Four-goal second half sees Wolfsburg topple another big spender, defend Champions League title

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Handed a two-goal deficit after 30 minutes, defending UEFA Champions League winners VfL Wolfsburg scored four times in the second half, with Martina Müller’s second goal giving the Germans a 4-3, title-defending win over Tyresö.

The Swedes struck first and twice within a three-minute span in the first half, with goals by Marta and Veronica Boquete giving the first time finalists a 2-0 lead at half time. Within minutes of the second half’s kick off, Alexandra Popp cut Tyresö’s lead in half part of a four-goal, second half onslaught that saw Verena Faißt complement Müller’s brace en route to the title.

With the win, Wolfsburg becomes the competition’s second back-to-back winner in its five-year history. Including winners of the tournament’s predecessor, the Champions Cup, Germany has won six of 13 European titles.

The win also gives Wolfsburg a chance to defend its title next season. After finishing third in the Frauen-Bundesliga this season (albeit one point off of first), Ralf Kellerman’s team needed a win on Thursday to qualify for next year’s competition. With Müller’s 80th minute goal, Wolfsburg won its chance to become the first team to win three-straight European titles.

“We played a fantastic game in the first half – we did everything we were supposed to do,” Marta, five-time FIFA Player of the Year, said after her team’s disappointment. “We were a bit slower after the break – maybe we thought it was over at 2-0. We played a good game on the night, but Wolfsburg were stronger than us in the end.”

Thursday’s match in Lisbon stood in stark contrast to last season’s final in London, one that was decided by Martin Müller’s late second half penalty. Though Wolfsburg’s early play hinted today’s match could play out similarly to that 1-0 win over Lyon, first half goals two minutes apart from Tyresö create a more open affair.

source: Getty Images
U.S. international Christian Press set up Tyresö’s second goal but was kept out of the game during Wolfsburg’s four-goal second half. (Photo: Getty Images)

Taking advantage of a Wolfsburg turnover in the 28th minute, Marta converted her first of the match, her right-footed shot from 14 yards out, to the right of goal, beating Almuth Schult far post for the opening goal. Two minutes later, a long diagonal for Christian Press saw the U.S. international cut across the defense at to the byline before chipping back toward Veronica Boquete, whose volleyed finish at the edge of the six-yard box gave the Swedes a 2-0 lead.

The lead left Tyresö poised to capitalize on investment that’s brought the club to the brink of extinction. With the purchase of a number of players, most notably Marta, the Swedish club has funded an ascent up the Swedish and European ladders. In the process, though, the club has gone into administration, with its status in the Swedish league brought into question by its finances. With quick start against Wolfsburg, Tyresö was on track to reap a final reward before the teams torn apart.

With its second goal, Tyresö closed a dominant stretch that saw the energy Sweden’s 2012 champions carried out of the dressing room give the team control of the defending champions. Though Wolfsburg would respond, generating a half-chance for Müller before intermission, the team went into halftime down two, its Champions League reign 45 minutes from its expiration date.

Less than two minutes into the second half, Wolfsburg began resetting that date, with Popp’s goal 77 seconds after kickoff cutting Tyresö’s lead to one. Six minutes later, the Tyresö defense was beaten badly as Müller, moments after failing to convert a breakaway, produced an equalizer, giving the holders 37 minutes to find a title-defending goal.

In the 56th minute, Marta’s second stanched Wolfsburg’s momentum, with the five-time FIFA Player of the Year’s cutback onto her right foot in the left of the penalty area producing a perfectly placed shot inside Schult’s far post. The cure proved short-lived, though, with two more Wolfsburg goals completing the champions’ inspired retort.

In the 68th minute, Verena Faißt got inside substitute Madeleine Edlund on the defense’s right to give Wolfsburg its second equalizer, exploiting a team temporarily playing with 10 women after right back Meghan Klingenberg limped off. Twelve minutes later, midfielder Nadine Keßler, UEFA’s woman of the match, took advantage of Line Røddick and a fatigued Tyresö to produce Müller’s second, allowing the Germans to claim back-to-back titles.

In doing so, Ralf Kellerman’s team built on the smash-and-grab that halted the would be OL dynasty – one that prevented France’s big spenders from claiming a third straight title. On Thursday, handed an early two-goal deficit, Wolfsburg added a four-star triumph to last year’s groundout crown, again proving the limits of money’s influence.

