Americans Abroad Review: Guzan blanks Chelsea, Cameron steady again

1 Comment

The Yanks went unbeaten in the Premier League, while there was an assist in the Bundesliga, an own goal in the Championship and plenty of bench time for Americans in Europe this weekend.

Brad Guzan is going to be extra popular this week in Birmingham after he kept a clean sheet in Aston Villa’s 1-0 upset of Chelsea at Villa Park. Guzan was saved from a not-so-good goal that hit him twice on the way in when it was adjudged that Nemanja Matic handled the ball before shooting.

Geoff Cameron made it 22-straight Premier League matches playing all 90 minutes for Stoke City as the Potters made it three in a row with points in a 3-1 win over West Ham. Stoke’s 34 points give them a lot of room for exhalation with a 9-point cushion above No. 18 Sunderland.

There were only two saves required of Tim Howard as Everton held the play against Cardiff City en route to a 2-1 win. With Spurs stumbling, the Toffees are in the driver’s seat for fifth place in the PL. Everton is two points back of No. 5 Tottenham, but have played two less matches.

Jozy Altidore subbed on at half for Sunderland, as an effective Steven Fletcher was forced to leave with an injury. The Black Cats controlled the ball in the second half and Altidore was a part of that, but he — and they — couldn’t finish one off as Sunderland stayed in the drop zone with a 0-0 draw (though admittedly their path out is rather favorable for a relegation-scrapping squad).

There was plenty of American excitement down a division in the Championship, where all matches were played on Saturday. All three Yanks featuring in Sheffield Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Birmingham Cityplayed 90 minutes, with Oguchi Onyewu coming out on the winning end. Jonathan Spector played the entire match for Birmingham, while Will Packwood had an own goal for the visitors.

Yeovil Town fell to QPR 3-0 and Duane Holmes was pulled off after 29 minutes due to injury and a “lack of impact.” Tim Ream watched as Bolton fell 2-0 to Brighton despite his full game’s work, while Danny Williams was left off the team sheet entirely for Reading’s 0-0 draw with Derby County. Reading remains a point out of the playoffs, while Yeovil Town is three points away from safety and Bolton is a comfortable 11 points ahead of the drop.

Nearly a half-dozen Americans played in the Liga MX match between Cruz Azul and Tijuana, won by the home team 2-1. Herculez Gomez subbed off, while Paul Arriola picked up a yellow card and an assist in the loss. Edgar Castillo played the entire loss, while Alejandro Guido started fed Arriola before the assist. MLSSoccer.com points out that 17-year-old Fernando Arce Jr. was born in the States, and he made his debut for Tijuana.

Jose Torres‘ Tigres club beat the Puebla side of DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco by a 1-0 score.

Juan Agudelo has now gone five matches without a shot on goal after his hot start at FC Utrecht, though by some accounts he was steady in playing the duration of a 2-2 draw with lower-table NEC. Also in the Netherlands, Aron Johannsson subbed off after 60 minutes in AZ Alkmaar’s 2-1 loss at FC Twente. Johannsson had played 90 minutes just three days prior with a goal in the Europa League win over Anzhi.

Anderlecht unloaded a 4-0 decision on KV Oostende, as Sacha Kljestan played the whole match for the winners, while former DC United player Andy Najar (Honduras) scored. Terrence Boyd went 90 in SK Rapid Wien’s 1-0 win over SV Josko Ried. Vienna is now a point back of second place but 18 back of first place FC Red Bull Salzburg.

Ale Bedoya found himself on the bench for all of Nantes’ impressive 0-0 away draw to Lille, while Jermaine Jones didn’t play for Besiktas in its disappointing 2-2 draw against Caykur Rizespor.

Fabian Johnson picked up an assist for Hoffenheim in a 4-2 loss to Mainz, though his assist put them in front 2-1. John Anthony Brooks didn’t play as Hertha Berlin were embarrassed 3-0 at home by Hannover 96.

Benfica loanee Parks readies for playoffs with NYCFC

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Keaton Parks plays the kind of hard-to-quantify midfield role that sends both stat nerds and eye test takers to a very good place.

