U.S. player ratings vs. Panama: Johannsson, Davis spark USA into life

4 Comments

A win is a win, right?

That was the case for the United States on Tuesday, as they rallied late in the game to break Panama’s hearts by overturning a 2-1 deficit heading into stoppage time to win 3-2.

In doing so, as I’m sure you’re probably aware by now, the U.S. knocked Panama out of a playoff and gave Mexico a shot at redemption as they looked down and out. It was a night of high-drama across CONCACAF, and the USA were heavily involved even though they’d sealed their qualification last month.

(MORE: Mexico survives; tears for Panama; Honduras, Costa Rica and United States get results in regional World Cup qualifying)

Anyway, World Cup permutations to one side, Jurgen Klinsmann gave plenty of the U.S’s fringe players a chance to shine in Panama, with varying degree of success. Let’s see how they rated.

Brad Guzan (6) – Didn’t have a whole lot to do, but a few slip ups here and there. Have to think he could do better on Panama’s second goal after only pushing the ball back into danger. Can Guzan oust Howard? On this showing, the jury is still out.

Brad Evans (4) – Really struggled with the pace of the Panamanian attack, and was rightly substituted by Klinsi in the second half. A few forays forward didn’t detract from a difficult evening for the Seattle man.

Clarence Goodson (5) – The San Jose centerback skippered the U.S. when Altidore departed, but he was hardly a rock at the heart of team USA’s defense. A few lapses on the ball and guilty of losing his man on Panama’s second prove behind Besler and Gonzalez, Klinsmann needs more defensive cover.

Michael Orozco (6) – Another set piece goal from the Puebla man, but it was hardly a stellar display. Caught out for the second and looking a little shaky at time, his equalizer in the second half was an opportunistic finish. Much more comfortable in central defense than at full back.

source: Getty ImagesEdgar Castillo (5) – Again, another who was caught out for Panama’s second as he pushed up to high and also gave the ball away for the first goal. However, the Club Tijuana defender worked his but off all night long and was able to get up and down the flank to try and support the attack. Another defensive worry for the U.S. 

(MORE: Watch – Relive CONCACAF drama as USA hand Mexico World Cup lifeline)

Sacha Kljestan (7) –  The Anderlecht man delivered a typically tireless display in the middle, as he kept things ticking over nicely and tried to keep the U.S. playing despite Panama’s constant pressure. Solid display.

Mix Diskerud (6) – Tried ever so hard to stamp his authority on the game, but whether it was the final pass or making that decisive run forward, it just didn’t come off for Mix. The Rosenborg man has to keep improving between now and May to guarantee his spot on the plane.

Kyle Beckerman (5) – Despite another workmanlike display in front of the back four, I think Beckerman is getting a little found out at international level. Playing well in the Gold Cup is one thing, but dominating WC qualifiers on the road is extremely difficult and Real Salt Lake’s captain just gave the ball away too many times. And considering his main job is to protect the ball, that’s an issue.

Alejandro Bedoya (6) – Put in a shift, as always on the wing but found himself isolated for large swathes of the match. He was switched to right back and struggled to adapt, but being thrown in at the deep end like that isn’t easy. Seems as though Klinsmann is still undecided, as am I. Can’t fault his effort.

(MORE: The best night ever in CONCACAF qualifying? See how the drama unfolded on Twitter…)

Graham Zusi (6) –  Two goals in two World Cup qualifiers for Zusi, and the SKC man is looking sharp for the USMNT in front of goal. He rose like a salmon to bury Brad Davis’ cross and break Panama’s hearts in injury time. Zusi tried to get on the ball as much as possible but his defensive work out on the left flank needs work, as he exposed Castillo many times.

Jozy Altidore (6) – Captain for the night, Altidore led the line tirelessly with scraps to feed on for most of the game. Reminiscent of his form for Sunderland, the 23-year-old worked his socks off without much reward.

source: Getty ImagesSUBS

Aron Johannsson (7) – Grabbed his first USMNT goal with a wonderful low strike in stoppage time, seems like the Icelandic-American is peeking at the right time for a World Cup callup.

