managed to be open (thanks in large part to a guy like Donovan, who worked hard to find the right spots that helped create a lot of offense.)

Some of the credit for a lively contest also goes to Klinsmann. Leading by two goals in the first half, the U.S. boss urged his men to keep pushing, to “go, go, go!” Later, he kept making offensive-minded changes and encouraging players to move forward and think “forward,” even when ahead by scores of 3-1 and then 4-1.

This is all about the mentality Klinsmann is working hard to drive home: More professionalism, more of a business-like approach, never relinquishing tempo, further forging of a mentality that says “We are the boss of this region. Get used to it.”  Mashing the pedal when ahead is one way to do it.

  • A word about Nick Rimando and the U.S. goalkeeping situation:

Media and supporters will talk plenty about Donovan’s day, and rightly so. And we’ll surely chat about what some strong performances from Torres and (especially) Corona might mean, what a better afternoon of attacking from Michael Parkhurst means, etc. (Or, at the other end, what a slightly muted performance from Mix Diskerud means … at least before his late goal.)

But can we say a quick word about U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando? It will be overlooked because the score makes Sunday’s quarterfinal win look like a contest where you or I could have stood in goal. Not so.

(MORE: U.S. Man of the Match … Landon Donovan)

Rimando was outstanding the first half hour, catching crosses in traffic and handling tough balls that came in with some force. And what about that 25th minute double save! This match could have looked a lot different if not for that bit of really sharp stuff – because El Salvador would have remained motivated for a longer period with another goal somewhere in there.

In the bigger picture, it’s a case of “nothing new here” with the U.S. goalkeeping scene. Tim Howard and Brad Guzan as the first two U.S. ‘keepers are as solid  as any pair in the world. Rimando as the third … that’s just this side of unfair!

  • The team sometimes needs Kyle Beckerman

I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time defending the guy, so I’ll keep this one short.

Beckerman is hardly the be-all at international level, as I keep saying. But you need a couple of guys like that in a game like Sunday’s where a passionate underdog’s entire afternoon is about making life very, very difficult and then hoping to nick a result.

That was a tough match for about 60 minutes, and Beckerman was the ball winner and the fearless, calming presence needed. If Klinsmann puts 11 Jose Torres out there, they would win all the technical battles but lose all the tussles. And there were tussles aplenty.

Plus, Beckerman’s long-range passing deliveries were sharp as they come Sunday.

Yes, Beckerman remains well behind Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and others in the U.S. central midfield order. Yes, there are deficiencies in his game. But there is a place for the guy in a balanced player pool.

Bilbao’s Williams: ‘I suffered racist insults’ at Espanyol

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams says that he was a victim of racial abuse from fans while playing at Espanyol in a Spanish league game on Saturday.

Williams said after the 1-1 draw that “I suffered racist insults, something that no one wants to hear and has no place here.”

Williams, who is black, played 82 minutes of the match before being substituted.

“People should come to enjoy themselves, to help their team. This is a sport about friendship,” Williams said.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

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With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

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BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.