U.S. Men’s National Team defense remains unsettled after Mexico draw

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One of the biggest question marks surrounding the U.S. Men’s National Team heading into this summer’s World Cup in Brazil concerns the team’s backline. Last night’s 2-2 draw with Mexico did little to shed light on this growing worry.

Jurgen Klinsmann came into last night’s match with a MLS stable of six defenders to choose from: Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Clarence Goodson, Tony Beltran, Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin.

This meant more than a few key faces were missing, namely, Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron and Hoffenheim’s Fabian Johnson, who remained with their clubs in Europe, Seattle’s Brad Evans, who is recovering from a calf injury sustained during a game against Toronto FC on March 15, and Puebla’s DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco, who were not released by their club because the friendly did not fall on a FIFA international match date.

Klinsmann, therefore, opted to start a center-back partnership of Besler and Gonzalez, with Parkhurst on the left and Beltran on the right.

Gonzalez began the game strong, looking much like the player who impressed in the 0-0 draw with Mexico in 2013 and the 2-0 win over El Tri on September 10th. His second half, however, was a complete horror show as he lost track of Rafa Marquez on Mexico’s opener in the 49th minute and got caught ball-watching on Alan Pulido’s 68th minute equalizer.

Marquez’ goal highlighted Gonzalez’ inability to use the body he’s been blessed with. Despite his 6’5″, 205 lbs. frame, Gonzalez remains reluctant to bust through the opposition with Marquez easily evading him by running a pick around Kyle Beckerman and Juan Valenzuela. It was a simple move by a crafty veteran that Gonzalez should have had the strength to either blow straight through or the agility and wherewithal to skip around. Instead, he was left flat-footed, miles away from Marquez.

On Pulido’s strike, Gonzalez either fell asleep or gave up. Either way, he looked totally perplexed at how Pulido had gotten around him and silly with his hand held high in the air, begging for offside.

Besler, on the other hand, continues to impress despite his relative inexperience at the national team level. The smooth passing Sporting KC center-back is blessed with brilliant timing and, unlike his partner last night, is rapt with attention the entire time he’s on the pitch. In the first half Besler denied Pulido a clever chance and throughout the game showed the poise of a man ready to lead in Brazil.

The problem was that Besler’s night was cut short by Klinsmann’s decision to swap him out for Clarence Goodson. Like Besler, Goodson has a quiet confidence to him, no doubt the result of a 31-year-old with a diverse soccer CV. Goodson’s consistency is his best trait and while nothing about his performance last night will raise red flags, his similar style to Besler, minus perhaps an ounce of the tenaciousness, makes him feel like the third center-back option in Brazil.

The most likely partner for Besler come this summer is Cameron, who, despite playing right-back for his club, has the versatility (and the desire) to play in the center of the defense. Cameron’s speed, grit and experience make him feel like the right compliment to Belser but if this duo is to lead the Stars & Stripes in Brazil, they’ll need to begin fusing a proper partnership, and quick.

Parkhurst, starting at left-back, is another player who didn’t hurt his chances for Brazil. The Columbus Crew captain went 90 strong and generally held down his side of the field, which wasn’t easy considering the pouring forward of Mexico as the game matured. Yet given the presence of players like Johnson and Beasley, who remain the most likely left-backs to start in Brazil, Parkhurst is still a player on the bubble.

Beltran had some decent moments but was largely an inconsistent figure. His defending was average and Mexico looked to exploit him down the right side of the field. Yedlin was impressive when he came on for Beltran in the 71st minute, putting together a few trademark scampers up the pitch although his inexperience remains a worry. One for the future, no doubt, but as far as selection for this summer goes, Yedlin is another who will need a big spring to punch his ticket to Brazil.

As the USMNT enters its final prep phase for World Cup 2014, the time has come for Klinsmann to settle on a back four that can gel. Besler and Cameron feel like a solid combination, although Goodson could also do the job if Cameron is used as a right-back with Johnson on the left. If Cameron stays in the middle, Johnson on the left and Evans on the right could work, or, Beasley could go left with Johnson right.