Brad Davis (7) – Exactly what Klinsmann would’ve wanted from Houston’s stalwart, with David producing a pinpoint cross for Zusi’s late equalizer. Calm, composed and a dead ball specialist, Davis could be vital in the pressure cooker of the World Cup.

Terrence Boyd (6) – The young Rapid Vienna striker did well to set up Johannsson for his first U.S. goal and bullied Panama’s defense late on. Full of running and able to stretch the backline, great option off the bench.

COACH

Jurgen Klinsmann (7) – I was impressed with Klinsmann’s decision to shuffle his pack and give some others a chance to shine. He saw where the deficiencies are, defense, and figured out the likes of Boyd and Johannsson could be valuable off the bench. The German coach is also becoming a dab-hand at making subs, a great skill to have for any manager.

World Cup referees miss yet another physical penalty in box

Getty Images
1 Comment

Let’s get this out of the way first: VAR (Video-Assistant Refereeing) has been a fabulous addition to the game of soccer. In the 2018 World Cup, the availability of replay has done nothing but improve the ability of referees to correctly officiate the game, providing an outlet for mistakes to be corrected. Earlier on Friday, a referee gave a penalty to Brazil for a foul on Neymar, but with VAR applied correctly, the penalty was wiped off after it was determined Neymar went down easily. The game continued as it should, and a clear and obvious error was erased.

Unfortunately, despite the clear improvement to the game VAR provides, there’s still some work to be done in one very specific area of the game.

[ MORE: Recap of Serbia 1-2 Switzerland ]

On multiple occasions this World Cup, referees have missed wrestling matches in the penalty area, allowing defenders to essentially get away with murder instead of awarding attackers a deserved penalty. The worst example of this yet took place in the 66th minute of the 1-1 draw between Serbia and Switzerland in Kaliningrad.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, already with a goal to his name early in the match, went up to meet a set-piece delivery with his head. He was fully bear-hugged by Switzerland captain Steven Lichtsteiner, and while being wrapped up, was then rugby tackled by Swiss central defender Fabian Schar.

Yet somehow, Mitrovic was called for the foul, as the referee whistled him for ending up over the back of his defender on a genuine attempt to play the ball.

With every replay shown, it became more and more evident that not only should a penalty have been awarded, but the referee missed a clear and obvious call. Yet the match referee, German Felix Brych, was given no assistance from the VAR booth, left on an island after blowing the call.

There have been so many instances of this throughout the tournament, despite a public directive reportedly given by FIFA to referees asking them to crack down on physical play in the box, according to Fox rules analyst Dr. Joe Machnik. England striker Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground numerous times against Tunisia with no call, while many Egypt fans felt hard done by after Mohamed Salah was bullied in the box repeatedly against Russia.

The more defenders can get away with while defending set pieces in front of net, the more the game will be muddied by controversy, clouding an otherwise glittering debut for VAR on the international stage. That’s frustrating.

Serbia 1-2 Switzerland: Late Shaqiri break shatters Serbian hearts

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the most exciting games of the 2018 World Cup proved entertaining from start to finish, ended by a stunning breakaway goal by Xherdan Shaqiri that capped a 2-1 Switzerland comeback victory over Serbia.

The start of the game was all Serbia, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic the most dangerous option up front, and he delivered on that promise just five minutes in. After a pair of chances just kept out by Yann Sommer, Mitrovic powered in a header off a Dusan Tadic cross to put Serbia in front early on.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The goal confirmed yet another game without a 0-0 draw, 26 in a row to start the tournament, marking the World Cup record set back in 1954 when every single game in the Switzerland event featured a goal.

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

After the goal, the game exploded, with Serbia looking to double its lead and Switzerland hoping to gain a grip on the match. Without a second coming, Switzlerland began to build promisingly, and had its first chance right on the half-hour mark as Steven Zuber through-ball sprung Blerim Dzemaili, but his sliding effort was saved brilliantly by Vladimir Stojkovic at the last second. They had a second chance minutes later, but for some reason Xherdan Shaqiri decided for one too many crosses rather than taking the open shot himself.

