What went wrong in Saturday’s U.S. win over South Korea

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  • Movement back to front needs sharpening

For a center back the game is all about “stop and distribute.” Omar Gonzalez is generally OK at the “stop,” the occasion switch-off notwithstanding. But the “distribute” continues to be a work in progress for the big U.S. center back and presumed starter in Brazil.

His passing accuracy is OK, but his choices with ball and speed in moving possession into midfielders was problematic Saturday. Even allowing for opening game rustiness, Gonzalez (pictured) needed to do better against the well-organized Koreans, and if he can’t sharpen the product coming out of the back before this summer, there’s a goal out there for Ghana, Germany or Portugal. (They’ll all be well organized, too.)

Considering the slim margins ahead in the Group of You Know What, that can’t happen. Not if the U.S. wants to play beyond that first round.

One of South Korea’s best opportunities of Saturday’s first half came as the United States began struggling to work the ball smoothly out of the back, about 15 minutes in. At one point, Gonzalez’s ill-advised pass into a midfielder under pressure was stripped away, leaving the U.S. back line and goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a problem to deal with.

(MORE: United States opens year with 2-0 win over South Korea)

South Korea couldn’t turn it into a goal. Germany probably will. Portugal and Ghana might very well, too.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. Just a few minutes later, a sloppy pass from fellow U.S. center back Matt Besler gave South Korea a second opportunity within a small window.

Midfielder Brad Davis, starting along the left in the 4-4-2, also gave the ball away in bad spots here and there.

And holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman, whose best work with the ball usually comes in the attacking end, when he releases passes quickly, sometimes gets overly cautious when turning with the ball in his own end. The result is an attack that labors a bit through the midfield, as it did at times Saturday.

  • Brad Evans does OK. Again.

Say this for U.S. defender Brad Evans: he delivers very predictable results.

That means solid defending and an honest effort … but not much of a contribution on the attacking end. In a match at home against a middle class foe like Saturday’s, it’s fair to expect the outside backs to get forward a little more often, to impose themselves a little more along the flanks, adding pressure by adding numbers to the attack.

And when they do, the crosses need to be zippy and purposeful, which doesn’t always happen with Evans.

(MORE: What went right in the U.S. win over South Korea)

He still looks like the starting right back of the moment, but that is somewhat by default. Unless the Seattle man (who plays midfielder for his team, remember) can deliver something with a little more authority, his position will be ripe for picking off.

(Although not by DeAndre Yedlin, as the Seattle Sounders ‘debuting international reminded us with a few “rookie” moments in late-game backup duty Saturday that he still has a long way to go.)

Bottom line for Evans: he’s probably done enough to warrant a place on the 23-man roster; if he wants to start in Brazil, however, he may need to do more.

  • Mix Diskerud still not quite there

The door is open for Mix Diskerud, but the young U.S. midfielder still cannot quite command a midfield the way an international should.

He’s young, just 23, so there’s still plenty of time.  But his inability to be just a little better as a conduit, or to deliver a few more penetrating balls in the attacking third means Jurgen Klinsmann may still be looking in the months ahead for trusty a two-way midfielder to back up Michael Bradley.

LIVE, FA Cup 4th round: Spurs visit Southampton in all-PL tie

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The fourth round of the FA Cup is set to get into full swing at 10 a.m. ET, with eight ties kicking off simultaneously, including a pair of all-Premier League clashes.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Southampton host Tottenham Hotspur in the premier matchup of the time slot, with Jose Mourinho desperate for Cup success amid a difficult run of results at Tottenham. Elsewhere, Burnley will host Norwich City at Turf Moor. Fellow PL sides West Ham United, Newcastle United and Sheffield United are also in action.

Check the schedule of fixtures below, and hit the link above to follow along with the scores and results. As always, check back on PST for recaps and a roundup of all the action.

Saturday’s FA Cup schedule (all games at 10 a.m. ET, unless otherwise noted)

Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur
Burnley v. Norwich City
West Ham United
v. West Bromwich Albion
Newcastle United v. Oxford United
Millwall v. Sheffield United
Portsmouth v. Barnsley
Coventry City v. Birmingham City
Reading v. Cardiff City
Hull City v. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. ET

FA Cup: Leicester survive trip to Brentford, reach 5th round (video)

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Brendan Rodgers made nine changes, but Leicester City were simply too much for an equally rotated Brentford side in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Griffin Park on Saturday.

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

Leicester took an early lead through Kelechi Iheanacho with just four minutes on the clock, and that was all the Premier League’s third-place side needed to see off the EFL Championship’s third-place side. Dennis Praet gets no official credit for the goal, but it was the Belgian midfielder’s seeing-eye through ball that carved the Bees up and found James Justin for the routine cross followed by Iheanacho’s tap-in finish.

It was far from easy or straightforward for the Foxes, though, as Brentford turned things around following the first-half whistle an so nearly pulled level just past the hour mark. Emiliano Marcondes whipped in a curling, in-swinging cross that needed the slightest of redirects to find the back of the net, but Halil Dervisoglu couldn’t get a toe on the ball and watched helplessly as it hit the inside of the post and settled on the ground a yard or two off the goal line.

Bryan Mbeumo came off the bench and put the ball into the back of Leicester’s goal with his first touch, but the Frenchman was correctly ruled offside when Rico Henry looped the ball over the Foxes’ defense.

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

Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Eriksen

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After months of posturing and working the back channels, it would appear that Christian Eriksen is close to getting his transfer away from Tottenham Hotspur.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

After months of posturing and holding firm, it would appear that Tottenham are close to getting their desired transfer fee for Eriksen despite his contract having only six months remaining.

After months of posturing and unsettling the 27-year-old star, it would appear that Inter Milan are close to getting their Danish international playmaker.

In the end, it would appear that everyone is going to get what they want, only no one truly gets what they want. Spurs spent the last year trying to sign Eriksen to a new contract; Eriksen wanted to leave in the summer and will feel like they wasted six months of his career; much like Inter would have been desperate to bolster their squad in the summer.

[ MORE: Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong ]

$22 million — the amount Spurs will reportedly receive from Inter — will hardly be enough to replace such an influential player, therefore Spurs come out of this long-running saga the worst of the bunch.

As for Eriksen and Inter, it’ll be a challenge for the player to immediately find his footing and shine ever so brightly in the midst of a title race, especially after the side has already slumped to back-to-back draws and fallen four points back of Juventus. Though, reportedly tripling his wages from Spurs to Inter leaves Eriksen the biggest winner in a mostly no-win situation.

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.