Either way, Besler, Cameron and Johnson remain the three key pieces to the Nats back four. Who that fourth player is and what permutation the USMNT will ultimately feature in Brazil remains in the trusted hands of Klinsmann.

 

Bundesliga: Takeaways from Week 29

Bundesliga takeaways
Photo by Bernd Thissen/Pool via Getty Images
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Two teams with American players going in two very different directions met Sunday in Gelsenkirchen.

Werder Bremen beat Schalke 1-0 via a wonderful Leonardo Bittencourt goal to give it plenty of hope of avoiding its first relegation in nearly 40 years.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

The win also gave plenty of misery to Schalke, who looks absolutely rudderless. David Wagner’s men are winless in 11 league outings with five draws and a total of three goals scored. Three of those losses have come to teams currently ranked 13th and lower on the table.

Schalke has produced nine shots on target in its four matches back from the break, with Weston McKennie’s diving header its only goal in 430 minutes. Next on the docket is a trip to Union Berlin before finishing with Bayer, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, and Freiburg.

[ MORE: USMNT mid McKennie wears black armband ]

Bremen, on the other hand, can move level on points with 15th place Mainz by beating Eintracht on Wednesday.

There are still tough matches on the docket including Wolfsburg and Bayern — the latter of whom may have already won the league by that June 16 home match — but Eintracht, Paderborn, Mainz, and Koln… there are points to be had there.

Also encouraging: American forward Josh Sargent has started all three matches of Bremen’s unbeaten run. He’s getting valuable experience and mettle for a 20-year-old, even if the direction has been, “Run around like a maniac and make lives miserable.”

Sargent is covering the entire field from his striker position, and he’s being noticed by defenders. He drew five fouls in 70 minutes, won 10-of-17 duels, and posted two tackles, an interception, and a clearance (Sofascore).


Player of the Week: There’s little question here. Jadon Sancho’s return to the Starting XI was an unqualified success as the English winger collected his first hat trick in a 6-1 win over Paderborn.

It was 0-0 before Thorgan Hazard opened the scoring, but Sancho had shown signs of life even while kicking off first half rust.

Sancho went 90 minutes in getting his three goals (57′, 74′, 90’+1), completing three of his four take-ons while passing at an absurd 92 percent given he plays much of his match in the final third.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

Additionally, Sancho registered five key passes, two of which were classified as big chances by Sofascore.

He’s one of four players in Europe’s top five leagues to have double digit goals and assists (Alassane Plea, Serge Gnabry, and Lionel Messi). His price tag, rightfully, is going to be absolutely nuts, pandemic or not.

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund recap and video highlights
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

BEST XI

Hradecky (Bayer)

Hakimi (Dortmund) — Torunarigha (Hertha) — Bender (Bayer) — Angelino (Leipzig)

Klaassen (Bremen)

Sancho (Dortmund) — Bittencourt (Bremen) — Thuram (Gladbach)

Plea (Gladbach) —  Lewandowski (Bayern)

Notes:

  • Klaasen joined Hoffenheim loanee Kevin Vogt in locking down the midfield against Schalke. Yes, we exhaustively covered Schalke’s offensive ineptitude but their steely performances won the day.
  • Thuram and Plea are a dynamic duo with power and skill. Plea is now one of the referenced four players with double-digit goal and assist seasons this year, while Thuram is likely to meet him there.
  • Twenty-two year old German youth international Jordan Torunarigha was very strong, making nine clearances, two blocks, an interception, and two tackles while passing at 85 percent.

