Americans Abroad: Altidore scores first Sunderland goal, Tijuana grabs draw

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It has been a busy week for Americans playing across the globe so here, in our new series “Americans Abroad,” we break down the top performances by American players across the planet.

Across many countries from Eastern Europe to Central America, US soccer players are stamping their authority on the beautiful game.

So it’s time to check on how they’ve been doing.

All aboard the “Americans Abroad” express. First stop, England.

ENGLAND

On Saturday in England, plenty of US national team stars were in Premier League action with varying degrees of success. Tim Howard got his first shutout of the season in goal for Everton, as they battled to a 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion at Goodison Park. The USMNT ‘keeper made two good saves in the first half.

Over at Stoke, Geoff Cameron started in their 2-1 comeback win over Crystal Palace at the weekend. Cameron didn’t feature in the Potters 3-1 second round League Cup win over Walsall on Wednesday but fellow USMNT star Brek Shea did. The former FC Dallas winger got the start for Mark Hughes’ men but Shea was replaced at half time.

While Jozy Altidore cut a frustrated figure down on the South Coast of England on Saturday. Altidore’s Sunderland took an early lead at Southampton but the Black Cats let a late goal slip as they drew 1-1 at St. Mary’s. Altidore cut a forlorn figure up top for most of the game but he did get a chance in the second half, however Saints ‘keeper Artur Boruc came rushing out to thwart the US international as he wriggled free of Southampton’s defense.

But Altidore was feeling much better on Tuesday evening after sparking a remarkable comeback for the Mackems. League One side MK Dons were 2-0 up at the Stadium of Light with 12 minutes to go, but the 23-year-old forward scored his first goal for Sunderland with a composed finish. The Black Cats scored three more times before the final whistle to win 4-2.

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Despite making three saves, Guzan’s Villa went down to Liverpool.

The only USMNT player in the Premier League to taste defeat at the weekend was goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Aston Villa’s shot-stopper made three saves against Liverpool as the Villans went down 1-0.

In the Championship, Tim Ream was handed the start in a holding midfield role for Bolton during their 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers. Ream, 25, played for 62 minutes as the Trotters came up short against the favorites to win the Championship title.

Elsewhere in England’s second-tier, Birmingham’s utility man Jonathan Spector made his season debut after recovering from injury, but the Blues lost to Zak Whitbread’s Leicester City 3-2 in a great game at the King Power Stadium. Whitbread’s side are now up to second in the Championship and the former Norwich City defender was in action on Tuesday as the Foxes beat Carlisle 5-2 away from home in the League Cup. While Spector’s Birmingham beat Yeovil on penalties as the former Manchester United man played all 120 minutes.

Former Aston Villa right back Eric Lichaj put in a solid shift as Nottingham Forest drew 1-1 at Watford on Sunday. And rounding up the action in England, it wasn’t a happy week for Reading’s Danny Williams. The former FC Hoffenheim midfielder played the final nine minutes of the Royals 1-0 defeat to Blackpool on Saturday before starting the 6-0 humiliation from League One side Peterborough in the League Cup on Tuesday and getting a yellow card. Things can only improve for Williams.

EUROPE

In Germany, holding midfielder Jermaine Jones picked up a knock late on as Schalke lost 2-1 to Hannover 96 at the weekend and on Wednesday he was sent off in Schalke’s 3-2 win over PAOK as the German side made the Champions League group stage. Jones was sent off for a second yellow card in the 64th minute.

Back to the Bundesliga, recent USMNT callup John Anthony Brooks hobbled off with an injured thigh in the 23rd minute for Hertha Berlin but the capital club held on to beat Hamburg 1-0 and sit in fifth-place after promotion last season.

US national team star Fabian Johnson played at left back as Hoffenheim rallied to a 3-3 draw with Freiburg in a game that saw three red cards. Johnson’s side are still unbeaten and sit in eighth place.

While FC Nürnberg were defeated 2-0 by Bayern Munich as right back Timmy Chandler started for the first time this season. However Chandler failed to pick up Franck Ribery at the back post in the 70th minute as the Frenchman got the break through Munich were looking for.

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Bradley put in a solid display as Roma began with a win.

Over in Serie A the season finally started as Michael Bradley put in a typically tidy display as Roma beat newly-promoted Livorno 2-0 on Sunday. While across the Alps in France, Alejandro Bedoya played in an unfamiliar role for Nantes in their narrow 2-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain. The US winger played as a wing back for his new French side and almost scored with a bullet header.

Up in Holland, Aron Johannsson goal-streak was snapped at five games as AZ Alkmaar lost to rivals FC Utrecht 2-0. Elsewhere in the lowlands, Sacha Kjlestan’s Anderlecht battered Charleroi 5-2 with the Seton Hall product grabbing two assists to help the Brussels club claim their fourth-straight win. In Norway Gold Cup star Mikkel Diskerud came off the bench late on to help Rosenborg to a 3-2 win as they stayed top of the Tippeligaen by beating Sandnes Ulf. Babajide Ogunbiyi bagged his first career Superliga goal as Viborg beat Esbjerg 3-1 at home, Viborg now sit fifth in the Danish top-flight.

Another American in Denmark, Conor O’Brien, thought he had scored but his effort for struggling FC Nordsjælland was saved superbly by Odense’s ‘keeper in a fourth straight defeat for O’Brien’s side. Staying in Scandinavia, Steve Clark made four saves as Hønefoss beat Sarpsborg 3-1, the US ‘keeper made a mistake that lead to Sarpsborg’s goal but he made a sprawling stop late on to make up for it.