3 things from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Peru

AP Photo/Jessica Hill
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The USMNT led Peru 1-0 late before a back post marking error allowed the World Cup participants to level the score line in Connecticut.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

But that’s not what resounds from Tuesday’s match, as we once against confirmed that the U.S. is producing some fine young attackers.

Teenage trio grows into game, puts U.S. ahead

These friendlies provide good chances for players to express themselves individually, and there’s reason to be excited by three young Americans attackers.

Yes, there were plenty of sloppy moments for Josh Sargent (18) and Jonathan Amon (19), but those came early and both European-based players seemed to relax as the match wore into the second half.

Sargent in particular showed flair with one-touch flicks and dynamite touch passes even before he scored his opener. Amon misplaced a looping outside of the foot pass in the first half, but swept a ball over the top of the defense to cue up Sargent in the second half.

And while Tim Weah misfired on that chance, the Paris Saint-Germain man is as exciting as any American teenager on the scene.

Moving forward, it’s all about the attack (and that is exciting)

This isn’t to say that Weston McKennie, Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, and a few other intriguing young players can’t buoy the hopes of the U.S. heading into the Gold Cup and then World Cup qualifying, but what’s so exciting about this team is a new wealth of attacking options (most of it now growing overseas).

Sargent, Weah, and Amon are 19 or younger. Christian Pulisic is the most important national team talent in a generation, and just turned 20. That’s the same age as Weston McKennie, whose played everywhere from CDM to CB to CAM at his club.

All are playing for clubs whose senior teams are competing for places in Europe. Sargent has yet to play for Werder Bremen’s senior team and Weah sparingly for PSG, but the other three are key pieces for Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and Nordsjælland.

That’s why it’s key the new U.S. coach knows how to push down on the gas pedal.

Let’s hear it from the long-term caretaker

Sarachan (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Dave Sarachan may’ve just coached the final match of his long-term interim run as USMNT boss, and the Rochester-born 64-year-old deserves a lot of credit for Tuesday’s performance.

While his late substitution of DeAndre Yedlin for a thriving Reggie Cannon led to Peru’s equalizer, no one should blame him for thinking an every week Premier League starter would be able to mark a back post.

Sarachan drew up a short free kick from Kellyn Acosta that led to a Josh Sargent goal, and coaxed a strong performance from first time center back mates Cameron Carter-Vickers and Aaron Long.

The longtime assistant’s record as USMNT boss sits at 3-3-3 despite a very tricky schedule. He’s earned draws against three World Cup nations: Portugal, France, and Peru. He also has the distinction of being 1-0 against Mexico, never a bad thing.

In another climate, Sarachan would have earned something close to a full-time gig. And Bruce Arena’s assistant will surely be involved with the USMNT program in some capacity. But coming off a World Cup qualifying failure, it was always going to be time for fresh blood.

Player ratings from USMNT 1-1 Peru

AP Photo/Jessica Hill
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The United States came within a handful of minutes of giving their fans a win over a World Cup participant, but instead had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Peru in the final home match of 2018.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Here’s how the individuals fared:

Starting XI

Brad Guzan — 6 — You’d like him to do better on the goal, but he made a big stop on a crazy free kick in stoppage time to save the draw.

Ben Sweat — 5 — Struggled in the first half but put in a solid second 45.

Aaron Long — 7 — A decent performance from an unfamiliar center back pairing, and Long was the better of the two.

Cameron Carter-Vickers — 6.5 — Needs to get more playing time at club level to work out his propensity for making spectacular plays… but also occasionally looking like he’s unsure of his responsibilities. Both happened Tuesday.

Reggie Cannon  (Off 83′) — 6 — Not a bad debut at all, as the FC Dallas man was involved from minute No. 1. He almost drew a penalty in the first 10 minutes, and had a few gutsy tackles.

Wil Trapp — 6 — Some good interventions, but not a major factor moving forward. Is the 25-year-old capable of raising his game to the international level.

Jonathan Amon  (Off 55′) — 6 — The 19-year-old Nordsjælland winger fought his touch early but showed good vision and an ability to try the daring pass.

Kellyn Acosta (Off 78′) — 7 — Dangerous for sure, but his touch betrayed him on a number of solid moves. Executed the short free kick to Sargent to perfection.

Marky Delgado — 6 — Composed and technical, if unspectacular on the night.

