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.

2 Robbies: Manchester Derby, Liverpool win, draws for Chelsea, Arsenal

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle look back at a defining derby match between Man City and Man United (00:30), Liverpool’s comfortable win against Fulham (25:45), the stalemate between Chelsea and Everton (31:30) and a hard fought match between Arsenal and Wolves (41:30).

[ VIDEO: An unprecedented goal ]

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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MLS Best XI unveiled with awesome foosball video

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Major League Soccer, wow, this is terrific #content.

MLS released its Best XI on Monday with a dynamite video of the players passing the ball from Zack Steffen in goal to Josef Martinez up top… via a virtual foosball table.

[ VIDEO: An unprecedented goal ]

The XI is set in a 3-4-3, with the New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Atlanta United leading the way with a pair of players each.

My predictions? Well, I only got six correct. Whoops. The only absence that really surprises me is Graham Zusi, and Sporting KC not having representation at all. I guess that explains why SKC manager Peter Vermes is going to be announced as the next USMNT– Wait, what’s that? Oh. I’ll stop talking.

2018 MLS Best XI

Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus)

Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (RBNY), Aaron Long (RBNY), Chad Marshall (Seattle)

Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta), Luciano Acosta (DC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy), Josef Martinez (Atlanta), Wayne Rooney (DC)

WATCH: Striker scores potentially unprecedented goal while helping teammate

Photo by John Thys/EuroFootball/Getty Images
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“Look, I know you’re injured, but I’m gonna be right back. Got a goal to score for us.”

Maccabi Petah Tikva forward Habib Habibou scored what can only be described as an unprecedented goal — at least in terms of being captured on video — Israel this weekend.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Habibou, 31, and his club were locked in scoreless tussle with Maccabi Netanya on Saturday when one of his teammates was injured in the box.

The CAR striker, formerly of Zulte Waregem and Royal Charleroi, was taking care of said teammate when he spotted an 87th minute spilled rebound.

What was he gonna do, really, other than dart onto the loose ball, score the match-winner, and then return to his ailing mate?

Petah Tikva won 1-0.

Juventus executive: Bring season Serie A game abroad

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Juventus chief revenue officer Giorgio Ricci likes La Liga’s idea of taking a regular season match outside of its domestic borders.

Ricci would like Serie A to explore a similar move, saying Italian soccer can only benefit from putting its brand in other markets.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.

Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:

“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”

Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.