Serbia didn’t just look to see out the first half, though, as the star of the first half Dusan Tadic nearly gave his team another lift. First, he delivered a fabulous corner that stunningly skipped through the box untouched. Then, just before the break, Tadic came agonizingly close to what would have been a fabulous half-volley strike that flew viciously wide.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

After the break, the back-and-forth action continued, and Granit Xhaka struck an absolute stunner on the counter to level the match seven minutes into the second half. Shaquiri’s initial attempt from the right edge of the box was blocked and the rebound fell to the Arsenal midfielder outside the penalty area. His follow-up was a laser, curling through the defense and past a wrong-footed Stojkovic.

The chaos continued, with Serbia swinging back into the initiative. Mitrovic had a penalty shout turned down after being bear-hugged and wrestled to the ground by a pair of defenders, and minutes later Aleksandr Kolarov delivered a luscious cross into the box but nobody was there to tap it home.

Serbia began to tire as the game inched towards the final minutes, and Switzerland had most of the late pressure. One moment of brilliance caught the Serbians sleeping, and it proved the difference. Mario Gavranovic fed Shaqiri on the break from his own half, and free on goal the Stoke City winger made no mistake as the last ticks of regulation came off.

The win for Switzerland moves them to four points through the first two matches, leaving them level atop Group E with Brazil on points but in second thanks to an inferior goal differential. Serbia, meanwhile, sits third with three points. Switzerland would advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw in their final match against Costa Rica, while the winner of Brazil vs. Serbia will advance as well, with Brazil advancing in the event of a draw.

Southgate asks media to “help the team” after lineup leak

Getty Images
Leave a comment

England management is unhappy with the media after a coach was snapped with the proposed lineup for Saturday’s match against Panama.

Assistant manager Steve Holland was photographed holding a teamsheet that appeared to show a pair of changes in the England attack, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek replacing Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford partnering with Harry Kane up front. While Southgate attempted to play down the leak, stating the piece of paper was “just a squad list” and “the next sheet has different players in different positions,” he was also clearly frustrated with the media’s decision to run the photos.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“Obviously any time, if we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it’s a disadvantage to us,” Southgate said in his pre-match press conference. “So of course our media has to decide whether they want to help the team or not.

The teamsheet showed no changes to the defense, with the team playing a three-center-back system as Kyle Walker continues his role along that back line. Kieran Trippier stays in at wing-back opposite Ashley Young, with Jordan Henderson sitting in the midfield between them. Jesse Lingard retains his place in the attack centrally with help from the addition of Loftus-Cheek, and the pair of strikers ahead of them.

Walker was also asked about the leak, and he said Holland apologized to the team, even if they felt it was unnecessary. “He’s apologised to us all in training, which we had a bit of banter with him about, and that was it.”

“I think if you guys try to keep it to yourself and don’t bring it out to the world,” Walker added, “because it’s not going to help us come the later stages of the tournament, please God we get there. All the rest of the world’s seen our team now, if that is the team or if not. As I say, you guys have to do your little bit, so if you could just please help us with that it would be polite.”

Liverpool to lose $82m Alisson to Real; Klopp turns to Lazio GK?

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
1 Comment

Brazilian national team starter and Liverpool transfer target Alisson looks increasingly likely to only see Anfield as a visitor.

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport says Real Madrid is going to tempt Roma with an $82 million bid that could rise with add-ons.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

And Real would also offer a near $6 million annual salary to the Brazilian backstop.

It’s coincidence that this news comes on the day that both Alisson and current Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas were at opposite ends of the pitch.

Alisson had little to do, while Costa Rican backstop Navas was outstanding until Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored during stoppage time.

Meanwhile, TalkSport says the Reds are in on a different Serie A goalkeeper: Lazio’s Albanian backstop Thomas Strakosha.

The 23-year-old old played all 38 league games for the Roman club this season.