Barely 22, the New York City FC midfielder doesn’t stand out in any one particular area. Since arriving on loan from Benfica, the American shuttler (of sorts) ranks near the top of the club rankings in pass percentage and aerials won while chipping in tackles and successful dribbles.

[ MORE: PST talks public pitches, youth development with NYCFC director Reyna ]

He’s averaging near one key pass per game but has just a goal and an assist, due more to his responsibility in Dome Torrent’s system than a particular skill set (He has eight goals and seven assists across two-plus seasons between Varzim and Benfica B).

“In the midfield it really helps to play both sides of the ball,” Parks told ProSoccerTalk. “I take pride in doing that, and I love to make a tackle as much as getting in the attack and assisting or scoring goals. It doesn’t bother me that I’m not scoring or making all of the assists. I like to be the solid player who keeps the balance on the team.”

(Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Parks has been an enigma to American soccer fans for some time in that he’s been in a celebrated club in Benfica but playing in a developmental role that’s near impossible to track without single-minded dedication to Portuguese football (Dramatic? Sure, but you try to catch every Liga Pro game).

But in moving to New York City FC to play under Dome Torrent, he’s had an easier transition than most due to his upbringing with Benfica, which annually ranks amongst the top possession teams in Portugal. Torrent, of course, left his last managerial gig at Girona in Spain to spent a decade-plus on Pep Guardiola‘s staff at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City.

“Dome likes to play a possession style, a confident style,” Parks said. “I still have to fight for my spot on the team but the playing style I was used to right away.

“You can see the experience Dome has, and he mirrors a little bit of what Pep does, so it’s been amazing to be able to learn from him and see the experiences of the players he’s been able to coach in his career.”

NYCFC begins its playoff run on Wednesday against Toronto FC at Citi Field in Queens, and Parks says he’s feeling better after missing three matches with injury.

And while he’s focused on the playoffs — “We want to win the Cup and be at the top” — there is a question of what’s next for him, still on the books at a perennial UEFA Champions League club but very important with a CONCACAF Champions League club.

[ MORE: MLS Playoffs preview/predictions ]

“I’m just going to be looking forward to whatever club I’m at next, whether here or back at Benfica or wherever I am and also with the U-23s going into Tokyo next summer.”

He’ll, in theory, be an imperative part to Jason Kreis, ironically a former NYCFC man himself, and the Yanks bid for a first Olympic run in three cycles. The team should be powerful, and Parks is happy.

“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “We have so much talent on the team with guys playing first division all over the world. I believe we can make a run all the way to these Olympics.”
NYCFC and Toronto FC kick off 7 p.m. ET Wednesday at Citi Field.

MLS conference semifinal preview and predictions

Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’re not sure we should be allowed to make Major League Soccer playoff predictions after getting two upset bids wrong in the first round, but we go again anyway.

No, DC United did not outlast Toronto FC at BMO Field nor were the Portland Timbers able to get a win over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto but… we got the other four right?

[ MORE: Dest choosing side this week ]

It gets trickier at midweek for the conference semifinals, as two of those six victors from the weekend face well-rested one seeds (We suppose they could be rusty, not just well-rested).

NYCFC v. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Regular season:
TFC 4-0 NYCFC (April 29)
NYCFC 1-1 TFC (Sept. 11)

Toronto hasn’t lost since Aug. 3 (5W-6D) and is well-equipped to deal NYCFC’s possession system on a postage stamp pitch. NYC’s only loss in its last 11 was a throwaway loss to a desperate Revolution side in New England. TFC has a lot of experience in spots like this, but Dome Torrent’s done an incredible job with City. It’s a coin toss, but ultimately it feels like that coin lands TFC side up. 2-1 aet.

Seattle v. Real Salt Lake  — 10 p.m. ET Wednesday

Regular season:
Seattle 1-0 RSL (April 6)
RSL 3-0 Seattle (Aug. 14)

This one’s also close, as RSL has a number of players who won’t be bothered by the pressure but man is this home field advantage a real one. The Sounders only lost two home matches this season, and haven’t lost a home playoff match under Brian Schmetzer. Call it 2-0 for Seattle.