SCORES

Freiburg 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen — RECAP
Mainz 0-1 Hoffenheim — RECAP
Hertha Berlin 2-0 Augsburg — RECAP
Schalke 0-1 Werder Bremen — RECAP
Wolfsburg 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt — RECAP
Bayern Munich 5-0 Fortuna Dusseldorf — RECAP
Borussia Monchengladbach 4-1 Union Berlin — RECAP
Paderborn 1-6 Borussia Dortmund — RECAP
Koln 2-4 RB Leipzig — RECAP


UPCOMING FIXTURES (Full season schedule here)

Week 24 reschedule
Werder Bremen v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Week 30
Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
RB Leipzig v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Mainz — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Union Berlin v. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Augsburg v. Koln — Noon ET Sunday


STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 28 20 4 4 81 28 53 10-2-2 10-2-2 64
 Borussia Dortmund 28 17 6 5 74 34 40 10-3-1 7-3-4 57
 RB Leipzig 28 15 10 3 70 29 41 7-6-1 8-4-2 55
 Mönchengladbach 28 16 5 7 53 34 19 9-2-3 7-3-4 53
 Bayer Leverkusen 28 16 5 7 53 36 17 7-4-3 9-1-4 53
 VfL Wolfsburg 28 11 9 8 40 34 6 4-6-4 7-3-4 42
 1899 Hoffenheim 28 11 6 11 39 48 -9 6-1-8 5-5-3 39
 SC Freiburg 28 10 8 10 38 40 -2 6-2-5 4-6-5 38
 FC Schalke 04 28 9 10 9 34 45 -11 5-6-3 4-4-6 37
 Hertha BSC Berlin 28 9 8 11 41 50 -9 4-3-7 5-5-4 35
 1. FC Köln 28 10 4 14 44 52 -8 6-3-5 4-1-9 34
 FC Augsburg 28 8 7 13 40 54 -14 5-4-5 3-3-8 31
 1. FC Union Berlin 28 9 4 15 33 48 -15 6-2-6 3-2-9 31
 Eintracht Frankfurt 27 8 5 14 44 52 -8 6-4-4 2-1-10 29
 FSV Mainz 05 28 8 4 16 37 61 -24 4-2-8 4-2-8 28
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 28 6 9 13 31 53 -22 4-4-6 2-5-7 27
 Werder Bremen 27 5 7 15 29 59 -30 1-3-9 4-4-6 22
 SC Paderborn 28 4 7 17 31 55 -24 2-2-10 2-5-7 19

Serie A fixtures set for remainder of 2019-20 season

Serie A fixtures
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Serie A’s season will play out in 124 matches over 43 days between June 20 and Aug. 2.

The final day will see the two leaders in massive matches against traditional powers, as current leaders Juventus host Roma and second-place Lazio visits Napoli.

Those leaders also know when their final showdown with each other will take place. Lazio’s visit to Juventus is the only match on July 20.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Juve is seeking its ninth-straight scudetto and leads Lazio by one point, with the second-place side boasting a better goal differential by nine. Lazio beat 10-man Juve 3-1 in December.

The Coppa Italia semifinal second legs and final will be played in the week prior to Serie A’s resumption.

Napoli leads Inter after one leg in Milan, while Milan and Juve drew 1-1 at the San Siro. Juve had its four Coppa run broken by Lazio last season.

June 20
Torino v. Parma
Verona v. Cagliari

June 21
Atalanta v. Sassuolo
Inter Milan v. Sampdoria

June 22
Lecce v. Milan
Fiorentina v. Brescia
Bologna v. Juventus

June 23
SPAL v. Cagliari
Verona v. Napoli
Torino v. Udinese
Genoa v. Parma

June 24
Atalanta v. Lazio
Inter Milan v. Sassuolo
Roma v. Sampdoria

June 26
Juventus v. Lecce

June 27
Brescia v. Genoa
Cagliari v. Torino
Lazio v. Fiorentina

June 28
Milan v. Roma
Napoli v. SPAL
Sampdoria v. Bologna
Udinese v. Atalanta
Sassuolo v. Verona
Parma v. Inter Milan