In the Swedish second division Portland Timbers loanee Michael Nanchoff and fellow American Zurab Tsiskaridze both featured twice in four days as Jonkopings grabbed two draws. Nanchoff scored the opener in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against fellow American Matt Pyzdrowski in goal for Angelholm. Then on Wednesday Nanchoff played another full 90 as Jonkopings drew 1-1 with Ostersunds FK, while Tsiskaridze came on in the 65th minute.

MEXICO

Down in Mexico, plenty of US internationals took to the field over the weekend.

On Sunday right back Michael Orozco Fiscal scored his first goal for Puebla, but they lost 2-1 to Cruz Azul in a close game. Fiscal’s header gave his side a first half lead but they couldn’t hold back La Maquina.

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USMNT defender Fiscal scored but Puebla couldn’t grab all there points.

USMNT left back DaMarcus Beasley also played for Puebla out on the left and showed his new defensive instincts as they tried to grind out a draw. Puebla are 12th after seven games in the Liga MX campaign.

Earlier in the weekend, Jose Torres suffered with Tigres on Saturday as Chiapas rallied to snatch a 2-2 draw late on in the Estadio Universitario. Torres kept the play ticking over nicely in midfield as Tigres led 2-0 at the half but a late capitulation saw them drop two points.

On Friday night Club Tijuana’s large US contingent drew 1-1 with Santos Laguna as Edgar Castillo played the full 90. Castillo was involved throughout and played a role in the equalizer for the border side. Another American, Paul Arriola, came on at half time to play out wide on the right and had a few decent efforts on target that forced Santos ‘keeper Oswaldo Sánchez to make some fine stops. Greg Garza and Joe Corona didn’t make it off the bench and Tijuana have now grabbed eight points from their six games so far in Liga MX action.

REST OF THE WORLD

In Israel Bryan Gerzicich played the full 90 minutes as Hapoel Tel Aviv opened their season with a 0-0 draw against Bnei Sakhnin. The Californian native was making his debut for the Hapeol after signing from Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

Out east in Russia, Eugene Starikov started and played 62 minutes as Tom Tomsk blew a halftime lead against CSKA Moscow, losing 2-1 in the Stadion Trud. Tomsk have started off the season with six straight defeats.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

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Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

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Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.

Serie A: Napoli rout Inter, leaving UCL race wide open heading into final week

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The race for the third and four places in Serie A, and with it, a berth in the UEFA Champions League next season, remain open heading into the final week of the season, thanks to a stellar performance from Napoli.

Playing at home in the Stadio San Paolo, Napoli thrashed Inter Milan, 4-1, to keep Inter in fourth place in the table on 66 points. That’s just one point ahead of AC Milan in fifth place, which jumped up after a 2-0 win over Frosinone, and three points ahead of AS Roma, which succumbed to a scoreless draw with Sassuolo this weekend. Atalanta meanwhile came ten minutes from beating Juventus in Turin, and even with a point in a 1-1 draw, Atalanta is still only in third place by 66 points.

[READ: Bayern Munich still too good for the rest this season]

Piotr Zielinski made a statement with a 30-yard blast past Samir Handanovic in the 16th minute to put Napoli up 1-0 and then Dries Mertens and a pair of goals from Fabian Ruiz gave the Neapolitans a massive lead, while leaving Inter in a precarious position. Mauro Icardi scored late to give Inter a small reprieve, but the defeat was set and it leaves Inter essentially needing to win in the final week of the season to secure a place in the Champions League next year.

Elsewhere, Josip Ilicic scored his 12th league goal of the season as Atalanta took Juventus down to the wire in Juve’s final home match of the season. Juventus fans serenaded Andrea Barzagli, playing his final game for the Bianconeri, and even had a message of support for Daniele De Rossi.

Gianluigi Buffon was even in attendance.

Also in action in Serie A, Parma beat Fiorentina, 1-0 and Empoli defeated Torino, 4-1.

Report: Former Chelsea great Clarke set to be new Scotland manager

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The Scotland FA is set to appoint a former Chelsea star as its new men’s national team manager.

Former Chelsea midfielder, and West Bromwich Albion and Reading manager Steve Clarke is reportedly in talks with the Scotland FA to take over the national team. Clarke has a difficult job ahead, with Scotland already having lost, 3-0, at Kazakhstan in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying.

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Although Scotland finished top of their group in Level C of the UEFA Nations League and earned promotion to League B, the team’s play was very up and down under Alex McLeish, back in the job after a one-year spell in 2017. McLeish eventually lost the federation’s support after the 3-0 defeat at Kazakhstan, ranked then 117th in the world, made Scotland look like Europe’s whipping boy. Though Scotland saved some face with a 2-0 win over San Marino, the damage was done.

Clarke, after disappointing tenures at West Bromwich and Reading in his first full managerial roles, has since found success in Scotland. He’s led Kilmarnock this season to third place in the table and a spot in the Europa League, an impressive feat considering the club’s budget is dwarfed by Celtic and Rangers. Aberdeen have impressed, while both Hibernian and Hearts of Midlothain have also recently spent big on new signings, yet Kilmarnock finished above them this season.

Clarke, who only played a half dozen times for Scotland during his playing career, will now have to galvanize the squad ahead of two crucial qualifications in June and quickly imprint his tactical ideas and plan in a short amount of time. During his time at Chelsea, Clarke won the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup Winners Cup between 1987 and 1998. He was also assistant coach under Jose Mourinho and played a key role in some of their most successful seasons.