Timothy Weah (Off 90+2′) — 8 — Just looks to have that extra special something, to go with a competitor’s mentality. The future is very bright when the USMNT can put him on one wing and Christian Pulisic on the other.

Josh Sargent — 8 — Like Amon, he looked a little rattled early but also showed a number of clever flicks and tricks in his arsenal. A goal is a goal, but his lay off for Weah moments earlier was the stuff of promise (even if you maybe like him to tear into a shot there).

Subs

Julian Green (On 55′) — 5 — For all of his offensive gifts, he does not in the slightest get stuck in as a midfielder. Timid.

Bobby Wood (On 69′) — 6 — Followed up his goal against Colombia with an industrious 20 or so minutes.

Michael Bradley (On 78′) — 6 — Moves into third all-time in USMNT caps.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 84′) — 4 — Maybe he wasn’t prepared to come off the bench, but quite simply the reason Flores was able to equalize. He won’t want Rafa Benitez to see the tape.

Antonee Robinson (On 90+2′) — N/A

Late concession denies USMNT win vs. Peru

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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The United States men’s national team lost focus late in a 1-1 draw with Peru in Connecticut on Tuesday.

Josh Sargent scored his second USMNT goal, but Edison Flores took advantage of sleepy defending at the back post to snare an equalizer.

The U.S. finishes its 2018 with matches against England and Italy in November.

[ MORE: Player ratings |  3 things ]

Timothy Weah continued to produce in the national team’s shirt, playing Kellyn Acosta into the box. The Colorado Rapids man was quickly challenged and pushed his shot wide of the near post.

Picking up a flick from Josh Sargent, Jonathan Amon had a chance to cue up a streaking Weah in the Peruvian box. His outside of the boot pass was too ambitious and the PSG man could not reach it.

Peru, though, enjoyed the first half more than their hosts, though very chances ended up meeting Brad Guzan.

There weren’t any changes at the break, and Amon swept a pass over the top of the Peru defense to allow Sargent a path into the box. Sargent squared for Weah, whose shot missed wide of the near post.

Sargent made good on his promise in the 49th minute, a short free kick from Kellyn Acosta that took a deflection off Renato Tapia.

Amon came off in the 55th minute for Julian Green.

Peru brought the match to life with an Andy Polo bullet off the cross bar.

The Yanks then broke back the other way, with Reggie Cannon starting a rush that Julian Green marshaled into a chance. The end product was a blocked Ben Sweat shot.

Dave Sarachan put in a number of veterans late, and one of them was at fault for Peru’s equalizer.

DeAndre Yedlin failed to react to a cross that bounced twice on its way through the six, and Flores was at the back post to punch it into the goal.

And Brad Guzan might’ve not liked his decisions on the goal, but the Atlanta United backstop saved the Yanks’ bacon with a punch save on a late free kick.

Atlanta’s Bocanegra responds to Martino to Mexico reports

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Another report claims that Tata Martino will take the Mexican national team job, and puts a date on the start of employment.

David Medrano of Azteca Deportes has the report, saying that Martino will be announced as Mexico boss on Dec. 8 (the date of the MLS Cup Final).

[ MORE: USMNT-Italy to be hosted in Belgium ]

Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra did his best not to comment on the report in a Tuesday radio appearances, saying the Five Stripes have been having “ongoing discussions” with Martino.

From 929thegame.radio.com:

“It’s all good. There’s all kind of rumors, for our coach, for our players, for everything. I guess that means we’re relevant in the soccer world at the moment, which is a good thing. We’ve been having ongoing discussions. We can’t control what goes on in the rumor mill but we’re doing our job. Tata’s our manager, and going forward we’re looking to get into the playoffs with the Supporters’ Shield under our belt and that’s about as much as it is right now.”

As recently as Sept. 28, Martino had said he hadn’t had discussions with anyone outside Atlanta.

He has also been linked with the Colombia job, while several have connected the dots between the USMNT job and Martino‘s expiring contract in ATL.

As for how hard it would be to replace Martino? Bocanegra seems to think it won’t be as difficult as some fear.

“Each coach has a unique style. We have a philosophy and a way of playing as a club. Within that, you try to put people in place that fit that style, fit that philosophy. That’s where Tata fit nicely. Each coach out there will put his own spin on things but it’s the club that has the long-term vision, playing the younger players.”