June 30
Torino v. Lazio
Genoa v. Juventus

July 1
Bologna v. Cagliari
Inter Milan v. Brescia
Lecce v. Sampdoria
Fiorentina v. Sassuolo
SPAL v. Milan
Verona v. Parma

July 2
Juventus v. Torino
Sassuolo v. Lecce
Lazio v. Milan

The Turin Derby (Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

July 5
Inter Milan v. Bologna
Sampdoria v. SPAL
Cagliari v. Atalanta
Brescia v. Verona
Udinese v. Genoa
Parma v. Fiorentina
Napoli v. Roma

July 7
Lecce v. Lazio
AC Milan v. Juventus

July 8
Genoa v. Napoli
Fiorentina v. Cagliari
Atalanta v. Sampdoria
Bologna v. Sassuolo
Torino v. Brescia
Roma v. Parma

July 9
SPAL v. Udinese
Verona v. Inter Milan

July 11
Lazio v. Sassuolo
Brescia v. Roma
Juventus v. Atalanta

July 12
Genoa v. SPAL
Parma v. Bologna
Fiorentina v. Verona
Cagliari v. Lecce
Udinese v. Sampdoria
Napoli v. Milan

July 13
Inter Milan v. Torino

July 14
Atalanta v. Brescia

July 15
Sampdoria v. Cagliari
Bologna v. Napoli
Milan v. Parma
Lecce v. Fiorentina
Sassuolo v. Juventus
Roma v. Verona
Udinese v. Lazio

July 16
Torino v. Genoa
SPAL v. Inter Milan

July 18
Verona v. Atalanta
Cagliari v. Sassuolo
Milan v. Bologna

July 19
Parma v. Sampdoria
Genoa v. Lecce
Fiorentina v. Torino
Napoli v. Udinese
Brescia v. SPAL
Roma v. Inter Milan

July 20
Juventus v. Lazio

(Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

July 21
Atalanta v. Bologna
Sassuolo v. Milan

July 22
Parma v. Napoli
Torino v. Verona
SPAL v. Roma
Lecce v. Brescia
Inter Milan v. Fiorentina
Sampdoria v. Genoa

July 23
Udinese v. Juventus
Lazio v Cagliari

July 26
Milan v. Atalanta
Roma v. Fiorentina
Juventus v. Sampdoria
Cagliari v. Udinese
Verona v. Lazio
Brescia v. Parma
SPAL v. Torino
Napoli v. Sassuolo
Bologna v. Lecce
Genoa v. Inter Milan

July 29
Fiorentina v. Bologna
Verona v. SPAL
Udinese v. Lecce
Parma v. Atalanta
Lazio v. Brescia
Inter Milan v. Napoli
Cagliari v. Juventus
Torino v. Roma
Sampdora v. Milan
Sassuolo v Genoa

Aug. 2
Genoa v. Verona
Juventus v. Roma
Atalanta v. Inter Milan
SPAL v. Fiorentina
Bologna v. Torino
Napoli v. Lazio
Lecce v. Parma
Milan v. Cagliari
Brescia v. Sampdoria
Sassuolo v. Udinese


How to Watch Serie A

  • When: Begins June 20
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Stream LiveVia ESPN+

German federation explains review of players who honored George Floyd

George Floyd tributes in soccer
Bernd Thissn/Pool via AP
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BERLIN — The German soccer federation has defended its decision to assess whether four young Bundesliga players who made gestures in solidarity with George Floyd over the weekend must face sanctions.

The DFB also said on Monday that Jadon Sancho’s booking for removing his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the demand “Justice for George Floyd” had nothing to do with the message — rather, the yellow card was issued because the 20-year-old England forward broke a rule that says players who celebrate goals by taking off their jerseys or lifting them over their heads must be booked for “unsporting behavior.”

Borussia Dortmund teammate Achraf Hakimi, 21, who displayed the same message after scoring in the same game on Sunday, was not booked because he did not lift his jersey over his head.