Atlanta United v. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. ET Thursday

Regular season:
ATL 1-1 Philly (March 17)
Philly 3-1 ATL (Aug. 31)

The Union are resilient, and Jim Curtin seeing success is an absolute joy. So deserved, but Frank De Boer is showing his mettle in making the tough decisions and Ezequiel Barco looks a terror. A side that is able to bring Tito Villalba and Pity Martinez off the bench is unfair. Atlanta, 3-1.

LAFC v. LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday

Regular season:
Galaxy 3-2 LAFC (July 19)
LAFC 3-3 Galaxy (Aug. 25)

Can hardly wait for this one. Bob Bradley and Carlos Vela look to send Zlatan Ibrahimovic packing after a riotous summer competition. LAFC is so, so good, and the lack of rest for the Galaxy is a problem. Still, betting against Zlatan seems borderline insane, and Jonathan dos Santos has big game mettle of his own. We’ll call it 2-2 and a place in penalty kicks, where David Bingham’s the difference for the Galaxy in a history-writing upset that takes El Trafico to the next level. Yes, we are predicting for storylines now.

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Liverpool hit the road

Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Frank Lampard has a selection headache amongst his wingers as he tries to figure out Chelsea’s best avenue to break down Ajax on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

Youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic starred in the Blues’ weekend win, and Lampard also has Pedro and Willian available at Johan Cruyff Arena before a weekend visit to Burnley.

[ MORE: Dest choosing side this week ]

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Callum gave me that in his display from the start and Christian gave me that in his display coming on, and in terms of the wingers I have, Willian gave me that, Pedro gives me that so I have good selection problems when people come on and make a difference. That is what we are all about.

“The extra level that is the Champions League, the detail, the focus, concentration for 90 minutes, making the most of tiny moments, will be a test for all the young players, not just Callum.”

The good news for Pulisic in his bid to match wits with fellow USMNT (for now) player Sergino Dest is that he’s had experience on the UCL stage with Borussia Dortmund.

The other PL side in action is Liverpool, and the Reds will be expecting to get all three points in Belgium against Genk.

But Genk drew Napoli 0-0 at home on the second match day and the Reds will be wary of a slip-up.

“It’s a really good football-playing team,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. “They are organized and brave in their positioning. They don’t play with the pressing line too much but go for second balls, have speed and good midfielders and very active full-backs.”

Klopp will not have Trent Alexander-Arnold (illness) and Joel Matip (knee).

Other highlights…

— American manager Jesse Marsch hopes to lead Red Bull Salzburg to a home win over Napoli when he matches wits with Carlo Ancelotti.

Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan could really use a result against tricky Borussia Dortmund in Italy.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Ajax v. Chelsea
RB Leipzig v. Zenit Saint-Petersburg

3 p.m. ET
Slavia Prague v. Barcelona
Red Bull Salzburg v. Napoli
Genk v. Liverpool
Inter Milan v. Borussia Dortmund
Lille v. Valencia
Benfica v. Lyon

Man City’s Guardiola issues Rodri update; Zinchenko also injured

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Man City boss Pep Guardiola expects to be without Rodri for at least a couple of matches after his heavily relied-on midfielder hurt his hamstring on Tuesday.

Rodri was removed from the match after 40 minutes, having partnered with Fernandinho at center back for the second-straight match.

[ MORE: Man City 5-1 Atalanta ]

A center mid and a fine one by trade, Rodri’s absence coupled with the still-hurt Aymeric Laporte leaves City significantly weaker in its heart.

“I think tomorrow we will know and hopefully it will be between 10 days if it is not broken,” Guardiola said. “If it is broken, it will be three weeks or one month.”

The club also announced before the match that Oleksandr Zinchenko had suffered a knee injury and will undergo tests.

City visits Aston Villa this weekend and then hosts Southampton in the League Cup and the Premier League before a visit to Atalanta in the Champions League.

That’s when Liverpool at Anfield arrives on the schedule, and the absence of Rodri would take some of the luster off of it for sure.