The DFB control committee is looking into their gestures and those made by Schalke’s 21-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie and Borussia Monchengladbach’s 22-year-old French forward Marcus Thuram to see if the four players broke laws that prohibit players from displaying “political, religious or personal slogans.”

McKennie was the first to make a statement when he wore an armband with the handwritten message “Justice for George” around his left arm on Saturday.

Thuram on Sunday took a knee after scoring in Borussia Monchengladbach’s win over Union Berlin.

Sancho and Hakimi followed suit later Sunday.

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died on Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck. Three other officers were also at the scene. Chauvin has been charged with murder and all four were fired.

DFB president Fritz Keller on Monday showed his respect and understanding for McKennie, Thuram, Sancho and Hakimi’s gestures.

“If people are discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, it is unbearable. If they die because of their skin color, then I am deeply distraught,” Keller said in a DFB statement. “The victims of racism need all of us to show solidarity.”

Keller referred to meetings with victims of discrimination and representatives of organizations that have faced anti-Semetic, anti-Muslim or racist hostility, and said the DFB and German soccer was showing its clear rejection of all forms of racism, discrimination and violence.

Keller also praised both male and female players for taking a stand and showing their solidarity.

“I’m proud of them. I can completely understand the actions from the weekend. Nobody can be indifferent to what happened in the United States,” Keller said.

Former Mainz forward Anthony Ujah was just given a warning by the DFB in 2014 in regard to the ban on political statements when he displayed a T-shirt with Eric Garner’s name and the words “can’t breathe” and “justice,” in reference to Garner’s death after a police officer placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.

Now playing for Union Berlin, Ujah on Thursday tweeted a picture of his protest from the time, but with Floyd’s name typed above in bold.

Floyd also said “I can’t breathe” before he died.

“If the DFB’s control committee wants to investigate, then I have to ask myself if we all have the same values,” Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert said. “It’s about a global issue here: The no to racism.”

Leipzig doubles up Koln behind Werner’s 25th

Koln v. Leipzig recap and video highlights
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Timo Werner hit 25 goals for the first time in his Bundesliga career and Christopher Nkunku continued his fine season as RB Leipzig overcame hosts Koln 4-2 in a Monday thriller.

Leipzig moves third with the win, moving onto 58, after Patrik Schick scored his ninth goal in 18 league matches to open the contest. Dani Olmo also scored for the victorious visitors.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

Jhon Cordoba and Anthony Modeste scored for Koln, whose top six hopes take a big hit. The Billy Goats remain 11th and are now closer to the drop zone than sixth.

Only Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich has scored more league goals (29) than Werner.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

A great early save from Timo Horn on Timo Werner preceded Koln’s opener.

Elvis Rexhbecaj timed his run well and knifed to the near post, where he shot through the legs of Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

The ball hit the post and skittered into the box and Gulacsi could only get a piece of Cordoba’s left-footed attempt.

Leipzig leveled when Upamecano dribbled up the heart of the pitch before finding Man City loanee Angelino on the left for a perfect cross and Schick header. Angelino had an exceptional day on the left flank.

Leipzig took its lead in the 38th minute with a deft finish from Nkunku, who took Konrad Laimer’s perfect feed and popped it over a charging Horn for 2-1.

Werner finished off a lightning counter as Gulacsi collected a free kick and hit a perfect punt to the league’s second-leading scorer.

That was far from the end of the fun.

Modeste hit an absolute hammer to make it 3-2, but Leipzig restored the two-goal advantage when Olmo hit a seeing-eye shot through the traffic to cap three goals in seven minutes between the two sides.

French striker Modeste won a penalty that was denied by VAR with under 20 minutes to play, he then missed wide after beating the keeping one 1v1 break with four minutes to play.

Americans Abroad: American midfielder Tyler Adams continued his streak of playing in every Leipzig match since the break when he came off the bench just before the hour mark.

Adams hit 94 percent of his 18 passes, drawing three fouls, making an interception, and winning three of four duels.